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Ensworth Medical College

St. Joseph, Missouri


Travel and E-Travel

In 1978-79 I taught part-time at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph while my wife worked at the News-Press/Gazette.  By that time the Ensworth College and Hospital building had been gone for more than 40 years. Even the historic downtown where it had been located had pretty much passed into history as businesses moved eastward to the Belt Highway.  The St. Joseph Public Library provided some materials on the school; the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis scanned the 1889-90 Annual Announcement for my use.


Ensworth Medical College was the product of an 1882 merger of St. Joseph Hospital Medical School (founded 1876) and the College of Physicians and Surgeons (founded 1879).  The new college was named for Samuel Ensworth, a local lawyer who gave $100,000 for a new Building.  Central Medical College (founded 1895) also merged with Ensworth in 1905.  This merged school ran out of money and closed in 1914.


The Annual Announcement shows a three-year graded program with “didactic instruction” in gynecology, surgery, principles and practices of medicine, anatomy, material medica and therapeutics, obstetrics, chemistry and medical jurisprudence, physiology and hygiene, military and railroad surgery, pediatrics, ophthalmology and otology, general pathology and microscopy, and dermatology and genito-urinary diseases.  In addition, students were required to gain clinical experience at the Ensworth Hospital; or at hospitals operated by the city, county or railroad; the free dispensaries; the city and county jails, and the “state lunatic asylum” in St. Joseph.


Ensworth Medical College trained both male and female students.  The first requirement either for admission to or graduation from the school was “satisfactory evidence of good moral character.”  Ensworth Medical College graduated nine students in 1888-89.  Six of the nine were Missourians.  Thirty students were admitted that year.  The graduation class of 1895 numbered 14. 

Bricks and Mortar

The Ensworth building was constructed in 1888.  Located at the northeast corner of Seventh and Jules, the structure included both the college and the hospital.  The four-story building was made of red brick with stone foundation, facing and cornices.  In the form of an “L,” it measured 45 feet by 80 feet by 120 feet.  It contained lecture rooms, laboratories, dissecting rooms, a museum and an amphitheatre.  Some lecture rooms would seat 250.  By 1909, however, the Flexner Report deemed the laboratories to be “very weak” and clinical facilities “wholly inadequate.”


After Ensworth College closed, the building was used by the Methodist Hospital until 1924.  It was razed on April 17, 1931.  Today, the site is occupied by the Children First School.



Postcard view of Ensworth Medical College  (Courtesy of CardCow ( accessed 11-10-2017


      Team name: The Kansas City Star refers to                 the team as “Medics.”


The College Football Data Warehouse shows that Ensworth Medical College played some football between 1897 and 1903, with a full schedule in 1901.  The 1898 team lost to the University of Kansas 41-0. It seems unlikely that Ensworth would have had a large number of football players at any time.  Flexner gives the 1909 enrollment as 72.   This number would likely have been augmented by any faculty, residents or staff(or even alumni) interested in playing.   The 1901 team scored victories over Kansas City Dental College, Kansas City Medical College, Hiawatha (KS) Athletic Association and in-town rival Central Medical College;  losses were to Midland Lutheran (NE), Washburn (KS), Tarkio, and Haskell Institute.


A 1907 note in the St. Joseph Gazette shows that the Ensworth/Central team was considered for a game, but that the faculty had not approved the game, and so the players had not done any conditioning or worked out any formations.



The 1901 Ensworth football team.  Note the skull and crossbones insignias.  (Spalding Official Football Guide;view=1up;seq=104)

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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