By the late 1800's and early 1900's, tuberculosis was taking over the population of not only Arkansas, but also the United States. Highly contagious, poorly understood and almost impossible to cure, the mortality rate was very high (80.2 %). Urged by Judge Joseph Hill, who was diagnosed with Tuberculosis in the fall of 1905, the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 378 in March of 1909 to construct the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
The three purposes of the Sanatorium, according to the Act, were to:
1. To search for the tuberculosis people among the Arkansas population and see to their supervision and treatment
2. To search for the people who had been exposed to the infection and give them repeated examinations
3. To weed out tuberculosis among people who appeared to be well, even those who had no known contact with the disease
"The Board has decided that the Sanatorium should be located south of the mountains and will need a large tract of land, at least 1000 acres. The site should be a section free of malaria, where the drainage is good and the streams fresh and wholesome; the soil should be sandy or rocky in order for there to be as little dampness as possible. Pine lands where the timber has been cut off is preferable, and it must be where the transportation facilities are adequate for patients to come from all parts of the state . . .
The Board intends to locate the Sanatorium at the best place for the purpose, and if the state could obtain the land by donation, they would be grateful for it. If the best place for the Sanatorium must be purchased, the Board will make the purchase . . .
The Board intends to visit every available place and investigate the various conditions"
Selecting The Site
This picture is of a group of men who were involved in selecting the site for the State of Arkansas' Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
Pictured left to right: Dr. J. G. Southard, Hamp Williams, Dr. J. S. Shibley, Judge Joseph M. Hill, Dr. G. J. Murphey, Dr. S. P. McConnell, Dr. S. G. Brown, Earl Harrel, and Henry Taylor
The City of Booneville won out over several other areas in Arkansas by donating 973 acres of land, which had a total value of $10,000 at that time.
Sanatorium Facts & Figures
Act 378 of May 1909 Authorized Search for and Start-up of a State Sanatorium
First Patient Admitted - August 1910
1910 Patient Population - 64
1959 Patient Population - 1,017
Last Patient Discharged - February 1973
Act 320 of 1973 Authorized Closing the State Sanatorium
The Nyberg building, completed in 1941, is 528 feet long, seven stories high and has a 512 bed capacity. It housed doctor's offices, laboratories, x-ray and pneumothorax rooms, employees' cafeteria and kitchen.
Although not specifically labeled today, the Sanatorium Morgue was also located in the Nyberg Building, with hearses loaded in a tunnel under the main entrance.
At one time, passing through these gates as a patient was almost the equivalent of a death sentence
However, the patients admitted to the State Sanitorium had a lower mortality rate (approximately 50 percent) as compared to the mortality prior to its opening (approximately 80 percent)
Through the sacrifice of those that were patients, staff and faculty here, the Great Main Gate no longer separates this facility from the rest of the world