health history

The Gift


On land now occupied by Hotel Marysville, Rideout Hospital was born.

In the months following the death of her husband, banker Norman Dunning Rideout, in June of 1907, Phebe Rideout resolved to remodel the family's 4,000 square foot mansion in Marysville into a 30-room hospital. Her purpose was to establish a lasting memorial on behalf of her husband and her talented son, who died in a rock slide at a Butte County gold mine, and turned the hospital over to the community to operate.

At the time of her gift, Marysville had not been Phebe's primary residence for several years, but the city was where her husband had come to prominence as a businessman and politician, and where two of Phebe's children were born. In fact, although they lived in both Sacramento and San Francisco, the Marysville home had remained their legal home, and Norman D. Rideout returned to the city frequently for business, but especially to vote in elections.

The Rideout family home donated for the hospital was not the original structure at Fifth and E streets. When the Rideouts moved from Camptonville to Marysville in the early 1860s, they purchased a brick home constructed in 1852 or 1853 by John Paxton, who also went on to become a successful California banker, according to Sacramento Valley historian Terald A. Zall.

This brick house, constructed on land now occupied by the Hotel Marysville, at the southeast corner of Fifth and E streets, was built in the same period and the same Federal and Classical-Revival style as the Forbes House and the Stephen J. Field home, which are still located on D Street.

In 1885, the Rideouts replaced the brick house with a two-story wood frame home best described as an eclectic late Victorian. Two decades later, it became the first Rideout Hospital. It was not the first gift that Phebe Rideout had made to care for the sick, injured and unfortunate.

In Sacramento and San Francisco, Phebe Rideout had devoted much of her time and energy to hospitals. In San Francisco, she focused her attention and some of the family fortune on the Children's Hospital and the Presbyterian Orphanage, the latter of which she helped move to a farm in Marin County. She also donated to the Sacramento Orphanage. In fact, according to a granddaughter's memoirs, she did more than donate money-she knitted sweaters for orphans constantly."

The following article originally appeared in the February, 1980 "Pacemaker II" newsletter of Rideout Memorial Hospital, from information provided by Veronica Griffin, an R.N., who worked at Rideout many years previously. Except for grammatical corrections, it is republished as written:

"Fannie Southern was born in Sims, California, a town near Redding, in 1875. She passed away at age 73 in 1948. Miss Southern, an R.N., took her nurses training at Hahnemann Hospital in San Francisco. After her training she worked at the Florence Nightengale Hospital in Chico.

The actual date of the meeting between Miss Southern and Mrs. Phebe Rideout is not known. It is, however, known that Mrs. Rideout remodeled her mansion on the corner of Fifth and E streets for use as a hospital. After the remodeling was completed Mrs. Rideout turned the operation to Miss Southern, who as lessee, staffed the hospital and began serving the public in 1907.

At this location Miss Southern trained many nurses. In those days a nurse worked 12-hour shifts and was paid $25 per month. They were called General Duty nurses. Mrs. Rideout, in the meantime, was living in San Francisco. She made frequent trips to Marysville and kept in close contact with her business affairs in the area. Among her interests was the Rideout chain of banks and the hospital.

The year 1918 brought about a change to the hospital. The 5th and E Street location was moved to the present Fourth and H Street location. Miss Southern moved along with the hospital. She continued to be administrator and lessee. By the time the 1918 move came around there were other changes, too. Nurses were still working 12-hour shifts but their monthly pay was increased to $65.

During their shifts the nurses cared for the patients, as expected, but they also made all the dressings and got them ready to be sterilized in surgery. The surgery nurse, Mrs. Woodbury (senior), made all the saline solutions for the I.V.'s. According to the original storyteller there was never a reaction from the "homemade" saline solutions.

The nurses had rooms on the third floor of the hospital. Miss Southern lived in an apartment on the first floor. When she needed to speak with one of the nurses she would press a buzzer and she and the nurses would speak to one another through a tube. The nurses received their dinner from the kitchen by way of a "dumb waiter." The cooks would fill the trays, put them on the dumb waiter and then pull a rope to elevate it to the third floor.

The food in Miss Southern's time was different from what it is today. She owned a ranch in Sutter County where all the fruits and vegetables for the hospital were grown. She and her assistants canned all the fruits and vegetables. They made the jams and jellies and a special treat at holiday time was Miss Southern's own cranberry sauce.

On days when the cook was ill, or possibly coming down with something, she was sent to a private room, all expenses paid, to convalesce. Miss Southern would then go into the kitchen and do the cooking for the entire hospital. She was a wonderful cook and often turned out roasts, chicken or turkey and homemade pies. She made hot biscuits for breakfast and put smiles on the faces of everyone that was treated to her fine meals.

Admitting a patient to the hospital was much different then. One of the girls from the Lab went to the patient's home to check their blood, urine, temperature and blood pressure. Patients who were contagious were not admitted but sent to the isolation hospital at 14th and H streets. The O.B. was the reason for not allowing contagious patients into the hospital.

Patients that were admitted had a private room. The cost of the room was $42 for on week. The doctor's fee was extra. Men had a choice of a private room or staying in a six-bed ward. The ward was popular because it was a few dollars cheaper.

The cooling system in the hospital was non-existent. The patients were given a bath in the morning and then rested in their gowns the remainder of the day. Sheets were used only at night. Heating in the winter was done by a radiator in each room. Miss Southern visited the patients in their rooms every other day. She checked to make sure they were comfortable and had no complaints. She often cheered them up with a little story or joke.

Once a male patient, who had been badly injured in an accident, had to have his clothes cut off in order to receive treatment for his injuries. Miss Southern learned of this and when the man was ready to leave the hospital she sent for a tailor from a Marysville men's clothing store to take his measurements and make him a new outfit. The clothing was paid for by Miss Southern out of her own pocket and, as the story goes, she never sent him a bill. When she learned of the men's accident she also learned that he had no family, so she extended herself to him by buying him the new set of clothes.

Miss Fannie Southern was a hard worker and expected her employees to maintain a high level of professionalism. On the other hand she had a heart of gold and was considered to be a true "Florence Nightengale."