In this strange new world of Covid-19, I kick myself each time I walk up to a store or restaurant and upon getting within ten feet of the front door/entrance, I realize: “Crap, I forgot my facemask back in the car.”
I’m sure that this same thing has happened to many of you as well. Hey, I’m certainly not adverse to wearing the mask, or upset with the store or even a local, state or federal government entity for making me wear it—just disappointed in myself for not remembering to put it on. Regardless, the extra exercise experienced in making my way to the car, and back, can certainly to a body and mind some good.
I would bet good money that all of us have at least one interesting and entertaining mask story, or will have a few committed to memory when this is all said and over. Grandchildren and great-grandkids of the future will not be able to “social distance” themselves away fast enough from those like myself who will be able to readily “spin yarns” of that crazy year of 2020—made all the more ironic by the number sequence 20/20. It will be remembered as a time reminiscent of “an optometrist’s nightmare,” in which nothing seemed clearly visible or credible to the average human eye.
One of the most unique experiences I’ve had over the past five months was an impromptu hospital visit at the beginning of June. My early morning trip was caused by a painful kidney stone. Thankfully, I remembered my mask on the first try as I was admitted to the local emergency room of the Frederick Health Hospital, or as I still call it—FMH/Frederick Memorial Hospital. The name switched in fall 2019.
It is a surreal experience to find oneself in the emergency room during a worldwide pandemic. I wasn’t thinking to deeply about it at the time as I just wanted the excruciating pain radiating out from my left side to go away. I was, however, so thankful that this malady had held off for a few months as it would have been much more stressful on me had it occurred in late March, April or May, while we were in mandatory quarantine with fear at its zenith.
I learned from physicians and specialists that I required the joyless experience of lithotripsy. This took place a few weeks later. The over-arching takeaway from my kidney stone episode during Covid-19, is that I gained a newfound respect for health workers of all varieties, and their compassion for their jobs. Yes, I’ve been subjected to my share of Greys Anatomy episodes over the years (thanks to my wife, OF COURSE), but those folks in the medical profession are pretty damn special and possess that irreplaceable “superpower”—the ability to ease our pain and suffering to the utmost possible.
In this unique time in our history, the selflessness practiced by doctors, nurses, specialists and others in this profession, is truly on display and being rightly noted and recognized. Mind you, they are not newbies to donning masks, and washing hands as they have been doing it already for quite some time while in the line of duty. In addition, they can’t socially distance as their job requires them to do the opposite—come closer in an effort to find out what is wrong with their patients. This is truly phenomenal when compared to the selfishness many of us have displayed in having to deal with distancing, canceled events and ever-changing rules requiring us to make sacrifices in our traditional way of life.
When I was in the hospital, I certainly had “time to kill,” especially once the pain meds started to kick-in. With smartphone in hand, I started to peck around the Frederick Health organization’s new website. I immediately wanted to see how they handled the institutional history. I had done a story on the hospital’s first president, Emma J. Smith (1843-1915), back in early 2019 for a “Story in Stone” like this one. Miss Smith is buried here in Mount Olivet in Area E/Lot 156. Another interesting page that caught my eye was the hospital’s webpage on nursing. Here is what Cheryl Cioffi, the facility’s Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Nursing Officer, wrote in her letter of introduction:
Each day nurses throughout Frederick Health have the unique opportunity to affect the lives of the patients they care for in real and meaningful ways. The role that nurses play is critical in the delivery of excellent care for our patients and their families. How nurses communicate and collaborate inter-professionally with team members and colleagues both internal and external to Frederick Health lays the foundation for creating a patient and family centered care environment. Our nurses are innovative, skilled professionals who drive evidence-based practice and quality patient care outcomes across our entire system.
As Frederick Health continues to expand and innovate with new medical disciplines, advanced surgical capabilities, and state-of-the-art technology, our nurses will remain central to carrying out our mission and vision. As the landscape of healthcare continues to evolve with an elevated focus on population health, nurses will remain an invaluable driving force behind the superb quality care provided to our community. We strive to provide excellent care that is second to none. We consider it a privilege to care for you and your family, and an honor to be called a nurse.
This was very impressive, especially to a guy riddled with pain and at the mercy of anyone remotely displaying the slightest interest in taking said pain away from me. I soon reminisced about the interest in healthcare and medicine held by my late mother whose favorite professional life work was that of a medical technologist. She headed into this career immediately after high school, enrolling in a two-year accreditation program.
My mom received her med-tech degree and worked in hospital emergency and operating rooms. She also managed blood banks and laboratories, before becoming a hospital administrator and later a healthcare consultant. I fondly recall her nightly tales about work at the dinner table while growing up. She worked at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, and her anecdotes were not for the squeamish as we learned the fates of victims who had accidents of all sorts—especially as experienced by those driving in cars, riding on motorcycles, and standing on skateboards.
Looking back, it must have been her version of “Scared Straight” sessions to help my brothers and I avoid future potential mishaps. These also dissuaded me and my brothers from a job in the medical field. However, all three of my mom’s nieces were inspired by her profession and would become nurses themselves. As I said, the respect is, and has always been, in me for these incredible folks far more talented than I, and possessing much more stressful occupations. When you think about it, what’s the worst that can happen if I make a mistake in performing job duties such as researching and writing about someone. I can’t lose a patient (in the form of a subject), they’re already deceased by the time they hit my proverbial pen!
As my mother had a hand in giving the world more nurses (in the form of her nieces), so did this week’s “person of interest,” Miss Georgianna Houck Simmons. I have mentioned Mrs. Simmons in two previous stories—she was a great early benefactor to town. I wrote a story this past spring in which Mrs. Simmons donated a Frederick City real estate lot in order to preserve, and expand, a small park once located adjacent Carroll Creek and centering on the old Riehl’s Spring.
In my fore-mentioned story about Miss Emma J. Smith, I chronicled the genesis of Frederick Memorial Hospital and the controversial start of Frederick’s first major healthcare center. It featured a battle between the local medical board with its doctors against the lady board of managers who raised the funds to construct and open Frederick City Hospital in 1902. The crux of the problem was sexism, as the male dominated profession of doctors did not want to answer to the ladies who built and planned to manage the hospital. To heighten the situation, the doctors opened their own rival hospital, once located on S. Market Street.
Caught in the middle were the nurses, traditionally female at that time—and a time, I might add, that pre-dated the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Those who are unsure of your civics history, this was the amendment that gave women (of any color) the right to vote. The amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920.
I’d like to add that the woman who (beginning in 1897) raised nearly $9,000 and donated the land to give Frederick such a hospital, never possessed the legal opportunity to vote in elections during her lifetime. The same holds true for our subject, Georgianna Simmons. This makes their benevolence and accomplishments, along with those of other well-known local ladies like Margaret Scholl Hood and Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean even more impressive.
Georgianna on my Mind
So who the heck was Georgianna Simmons? Well, she donated two lots to the hospital in 1904. These would be utilized in which to build a nursing school, operated in conjunction with the early hospital. Mrs. Simmons was the sister of Emma Houck, who was on the board of directors for the hospital and the Houck family was known to have given generously to the healthcare endeavor. The Georgianna Simmons Nurses Home was completed on July 31st, 1913, and served as a training center for nurses and a home for them while studying.
Work on this novel building was started the previous year.
Georgianna Simmons was born to parents Ezra Houck and Catherine Bentz on August 15th, 1832. The Houcks at the time lived on the old Mill Pond property, northeast of town on Tuscarora Creek and better known today as part of Worman’s Mill. (The farm no longer stands but was known to older residents as the Bowers Farm. The farmhouse would be demolished and became part of the surrounding Worman's Mill development)
Ezra Houck was a successful farmer and businessman. Among his activities were serving as president of the Junior Fire Company (1840-1850) as well as the Farmer's and Mechanic's Bank, Mutual Insurance Company and Frederick and Woodsborough Turnpike Company.
Desiring an opportunity to move his family into town, he bought a familiar Frederick landmark property on N. Market Street. It had been improved with a stately structure thought to have been erected by Richard Potts and located where the patio of Volt Restaurant now stands. Potts’ widow, Eleanor, sold it to Ezra Houck in 1838. I’m assuming the family re-located here at the time of purchase.
Georgianna (aka "Georgie") had ten siblings. She had been named for her grandfather, and an older brother who had passed away in 1833 at the age of five. She received an education in local schools in town, and the family attended Frederick’s German Reformed Church. Georgianna's was a gilded life as her father was one of the wealthiest men in the county, especially while holding down the job as head cashier at the Farmers & Mechanics Bank located less than a block south from the family home.
Georgianna lived at home until her 41st year of age. On December 3rd, 1873, she became the second wife of Simon Cyrus Simmons, a money broker who owned a sizable farm located just south of Buckeystown on the west side of the turnpike.
I'm thinking that Jacob Engelbrecht holds the key to figuring out perhaps how Georgianna met Mr. Simmons. He appears to have owned the dwelling across from the Mutual Savings Institution at which her father worked. The Frederick diarist mentions Mr. Simmons in May, 1871:
“Mr. S. Cyrus Simmons purchased the small brick house opposite the savings institution and has raised it to 3 stories and also an open front for broker office.”
This farm, which Georgianna made her new home, is still in operation today and known as Mayne’s Tree Farm which has specialized in growing/selling Christmas trees for as long as I can remember.
Sadly for our subject, married life was short as her husband died in October 1877, not allowing the couple the opportunity to celebrate their fourth anniversary. The farm stayed in the Simmons family and Simon Cyrus was buried next to first wife Anna Maria “Mary” Mantz Jackson (1793-1870) in a family plot located in Area H/Lot 257. Incidentally, Mr. Simmons was the third husband of “Mary” for those keeping score at home.
Georgianna had to find a new home as Springdale was not leaving the Simmons clan. I’m assuming that she likely welcomed a return to the Houck homestead on N. Market Street in town. Other siblings still lived at home. Her father died the next year and is buried beneath a very impressive obelisk monument on Area F/Lot 84. Georgianna’s mother would serve as head of household in the 1880 census but died in 1886.
Speaking of households, my amazing research assistant, Marilyn Veek, found a 1949 Frederick News article that talks about how the six Houck daughters built what is now the Volt building next door to their old house. (Note: I will place this find at the end of this story.) Many of us remember this as the Frederick Professional Building long before Brian Voltaggio and his “cooking and culinary prowess” moved in. I went to my beloved, and longtime dentist, Robert E. Broadrup, here in this building.
The old house that originally served home to the Houck family was torn down to build the new structure. Don't worry, the ladies certainly didn't have to rough it as they found temporary lodging at the City Hotel while the construction was being done. The six sisters built what architectural design deems a Richardsonian Romanesque masterpiece building. It would be a fitting home for a future “Top Chef.” And for those who continue to compliment me on my smile, the credit solely goes to the late Dr. Broadrup, a man who was undoubtedly in the same ilk as Brian Voltaggio as a stellar, seasoned professional who could easily wear the moniker of “Top Dentist.”
Now back to Georgianna Simmons for a quick life update. Without a husband, she could join her maiden sisters in figuring out a way to spend their inheritance, and in the process, improve their hometown. Luckily, Emma J. Smith and the hospital project would win Georgianna’s interest.
As I wrote in my earlier story on Miss Smith regarding the hospital:
“Emma and her lady Board of Managers worked earnestly to fund the hospital project. They went door-to-door, approached businesses and lobbied the state. In just five years, a new, "state of the art," two-story (and soon to be three-story) hospital building opened to the public. This was early May, 1902. The structure cost $8,000 to build, and featured 16 private rooms and would soon boast three wards. A school of nursing was also established in 1902 adjacent the Frederick City Hospital and named the Georgianna Simmons Nurses’ Home. Mrs. Simmons was the former Georgianna Houck (1832-1915) who contributed the bulk of the money needed to build this facility. Her gravesite is located in the same section of the cemetery as Emma and another major early benefactor of the hospital, Margaret S. Hood.”
Frances A. Randall wrote about the Nurses Home in the 2006 publication by the Frederick News-Post entitled Frederick County, Maryland: Your Life. Your Community.
“Miss Sallie Earhart was appointed the first superintendent of nurses. Five physicians were selected to give clinical instructions to the students. The first class of three graduated in 1904 from a two-year program. The school was changed to three years of study in 1907. The students lived in rooms in the main hospital building until 1913 when the Georgianna Houck Simmons Nurses’ Home was completed.
Most classes were held in the basement classroom or in the lecture room of the home. The hours on the duty were long, 7am-7pm, with two hours off during the day when possible. In the early years, the students were given one afternoon off each week.”
An article from the July 9th, 1913 edition of the Daily News reported the official dedication of the building and subsequent gift to the Frederick City Hospital. It also mentions the graduation of three nurses from the training program in 1913. They were Emma B. Ohler of Emmitsburg, Grace I. Thomas of Frederick and Florence A. McDade of Burkittsville. After graduation, these ladies were taken to the State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Sabillasville for inspection, according to the newspaper.”
Mrs. Randall continued with her overview of the school, giving its history through to its eventual end.
“Quite often students would be called on during their times off to help when a crisis might arise at the hospital. At times, the nursing shortages were acute, especially during the war years, and many responsibilities were placed on the shoulders of the young students. Perhaps this helped to make them better prepared for the greater responsibilities that lay ahead.
In 1952, the hospital’s name was changed to Frederick Memorial Hospital. Over the years many changes, improvements and enlargements took place. The hospital has grown from twelve beds in 1902 to 300 beds when the latest construction was completed. The largest class graduated in 1951 when twenty-one nurses received their diplomas. The last class of nine graduated in 1968, bringing the total number of graduates to 427
The closure of the nursing school was a sad event for the alumnae, but the pride we have for our Alma Mater remains. The many instructors and doctors who helped the students through the years are remembered with fondness. And so an era that lasted 66 years came to an end. The Nurses’ Home was demolished in May 2002.”
As for Georgianna Simmons, she passed away on August 6th, 1914 —a year after the grand opening of the Nurse’s Home. The cause of death (given in our records) is listed as senility. Ironically, Georgianna didn’t die at the hospital, rather she breathed her last breath in the calming confines of her family home on N. Market Street—the future Professional Building of course. It is not known whether she was assisted by a nurse at home, or not.
Ms. Simmons would buried in the shadow of her parent’s impressive funerary monument within the family plot in Area F. As would be expected, her funeral was well-attended on August 8th, 1914. Most of her siblings surround her in death, just as they had in life. Her grave is between sisters Emma and Ella. I find it interesting that Georgianna's tombstone is in the form of a cross, a symbol associated with the nursing profession, specifically the Red Cross.