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Dr. Ransom and the Madera Sanitarium

For The Madera Tribune

Dr. Dow Ransom.


Many of Madera’s old-timers remember that brown-stained, shingled-sided building on 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 beginning when Dr. Ransom, returning from 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 Cooper Medical School — now Stanford University Medical School — and his wife, Edythe Ransom, a graduate nurse from St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco, were like-minded and labored 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 separated from Fresno County. He was a member of the fourth graduating class of Madera High School, and was no stranger to work. Both before and after school and on holidays and Saturdays, Dr. Ransom was employed in Fred Barcroft’s hardware store and plumbing shop, which was located in the Fred Barcroft Building, a three story brick structure that still stands on 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. 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 his shingle. His success in his home town was rather unusual given the fact that it was generally accepted that a local boy could not enter the medical field and be a success in his own home town.

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 came home and set out to turn old building into a hospital — the Madera Sanitarium.

In the beginning the house had been the home of W.C. Maze, a pioneer real estate developer and grain grower in Madera. He built the structure in one of his grain fields in 1907 to house his bride. At that time, the place was nearly surrounded by grain fields, which stretched across to present day Highway 99.

The home was later acquired by John M. Griffin, and old timers could recall all those glorious parties and dances given there by the Griffins and their three daughters, Eileen, Maureen, and Dorothy.

The home, with its long, wide porches, spacious rooms, fireplaces, glimmering chandeliers, and abundant garden was one of early Madera’s honest-to-goodness show places.

So when Dr. Ransom returned from the War in 1919, he purchased the property and converted 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 room cost was $6 per day, with no extra charge for medication.

On Saturday, April 6, 1946, Madera lost the founder of the Sanitarium. Death came to Dr. Ransom at 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 simply went to bed and didn’t wake up.

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

Dr. Ransom was survived by his wife, his son, Dow H. Ransom, Jr., MD, his 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 a heart-broken community, many of whom have not forgotten him to this very day.


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