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Dr. Henry Schmidt Memorial Hospital

Cottonwood County Historical Society
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Sanford Westbrook Medical Center

Sanford Westbrook Medical Center (formerly Schmidt Memorial Hospital). Photograph by Dave Van Loh, 2007.

Members of the small southwestern Minnesota community of Westbrook worked together and raised money to open a hospital in 1951. Since then, the hospital has seen changes and challenges but continues to meet community health needs as the smallest hospital in the state.

Westbrook physician Henry Schmidt and his father, Daniel Schmidt, shared a dream of opening a hospital. Before they could realize that dream, however, Henry died, in 1918, during the influenza epidemic. Daniel died in 1949. Their vision finally came true in January 1951 when the Dr. Henry Schmidt Memorial Hospital opened its doors to patients.

Daniel Schmidt had continued promoting the idea of a hospital after his son died. He farmed south of Westbrook and realized the importance of having a hospital close by so that doctors and patients wouldn’t have to travel twenty-five miles or more for medical care. When the retired farmer’s health was failing, he began talking to community leaders about building a hospital, in honor of his son, to benefit the community. In 1943 he drew up a will that included a $21,000 donation for a medical facility. That action motivated leaders to pursue the project.

In 1946 and 1947 the Westbrook Commercial Club went forward with plans to build a hospital. Businesses closed for the day on March 6, 1947, when a fund drive began. A temporary board was appointed and functioned until articles of incorporation were completed in June 1947 and a hospital board was organized.

Construction started in July 1949, and the final cost was $110,000. Community members dedicated the finished building, Dr. Henry Schmidt Memorial Hospital, on November 26, 1950. One of the honored guests, Hazel E. Schmidt, was Dr. Schmidt’s widow, who had continued to live in Westbrook after her husband’s death. Dr. George A. Earl of the Minnesota State Medical Association delivered the dedication address. He told the attendees that they had acquired the third major community necessity with their hospital. (He placed the church first and the school second.)

Schmidt Memorial opened its doors to patients on January 23, 1951. Costs have increased greatly since the first fees were established for the thirteen-bed hospital. In its first year of operations, the hospital charged $7.50 per day for a double room; $12.00 per day for a private room; and $25.00 per case for an operating room.

Two major factors contributed to the success of the small, rural hospital. One was the longevity of medical personnel. Dr. Wilmot F. Patterson served the Westbrook area from 1908 to 1933, except for a few years during World War I. Dr. J. V. Carlson practiced medicine from 1932 until his retirement in 1982. Dr. Jeff Cassel arrived in 1980 and is semi-retired as of 2017. The second factor is the quality of the personnel. Specialists from Sioux Falls regularly schedule appointments with their patients at Sanford Westbrook Medical Center.

Community support has also been vital to the success of Westbrook’s hospital. Before the building was a reality, people and organizations donated money, supplies, and equipment needed in the future hospital. Nurses formed a local organization named the Clara Barton Club.

On November 29, 1949, fifty women interested in contributing to the future hospital met in the local school auditorium. Guided by Clara Barton Club members, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Schmidt Memorial Hospital was born. Both organizations raised funds and gathered hospital supplies.

Over the years, the hospital has dealt with, and overcome, challenges. Changing needs, government regulations, and insurance requirements have resulted in adjusting operations to meet demands beyond the hospital’s control.

In 1968, when new Minnesota State Board of Health standards denied the small hospital Medicare, the facility faced closure. A letter-writing campaign from area residents, township boards, and even the Cottonwood County Board of Commissioners succeeded in keeping the hospital open.

Dr. Schmidt Memorial Hospital has expanded and adapted its policies to meet the needs of area residents. In the process, its name has changed more than once. In 2007 it became known as Sanford Westbrook Medical Center, a name suggesting the purpose of the facility: wellness. Some of the modern equipment has found a home in a former patient room, so the center is licensed for eight patient beds.

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  • Related Resources

Centennial Committee. Cottonwood County History, 1870–1970. [Minnesota]: N.p., [1970].

Centennial Committee. Westbrook Celebrates a Century: 1900–2000.
[Westbrook, MN]: N.p., 2000.

Related Images

Sanford Westbrook Medical Center
Sanford Westbrook Medical Center
Groundbreaking ceremony for clinic and congregate care facility
Groundbreaking ceremony for clinic and congregate care facility
Westbrook Health Center appreciation picnic
Westbrook Health Center appreciation picnic
Dr. Wilmot F. Patterson
Dr. Wilmot F. Patterson

Turning Point

In 1995 Schmidt Memorial Hospital partners with Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls. It is the first time the local hospital is affiliated with a medical facility outside of Westbrook.



Daniel Schmidt wills $21,000 toward building a hospital in Westbrook.


Articles of incorporation are completed for Dr. Henry Schmidt Memorial Hospital on March 6.


Construction begins on the hospital in July.


The hospital opens on January 23.


A letter-writing campaign to the Minnesota State Board of Health from people in the Westbrook area convinces the board to allow the hospital to stay open.


Westbrook’s hospital pairs with Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls.


Ground is broken for a clinic and congregate care facility attached to the hospital.


The official name of Dr. Henry Schmidt Memorial Hospital becomes Sanford Westbrook Medical Center.