The Story of Frank LeMoyne

Born in 1839 in Washington, Pennsylvania, Dr. Frank LeMoyne spent the better part of a lifetime caring for the sick and less fortunate.

Dr. LeMoyne’s parents – prominent physician Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne and his wife Madelaine – were fervent abolitionists active in the Underground Railroad. In fact, according to local history, the LeMoyne family worked together to hide as many as 25 fugitive slaves in their Washington County home.

As a young adult, Dr. Frank LeMoyne continued this tradition of caring for others, training to become a doctor at the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania.

Upon graduation from medical school, the young Dr. LeMoyne joined the medical corps of the army, serving throughout the Civil War. There, he witnessed both tragedy and triumph as he rose through the military ranks – eventually promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, a title bestowed on him for the bravery he displayed in attending to soldiers in the field.

According to the letters he wrote to family throughout his time at war, Dr. LeMoyne was particularly disturbed by the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Just days after learning the good news of Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April 1865, Dr. LeMoyne and his fellow soldiers were informed of President Lincoln’s assassination. In a letter written from his post in Virginia, Dr. LeMoyne concluded, “The unfortunate death of the President has caused a sad check to our rejoicings. I presume the whole country is taking part in the solemnity of his funeral ceremonies. I was in Petersburg today when the minute guns were being fired. Business was suspended, bells tolling…”

Not more than a few months thereafter, with the war behind him, Dr. LeMoyne returned to western Pennsylvania. The next year, with fellow physician Dr. James King, Dr. LeMoyne purchased a three-story house to establish a private practice on Fourth Avenue near Grant Street in what is now downtown Pittsburgh.

Dr. LeMoyne went on to achieve a celebrated medical career, serving as surgeon at West Penn Hospital, as president of the Allegheny County Medical Society, chairman of the PittsburghWater Commission, and as one of the trustees of the Elizabeth Steele Magee Hospital.

But what is perhaps most notable about Dr. LeMoyne’s significant history, is his role in founding the region’s first children’s hospital.

As a practicing physician, Dr. LeMoyne was often called upon to treat children. He believed that a hospital dedicated solely to the care of children would provide for improved treatment – particularly for children living in poverty. Together with his 11-year-old son, Kirk, Dr. LeMoyne worked to fundraise in support of the cause.

Kirk ended up taking the lead on the project, organizing a “Cot Club” with his friends to attempt to raise the funding needed to support a hospital bed dedicated to the care of children. Through baby pageants showcasing the babies of prominent Pittsburgh families and other creative events, Kirk and his friends raised enough to endow a bed in West Penn Hospital.

But the boys still had funding remaining, so at Dr. LeMoyne’s urging, the surplus funds were placed in a savings account.

Eventually, this funding was combined with a bequest received of Miss Jane Holmes, and a four-acre plot was purchased near the intersection of Forbes Avenue, McDevitt Place, and Ophelia Street. In June 1890, the 15-bed Pittsburgh Hospital for Children opened its doors thanks to the foresight of Dr. Frank LeMoyne and the hard work of his young son Kirk.

Rather remarkably, the charitable mission of the hospital was established from the start, with board and staff pledging, “The doors of Children’s Hospital have been opened to all children in need of medical and surgical care, regardless of race, creed or the ability of their parents to pay the cost.”

Tragically, Kirk died in a drowning accident not five years later – he was only 16 at the time. Dr. Frank LeMoyne lived many more years, passing away at the age of 74 in December 1913.

Today UPMC Children’s Hospital, a 315-bed hospital consisting of 1.5 million square feet on the main campus in Lawrenceville, stands in tribute to both Dr. Frank LeMoyne and his young son.

As a Children’s Frank LeMoyne Society member, you are part of a tradition of caring that spans generations. We are honored to share with you in this legacy.

(Sources: Branton, Harriet. “The Civil War winds down and Dr. LeMoyne goes home,” Observer Reporter, May 13, 1986, Section C. Obituary of Dr. LeMoyne: “Death Ends Busy Life of Dr. LeMoyne,” The Gazette Times, December 2, 1913, 11. “LeMoyne House Historical Marker,” Explore PA History)