John Homer Bothwell
Courage. Hope. Ambition.
Many know John Homer Bothwell as the namesake of Bothwell Regional Health Center, Bothwell Hotel and Bothwell State Park.
But do you know what he was like when he moved to Sedalia in 1871? Or what motivated him to become involved in the community and be such a substantial part of its history?
Upon his arrival to Pettis County from neighboring Illinois, Bothwell was first an attorney and soon became a politician, serving as an assistant prosecuting attorney and acting judge of the circuit court and representing the county in the Missouri General Assembly for four terms. He was even a nominee for state governor.
Bothwell also was a savvy businessman with an entrepreneurial spirit. He organized the West St. Louis Water and Light Company and was a major stockholder in the Sedalia National Bank, serving as its president for eight years. He also bought and sold real estate frequently, seeming to have held title at one time or another to buildings on nearly every block of Ohio Street. Bothwell’s influence helped make Sedalia the permanent location for the Missouri State Fair.
In 1884, he married Hattie Ellen, eldest daughter of Col. A. D. Jaynes, one of Sedalia’s most prominent and wealthy citizens. Their only child was stillborn on June 7, 1886, and sadly Hattie died a little more than a year later. Bothwell never remarried.
Bothwell began construction of his Stoneyridge Lodge as a private retreat on north highway 65 in 1896. He had good relationships with his neighbors and worked on their behalf to make improvements in their roads and educational opportunities by organizing a new school district and pledging personal funds to support both. In return, he asked neighbors to raise money for the school, and they did.
In 1925 The Sedalia Democrat proclaimed, “The portals of the Sedalia of the future swung open last night before the magic touch of John Bothwell” after Bothwell made his largest bequest - a hotel and a hospital. As with the school, he told citizens that they would need to do their part to help raise funds to build both. Donations were pledged for the hotel, which was dedicated in 1927, and 82 percent of voters passed a bond to build the hospital.
Bothwell died in 1929 leaving his beloved lodge to a group of friends and relatives he called "The Bothwell Lodge Club," who used it until 1969 when it was offered to the state of Missouri. In 1974, the state acquired the lodge and the surrounding 247 acres and began development of Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site, which is today administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Bothwell lived a long and prosperous life and brought “courage, hope and ambition” to his adopted state and city. His legacy of community and political involvement and business intellect lives on in Sedalia today, especially in his most lasting contribution to “serve the people and advance the interest of Sedalia” by spearheading the creation of a hospital.