Throwback Thursday – Kentucky resilience during the tuberculosis era

Throwback Thursday has told the story of Spanish flu in Kentucky to show how its people are resilient and have fought battles of disease in years past. We thought viewers may want to know more about a couple other diseases from the early 20th century too—starting with tuberculosis.

An unusual street sign off Richardsville Road in northern Warren County is labeled TB Hospital Road. Its story begins in August 1940, when a house and its 122 acres were donated to the Bowling Green-Warren County Tuberculosis Association. 

According to the WKU Libraries, the home was equipped with about 30 hospital beds and opened in September 1942. Warren County residents received free treatment and anyone else paid three dollars a day. The disease hit the area hard from 1939 thru the early 1950s. It spread from coughing, sneezing, and spitting. The annual death rate in the county during the 1930s was thirty.

Beulah Morgan Smith, the wife of a WKU education professor, led the local movement against tuberculosis. Her mother and grandmother had been afflicted. She was President of the county’s Tuberculosis Association and its hospital trustee, acquiring donations and funding. Even more importantly, she preached the importance of educating the public about health screenings and chest x-rays.

Smith was the only woman appointed to the Kentucky Tuberculosis Sanatoria Committee in 1944, and received the Loyalty Award in 1949 for making the state’s greatest voluntary contribution fighting the disease.

The Warren County Tuberculosis Sanitarium operated until 1956. All patients were moved to the newly-constructed Sunrise Hospital in Glasgow for treatment.