Valley Baptist History
Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Valley Baptist-Brownsville both had humble beginnings in the early days of the 20th Century. Both hospitals can trace their roots back to dedicated doctors and visionary citizens in their communities -- and to Christian organizations seeking to serve God by serving their fellow human beings.
In Brownsville, in the year 1913 Miss Nora Kelly opened the Charity Home on Madison Street to serve the homeless. Two years later the Mexican Revolution brought about the need for a place that could provide medical care. People were fleeing north across the border, some needing treatment from wartime injuries while others were suffering from diseases such as yellow fever and diphtheria. Ms. Kelly received a donation of $14,000 from the Stillman Family – one of the founding families of Brownsville -- to address this problem. In 1917 Divine Providence Hospital opened with the Sisters of Mercy at the helm. This facility quickly proved to be too small for a growing Brownsville. Thanks to the donation of a land site by James Stillman -- and to the generosity of other Brownsville residents -- Mercy Hospital opened in July of 1923 at E. Jefferson and Central Boulevard.
Meanwhile, 25 miles north in Harlingen, the year 1923 was also an important date for the founding of a hospital, as that is the year that a group of dedicated citizens saw the need for a modern medical facility in Harlingen. These residents -- including Dr. N. A. Davidson, Dr. G.W. Letzerick, S. G. Stringer, and Judge Fred Bennett -- set out to build on a foundation that had been laid by Harlingen’s original 10-bed hospital which was located on "F" Street, between Harrison and Tyler streets, in a converted frame house owned by Mrs. Ida Gilbert. Harlingen’s new 36-bed hospital was also built on "F" Street, a few blocks away from the original 10-bed facility. Valley Baptist Hospital, owned by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, opened as a not for profit community hospital on January 22, 1925.
Both the hospitals in Brownsville and Harlingen experienced rapid growth. In Brownsville, the hospital treated 390 patients in 1923; 1,083 patients in 1943; 4,361 in 1953; and 20,000-plus patients in 1983. In Harlingen, the bed count at Valley Baptist increased from 36 beds in 1925 to 82 beds in 1943 and more than 400 beds by the 1980’s. Both hospitals have been major contributors to the local economy, with Valley Baptist-Harlingen now employing more than 2,200 people and Valley Baptist-Brownsville employing about 800 local residents.
Over the years, both hospitals eventually experienced changes in ownership. In Harlingen, the Baptist General Convention of Texas acquired the hospital in 1945. In Brownsville, the hospital was known as Mercy Hospital or “La Merced” for 50 years until 1973, when it came under corporate ownership and became Brownsville Medical Center. In 2004, the Brownsville hospital was purchased by Valley Baptist Health System and its name changed to Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville.
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