ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud Hospital was built in its current location in 1926 but the process really started in the late 1880s.

Sisters from the Order of Saint Benedict saw a need for a local hospital in St. Cloud. They wrote to the city council stating their intentions to build a healthcare facility.

St. Cloud Hospital archivist Mary Schaffer says, "The reason they stated was because there was no place for people to be taken care of adequately."

The council decided not to move forward with their request. In 1884, Dr. A.C. Lamothe Ramsay came to St. Cloud looking to open a hospital. He owned a small two bed practice but he quickly realized he needed help. He asked the sisters to assist him with the hospital.

Sister Colleen Haggerty says, "Reverend mother said, 'we are teachers, we aren't nurses.' And he (Dr. Ramsay) said, I will teach them."

People in those days didn't want to go to the hospital because that's where you die

In February 1886, the sisters bought a house for $3,000 along 9th Avenue North that could hold up to 15 patients at a time. However, the hospital wasn't being utilized.

"People in those days didn't want to go to the hospital because that's where you die," says Haggerty.

She continues, "We don't say they prayed for a disaster but a tornado hit Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud...It immediately gave them a feeling that the sisters were there to heal."

Nearly 80 people died in the 1886 tornado and more than 200 people were injured. The demand for a local hospital began to change.

St. Cloud Hospital Archives

The sisters opened a new practice east of the Mississippi River in 1890 and named it St. Raphael's Hospital. The healthcare facility could hold nearly double the number of patients than before.

In 1926, the sisters bought a new building for $2-million. Schaffer says it was a huge sum of money at the time, comparable to $200-million today.  The Great Depression hit the sisters hard in 1929. They were forced to cut their spending in order to pay off their debt.

"They generated their own power. They made their own ice. They reused surgical gauze, and surgical gloves and things that we would raise our eyebrows at. But these woman have shown themselves to be consistently resourceful and they pulled through," says Schaffer.

In the 1960s, the sisters stayed true to their mission by creating The St. Cloud Hospital as a separate corporation, including lay people and physicians on its governing board and deeding hospital property to the corporation for one dollar.

"We just knew that this was not something that we were going to buy or sell. We were going to offer it to the people of this area that need health care," says Haggerty.

St. Cloud Hospital Archives