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Carl H. Gellenthien collection of the Valmora Industrial Sanatorium records

Identifier: HHC 239

Scope and Content

Series I contains records from the Valmora Industrial Sanatorium including ledger sheets, household and hospital inventories; annual reports; construction files; equipment information; research information; supply, library, and drug inventories; and extensive patient information. Series II is a small collection of personal papers belonging to Dr. William T. Brown, the founder and superintendent of the sanatorium. These papers range from correspondence to newspaper clippings covering Dr. Brown's annual Christmas gifts charity. Series III consists of the papers of Dr. Carl Gellenthien, long-time medical director of the sanatorium and donor of the materials. Dr. Gellenthien's papers include copies of many of his publications, research notes, manuscript drafts, and extensive correspondence. Series IV consists of photographs, most taken during the 1920s-1940s when the sanatorium was at its busiest. Series V consists of artifacts from the sanatorium including a cork roller, a pig, a portable microscope, two pneumothorax machines, a scale, and the teaching skeleton, "Lulu." The bulk of the material dates from the 1920s through the 1950s.


  • 1909-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1919-1960

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research with the exception of materials relating to patients by name.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of print materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Valmora (1910-1989)

In 1905, William T. Brown, M.D., brought land and established the Valmora Ranch Sanatorium as a residence for tuberculosis patients. Built 6000 feet above sea level on ranch land between the Mora River and Coyote Creek in Mora County, New Mexico, the Valmora Ranch was part of the modern sanatorium movement which isolated TB sufferers under controlled conditions that provided the benefits of higher and dryer altitudes, cleaner air, and abundant sunlight. Since no cure for tuberculosis was known, the sanatorium sought to arrest the disease while training patients for new lifestyles to include moderate exercise, rest, and nourishing food. In 1910, Dr. Brown reorganized Valmora as a non-profit corporation sponsored by a group of large corporations for their employees. Renamed Valmora Industrial Sanatorium, over the next ten years it became a somewhat self-sufficient community with a hospital, patient cottages, housing for medical and support staff, a dining hall, laundry, general store, post office, and a recreation center with a theater. Valmora had a diary herd, a poultry farm, and vegetable gardens. A large nearby spring provided its water, two generators provided electricity, and it eventually became a flag stop on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Valmora weathered the Great Depression and World War II, but expanded its patient care to include other infectious and chronic diseases. In the 1950s, the sanatorium’s name was changed to Valmora Medical Center, the number of licensed hospital beds was reduced from 30 to 6, and the clinic physician began to offer a heart and chest clinic, a baby clinic, and saw patients at the Wagon Mound Health Center and the Montezuma Seminary. In 1956, sixteen cabins and the dining hall were separated and made available as a camping and educational center. From 1956 through 1965, the Episcopal Diocese of New Mexico and Southwest Texas used Valmora as a summer camp and conference center. The property was sold in 1991 and became Rancho Valmora, a non-profit residential treatment center and school for adolescents. In 1995, the area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Valmora Sanatorium Historic District.

William T. Brown (1870-1935)

William T. Brown was born in Queens County, Ireland on January 2, 1870. As a teenager, he emigrated to Wisconsin where his brother was an attorney. After attending medical school in Chicago, he opened an office in Ripon, Wisconsin. In 1897, Dr. Brown married Editha Hassell, a doctor’s daughter, and they had two daughters, Alice, born in 1901 and Margaret in 1904.

Dr. Brown attempted to establish a tuberculosis sanatorium at Romeroville, New Mexico in 1904, but moved to Valmora, New Mexico when the property became available. The first patients were accepted at the Valmora Ranch Sanatorium in 1905. By 1909 the sanatorium was in financial trouble and Dr. Brown went north to find a buyer for the land. He developed a plan for a non-profit sanatorium to be maintained by its member corporations for the benefit of their employees. In May, 1910 the Valmora Ranch was sold to J. M. Blazer of Chicago, counsel representing the Valmora Industrial Sanatorium. Among the thirty-seven early corporate members were The Chicago Daily News, International Harvester Company, Marshall Field, and Sears, Roebuck and Company. Through Dr. Brown’s plan, working people now would have access to the kind of care for tuberculosis that had been available only to the wealthy.

For the next twenty-three years Dr. Brown ran Valmora Sanatorium as superintendent and physician. He established a strict regimen aimed at long-term healthy survival for patients that resulted in the sanatorium having a high percentage of arrested or improved cases. During those years, he became well known in Mora County for his gifts to school children at Christmas and for providing employment to the wider community around the sanatorium. Dr. Brown became a force in the state through his constant promotion of Valmora and New Mexico to his many contacts among medical and industrial leaders. He established an annual dinner in Chicago for hundreds of doctors and industrialists that served food from New Mexico, presented southwestern entertainment, and provided American Indian and Spanish arts and crafts. Further promotion was possible when he joined the Los Rancheros Visitadores, an exclusive social riding club in Santa Barbara, California, whose membership included doctors, lawyers, actors, and corporate chief executives.

In 1933, Dr. Brown became ill and Dr. Carl Gellenthien, his son-in-law, assumed the administrative duties of the sanatorium. For the next two years Dr. Brown continued to promote New Mexico and Valmora when possible by continuing his many and varied friendships. On August 28, 1935, having taken guests on a seven mile horseback ride around the ranch, Dr. Brown made biscuits for everyone and then settled in front of the fire to reminisce with his friends before going to bed. The next morning the housekeeper found that he had died in his sleep.

Carl Herman Gellenthien (1900-1989)

Carl H. Gellenthien was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1900 to a family of modest means. He worked his way through medical school at the University of Illinois until his last year, when Dr. Gellenthien diagnosed his own tuberculosis and was sent to Valmora Sanatorium. He returned to school and graduated in 1927. Dr. Gellenthien became medical director of Valmora Sanatorium in that same year. He married Alice Brown in 1928 and they moved into a house built for them on the grounds. They had two children, Editha and Carl William.

From 1927 until his death in 1989, Dr. Gellenthien practiced medicine at Valmora. In addition, he was on staff at two Las Vegas, New Mexico hospitals and the Colfax Memorial Hospital in Springer, New Mexico. From 1927 to 1972, he was the local surgeon for the Santa Fe Railway Hospital Association and from 1937 to 1972, was a consultant to the Montezuma Seminary for Roman Catholic Priests. He conducted medical research during these years and published or presented papers on the treatment of tuberculosis. He developed the Valmora Artificial Pneumothorax Apparatus, which was purchased by the New Mexico Department of Health. His studies of the effect of barometric pressure on confined gases within the human body led to his induction into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1977. He belonged to and was active in many county, state, national, and international medical organizations. He was a founding member of the American College of Chest Physicians, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Like his father-in-law, Dr. Gellenthien was an active member in the Los Rancheros Visitadores, the California riding club. In 1981, Dr. Gellenthien and Valmora were recognized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a quarter century of reporting climate data to the NOAA.

Despite his many other activities and interests, over the years Dr. Gellenthien continued to practice old fashioned medicine. He delivered babies, tended to the elderly, sewed up knife wounds, and provided medical aid at railroad and automobile accidents in Mora County while continuing to care for the patients at Valmora. He remained interested in the babies he delivered and on occasion would assist with their education. Valmora Sanatorium patients often wrote to him or came to visit when in New Mexico. Dr. Gellenthien worked at Valmora until April, 1989. In November, 1989 he died in Scottsdale, Arizona.


30 Linear Feet


This collection contains the records of the Valmora Industrial Sanatorium and papers of Dr. William T. Brown and Dr. Carl H. Gellenthien, its founder and medical director. The sanatorium represented healthcare in Mora County, New Mexico for over seventy years, first as a tuberculosis sanatorium with a hospital and 32 cottages and then as a community clinic.

Collection Available Online

Material from this collection is available online at New Mexico Digital Collections.

Related Material

Carl H. Gellenthien Oral History, HHC 137. The New Mexico Health Historical Collection.

Processing Information

The collection was partially processed by Janet Johnson. The material was reorganized and processed by Danielle Scott and Peggy McBride from September, 2006 through June, 2007, as a project funded by the New Mexico Historical Records Advisory Board. Manuscripts were reviewed by Kitty Busby, M.D. Printed materials were processed by Laura Hall. Artifacts inventoried and photographed by Cory Meyer.
Guide to the Carl H. Gellenthien collection of the Valmora Industrial Sanatorium records, 1909-1992
Prepared by Peggy McBride and Danielle Scott
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center Repository

MSC 09 5100
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque New Mexico 87131 United States