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Letters to the Editor

A rebuke of Skiff name change

Allow me to add my voice to those of local citizens who decry the loss of the Skiff name in association with our nearly 100-year-old hospital, a mainstay in the community which became a reality in the aftermath of the 1918-20 flu epidemic.

When the availability of both the Ehlers boarding house and Miller Hotel and the acquisition of the Caleb Lamb house for use as a hospital proved inadequate to the needs accruing from that emergency, it was Vernon William Skiff (1841-1926) who recognized the crying need for a “modern and well-equipped institution.”

The Skiffs were prominent in the Newton community from 1851, when Harvey James Skiff (1821-1904), a native of the Skiff neighborhood in Allegheny County, New York, came here from Oskaloosa. He was among the earliest legal minds in what was then Newton village and was made captain of a company of volunteers during the Civil War.

His cousin, William Robinson Skiff (1809-1881), having made two visits to Iowa, followed suit, removing his family here in 1853.

So this family has had a connection here for more than 165 years. It is significant to my thinking that the Hotel Maytag is at this very moment being restored to its former glory in Newton’s Historic Downtown District on the site of what was formerly William R. Skiff’s son’s business house. V. W. Skiff & Co. was located where the newly-renovated Capitol II Theatre prominently sits.

V. W. Skiff later was associated with his son, Frank Vernon Skiff, and son-in-law, Frank P. Ross, in the Jewel Tea Co., which Robert L. “Bob” Lane represented in Newton from 1973 to 1998.

“In total, the Skiff family donated $100,000 to the [hospital] building and $50,000 to an endowment fund for the hospital’s future needs,” the article, “Skiff Medical Center,” in A History of Newton, Iowa (1992), notes.

It is particularly galling to surmise from the press release in the Daily News Jan. 15, that the decision to excise the Skiff name from the medical center was made in Clive. Did our hospital trustees have any say in the decision-making?

Larry Ray Hurto
Newton

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