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A Haven of Rest
Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children

By Bonnie G. Lewis

Child in Iron Lung
A small child in an adult-sized iron lung at Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children.
Date unknown.

Atop a rolling hillside in Cabell County stands a beautiful, rambling sandstone building, referred to by local folks as simply “Morris Memorial.” It stands on James River Turnpike just off U.S. Route 60, east of the city of Milton. This property has always been a source of pride for area residents, and most of us have memories connected to what for many years was Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children. When the building was no longer needed in the fight against polio, John and Rose Greene opened Morris Memorial Convalescent and Nursing Home at this location.

I like to drive to that area often. As I travel the little ribbon-in-the-wind road approaching the infirmary, thoughts of good times with friends and family on this farm fill my head. My friend Robert “Bob” Jimison happily told of sleigh riding down the steep hill in front of the farm. Everyone waiting at the bottom was loaded into, or tied to, his Volkswagen to be transported back up the hill. He boasted that his VW would climb a telephone pole if the pole had snow on it!

I smile to myself, remembering my own kids’ excitement as they beheld the “largest horse in the world” at a community gathering held at the farm’s barn. I also recall their hesitation, then pleasure, as they tried made-on-the-spot, still warm, molasses for the first time.

One Sunday afternoon, when Morris Memorial served as a nursing home, we entered the room of a little lady by the name of Sadie, who was 103 years old. We went to visit, hoping to make her feel better. In the bed, we saw a fragile, tiny lady so small that she scarcely made a ridge in the blankets covering her. Blind, she chose to see only that which was good around her. She asked us to choose scriptures to read to her from the Bible. Before we were more than a few words into the sentences, she would joyfully quote from memory for us, and became so happy that she would burst into song. I was the one who felt better when I left!

Over the last 50 years, many in Milton have had similar experiences. However, a wealth of memories remain with older folks, those who were involved in the day-to-day operation of the facility when the shelter still operated as Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children.

Although children were disabled from various diseases and accidents, polio was the greatest concern in the early 20th century.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.