Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

<<Back to Treasures Index
Sam and Isabel Ziegler

Sam and Isabel Ziegler


Honored October, 1998

Dr. Samuel R. 'Sam' and Isabel H. Ziegler

Dr. Sam Ziegler was asked to come to Española in 1946 to help bring that small city and northern New Mexico into the modern era. Then for more than half a century, he and his wife, Isabel, did more than almost anybody else to make a new day happen

Sam grew up a minister’s son in Pennsylvania and graduated from medical school as World War II was starting. After serving as an Army doctor during the war he left the military and was deciding what to do as a young married man. Some wealthy benefactors from Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu knew his father and invited Sam to come establish the first hospital in Española, which they had helped fund. He agreed, planning to stay two years.

When Sam and Isabel arrived, Rio Arriba County was one of the poorest in the United States, with some of the most deplorable medical statistics. The child mortality/ morbidity rate was second only to an impoverished county in Kentucky. Most residents spent their lives never seeing a doctor. Española had no hospital, no library and no newspaper. Spanish was by far the common language. The economy was agricultural.