To continue our lecture on the fact and fiction of Sligo we now turn to the hospital stories. If you read the Works Progress Administration (WPA) report or any other articles regarding the house you will find that the previous home at Sligo was a Revolutionary War hospital, a hospital for the local Gunnery Factory, a smallpox hospital, a Civil War hospital, a hospital just for the sake of being a hospital, and a doll hospital because, why not? That last bit isn’t true, just so you know (sarcasm can be hard to get across when writing).
I have found a few definitive instances of Sligo being used as a smallpox hospital. According to Quinn, in 1790 and 1792 the sick were quarantined at Sligo and attended to by a Dr. Brooke and Dr. Kerr (The History of the City of Fredericksburg Virginia, p. 66). Also, Deaderick did use a legitimate source in her WPA report for Sligo when she cited Council Minutes from 22 June 1796: “…the Overseers of the Poor be requested to rent the house at ‘Sligo,’ at present occupied as a hospital, to be used as such for one year, and that Dr. Kerr be requested to attend the said hospital when it shall be necessary” (WPA, Sligo – Site, 2 June 1937). In a few of the reports it states that the house is unoccupied before being commissioned as a hospital and I am not sure what that means exactly. It does, however, confirm my belief that some people owned the land but never lived there (that’s a post for another day as it is still very much a work in progress as I try to determine who was who and where and when and why and sometimes how).
A third instance of the house being used as a hospital comes from the City of Fredericksburg’s Historic Court Records archive online (https://www.fredericksburgva.gov/998/Historic-Court-Records) and is written as follows:
A notice issued this morning calling all the magistrates together to fix upon a site proper for the establishment of an hospital for the diseased with the smallpox, when it was unanimously agreed (present: Robert Lewis, Mayor; William Gordon, Recorder; William J. Roberts; John Hart; and, William Allen, J.P.) that the house now unoccupied belonging to John Ferneyhough near the banks of the Rappahannock below the Hazle Run be immediately prepared for the reception of the sick – that a guard of two men be employed to watch night & day alternately to prevent any communication with the neighborhood & town & to prevent all intercourse with the hospital unless it be by the nurse, physician & those who furnish diet to the sick. At a meeting of the Common Hall yesterday (Present: Thomas Goodwin; William Gordon; Robert Parrott; Henry T. Phillips; Robert Mackay; Joseph Walker; Charles Austin; and, Robert Ellis) to take into consideration the propriety of providing by appropriation for the sick & diseased with the smallpox in the natural way. It was ordered that one hundred dollars be set apart for the purpose & that the Mayor be directed to draw for the same at his discretion for the above purposes.
I have yet to confirm if the house was truly used as a hospital during any of the wars it has witnessed. During the Civil War in particular, I find it hard to believe that it was used as a hospital because the Union soldiers looted and ransacked the property after the Ferneyhoughs fled. It’s also really only speculation that it was a doll hospital however, there were approximately nine little girls (perhaps more) born and raised at the property so one could assume it admitted quite a few injured dollies. So, despite the concrete evidence for some of the mentions of the house as a hospital, it is safe to say that Sligo has seen it’s fair share of sickness and sadness.