Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
DeWitt General Hospital
(Auburn General Hospital)
DeWitt General Hospital
by Sgt Maj (CA), Dan Sebby, Military Historian, California Military Department

Prior to acquisition for DeWitt General Hospital, the majority of the Site was used as pasture. The general area was primarily a producer of deciduous shipping fruit until the 1930s, when prices for shipping fruit decreased and many orchards were abandoned. Within five years preceding the establishment of former DeWitt, a portion of the land was converted to permanent irrigated pasture for livestock. Small farm buildings were present on site when the land was acquired by the War Department in 1943.

The following information was obtained from Hospital Annual Reports on former DeWitt General Hospital for the years 1943 through 1945. Construction of former DeWitt General Hospital was approved on 25 March 1943, with a tentative completion date set for 15 November 1943. The hospital was activated as Auburn General Hospital on 15 August 1943 per Headquarters, Ninth Service Command General Order 96, dated 12 August 1943. It was designated DeWitt General Hospital per War Department General Order 48, dated 24 August 1943 and confirmed by General Order 122, Headquarters, Ninth Service Command, dated 4 October 1943. DeWitt General Hospital officially opened on 27 February 1944. Its function was "to receive and treat war casualties as well as those from the Zone of Interior posts, camps, and stations"

The was garrisoned by the 1987th Service Command Unit (DeWitt General Hospital).

The hospital initially furnished general hospital treatment for the Reno Army Air Base, Chico Army Air Field, Camp Beale, Camp Kohler, McClellan Field, and the Sierra Ordnance Depot. With cessation of the war and a large influx of overseas patients, DeWitt General Hospital was relieved of a majority of Zone of Interior patients with the exception of their own duty personnel. DeWitt General Hospital "was designated a hospital center for the care of neurosurgical, vascular (both medical and surgical), neuropsychiatry (both open and closed ward), general and orthopedic surgery, in addition to general medical type of patients".

A Dental Branch was present at the hospital as well. In 1944, DeWitt General Hospital was temporarily selected as an amputation center, but the idea was abandoned due to a lack of space and a shortage of equipment and trained personnel. Hospital occupancy peaked on 30 August 1945 with 2,310 patients.

DeWitt General Hospital was declared surplus on 31 December 1945 and the War Assets Administration (WAA) assumed custody of the Site on 24 June 1946. The Site was conveyed to the State of California by quitclaim deed executed on 15 March 1947. As a part of this conveyance four conditions had to be met. According to the first, for a period of 25 years from the date of this conveyance, the property had to be continuously used as and for a mental institution. The second condition stated the premises could not be resold or leased within the first 25 years without authorization from the WAA. The third condition listed the reporting requirements for the state. Finally, the fourth condition was the procedures to be followed if the first three conditions could not be met. The deed states that all and singular tenements, hereditaments, and appurtenances were transferred to the State of California. According to the State Archive's Online Archive of California, the hospital began receiving patients in early 1947.

Initially, DeWitt State Hospital could only receive patients on transfer due to overcrowding in other state mental hospitals. It was equipped to receive both mentally ill and mentally deficient patients. DeWitt State Hospital became a permanent hospital in July 1950, when it began receiving first admissions directly from local communities, including the counties of Modoc, Lassen, Sierra, Yuba, Sutter, Placer, and El Dorado. The hospital had exceeded its rated capacity with over 2,800 patients by 1960, but the number of patients subsequently declined until DeWitt State Hospital was closed in 1972. The federal government deed restrictions expired on 15 March 1972. Correspondence from the Office of Surplus Property Utilization, California Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, stated that upon completion of the 25-year use of the property as a mental institution, it was the intention of the Administration to transfer the property to the County of Placer for further public use, effective 1 April 1972.

Assembly Bill No. 1748, dated 12 April 1972, created the DeWitt Hospital Authority Act to be administered by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The act made the transfer to the County of Placer, at no cost to the county, in a manner agreeable to the county. If the county ceases to use the property for public purposes, the property will revert to the state. This act was an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution, and it went into immediate effect. The act was made necessary because it is imperative in terms of maintenance and operation of expensive machinery and facilities that the machinery and facilities not be allowed to sit idle. During a regular meeting, the Board of Supervisors, County of Placer, State of California, accepted Resolution No: 72-392 on 27 June 1972. By acceptance of this Resolution, the County of Placer consented to the acceptance and recordation of the attached deed, and accepted for public purposes the real property, or interest therein or easements thereon.

Currently, the majority of the Site is known as the DeWitt Government Center. It serves as the primary government center for Placer County. The Placer County Jail and Juvenile Detention Facility are present south of B Avenue and west of Richardson Drive. In addition, several professional services Land surrounding the Site is developed for residential, commercial, and professional use.

Patients bound for DeWitt General Hospital being transferred from a Army Hospital Train at the Auburn railroad station. Note the use of German prisoner of war in the process.


Calvin DeWitt, Brigadier General, Medical Corps, United States Army

Born at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 26, 1840, the son of the Reverend William R. and Mary Elizabeth (Wallace) DeWitt. He was educated at Harrisburg Academy: A.B. at Princeton, 1860; AM in 1863 and MD in 1865 from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. Married Josephine Lesesne in 1877.

He served in the Army of the Potomac in the Civil War; Captain, 49th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, October 1861-January 1863; appointed First Lieutenant, Assistant Surgeon, United States Army, May 14, 1867, and advanced through the grades to Colonel, Assistant Surgeon General, United States Army, May 7, 1901; to Brigadier General, August 9, 1903 and retired from active service on August 10, 1903.

He served as a medical officer in several campaigns against Indians and in Cuba. Was an instructor in military hygiene, General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and professor of military medicine and later president, Army Medical School, Washington, D.C. He died in 1908 and was buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Josephine Lesesne Dewitt (1856-1952) outlived him by 44 years, never remarried and is buried with him.

It should be noted that DeWitt Army Hospital at present day Fort Belvior is named in honor of his son, Brigadier General Wallace DeWitt,.


Prisoner of War Camp/Prisoner of War Branch Camp

Effective 12 June 1945, Prisoner of War Camp DeWitt General Hospital was established per General Order 45. Army Service Forces, Headquarters, Ninth Service Command.

Effective 1 March 1946, the Prisoner of War Camp is discontinued at DeWitt General Hospital; concurrently with that action all American and prisoner of war personnel were transferred to Service Command Unit 3986,Prisoner of War Camp, Stockton Ordnance Depot with the former base being redesignated. as a branch camp thereof per General Order 40, Headquarters, Ninth Service Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, dated 26 February 1946.

Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, 1945


Other Online History
DeWitt History Museum: Grand Opening Van Tour - February 27, 2017
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Updated 12 March 2018