Skip to main content
The second hospital in the
THE SECOND HOSPITAL IN THE COLONIES, THE
"COOLE SPRINGS OF ST. MARIES," MARY-
By J. Hall Pleasants, M. D.
Assistant in Medicine, Johns Hopkins University.
,y/ -. /(<()' if j
zJ< //ir/tKiif mthiov- faolleae
Mrs. Kitty Coad Dallam
Date A l>ril 1964
$r. MARYS COLLEGE OF MARINO 054898
[From The Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin, Vol. XV, No. 151,
January, 1901 1
THE SECOND HOSPITAL IN THE COLONIES, THE
"COOLE SPRINGS OF ST. MARIES," MARY-
By J. Hall Pleasants, M. D.
Assistant in Medicine, Johns Hopkins University.
*% ^\ Maryland may claim the distinction of having been the first [te]
\ Tof the colonies to agitate the question of establishing a hos-
pital within its boundaries, for as early as 1638 we find the
well-known pioneer priest Andrew White urging upon Lord ^
Baltimore the necessity of such an institution. Nothing was
actually accomplished, however, until the close of the cen-
tury, when, in 1698, a hospital was established at the " Coole
Springs of St. Maries." During this interval the Dutch East
India Company, in 1658, had built at New Amsterdam, an ""
f almshouse and hospital, known as the "Old Hospital," or
J" Five Houses," of which the present Bellevue claims to be
a direct outgrowth. 1 The " Five Houses " is probably the
oldest hospital in the colonies, the Cool Springs dating
second in the order of establishment. The statement fre-
- quently made that the Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in
1 1751, is the oldest hospital in the colonies, is thus not borne
4^=aut by facts.
^ We shall first refer briefly to the early suggestion to found
,^r- a hospital in Maryland, and shall then trace the history of the
^ Cool Springs.
In the recently recovered Calvert papers there is a letter
^ from Father White to Lord Baltimore, dated from Maryland,
f>^ * Read before the Johns Hopkins Hospital Historical Club,
^ October 19, 1903.
1 R. J. Carlile: An Account of Bellevue Hospital, 1893, p. 1.
[is] Fob. 20, 1638. 2 This letter, written four years after the
founding of the province, refers in no uncertain way to the
sickness among the settlers. He is inclined to attribute much
of this to the " eating of flesh and drinking salt waters and
wine by advice of our Chirurgian rather (than) by any great
malice of their feuers, for they who keep our diett and abstei-
nence generally recovered." Father White's opinion of the
surgeon is evidently not of the highest. He then goes on to
add that such excesses " begett feuers troublesome enough
where wee want physick, yet not dangerous at all if the people
willbe ruled in their diett, which is hard for the vvlgar
* vnless wee had a hospital! here to care (for) them and keep
them to rule perforce wh ch some worthy persons of this place
' doe think upon." There is nothing to show that Father
White's suggestion was acted upon, or that a hospital of any
kind was founded in Maryland until the establishment of the J
Cool Springs sixty years later.
In the ;< Coole Springs of St. Maries," Maryland may lay j
claim to more than a mere hospital, however, and its estab-
lishment in 1G98 really marks the foundation of what was f
probably also the first sanatorium in the colonies. That this *
once famous resort should have fallen into oblivion and its
very name be almost forgotten, is not surprising when we
recall the history of old St. Mary's, and when we learn upon
what a slight basis the popularity of these springs actually
rested. The current histories of Maryland scarcely even 2
refer to its existence. Yet at the close of the seventeenth
century this same " Coole Springs " was the cause of much
legislative discussion, and of even more religious ill-feeling
The perusal of the Archives of the province gives us some
idea of the important place which these " springs of healing
waters " occupied in the minds of the early settlers.
In the winter of 1G97-98 the southern counties were visited
by a severe pestilence of some kind. Neither an examination
of our own records nor those of the neighboring colonies
throws any light whatever upon the nature of this pestilence.
2 Fund Publication of the Maryland Historical Society, No. 28,
Smallpox naturally suggests itself to us, as its terrible ravages [ts]
among the early colonists are only too well known. Yet it
is scarcely probable that convalescents from this disease would
seek spa treatment, for it will be seen that the " Springs "
came into prominence during the decline of the epidemic.
Whatever its character, the pestilence was especially preva-
lent and its ravages most severe in Charles County.
We first hear of " the pestilence " in connection with the
religious ill-feeling aroused by the activity of the Koman
Catholic priests among the sick. The following message,
sent by the Lower House to Governor Nicholson, March 29,
169S, 3 calling his attention to the matter, gives us an idea
of the intolerance of the times:
May itt please yor Exncy
" Vpon reading a certaine Letter from a Reverend Minister
of the Church of Engid which yor Exncy was pleased to comuni-
cate to us Complaining to yo>' Ex^cy how that the Popish Priests
in Charles County do of theire own Accord in this violent &
rageing Mortality in that County make itt theire business to
goe up and (down) the County to psons houses when dying &
frantick and endeavour to Seduce and make prosellites of them
& in such Condition boldly presume to admnistr the Sacrement
to them. Wee have put it to the Vote in the house, if a Law
should be made to restrayne such theire prsumption or not and
have concluded not to make such Law att prsent, but humbly to
Intreat yo r Ex c ? that you would be pleased to Issue your procla-
mation to Restrayne and prohibite such theire Extravagante and
Signed p Ordr W. Bladen, Clk: house Delegates."
This shows well the intense religious bigotry of the times,
for it should be remembered that in matters of religion,
Maryland was really among the most liberal of the colonies.
For several years the Catholics numerically had formed only
a small proportion of the population, but in the years imme- [191
diately following the revolution in England, which deposed
James II. and placed a Protestant prince, William of Orange,
on the throne, the feeling against the Catholics in all Eng-
lish-speaking countries was especially strong. In Maryland,
Lord Baltimore, who was a Catholic, was deprived of his gov-
3 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 22.
 eminent, and in 1G92 the province became for a time a royal
colony with the Church of England as the established relig-
ion. Eumors of plots on the part of the adherents of Lord
Baltimore to regain control of affairs had made the govern-
ment unusually suspicious of any activity on the part of the
We can infer that the success of the priests in spiritual
matters was probably the reward of their labors in the actual
care of the sick and dying during the epidemic, and we shall
presently see the steps taken by the established church to
counteract this influence.
The early summer found the pestilence on the wane and
militia drills, which had been suspended on account of the
epidemic, were resumed July 1 by order of the Council.*
The " Coole Springs " first comes to our notice in a letter
from the owner of the springs and the adjoining lands to
the Assembly, dated April 1, 1G98. 5 The contents of this let-
ter have not been preserved, but the brief entry upon the
record made at the time of its receipt is most expressive:
"As to Captn. Dents Lr. about the Coole Springs it is looked
upon as an Idle Letter not worth an answer." If this indi-
cated skepticism as to the worth of the springs, we shall see
how that feeling was soon to give way to a very different one,
At a meeting of the Governor's Council held June 4, steps
were taken to care for the spiritual welfare of those who
were already flocking to the springs in search of health. We
see now an adroit move on the part of the government to
counteract the influence which the Catholic priests had al-
ready gained among thr sick. The following quaint entry
upon the Council proceedings seems worth quoting in full : '
" Mr. Philip Lynes appearing at the Board and giving an Acct
of some Extraordinary Cures lately wrought at the cool springs
in St. Mary's County & that several poor people flocked thither to
recover their health and limbs. His Excellency the Governor is
'Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, July 1, 1698. Md.
Hist. Soc. MSS.
5 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 61.
Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, June 4, 1698. Md.
Hist. Soc. MSS.
to send & give to those Poor People at the said springs ten Bibles (jgj
these to remain for the use of the poor people that Comes thither.
" His Excellency also Orders that Capt. James Keech and Mr.
Philip Lynes do provide some Sober person to read prayers there
twice a day to whom he will give 12 8/d Day & is pleased to lend
the person that reads prayers there a book of Homolyes two
Books of family Devotions & a Book of reformed Devotions writ-
ten by Dr. Theophilus Dorrington out of which Books he is to
read to them on Sundays.
" Further Ordered that the said captain Keech & Mr. Lines ac-
quaint Captain John Dent who is the Owner of the said House
and Land that if he be willing his Excellency would have a read-
ing desk & some Benches made in the New house there for the
readers to read prayers & the people to sit on which by the Leave
of the said Captain Dent, Captain Keich & Mr. Lynes are Ordered
to get made & his Excellency will pay them for them.
" His Exiy is pleased likewise to give & Allow to the said Poor
people every Sunday a Mutton & as much Indian Corn as will
Amount to Thirteen Shillings pr Week & orders Mr. Lynes to
Consult Capt. Keech in Order to procure the same & his Excell-
ency will pay them for it.
" Ordered that the person that reads prayers at the cool springs
take an acct. of what persons Come thither who are cured & of
what Distempers — paper (for this) being sent by the said Mr.
Prayers twice daily, books of " Homilies " and " family
devotions " as well as good Theophilus Dorrington's " re-
formed devotions " would seem indeed to meet spiritual needs,
but a suspicion cannot help entering the mind that the bodily
comforts of the visitors were probably less well provided for.
There is no mention of provision being made for medical
attendance or for nursing the sick. Whether a record of the
cases treated as ordered was ever actually made, cannot be
learned. It has certainly not been preserved.
By September 6th the pestilence had entirely disappeared,
for the Council recommends to the Governor that he appoint
a day of thanksgiving for the return of health through the
great benefit of the Cool Springs and for the promise of
bountiful crops. The following proclamation issued Oct. 22
shows the esteem in which the springs were now held : T
7 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 157.
d9l "And what in a more peculier and nearer manner affected
this his Majestyes Province in God Allmightyes withdrawing hi'3
Afflicting hand of sickness from us and restoreing health to us
wth severall beneficiall and healing springs of water called the
Coole Springs which by his blessing haue wrought many Wondor-
full and Signall Cures amongst Severall distemprf>d and Impotent
psons ******* he had appoynted Tuesday next being the
25 Instant to be sett apart for a day of publick thanksgiveing and
rejoyceing therefore to be kept and observed by the Gen 11 Assem-
bly and others att the Towne and Port of Annapolis and the 22<3
of November next Ann arundell County and all other Countyes
within this Province."
The reputation of the Cool Springs was not confined
to the province of Maryland, for on the same day that the
Governor issued his thanksgiving proclamation, he submits
the following message to the Upper House, showing that
its fame had extended at least as far as New York. His
recommendation that the province should establish suitable
buildings for the care of the sick was acted upon soon after-
wards by the General Assembly. 8 His own offer to con-
tribute twenty-five pounds toward the building of a hospital
was a notable act of charity for the times, and is probably the
first donation to a hospital in the colonies:
" The printed news lately by his Ex c J received from New
Yorke Delivers severall representations to him relateing to the
Coole Springs in saint Marys County and (he) proposes that if
the house doe Consent to have some small Tenemts built there in
 the nature of an Hospitall he will giue twenty flue pounds sterl-
ing towards the building thereof."
After some little discussion the following act was passed,
Oct. 20, 1698, for the purchase of the Springs with the ad-
joining land and for the erection thereon of suitable buildings
for the care of the sick : "
" Whereas by the favour of Allmighty God there hath been of
Late a discovery made of fountains of healing Waters Called the
Cool Springs in St Marys County whose healing quality has been
Experienced by many Impotent and diseased persons to their
8 Idem., p. 158.
•Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 279.
great help and Comfort and for that so great blessing, benefitt [201
and gifts of Allmighty God may not be neglected but a right use
thereof made it is most fitting and Convenient that a particular
Care should be first had of all such poor Impotent persons as re-
paire thither for Care and for tht purpose or other such Charitable
or pious uses a small Tract or parcell of Land near adjoyning may
be purchased thereon to build and erect houses for the Entertain-
ment of the said poor, and fuell for fireing and other such neees-
sarys for their reliefe the Delegates of this present Generall As-
sembly Therefore pray it may be Enacted that the
persons hereafter named may and are hereby Appointed Trus-
tees to buy & purchase in the name of our Sovereign
Lord the King for pious and Charitable uses fifty Acres
of Land adjoyning to and in which the said fountains shall be
included. And be it Enacted by the Authority aforesaid That Col
John Courts Thomas Brooks Esqr Capt James Keech, Capt Jacob
Morland of St Mary's County and Cap' Philip Hoskins Capt John
Bayne and Mr Benjamin Hall of Charles County or any three
of them be & are hereby Impowered Authorized and appointed
The trustees appointed under this act met at All Saints
Parish, St. Mary's County, November 24 to complete the pur-
chase of the springs and land for 25 pounds sterling,' but
there was apparently some hitch in the sale, as we later find
the Assembly taking steps to condemn the springs and ad-
joining land. 11 The erection of small cottages seems to have
been later determined upon instead of the large house which
was first planned. For some reason the erection of buildings
by the government was delayed until several months later,
for July 3, 1699, we find the Assembly and Council still dis-
cussing the erection of buildings :"
" Forasmuch as by our Iournall of the last Sessions we find that
there was one hundred pounds sterl allotted for the use of the
Cool Springs towards the purchase of fifty Acres of Land and for
the building of small tenem ts for the good and benefitt of such
poor Impotent and lame persons as shall resorte thither and we
find the Trustees appointed by Act of Assembly to purchase the s<i
Land have agreed for and purchased the same for Twenty five p da
10 Vestry Records of All Faith Parish, St. Mary's Co., Nov. 24,
1G98. (Transcript in the Md. Hist. Soc.)
11 Archives of Maryland. Vol. XXII, pp. 418 and 419.
12 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 298.
 sterl so that there is yet seaventy five pounds Sterl remaining
towards the building of such Tenements.
" We humbly pray that your Excy will be pleased to appoint two
of his Matys honMe Councill to Joine into a Committee wUi three
of the members of the house to Consider of the Erecting such
Tenem ts Signed p Order
Chr-. Gregory CI house Del.
" The Honble Col. Henry Iowles and Thomas Brook Esqr Ap-
pointed to Joine with the Members of the house upon that Com-
A few days before this the former owner of the Springs,
Capt. John Dent, had petitioned the Assembly for the sole
privilege of keeping an inn or " ordinary " at the Springs,
which shows that although the pestilence had passed away
more than a year before, its popularity had not yet waned.
We have every reason to believe that the seventy-five pounds
remaining after the purchase of the land was devoted to the
construction of buildings, for there is nothing to show that
the money was turned back into the treasury, or used for other
purposes than that for which it was appropriated.
The Cool Springs now disappears as suddenly from view
as two years before it had sprung into prominence. I can
find no reference to it in the colonial records of the first half
of the eighteenth century. With the passing of the great
pestilence, its popularity must have waned, although we have
no means of judging when this occurred.
With a view of tracing the subsequent history of the Cool
Springs I have recently made a thorough inquiry among
those familiar with the local traditions of Southern Mary-
land to discover, if possible, its later history.
The location of the springs is in St. Mary's County where
the village of Charlotte Hall now stands. The place is said
to have been renamed in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of
George III. The name " Saint Maries " recalls all that is
romantic in the early history of the colony. The island of
St. Clements, where the first landing was made by Leonard
Calvert in 163-1, and the city of St. Maries, the first seat of
government, are both situated in this, the oldest county of the
province. The history of Catholic Maryland was largely the
13 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXII, p. 383.
history of St. Mary's. With the ascendency of Protestant in- 
flucnce in the colony and in England, the seat of government
was removed by Governor Nicholson in 1G94-95 from the city
of St. Mary's to Annapolis. St. Mary's never recovered from
this shock. Her importance rapidly dwindled. Even the
former city of St. Mary's has almost disappeared from the
map, being now represented by a church, a school and a few
scattered buildings. Other once important towns in St.
Mary's comity are now as desolate as our own Joppa. The
Cool Springs was destined to suffer a similar fate to that
which befell St. Mary's City, for in the first three-quarters
of the eighteenth century it passes entirely from our view.
until in 1774, by an act of the Legislature, the now well-
known Charlotte Hall School was established there, although
the outbreak of the Eevolution delayed the actual opening of
the school for several years. It is probable that the site was
selected largely on account of its healthfulness and the abund-
ance of pure water.
The springs are situated at the head of a swamp, the water
gushing out at several points from a bank of sand and stone.
There are three springs, all within thirty yards of each other. 121]
The water from the principal spring is now supplied to the
school buildings. A recent analysis of the water from the
two principal springs illustrates only too well what we see so
frequently in this day and generation, and for which we need
not go back two hundred years for an example: the water
possesses two wonderful curative properties — purity and
abundance. From mineral constituents it is remarkably
free, as the following analysis shows:
Analysis of Water from Charlotte Hall, Made Januaky, 1889.
Parts 100,000. Spring No. 1. Spring No. 2.
Total Solids at 1000 C 4.70 2.55
Silica 38 .35
Iron and Alumina 15 .08
Lime (Ca. O.) Co .30
Magnesia (Mg. O.) 24 .03
Sulphuric Acid, Soz 43 .26
Correct: Signed, Harry J. Patterson, Chemist.
App'd Henry E. Alvord, Director.
Note — In both cases, the Lime and Magnesia exist principally
in the form of Carbonates.
 Agricultural College, P. 0., Md., Feb. 25, 1S89.
Prof. R. W. Silvester, Charlotte Hall, St. Mary's Co., Md.
Dear Sir. — After your second letter, we were able to identify
the two samples of water. Both have been analyzed, and the
characteristic of each is special purity. It is not only free from
organic matter, but contains a very low percentage of mineral
matter. I enclose the two analyses. Authorities agree in the
statement, that very good drinking water may carry six hundred
parts per million, total solids of the character of those found in
your samples. These two samples contain respectively but 251/2
and 47 parts per million of total solids. It is seldom that spring
water is found with less.
Very respectfully yours,
Henry E. Alvord, Director.
What advantages our ancestors of two centuries ago pos-
sessed ! With scarcely other facilities for analysis than those
afforded by the senses, how easy it was to discover at their
very door marvellous, healing properties in some abundant
fountain of pure water, while we of this twentieth century
must cross oceans or continents to sip our morning glass of
water, in which our finer chemical methods are able to detect
one or two grains of lithia or iron to the gallon. Do the
seekers with Ponce de Leon, the early Marylanders crowding
to the Cool Springs and the throngs at a modern European
spa differ from one another in kind or in degree? Were the
cures at the Cool Springs less real than many made to-day at
The popularity of the Cool Springs was from the first
doomed to be of brief duration. Neither the taste nor the
smell of the waters was sufficiently bad to ensure them an
enduring reputation. Had that enterprising inn keeper,
Captain John Dent, but discovered the wonderful properties
of a bath in the mud of the neighboring swamp, perhaps his
descendants, instead of the rapacious hotel keepers of Marien-
bad or Franzenbad, might be reaping a harvest of American
dollars at the mud baths of " Ye Coole Springs of St. Maries."
Instead of this, even the name Cool Springs is now almost
forgotten. There is nothing to show that its waters were
used to any extent medicinally except for a few years follow-
ing the pestilence of 1697. Among the oldest inhabitants
there is now no tradition which gives us the least clue of the 
subsequent history.of this ancient health resort until the estab-
lishment there of Charlotte Hall School. By some it is even
doubted whether special buildings for the care of the sick
were ever actually erected by the State. For reasons which
have already been given it seems almost certain that such
buildings were erected. We know, however, that there were
buildings and provision of some kind there for the care of
the sick, from what we have already gleaned from the old
Among the people of the neighborhood the water is now
supposed to be of some slight benefit in diseases of the kid-
neys, but even locally it has a very limited reputation.
I have told you all that I have been able to learn of
this once famous Maryland health resort. That the Cool
Springs should have had but a brief popularity must not
lessen our appreciation of the efforts of Governor Nicholson
and the Assembly to establish in this colony one of the first
hospitals and sanatoriums in the provinces. A few years ago
the Colonial Dames of America erected a tablet in the McCoy
Building of the Johns Hopkins University, in memory of
Governor Nicholson, in recognition of his efforts in behalf of
education in Maryland —
COMMEMORATE THE LIBERALITY
AND ZEAL FOR LEARNING
GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND,
BY WHOSE EXERTIONS AND BOUNTY
WAS FOUNDED IN 1G96
THE FIRST FREE SCHOOL IN THE PROVINCE,
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED BY
THE MARYLAND SOCIETY
COLONIAL DAMES OF AMERICA,
It seems unfortunate that some recognition could not have
been made at the same time of his early attempt to establish
ST. MARY'S COLLEGE Of MARYLANU
fc,SL MARY'S CITY. MARYLANB
 a hospital for the care of the sick and suffering of the prov-
ince and his own liberal contribution for the purpose. It seems
especially appropriate to bring this early attempt to your
attention at a time when an earnest effort is being made to
establish a sanitarium for the care of the consumptives of
our community. Shall we allow it to be said that our ances-
m tors upwards of two hundred years ago were more zealous in
the care of the sufferers from the unknown pestilence than
are we of the victims of the great white plague?
The second hospital in
HAY | 6 'fi
F189.S14 P5 C. 1
The second hospital In the colonies ; th
Pleasants. J. Hall. CMDC _
ST. MARY'S COLLEGE OF MARYLAND LIBRARY
3 3127 00083 2305