v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel


1860 to 1880 – The Initial Years

27 June 1865
General meeting of the Provincial Council of the Home Mission is held in the music hall at Bonn University, with the topic “Care for Epileptics” on the agenda. Dr. Eulenberg, a government medical officer, and Pastor Balke, from the town of Rheydt, give lectures on the topic: "What does Christian Care Require for Epileptics?"

2 August 1865
Individuals interested in founding an institution for people with epilepsy gather in Düsseldorf at the request of the Provincial Council. The preparatory working group drafts a resolution to establish a small institution for young epileptic boys capable of being educated. The institution is to be located in Westphalia because most of the institutions operating at the time are situated in the Rhineland. Bielefeld is proposed as an appropriate venue.

30 August 1865
Preparatory meeting is held in Bielefeld. Formation of a three-man committee for preparing the establishment of the institution on site. Mr. Huber, Bielefeld’s lord mayor, and Gottfried Bansi, a manufacturer, meet at this time.

27 January 1866
Huber signs a preliminary contract in the committee’s name for purchasing a small farm located in Kantensiek Valley. The property includes a small beech wood on the hill opposite the site. The purchase price is 8,500 taler. Bansi additionally purchases 36 morgen of land (approx. 80 acres) that belongs to the farm.

20 March 1866
Meeting of the founding committee for the purpose of forming an administrative board to involve more persons in establishing the institution. The first task of the new committee is to appoint a housemaster (warden) and a spiritual supervisor for the institution. Johannes Unsöld, a teacher from Württemberg, is proposed as housemaster and Pastor Friedrich Simon is proposed for the post of spiritual supervisor.

1 May 1866
First public announcement “For establishing a sanatorium and care facility for epileptics near Bielefeld”.

2 April 1867
General meeting of the Provincial Council in Dortmund. The appointments of Pastor Simon and Mr. Unsöld are approved.

15 May 1867
Renewed public announcement by the management committee and the administrative board. Mr. Bansi is introduced as the treasurer of the new institution and Dr. Tiemann, MD, a physician from Bielefeld, is introduced as the institution’s medical doctor.

12 July 1867
Pastor Simon is installed in office as the institution’s spiritual supervisor.

14 October 1867
The first three epileptic boys move in, Adolf Strate from Dortmund, Gustav Moersch from Neuwied and August Duening from Bielefeld.

6 November 1867
Official dedication and opening of the institution on 14 October 1867

22 June 1868
The institution’s first bylaws receive royal approval.

31 March 1869
Establishment of a deaconesses’ home (on Kreuzstrasse) in Bielefeld to improve nursing care in Bielefeld. Four deaconesses from Kaiserswerth begin working under the leadership of Emilie Heuser.

1 June 1871
Construction of new institution building commences. The first building, named “Ebenezer”, was only meant as a temporary facility until construction of a new building could begin. The new building is christened “Bethel”, i.e. “House of God”, upon completion. It is later named Groß-Bethel (Large Bethel). The building includes new facilities, i.e. an expanded vegetable garden and fields for involving residents in farming.

End of 1871
Friedrich Simon assumes the position of third pastor at Altstädter-Nicolai Church in Bielefeld. Pastors Schlosser, Mast and von Bodelschwingh are being considered as his successor. Pastor von Bodelschwingh is ultimately selected as Simon’s successor.

20 November 1871
Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh is appointed head of the institution under a resolution adopted jointly with the board of management of the deaconesses’ home. Pastor von Bodelschwingh takes on a dual post as supervisor of the “Institution for Epileptics” and of the deaconesses’ home.

25 January 1872
Pastor von Bodelschwingh officially takes office.

5 February 1872
Resolution adopted to build a new deaconesses’ home next to the Bethel institution. A new building has become necessary. It became apparent shortly after the opening of the deaconesses’ home that the building on Kreuzstrasse was inadequate.

15 September 1872
Foundation stone is laid for the Sarepta Mother House. A hospital is likewise integrated into the building. Topping-out ceremony for the "Bethel" building (Groß-Bethel).

14 October 1873
The first sick female patient, Auguste Gies from Düsseldorf, arrives at Bethel.

25 November 1874
Administrative board resolves to assign the name Bethel to the entire institution.

The first workshop, a carpentry shop, is set up to provide persons with epilepsy at Bethel with meaningful work. Skilled craftsmen set up workshops and businesses during the ensuing years. Many of these enterprises still exist today.

30 April 1877
Six male nurses band together to form the Westphalian Zoar Brotherhood (name changed later to Nazareth).

Around 1877
“Penny Donation Guilds” are formed as a replacement for regular collections of donations for the Sarepta Deaconesses’ Mother House. Each guild consists of a maximum of ten persons, and each of them promised to donate five to ten pennies to Bethel each month. This collection was named “Penny Donation Guild for Bethel and Sarepta near Bielefeld”.

20 November 1877
A leaflet is published for members of the Penny Donation Guilds. The leaflet is published irregularly once or twice a year.

15 September 1878     
The "Bethel Psalm" (Psalm 126) is sung for the first time at the official opening of Siloah and at the laying of the foundation stone for Zoar.

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