How The Cherokee Indian Hospital Came To Be


In their Annual Reports to the BIA Commissioners, numerous Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Agents and School Superintendents pointed out the need for a hospital and physician to serve not only boarding school students but to serve all members of the Eastern Band.  The first official school physician to arrive at Cherokee, NC on September 1, 1894 was Dr. Oberlander. Dr. Oberlander’s services were limited to the boarding school students. 


At the boarding school, many different Indian Service physicians came and went. Each year the Agent and School Superintendent in their Annual Reports continued to request health and medical services not only for the students but for the Qualla Boundary residents as well. In the 1920s new school and agency employee housing was built around what came to be called the “Agency Circle” – today the Phoenix Theaters are located on the former Agency Circle site.  A small clinic was housed in the basement of the Agency “Administration Building” which was a building located on the Agency Circle.   The basement included a small area that was set aside for any clinical needs of the Eastern Band and the first doctor to work in this building was Dr. Harold Tidmarsh. Working with Dr. Tidmarsh was the first Registered Nurse of the Eastern Band, Field Nurse, Lula Owl Gloyne, who also had a small office there. 


Later a small two-story infirmary for the Cherokee Boarding School was built on “school house hill.”  This two-story building was intended to care for boarding school students only but soon the school physician began to provide maternity and tuberculosis care. This building was carefully torn down and moved down from “school house hill” to its permanent location across from the school dining room and girl’s dormitory where it began to serve as a “hospital.”


In the early 1930s, with the only medical facility the small office in the basement of the BIA Administration building on the Agency Circle and the school infirmary, tribal officials asked Lula Owl Gloyne to travel with them to testify in Washington, DC on the need of a full-fledged hospital to be located in Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary.  The Cherokee delegation was successful and eventually Congress provided funding to build the Cherokee Indian Hospital and construction was started in 1936. 


Reed and Abee of Asheville was the general contracting company. Many Cherokee men learned a life-long trade while building the original Cherokee Indian Hospital.  Other Cherokees worked with a skilled Italian-born crew to fashion massive native stones into walls over a foot thick.  The foreman of the Italian rock masons, Attillo Mares, married a Cherokee girl, Lillian Queen.


In 1973, a new outpatient clinic area was added to the front of the old hospital.  Today, that clinical addition houses part of the Cherokee Police Department and the “old” hospital building still stands in its original location but is now UNITY - a youth treatment facility.


In 1985 a new hospital was built further above the old hospital which is the current Cherokee Indian Hospital. On October 15, 2015 a new Cherokee Indian Hospital was dedicated alongside the 1985 hospital.