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Riverside Sanatorium was established to serve Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, and Renville counties in western Minnesota. It opened January 1, 1917, with room for 40 bed patients. Its maximum official capacity was only 48 patients, but it once housed 65. A registered nurse was superintendent until 1929, with several doctors filling the post of medical director. In 1929, Dr. Lewis Jordan was hired to fill both positions. He was accompanied by his wife, Kathleen, who was also a doctor.
Dr. Lewis Jordan had worked with Dr. Slater at the Southwestern Sanatorium and participated in his county-wide tuberculin testing program. Dr. Jordan initiated a similar program at Riverside, concentrating especially on Renville County, which had one of Minnesota's highest rates of tuberculosis among school-age children. In 1946 he presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American School Health Association titled, "Results of Fifteen Years of Tuberculosis Control in Rural Minnesota." His methods included tuberculin testing of all school children, teachers, staff, and school bus drivers. Positive reactors were x-rayed, and their family members were also tested. There was initial resistance, but by 1950 they had 100 per cent cooperation in four schools. In three of those schools, no one had a positive tuberculin reaction. It was estimated that 18,000 tests were given to children in the four counties during the program.
While Dr. Lewis concentrated on the Riverside district, Dr. Kathleen was working with the state's Christmas Seal organization to test school children throughout Minnesota. She is believed to have administered 1.5 million tuberculin tests to children during her tenure. The doctors also worked with the state's health department and the U.S. Indian Service to conduct surveys among the Dakota Indian population at Granite Falls, Morton, Redwood Falls, and Pipestone.
In June 1961, the state department of health ruled that the treatment of the water supply and sewage, both of which involved the Minnesota River, was no longer meeting standards. The sanatorium officially closed on July 1, 1963, and Dr. Jordan stayed to serve as director of the outpatient clinic until he died in 1965. The clinic remained open until 1973. Riverside Sanatorium was the only county sanatorium that did not provide a separate house for the medical director. For 31 years the Jordans lived in an apartment created for them in the nurses' building. The sanatorium buildings were used for an alcohol treatment program during the 1970s, but then remained empty until being razed in the late 1990s.
Source: Riverside Sanatorium archives at the Minnesota History Center; Medical History Along the Highway, C. Paul Martin, 2010; and Letters to Kathleen, Amy Narvestad, 2001, Galde Press.
Photo: Private postacrd collection