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Sheltering Arms Hospital


The Sheltering Arms Hospital was established near Hansford after Episcopal Bishop George Peterkin became concerned about the social and medical needs of miners in the Kanawha and New River coalfields. In 1887, Peterkin formed a corporation to provide charitable and medical services in the coalfields. Sheltering Arms Hospital saw its first patient in 1889. The board of directors voted to establish a nursing school at the hospital in 1901.

Sheltering Arms was a pioneer in prepaid health care, as coal and rail companies agreed to charge workers a monthly rate for use of the hospital. However, some officials were wary of the plan, and many families were slow to welcome the program, still viewing hospitals as places where people were sent to die. Gradually the new hospital’s effectiveness wore away this opposition. By 1901, half of the companies in the area participated.

The hospital experienced personnel problems throughout its operation. Sheltering Arms suffered a high turnover in its administrative and nursing staff. Conflicts over the workload of student nurses also plagued the hospital.

Despite these problems the hospital grew rapidly from its creation until World War I. The war drew away many nurses and interns. The postwar coal slump and 1919 strike decreased the hospital’s income. These factors, as well as competition from newer hospitals, forced Sheltering Arms to close. A merger agreement with Charleston General Hospital fell through in 1924, but the patients and nursing school were transferred to Charleston General. Sheltering Arms is considered one of the seven predecessor hospitals to the Charleston Area Medical Center.

Written by Shae Davidson


  1. Rice, Otis & Wayne Williams. The Sheltering Arms Hospital. Charleston: West Virginia Educational Services, 1990.