On this day in 1884, the City-County Hospital, the oldest public hospital in Texas, opened in Austin. The hospital was owned jointly by the city of Austin and Travis County until 1907, when the county withdrew its support. It was known as City Hospital until 1929, when the city council renamed it in honor of Dr. Robert J. Brackenridge, who had served as chairman of the hospital board and worked for many years toward improving medical care in Austin. Brackenridge Hospital offered Austin's first intercranial and open-heart surgery in 1948 and 1961. The city's first intensive-care unit opened there in 1960, its first cardiac-care unit in 1971, and its first alternative birth center in 1978. In addition, the Brackenridge Emergency Room is the regional trauma center for a ten-county area. Brackenridge also housed the area's first nursing school, which was established in 1915 and operated by the hospital until 1984, when Austin Community College assumed responsibility for the program. After beginning an education program for interns and residents after World War II, Brackenridge became a fully accredited teaching hospital in the mid-1950s.
On this day in 1964, Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest known cavern in Texas, was opened to the public. The cavern was discovered on March 27, 1960, by four spelunkers who were students at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. It is located off Farm Road 1863 in the hill country of Comal County midway between New Braunfels and San Antonio. The name was derived from a sixty-foot natural limestone slab bridge that spanned the amphitheater setting of the cavern's entrance. The developed portion of the cave, furnished with a half mile of paved trails and illuminated by 35,000 watts of indirect lighting, extends to as much as 260 feet below ground level. Natural Bridge Caverns became a registered United States natural landmark in 1971.
On this day in 1907, Pedro (Don Pedrito) Jaramillo, curandero or "faith healer," died in South Texas. He was born of Tarascan Indian parents near Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, in the mid-nineteenth century. He moved to South Texas as a young man in 1881 and settled on the Los Olmos Ranch, in the area of what is now northern Brooks County. He later related that when he was still a poor laborer in Mexico he suffered an affliction of the nose. One night he was in such pain that he went out into the woods to a pool of water. He lay down and buried his face in the mud at the edge and remained there for three days. When he had cured himself he returned to his house and fell asleep. A voice awakened him and told him that he had received the gift of healing from God. He began his practice as a faith healer almost immediately, prescribing the first thing that he thought of and making no charge for his services. At that time the only doctor between Corpus Christi and Laredo lived in San Diego; therefore, Don Pedrito's powers were often sought. At first he treated only close neighbors, but soon he began visiting ranches throughout the region between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Dressed as a Mexican peasant, wearing heavy shoes, a sombrero, and a cowboy vest, he either walked or rode a donkey on his healing missions. As his fame spread, an increasing number of patients came to his home. Most were poor Mexican Americans, and often Don Pedrito would provide the remedies he prescribed. He constantly received money through the mail in the form of donations, usually in the amount of fifty cents or a dollar. He made generous donations to several area churches and to the constant stream of poor people visiting his ranch. He bought food in wagonloads and kept his storeroom well stocked. More than $5,000 in fifty-cent pieces was found at his home when he died. Don Pedrito never married, but he adopted two boys. He was buried in the old ranch cemetery near Falfurrias. His resting place has become a shrine and is visited by several hundred persons yearly. A biography of him, Don Pedrito Jaramillo: Curandero, was written in Spanish by Viola Ruth Dodson and published in 1934.