Dr. Ransom and the Madera Sanitarium

For the Madera Tribune

Dr. Dow Ransom.

Many of Madera’s veterans remember that brown-stained, tile-walled building at Yosemite Avenue and I Street. It has a long and useful past, thanks to Dr. Dow H. Ransom. It was once the Madera Sanitarium.

The Madera Sanitarium had its beginnings when Dr. Ransom, returning from his service as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corps in World War I, realized that the city of Madera was in dire need of a hospital facility.

The 1906 graduate of the Cooper School of Medicine, now Stanford University School of Medicine, and his wife, Edythe Ransom, a graduate nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco, were like-minded and worked together to fulfill a dream. They wanted to turn that building on Yosemite Avenue into a hospital.

Dr. Ransom had come to Madera in 1893, the year Madera County was separated from Fresno County. He was a member of Madera High School’s fourth graduating class and was no stranger to work. Both before and after school and on holidays and Saturdays, Dr. Ransom worked at Fred Barcroft’s Hardware and Plumbing, which was located in the Fred Barcroft Building, a three-story brick structure that still stands in the south side of Yosemite Avenue.

Upon graduating from Madera High School, Dr. Ransom went to San Francisco where he attended and graduated from Cooper’s Medical College, which later became part of Stanford University. Just as he did at Madera High, Ransom worked his way through medical school.

Upon receiving his license to practice medicine, Dr. Ransom returned to Madera to hang up his shingle. His success in his hometown was quite unusual since it was generally accepted that a local boy couldn’t get into the medical field and succeed in his own hometown.

When the United States entered World War I, Ransom enlisted and was assigned to a New York hospital with the rank of lieutenant. With the war over, he returned home and set about turning an old building into a hospital: the Madera Sanatorium.

The house had originally been the home of WC Maze, a pioneer real estate developer and grain farmer in Madera. He built the structure in one of his grain fields in 1907 to house his girlfriend. At that time, the site was almost surrounded by grain fields, which extended to what is now Highway 99.

The house was later purchased by John M. Griffin, and veterans can remember all those glorious parties and balls that were given there by the Griffins and their three daughters, Eileen, Maureen, and Dorothy.

The house, with its long, wide porches, spacious rooms, fireplaces, glowing chandeliers, and bountiful garden, was one of Madera’s first honest showplaces.

So when Dr. Ransom returned from the war in 1919, he bought the property and turned it into a hospital. In 1935 he remodeled the building again. The porches were enclosed to accommodate more private rooms for patients. In 1935, the cost of the room was $6 per day, with no additional charge for medicines.

On Saturday, April 6, 1946, Madera lost the founder of the Sanatorium. Death came to Dr. Ransom in his beautiful home at 301 North C Street. Although he had not been in perfect health, his passing came very suddenly to all who knew him. He just went to bed and didn’t wake up.

Private funeral services were held for Dr. Ransom on Tuesday, April 9, 1946 at Jay Chapel with the Rev. Chester Hill officiating. Burial followed at the Fresno Memorial Mausoleum. Flowers were omitted from the services.

Dr. Ransom was survived by his wife, son, Dow H. Ransom, Jr., MD, daughter Ida Mae Edmonston, four brothers, one sister, and five grandchildren. His daughter, Lucetta, who was married to Judge Philip Conley, predeceased him.

He also left behind a heartbroken community, many of whom have not forgotten him to this day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *