I have been working to find the truth behind the legends regarding Waverly Hills and have found a lot of compelling information. I'd like to present some of this info here.
What I have compiled does not give us exact number yet, but it does show that the legend about 63,000 deaths is a huge exaggeration and that the real number will likely be 10% of the legend if not less!
As far as the data.
1st - some excerpts from the following autobiography written by a former assistant medical director who worked at Waverly Hills from 1945 to 1955:
Dr. J. Frank W. Stewart
6th and 7th paragraphs
With this piece of information alone we can see that the highest death total possible would be 8,212. (see above link for details on this figure)
2nd - We have gone through microfilms of death certificates collecting all
Waverly Hills death certificates and compiling the data getting cross
sections of actual figures. I should add that at times I also include deaths
occurring at home if Waverly is listed as the informant, if a known staff
member signed the document, or if there was any other reason to believe that
the person may have been a patient at Waverly. I did so for two reasons, 1)
as effort to identify former patients for the memorial site, and 2) to
compensate for any certificates that I may have missed through human error
or insufficient/incorrect documentation.
Review some of this data HERE
3rd - From a report written by Dr Dunning S. Wilson (Medical
See details HERE
For a total of 511 deaths in the first 5.4 years.
For an average of 93.96 per year
This confirms the above findings and in fact, when the certs are divided by
these dates the numbers do match.
4th - From the 1954/55 fiscal report
This shows that again the numbers were substantially lower than the legends. It also shows that in 1955 when Dr Stewart left Waverly Hills, the death rate was on a steep decline.
5th - This GRAPH is from a newspaper article and shows the death rates from TB for Louisville, Kentucky, and the United States for the years 1910 through 1940
Below I will also discuss some of the most common misconceptions.
All things considered, I believe that an estimate of 100 deaths per year (or 5,100) would be very reasonable, so my estimates of 6,000 would likely be somewhat high, but still much more realistic than the legends. BTW - The first known death at Waverly Hills was on - Aug 29 1911 - (1 year 1 month and 3 days after opening) which is backed up by statements from the 1915 report which shows that the original sanatorium was for cases in the early stages only. This also shows that with a whole year+ with no deaths, the overall total would reduce even more.
I would appreciate any input you might give on my findings.
Feel free to ask if you have any questions of me.
JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION HERE!!!!!
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids