Monday, February 27, 2012

A very brief history of Kerrville's VA Hospital

The local news has been filled with quite a few stories and letters to the editor about our local Veterans Administration hospital, and I thought it would be timely to offer a brief history of the facility.
You know, to calm the troubled waters and put things into perspective, taking, as I'm fond of doing, the "long view."
So I pulled the following from my files:
The big controversy, at least for me, is when the hospital really started. Take this sentence: "Here thousands of soldiers from every war from the Spanish-American on have been attended since the institution was opened as a "Legion Hospital" in 1922." Another source puts the founding date as 1920, and another, 1919.
For those who don't remember, the Spanish-American War was fought in 1898, a few moons ago. 
According to the Kerr County Album, "In November, 1919, a group of Kerr County citizens, with the aid of the Benevolent War Risk Society, founded by Texas governor W. P. Hobby, American Legion State Commander Claude Birkhead, and Texas State Health officer Dr. Collins, launched a drive for one half million dollars to construct a hospital in Kerrville for the care of veterans. On April 20, 1920, a site consisting of 748 acres was donated by Louis and A. C. Schreiner to the Society. With the aid of this generous donation, construction of the American Legion Tuberculosis Hospital began that same year.
"Before construction was completed, the Society's funds became depleted and the project was sold to the American Legion, Department of Texas, on January 14, 1921 for one dollar. At this time, the name "Legion" was given to the hospital, a name which many Texans call the facility to this day."
In fact, if you look at old maps, there used to be a community name where the hospital stands: between Kerrville and Center Point, you'd find a spot marked "Legion."
I vaguely remember the highway signs on Highway 27 giving the distance not only to Center Point, but to Legion as well.
Though it began as a Legion hospital, it was soon operated by the State of Texas, and then by the U. S. Veterans Bureau.
According to Bob Bennett, in his "Kerr County" history, "A site, consisting of several hundred acres of land, was purchased by the Schreiner family from the heirs of Joshua D. Brown and donated for the hospital's establishment. The federal government paid the state $1,052,000 for the property, and the first veteran patients were transferred here from the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital at Houston on July 1, 1923.
"A new building built at a cost of approximately $2 million was dedicated on December 19, 1947. This eight-story structure increased the hospital's capacity from the original 400 beds to approximately 800 beds."
The hospital's mission has changed over the years since its founding, but it remains an important part of our community, and vital to the lives of veterans not only in Kerrville but across the state.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks Old Man Winter is confused about temperatures lately.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 25, 2012.


  1. My Grandfather, while at Legion in 1927, died of TB.

    At the time, there were many TB patients living and dying in agony.

    There was very little that doctors could do to help their patients in those days.

  2. My step-dad worked at the "Legion hospital" as a physician when he met my mom in 1960. There were quite a few TB patients living there then.

  3. My great great uncle James B. Atkins was at this hospital between 1921-26 and died of tb too. Thank you for your post. I'm currently researching this hospital as I'm researching my uncle James whom was a WWI veteran.


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