Local organization unlocks century-old history in McDowell County

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KIMBALL, WV (WVNS) — A white house which sits right next to Kimball Town Hall is almost a century old. Many residents of Kimball always knew a hospital stood there, but its history was a mystery…until now.

Last year, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) bought the land. Peg Martin, the Location Coordinator for the MCC, said that is when they discovered the hospital that used to be there was one of the largest African American Hospitals during the 1930’s. 

“We did some research and found out that the hospital was called the Henrietta Dismukes Hospital it was named after the mother of the doctor who started it and Nurses Home. It was named after the mother who started it,” Martin said.

During Jim Crow, many blacks in the area were not allowed to go into other hospitals, making it one the only place for them to go. According to research, Dr. Dismukes owned the hospital and was approached by the Bluefield Sanitarium, a white only hospital at the time. 

They made a deal with Dr. Dismukes to pay $3.50 per day to treat any African American who was sent there from Dismuke’s hospital; however, Dr. Dismukes never received any payments. The hospital later closed after only two years due to financial reasons. 

Some were thinking about tearing down the nurses quarters, but they decided not to. Martin said she is glad they did not because they would have lost all of the rich history. 

“I think it is exciting to know some of the story and to be able to do something about it so at least it can recognized,” Martin continued.

The committee which bought the land is now trying to find people with family members who once worked in the hospital. They want to work together with those people to decide what happens next to the land. 

If you have any family members who may have worked at the hospital or nurses home at the time, reach out to to the organization through their facebook page.

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