By all evidence, the first hospital to be founded by any branch of United Methodism in Indiana was the Epworth Hospital in South Bend. Dating from 1894, it preceded by several years the Methodist hospitals in Indianapolis and Gary. Remarkably, from the start, it included a school of nursing.
Epworth had its origin in a religious revival and a charitable impulse. In the winter of 1892-93, a young girl was converted who was found to be living among "improper home influences." Her needs prompted the idea of a home for such unfortunates. In June 1893, the Women's Home Missionary Societies of the Methodist Episcopal Churches of South Bend, with the Dorcas Society of Milburn Church (later St. Paul's), secured a house, and immediately had applicants for admission. Sadly, most of these people needed medical treatment and nursing care. Thus Providence led the way to founding a hospital rather than a home.
A patient facility with three beds opened in January, 1894, under the care of a trained nurse, Miss Moore. Epworth Hospital and Training School (for nurses) was incorporated and the first nine trustees elected on May 28, 1894. The Superintendent of the LaPorte District of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Samuel Beck, D.D., was president of the trustees. Mrs. Sarah A. Matthews, a trustee, was president of the larger body of Lady Directors and Officers. Dr. T. B. Lyon headed a medical staff of eight physicians, a surgical staff of ten physicians and a homeopathic staff of five physicians.
Under the superintendence of Miss Margaret Brennan, the first class of five nurses graduated in 1897. One of them, Miss Clara Carr, would be superintendent from 1903 to 1910. By January, 1897, the new hospital had provided treatment and care for 132 surgical patients and 152 medical patients, 22 of them suffering from typhoid fever. More than half were "county" or "charitable" patients.
Gifts of land and money from Mr. and Mrs. Clement Studebaker and Jeanette Reynolds permitted opening a new hospital by October 1901. A brick nurses' residence went up in 1916.
Community-wide drives for area hospitals allowed continued expansion until at last the physical plant encompassed a new 526-bed hospital and a school of nursing. The Methodist-related facility continued to serve the South Bend region with distinction until June of 1945 when the organization was reincorporated, and the Methodist Church ceased to play a management role.
The building in the photograph, on the satellite campus at 420 N. Niles Ave., South Bend, still bears the Epworth name, although no formal relationship now exists with the United Methodist Church.
Much of this information came from: Birdsell, Roger, "History of Epworth Hospital," The Old Courthouse News, Fall 1980 [copy in the IndianaUM Archives at DePauw]. Glenda Pastryk, Coordinator of Beacon Marketing for Memorial Hospital, South Bend, discovered a dedicatory plaque stored in the present Memorial Hospital Building and shared her photograph with the Indiana Conference [see insert]. The inscription reads:
Epworth Hospital and Training School
"The ladies of the Woman's Home Missionary Societies of the Methodist Episcopal Churches of South Bend prior to the year 1894 established a mission home on this spot. From this enterprise followed Epworth Hospital and Training School, organized May 28, 1894, and incorporated June 7, 1894.
"This tablet is erected in memory of the original officers and trustees of this Society [s long list of names follows].
"This tablet is erected in further memory of Clem Studebaker and his wife Ann Studebaker whose generosity made possible the erection of this building, dedicated October 6, 1901."
The plaque probably remains in storage and may not be accessible to visitors.
GPS: 41 40 52.09, -86 14 45.30