Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 1


16--Section 1, Centennial Edition                                                                                                                       Paragould Daily Press, Monday, August 29,  1983





                                   FIRST HOSPITAL

   On February 1, 1907, the dream of Dr. Aaron Graham Dickson became a reality with the completion of the Dickson Hospital. Dr. Dickson was an emminent surgeon who began his practice in Paragould in 1890. He studied in Berlin, Vienna, and London and had been urged by colleagues to set up a practice in Memphis.
The strong bond which he felt with Paragould and Greene County couldn't be broken, and he remained here for more than 15 years before his vision of a modern hospital was realized. His sister, Letha Dillman, assisted in financing the construction of the hospital, accor- ding to his plans. Dr. Dickson died only two years later in 1909, and to maintain the hospital, his wife found it necessary to incorporate and sell stock.
   The Dickson Hospital, at its opening, was one of the most modern facilities in Arkansas. It could justifiably boast of electric lighting, hot and cold running water, inside plumbing, steam heating, and a library of over 700 volumes. There was also a pharmacy, large operating rooms, a laboratory, a sterilization room, x-ray facilities, and a school of nursing.
   The Dickson Memorial Hospital continued to serve this area for 42 years with high standards of care. By the late 1930s, however, the number of physicians had increased, more people were utilizing hospitals as inpatient, and the 20-bed hospital was no longer adequate. When the new Community Methodist Hospital was
opened in 1949, Dickson shut its doors and took an honored place in Paragould's history.


Community Methodist Hospital began as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the early 1940's. On November 18, 1940, the Paragould City Council passed a resolution giving Mayor W. C. Middleton power to sign the papers necessary to secure government aid to construct a modern hospital for Paragould. On May 12, 1941, the non-profit Community Hospital Corporation was formed and accepted generous donations from many individuals and firms. Local contributions were between $85,000 and $90,000 and WPA contributions were approximately twice that amount.
   On June 16, 1941, the Paragould City Council authorized the mayor to sign an agreement between the city and A. N. McAninch, a Little Rock architect, for the proposed municipal hospital. Joseph R. Bertig purchased the land for the hospital in July of that year and donated it to the city as a memorial to his parents. Site development and construction began soon afterward.
   Due to a shortage of materials during World War II, work was discontinued for four years. At the end of the War, interest was renewed in completing the project and on on March 31, 1947 the Paragould City Council created the Community Hospital com-mission. Houston Garner, Joe Kirchoff, Bill Trice, Joe Wessell, and
George Barnhill were appointed as the first commissioners.
   For two years the members of the Commission worked to restore, refinish, and complete the building and assumed responsibilities for payment of old debts. In August of 1948, the commission submitted application for federal funds under the new "Hill-Burton" law. One third of the total project's cost, including the building and equipment, was provided by a federal subsidy of $80,967.32. Stuck Brothers, Inc. of Jonesboro completed the building for $167,000.
   In 1949 the Commission began a Memorial Room Fund Drive with a goal of $40,000 in gifts and loans. The community responded and the completion of the hospital was within sight. Prior to the opening of the hospital, the Commission met with various groups in an effort to find one that would provide the hospital with proper leadership. During the early years, the Methodist Hospital at Mem-phis provided Community Methodist with much needed encourage-ment and support. On March 9, 1949, the City Council made the decision to lease the hospital to the locally formed Community Methodist Hospital Association.
   On the afternoon of October 16, 1949, the 71-bed facility was formally opened, following a dedication service at First Methodist Church. Eugene Lopez, Adminstrator, accepted the licensing certi-ficate and Mayor Ike Wilcockson cut the tape across the double doors at the main entrance. The next day, fourteen patients were transported from Dickson Memorial Hospital and Charles Hill Faulkner, a patient of Dr. Earl McKelvey, became Community Methodist Hospital's first patient. That same day, Dr. Jacob Williams delivered the first baby to be born at the hospital - an eight-pound boy to Mrs. Virgil Rogers of Paragould.

Dickson Memorial Hospital as it appeared in 1907


1st photo: Community Methodist Hospital, 1949, Size: 71 beds
2nd photo: The Dickson Memorial Park
3rd photo: Community Methodist Hospital after four additions in 1978
4th photo: Arkansas Methodist Hospital as it appears today after five additions. Present size: Licensed 129 beds.


   During the first few years of operation, the community and the Hospital Auxiliary worked vigorously to raise money and keep the hospital open. By the mid-1950's the hospital had become a sound institution on all levels and the hospital has continued to grow. The first addition to the hospital was completed in 1959 and other additions were made in 1969, 1972, and 1974 with the last addition be-ing completed in 1980. The last addition was the first phase of a long-term plan to provide optimum patient care through 1985. In its 34 years of service to Paragould and the surrounding area, the hospital has grown with the community it serves.
   Because of the continued growth of the hospital, the Community Methodist Hospital Assciation made a decision in July of 1982 to change the name of the hospital to Arkansas Methodist Hospital. Today Arkansas Methodist Hospital is a modern health care institution offering progressive patient care to Paragould and the surrounding area.

This concludes the transcription of Section 1 of the 1983 Centennial Edition.


Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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