The
Weimar Joint Sanatorium
and the
Weimar Cemetery

 

by
Robin N. Yonash
Colfax Area Historical Society
October 2012


Copyright © 2012 by Robin N. Yonash
All rights reserved.

Published by the Colfax Area Historical Society
P.O. Box 185Colfax, CA 95713
First Edition October 2012

Cover photo: Weimar Institute Archives; photographer unknown
Thank you to: Glenda Ragan for her assistance in researching the Weimar Cemetery

 


1. History of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium 
   A. Legislative Background
   B. Formation of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium
   C. Life at the Weimar Joint Sanatorium
   D. Treatment of Tuberculosis at the Weimar Joint Sanatorium 
      a
. Eligibility 

      b. Admission and Diagnosis 
      c. Treatment 
   E. After the Weimar Joint Sanatorium 
   F. A Famous Patient
   G. Sources 

2.  The Weimar Cemetery   
   
A
. Weimar Burials Sorted by Name 
   
B. Weimar Burials Sorted by Grave Number 


1. History of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

A. Legislative Background

In 1901 the California State Legislature passed the Indigent or Pauper Act which made county hospitals responsible for the care of the indigent sick, aged, blind, and physically disabled. At this time, county hospitals primarily served the dual purpose of hospitals for the indigent sick and almshouses for the aged and helpless poor.

Regardless of the legislation, counties took no adequate steps to meet the tuberculosis problem. Bills were repeatedly introduced to establish state TB hospitals. In the meantime, TB patients were housed in the same institutions as other sick and the aged.

In 1913 the state placed all institutions caring for tuberculosis patients under the State Board of Health. Inspections showed that county hospitals gave the homeless TB patients a place to die for no attempt was made at a cure. Statewide, the death rate from TB in 1915 was 189 per 100,000 population.1

That year the State began a $3.00 weekly subsidy [about $70/week in 2012 dollars] per patient if care met standards set by the State Bureau of Tuberculosis. Standards were established for construction and placement of buildings, care and treatment of patients, and diet.

For counties too small to maintain a special hospital for TB patients, the State assisted in setting up joint county institutions where the member counties participated on a pre-rata basis according to total property evaluation.

Between 1915 and 1931, counties spent a total of about $33,000,000 on the construction and operation of tuberculosis hospitals with a state subsidy of $3,000,000. By 1931 the statewide death rate for TB dropped to 89 per 100,000—a decline of more than 50% over the 1915 rate.

B. Formation of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

The WJS was an effort on the part of 15 California counties2 (see map on next page) to provide a place for the treatment of poorer tuberculosis patients who could not afford care in private institutions. One supervisor was chosen by each County Board of Supervisors to represent its county and the group thus formed was designated as the Hospital Central Committee of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium.

The Weimar Joint Sanatorium (WJS) was located in Weimar, Placer County, California. Weimar is about halfway between Colfax and Auburn, just off of the Lincoln Highway (at the time), now Interstate 80.3

 

1 TB was the scourge of its time. Compare this death rate to the 2004 rate of 121/100,000 for HIV/AIDS in the US. TB is still the second-most common cause of death from infectious disease worldwide (after those due to HIV/AIDS).

2 A group of supervisors from Placer, Contra Costa, Yolo, Colusa and Sacramento counties conceived the original idea. They were soon joined by six more counties: Amador, El Dorado, Plumas, Sutter, Tuolumne and Yuba. After the WJS opened, four more counties: Inyo, Nevada, Sierra and Solano joined, bringing the total to 15. In 1921 The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors voted to join, but this was vetoed by the Mayor.

3 Legend has it that the Weimar derives its name from an old Maidu Indian Chief by the name of Weimuh. This was later corrupted to Weimar and is pronounced “Weemar” which distinguishes it from the German Weimar [“Wymar”].

Map of the Counties Comprising the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

 

Climatic conditions were considered important at the time the Sanatorium was built, so a site was selected in Placer county in an area where the slogan was “above the fog and below the snow.” Proximity to the Colfax School for the Tuberculosis, a private sanatorium under the direction of Dr. Robert A. Peers, was also a factor in the choice of the site. Dr. Peers was a medical advisor to the Hospital Central Committee in the establishment of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium and his expert knowledge of tuberculosis and his wide experience were invaluable to the committee.

The sanitarium opened on November 17, 1919 with 125 beds. In late 1922, the cost to care for a patient was $2.25 a day [about $40 in 2012 dollars]. The State Bureau of Tuberculosis contributed $3.00/day for each County patient; no subsidy was provided for paying patients.

On June 19, 1921, a disastrous fire destroyed the kitchen, dining room, and small storerooms and damaged a Cottage and the Nurse’s Home. The fire started in the kitchen and spread rapidly. Temporary buildings were quickly erected, and a decision to rebuild in concrete was soon made. The San Francisco architect H. H. Weeks was chosen to rebuild, using concrete, for $30,000.

Buildings were arranged on a unit plan with a central structure (administration and infirmary building) surrounded by dormitories and other structures and by pine and other trees, lawns and flowers. Half of the administration building was for men and half for women. At each end of the building was a glassed-in 12 bed ward. The central portion contained 24 private rooms, 12 for men and 12 for women. A heating system provided warmth in winter. The administration building also housed:

  • Office of the Medical Director and assistants
  • Receiving suite
  • Examination rooms
  • Sterilizing room
  • Operating room
  • X-ray room
  • Laboratory
  • Pharmacy
  • Office
  • Telephone exchange
  • Chief Nurse’s office
  • Housekeeper’s department
  • Chart rooms
  • Service rooms
  • Diet kitchens
  • Linen closets

The patient dormitories and cottages were unheated except for a wood stove in the dressing, bath, and locker rooms. Canvas covers kept rain and snow off the bedding. Stoneware hot water bottles (called "blind pigs") heated each bed during cold weather. During the summer the glassless windows allowed the dry mountain air to circulate as the only relief from the hot temperatures. As of December 1922, there were eight cottages for patients housed from twelve to eighteen men or women each and included:  

  • Day rooms
  • Dressing rooms
  • Locker rooms
  • Bath rooms, shower rooms, lavatories and toilets

Service buildings and facilities included:

According to an article in the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, California on January 17, 1946, the WJS property was valued at $1,006,484.48 [about $11.9 million in 2012 dollars]. Operating costs of the institution during the fiscal year ended July 1, 1945 were $2.72 per patient per day [$992.80 per year or approximately $11,700 per year in 2012 dollars]. The 15 counties has the following shares: Sacramento 31.82%; Contra Costa 22.99%; Solano 8.15%; Yolo 7.00%; Placer 4.97%; Colusa 4.64%; Sutter 4.37%; Yuba 3.55%; El Dorado 2.66%; Tuolumne 2.09%; Plumas 1.95%; Nevada 1.83%; Amador 1.76%; Inyo 1.56%; and Sierra 0.67%.

At its height in 1948, the sanatorium had 550 patients in twenty-four buildings. With over 300 employees it was the major employer for the people of Weimar, with a monthly payroll of $125,000 [about $1.2 million in 2012 dollars].

C. Life at the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

Entertainment, including movies, was provided, and patients could help in the gardens and with tending the grounds. There were two chaplains, Protestant and Catholic. Placards were posted to provide helpful hints and to dispel the belief that TB could not be cured. Occupational therapy was provided for ambulatory patients and bedridden patients were allowed to do needlework in bed. Patients were allowed to keep 50% of the proceeds from selling any handicrafts they made.

Still, patients frequently became depressed due to the severity of their infection and the hopelessness of a cure or because of separation from their families. In many cases it was difficult for family members to visit either due to the cost of travel or because of the fear of becoming infected themselves. Seeing other patients die was another source of despair.


Most of the WJS patients were men. The survival rate was about 50%. Some patients lived for several years at the WJS; some for only a few days. Many were discharged with the status “unimproved.” Often patients left “against medical advice” and others ran away (“French leave”). Some committed suicide.

D. Treatment of Tuberculosis at the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

a. Eligibility

The WJS was open to all tuberculosis patients who were unable to pay for private treatment, who resided in one of the member counties, and who had lived in California for at least a year. Applicants had to obtain an admission card by applying to and being examined by their County physician. This card was then countersigned by a member of the Board of Supervisors from their county. Transportation was provided for those who could not pay the fare.

If a patient was able to pay, the charge [in late 1922] was $1.50/day [about $20.50 in 2012 dollars] and the WJS paid any balance above that.

b. Admission and Diagnosis

Upon arrival at the Sanatorium, a basic physical was done and then the patient was sent to bed for further observation. During this period a detailed physical was done, including a sputum test for TB and a X-ray. After a week or so, if the case was considered advanced the patient was assigned to a hospital bed, otherwise they went to a cottage.

Each patient had their temperature taken four times a day; was weighed weekly, and was visited at least once a day by the Medical Director. Patients rested daily from two to four PM.

After a patient’s temperature was normal for a week, they were allowed to go to the dining room for one meal a day; after a few more days they could go for two meals; and by the end of two weeks they could to for all meals. 30 minutes of exercise was allowed if the patient was not too weak.

c. Treatment

In the early 20th century, the only known treatment for tuberculosis was fresh air, sunshine, good food, and bed rest. At the time it opened, the WJS the sanitarium was considered a well-built, well-equipped institution.
As described by a booklet from the WJS, “the fresh air, sunshine, good food, and bed rest treatment was supplemented by the use of drugs and biochemicals for the alleviation of various distressing symptoms which may occur at times. Penicillin, streptomycin and other antibiotics were employed extensively and freely whenever the patients disease warranted their use. New procedures and new drugs were accepted as possible remedial agents as soon as sufficient experimentation had proved safe and helpful.

“Certain surgical procedures also supplemented bed rest and offered the diseased tissues a quicker and safer “cure.” Chief among those was the collapse of the affected lung by artificial pneumothorax. This was accomplished by introducing air into the space between the lung itself and the chest wall (the pleural space. By gradual instillation of increasing amounts of air the lesion was “squeezed” and walls of cavities, if present, were approximated. Thus the air in the pleural space “splints” the lung and allowed nature a chance to heal it. In some instances collapse of the lung was prevented by strands of tissue extending from the collapsed lung and adhering to the chest wall. If feasible, these were cut. The procedure was known as “pneumonolysis.”

It was said, ‘The home treatment of tuberculosis will be successful in direct proportion to the manner in which sanatorium principles are established and carried out. By the term ‘sanatorium principles’ is meant a carefully planned program of hygienic living, personal hygiene, regulated rest and exercise, food prescribed to suit the needs of the patient, and other measures which are directed toward increasing the patient’s vitality and surrounding the patient with an atmosphere of cheer and hope.’”

E. After the Weimar Joint Sanatorium

In 1957, due to a lessening of the TB threat thanks to the control of TB by modern drugs, the WJS changed focus to the Weimar Chest Center, treating other pulmonary diseases. It was renamed the Weimar Medical Center in 1960 and in 1966 the Weimar Medical Center developed into a general community hospital. (The Weimar Cemetery continued to be used during this time.) The hospital was closed in 1972 due to financial cuts by the state and counties.

Following the closure, the property changed hands several times and in 1975 it reopened as Hope Village, a temporary relocation center for Vietnamese refugees. In May 1977, a group of Seventh-day Adventists purchased the property and it is now [2012] operated as the Weimar Center of Health and Education, AKA the Weimar Institute.

F. A Famous Patient

The most famous WJS patient was Pat Morita (who played Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films). He was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and spent the next nine years at the Weimar Joint Sanatorium in a body cast and unable to walk. Eventually he was transferred to the Shriner's Hospital in San Francisco where he received surgery to fuse four vertebrae in his spine. He was able to walk out of the hospital at age 11.

G. Sources
(listed alphabetically): Ben Nighthorse Campbell: An American Warrior by Herman J. Viola, Big Earth Publishing, 2002
(Ben was an Orderly at the WJS and his mother was a patients)

Booklet at the Weimar Institute” quoted in Deaths and Burials at Weimar Sanatorium by Patricia Stanford and Lois A. Dove, 1989
(The booklet itself is no longer in existence)


Death and DALY estimates for 2004 by cause for WHO Member States

www.who.int/entity/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/gbddeathdalycountryestimates2004.xls

[El Dorado] County Has $26,799 Share In Weimar Joint Sanatorium”,
Mountain Democrat
, Placerville, California, January 17, 1946

The Modern Hospital
, Volume XIX, No. 6, December, 1922
(downloaded from
http://archive.org/details/modernhospital19chicuoft)

Noriyuki Pat Morita: In the Footsteps of a Sensei
by Charles C. Goodin
http://seinenkai.com/art-morita.html

Weimar Center of Health and Education “About Us – History”

http://weimar.org/about/history

Weimar Joint Sanitarium
by Melinda Herzog Landrith
http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/NORCAL/1998-07/0900803574

Welfare Activities of Federal, State, and Local Governments in California, 1850-1934
by
Frances T. Cahn, Helen Valeska Bary; Ayer Publishing, 1976

 

3. The Weimar Cemetery

The Weimar Cemetery was originally a part of the Weimar Joint Sanatorium (WJS) for tuberculosis patients, which operated under various names from 1919-1972. Patients who died at the Sanatorium and who had no other means of burial were interred on the Sanatorium property, AKA the Weimar Cemetery. Approximately 30% of the people who died at the WJS are buried in the cemetery there.

Since this was essentially a Potter's Field, instead of traditional tombstones each grave was assigned a number which was engraved onto a brass disc. The graves were marked by a piece of 2x6 wood with the corresponding brass disc attached. Sometimes the number was also painted on the wood. 

 

Unfortunately, during various data transfers information was lost and errors crept into the remaining data, so until recently there was uncertainty about exactly who is buried in the Weimar Cemetery and where.

When the Weimar Joint Sanatorium, then called the Weimar Hospital, closed in 1972, the cemetery property was deeded to the Colfax Cemetery District. Over time, this fact was lost and only recently has it come to light. Further, when the property was transferred, no funds were included for maintenance.

After 1972, the cemetery was essentially ignored. The grave markers deteriorated and much of the cemetery grounds become clogged with brush so that many of the graves are no longer accessible.

A massive effort by volunteers, which included examining every Placer County death certificate for the 50+ years the cemetery was in operation, was undertaken in 2012. As a result, the names of the burials have been identified and in most cases the grave number is also known.

There are 1,474 persons buried in the Weimar Cemetery, not counting exhumations. Go to www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=1982200 to view their memorials. See http://genealogytrails.com/cal/placer/Cemeteries/weimarcem.html or www.cagenweb.com/placer/cemeteries.htm for a transcription. MAP OF BURIALS

Where the country of birth is known, just over half (51.1%) of the people buried in the Weimar Cemetery were foreign-born and 48.9% were born in the United States. Mexico accounted for 15.4% of the total burials and 30.1% of the foreign-born burials. Next was Italy, with 4.2% of total burials. California was the top state, with 8.7% of the total and 17.8% of the US burials.

There are 29 known veterans of US military service buried in the Weimar Cemetery. This number is primarily based on military data that was tracked on death certificates from March 1940 through 1967. There are certainly many other veterans in this cemetery, but it is not possible to identify all of them individually. Go to www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=vcsr&GSvcid=288501 for a list of memorials to these veterans.

(Note that the Weimar Institute, the current owner of the former Sanatorium property, has added burials to the cemetery during recent years. These graves have traditional headstones, and are not considered part of The Weimar Project. The Weimar Cemetery itself is part of the Colfax Cemetery District.)


 

Sources Used
for Information on
Burials in the Weimar Cemetery

Death Certificates from the Placer County Clerk’s Office
(exhumations and reburials were not always recorded on the death certificates)

Weimar Joint Sanatorium (WJS) records still extant:

Record Date Range Grave #


Deaths and Burials at Weimar Sanatorium by Patricia Stanford and Lois A. Dove, 1989 (based on the above WJS records)

Family Trees and other records on www.ancestry.com

Memorials on www.findagrave.com