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Celebrating 100 years!

Monday January, 4th 2016

January 4, 2016…

In the late 1800s, babies were not born in hospitals. In 1896, Mrs. Sue Hagaman dreamed of a hospital in Decatur where babies could be born. She knew her dream was the right thing to do. She never wavered, never tired. But for three years her vision remained only a dream until 1899 when she enlisted the support of a skillful Decatur surgeon—internationally renowned Harvard graduate William Barnes, MD.

1900 Hagaman, Sue

Mrs. Hagaman and Dr. Barnes spent the next 17 years tirelessly turning this dream into a reality. The doors of the hospital finally opened on New Year’s Day 1916. Just a few days later on Jan. 19, Decatur Memorial Hospital welcomed its first baby. Finally! A hospital in Decatur where babies could be born.

The hospital’s first few months were busy; the new 65-bed hospital was filled to near capacity. Then two devastating epidemics (typhoid fever and the Spanish Influenza) hit and it became quickly evident that the hospital needed to grow. The James Millikin estate donated $100,000 and a new wing was completed in 1919—the same year that the DMH School of Nursing opened. (The DMH School of Nursing graduated 1,400 nurses before it closed in 1980.)

In 1919, Mrs. Hagaman died. Eleven years later—on May 1, 1930, after a lifetime of unparalleled leadership and dedication—Dr. William Barnes died at age 69. In his typical fashion, he spent his last day on earth at a hospital board meeting and with a hospital groundskeeper discussing flowers … and butterflies.

It was the 1930s. The Great Depression had gripped the nation—and the hospital felt the repercussions. To keep true to Dr. Barnes’ promise, his widow sold his prized butterfly collection to the Smithsonian Institute and gave half of the proceeds ($25,000) to the hospital. In 1935, a $500,000 bequest from Jacob Latham carried DMH through the decade in top condition and the hospital began growing rapidly. In 1945, the Latham wing opened and in 1948, came a $398,960 bequest from community leader Oscar Dorr. The hospital continued to flourish in the 1950s. In 1955 the Oscar Dorr wing was complete.

A massive expansion and fund raising drive was launched in 1964. By April 1965, $2,111,846.47 was raised. This fund drive was capped off by a donation of $420,000 from Mrs. Eva M. Kirkland. Just in time for the hospital’s 50th birthday. The Kirkland Diagnostic and Treatment Center officially opened in 1968 and on Nov. 19, 1968, the hospital officially changed its name for the fifth time (1—Decatur Hospital; 2—Bethsaida Hospital; 3—Macon County Hospital; 4—Decatur and Macon County Hospital): Decatur Memorial Hospital.

On Jan. 1, 2016, Decatur Memorial Hospital proudly celebrates its first 100 years. The past century has witnessed revolutionary advancements, especially in healthcare which has become ever more complex and involved. Yet in spite of how much things have changed, our growth continues thanks to two steadfast and unwavering constants: a dedication to provide the highest quality care available and our heartfelt commitment and humbling gratitude to the community we serve. Community support has been the hallmark of Decatur Memorial Hospital’s strength, growth and prosperity. In awe and reverence, a quick pause to look back helps us steady our gaze as we prepare to embrace a second century of care. We owe it all to the community; a community we proudly serve: yesterday, today, and into the future.