Piqua Hospital was Built as a Woman's Tribute to Her Brother
By Judy Deeter
This century-old postcard has a picture of Piqua’s Ball Memorial Hospital, which was located at the corner of Park and Nicklin streets. The postcard has a handwritten date of September 8, 1909. The hospital was constructed in the early 1900s with a $20,000 gift from a New Hampshire woman named Mrs. Julia Ball Thayer. She gave the donation to honor her deceased brother, De Los C. Ball, who had once been a prominent Piqua resident. The Piqua Dispatch newspaper of April 10, 1908 says that the money was given because Mrs. Thayer had “a tender affection for her brother.”
Most historical articles written about the hospital have focused on Mrs. Thayer’s gift and how the hospital was built. Very little has been written locally about the Ball and Thayer families.
Julia Ball Thayer and De Los Ball were born and raised in New Hampshire. They were both children of David and Fanny (Capron) Ball. De Los was the older of the two. He was born in 1832; she in 1835. They also had a sister, Jane and brother, David, who died as a baby.
De Los came to Miami County in 1855 when he was about 23-years-old. Some sources say he came to Miami County with an uncle, but neither the name of the uncle or the reason they why they came to Piqua is known. Shortly after arriving Miami County, De Los bought the Sawyer and Son linseed oil mill south of Piqua near Farrington. He may have had prior knowledge about the linseed oil business because his father had been involved in linseed oil milling in New Hampshire. In the 1870 U.S. Census for Miami County, De Los’ occupation is listed as “speculator.”
On April 20, 1858, he married Jennie Shannon, a daughter of Col. Robert and Mary (Defrees) Shannon. Their first child, a son named Robert, was born on February 5, 1859. In 1860, a daughter named Wintie was born; she died as a little girl in 1862. In 1863, the couple had another daughter that they named Nellie. Sadly, De Los’ wife Jennie died in February 8, 1864 and their daughter Nellie passed away a little than a month later on April 28, 1864. De Los was left alone to raise his son Robert, who was about 5 at the time. Jennie and her children were all buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua.
Suddenly, De Los was a single parent.
In 1870, De Los sold the mill and returned to New Hampshire to live near his sisters. The 1880 U.S. Census shows that he was a bookkeeper living with his son Robert in Keene, New Hampshire.
In 1873, his sister Julia had married Edward Carrington Thayer from Uxbridge, Massachusetts. At least some members of the Ball and Thayer families were very wealthy. Julia is remembered as a very wealthy, but philanthropic, woman. It has been documented that during her life she donated nearly $500,000 to various institutions—hospitals, libraries, etc. She was also involved in the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1885 and in 1887, she was the Vice President of the New Hampshire Woman’s Suffrage Association.
More death came to the family in the 1890s. In 1894, De Los’s son Robert died in Miami County at the age of 34. Julia’s husband Edward Thayer passed away in 1898. By 1900, Julia, Delos and their sister Jane all lived together in Keene, New Hampshire. Then De Los died on his 69th birthday, February 3, 1901.
In 1904, Julia Ball Thayer decided to honor her brother with a funding for a town hospital in Piqua. She contacted Piqua officials and advised them of her offer. She would provide $20,000 in funding with some specific stipulations: 1) The land on which the hospital would be built must be approved by officials of the City of Piqua and it would be built on the land of the abandoned Park Avenue Cemetery. 2) The hospital would be operated by an association with 12 trustees. Half of the trustees would be appointed by Mrs. Thayer and half by the Mayor of Piqua. Those appointed by Mrs. Thayer would be trustees for life. 3) The City would guarantee the extension of sewer lines to the hospital. 4) The City of Piqua would promote the passage of a levy to help maintain the hospital. The levy must have a minimum annual return of $2,500.
Work began on the hospital in 1904. The building was designed by the architectural firm of E.H. Hart & Company of Columbus in a Georgian Revival Style. The center of the building was three stories high; wings on each side of the building were each two stories high. Miami County historian and author Thomas C. Harbaugh wrote in his book CENTENNIAL HISTORY TROY, PIQUA AND MIAMI COUNTY, OHIO AND ITS REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS (1909), “The hospital is conveniently situated and one of the most complete hospitals in the country. All departments are well equipped. The operating room, sterilizing and anaesthetizing room are on the third floor, also a pathological laboratory for the accommodation of physicians.”
A board of trustees operated the hospital. The hospital was incorporated as the Memorial Hospital Association of Piqua, Ohio on April 27, 1905. The first meeting was held in May 1905. Board officers elected at the first meeting were: Gen. Wm. P. Orr, President; John H. Young, Vice President; Henry Flesh, Treasurer; and George M. Peffer, Superintendent.
The hospital was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1905. Several rooms in the hospital were dedicated to local individuals and organizations. The first patient was admitted on December 7, 1905.
Eventually, the Ball Memorial Hospital became part of Piqua Memorial Hospital. There were many additions and physical changes to hospital buildings over the years. In 1986, Piqua Memorial Hospital merged with Dettmer Hospital and Stouder Memorial Hospital (in Troy). Together, the hospitals became known as the Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC). In 1996, a new UVMC Hospital was built at the site of Dettmer Hospital on County Road 25-A between Troy and Piqua. The new UVMC building opened in July 1998.
In 2008, Hospital Care historical markers with pictures and stories of Ball Memorial Hospital were placed along Linear Park Drive in Piqua by the Flesh Public Library and the French Mill Oil Machinery Company. The markers are on Sunset Drive just north of Covington Avenue (US Route 36). Pictures and information about these markers can also be found online at the website www.hmdb.org.
The Ball Memorial Hospital is no longer in use, but it will forever be part of the medical history of Piqua.
(NOTE: In family genealogy histories of the Ball family, the name De Los Ball is spelled as Delos. In the Miami County, histories it is spelled as De Los.)