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Over the centuries, many healers would find their way to the creek.

AS THE CITY’S POPULATION GREW, communities pursued public health in diverse ways. Health care in San Antonio in the early-to-mid 1800s was administered by private physicians, druggists, and curanderos (folk healers). After a cholera epidemic killed hundreds in 1849, the Bexar County Medical Society was founded, and city and county physicians were hired. Construction of a joint city-county hospital was being discussed when another cholera epidemic killed 293 local residents in 1866. Through the efforts of Catholic Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis, Sisters Madeleine Chollet, St. Pierre Cinquin, and Agnes Buisson, members of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, arrived in San Antonio in 1869 to open a small infirmary. Their facility, just east of San Pedro Creek on Military Plaza, served all races and religions regardless of ability to pay. The order also built an orphanage on Houston Street west of the creek. In 1875 the infirmary, later christened Santa Rosa Hospital, moved from the boisterous and noisy plaza to the quieter orphanage site. The sisters worked alongside doctors in all areas of patient treatment and care. The hospital was continuously expanded and modernized to offer new services including specialized health care for children. The facility, today known as Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, still cares for patients from throughout South Texas at the site just west of San Pedro Creek where it has fulfilled its health care mission since 1875. 

Courtesy: Express-News Collection, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections and Hearst Corporation.

The Sisters of Charity worked closely with hospital staff including Dr. Ferdinand Herff and his son, Dr. Adolph Herff, as they performed an operation in about 1900.

Source: “Bird’s Eye View of San Antonio, Bexar Co. Texas 1886. Looking North East.”

Augustus Koch illustrated Santa Rosa Hospital on his 1886 bird’s-eye view of the city (left). The site of the infirmary opened on Military Plaza in 1869 can also be seen (right). Both were located near San Pedro Creek, which flows between the two locations.

Courtesy: Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Archive, San Antonio.
Courtesy: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word expanded and modernized their hospital to keep pace with the growing number of patients and rapid advances in health care. The multi-story hospital overlooking Milam Park is seen here in photographs taken in about 1884 (left) and 1935 (right). The tower of San Francesco di Paola Church can be seen in the top left of the later picture.