Fifteen years ago on the occasion of Bothwell Regional Health Center’s 75th anniversary in October 2005, there were multiple celebrations including opening the Bothwell Diagnostic Center and other public events.
On Bothwell’s 90th anniversary on Oct. 29, there were no celebrations. Operations at the hospital and outpatient clinics were like many other recent days and the day was spent taking care of patients and managing a hospital during a pandemic.
“While dealing with COVID-19 has prevented us from properly celebrating our 90th anniversary with our community and our employees, we are celebrating the values of courage, commitment and teamwork that got us here,” said Lori Wightman, Bothwell’s CEO. “Now more than ever, these three characteristics that drove John Homer Bothwell to envision a community hospital sustain each of us every day and encourage us to continue providing extraordinary patient care.”
John Homer Bothwell moved to Pettis County from New York in 1871; he was just 23 years old and fresh from law school. He settled into his new community quickly and began practicing law. Over his life and career, he bought and sold real estate, served as president of Sedalia National Bank and represented his city and state in local government.
In 1896 he purchased land north of Sedalia and spent years constructing his home and other structures on the property. He even organized a new school district in his neighborhood and challenged his neighbors to raise money to support it.
“Bothwell had a lot of courage to move to a new community at such a young age,” Wightman said. “He jumped right into community involvement and wanted to make improvements where he saw them. He might have even ruffled some feathers along the way, which I rather like about him.”
By 1925, Bothwell was 77 years old and had been in Sedalia for 54 years. He’d had a successful law practice and served as assistant prosecuting attorney, acting judge of the circuit court, a state legislator, and even was a candidate for Missouri governor. Years earlier, when he’d challenged his neighbors to raise funds for a school, they had raised $500. Bothwell committed $7,000 to the project to help build the school and teacher’s cottage.
Bothwell then made his largest commitment — a hotel and a hospital. The Sedalia Democrat wrote at the time, “The portals of the Sedalia of the future swung open last night before the magic touch of John Bothwell.”
“Commitment to the needs of the community is what drove John Bothwell to challenge the citizens of Sedalia to help raise the funds to build a progressive and modern hospital,” Wightman said. “He committed one-half of the $200,000 cost to build the hospital. That is just a remarkable commitment and donation by one man.”
As with the school, Bothwell told citizens they would need to do their part to build both. Donations were pledged for the hotel, which was dedicated in 1927, and a bond was passed with 82% of voters in favor to build the hospital.
John H. Bothwell Memorial Hospital opened on Oct. 29, 1930, and treated 849 patients in its first year and ended with a positive cash balance of $835.
“John Bothwell was emphatic that he alone could not make progress happen,” Wightman said. “It would take teamwork. That spirit of teamwork built the original hospital and it is what fueled the collective response to epidemics such as TB and polio, natural disasters such as tornadoes, and today with the COVID pandemic.”
Today, Bothwell has grown to include a comprehensive array of specialty care clinics, a state-of-the-art cancer center, a walk-in clinic, lab and diagnostic center, and virtual and telehealth medical options and continues to care for people and serve its community in new and innovative ways.
Wightman firmly believes that understanding the hospital’s past helps build the future and that John Homer Bothwell’s values transcend its 90-year history.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us,” she said. “We will continue to show courage, be committed and demonstrate teamwork and be here for everyone in our community well into the future.”