"You've looked everywhere but a member of your family just has
disappeared. They didn't marry as far as you know, they disappeared
from the census records or the tax records. You can't find a
Bible record, you can't find them buried anywhere in the county.
There wasn't a war going on ..
Where did they go? Were they hiding out? Did they change their last
name? Or, were they in what was originally called a lunatic asylum?"
In earlier times, all too often a person was brought before the
county court and adjudged to
be a "lunatic", "insane" or other terms. Were they all as shown?
Likely not. Without modern
testing facilities that we know now, many people were shuffled off
to the nearest asylum for care.
It is obvious that many did belong there (although it was a horrible
experience at the time), but many were simply suffering from
depression, epilepsy, PMS (ah, yes), old age senility. Families
often handed grandpa or grandma off because their memory wasn't as
sharp as it used to be and they couldn't take care of
them any longer. Mothers having children every year simply were worn
out. "Religious mania" was
sometimes shown as the cause when one family member "got religion"
and the family didn't like
the new-found enthusiasm and thought the individual had "lost it."
Below is a brief look at the three asylums in Kentucky to which
patients were transferred.
Western State Hospital: In the 25th of February, 1848, the
Legislature of Kentucky provided for
the location and erection of a second lunatic asylum. The Spring
Hill tract of 383 acres of land (which proved to be of indifferent
quality) on the turnpike road east of Hopkinsville, was purchased
for $1,971.50 (only $5.14 per acre). This sum was refunded by the
citizens, and $2,000 additional paid by them. There was expended
upon the buildings and other improvements in 1849 $43,052; in 1850,
$43,484; the additional outlays for these purposes do not appear in
any documents before us. The Legislature appropriated $15,000 in
1848, $20,000 in 1849, $45,000 in 1850, $35,000 in 1851 $43,000 in
1852, $44,017 in 1854; total, $202,017. September 1, 1854, the first
patients were received. By December 1, 1857, 208 had been admitted,
but only 102 were then in the institution, the others having died,
eloped, or been restored and discharged under the care of the
Superintendent, Dr. S. Annan. The number admitted in 1858, 106; and
in 1859 to December 1st, 129 ; total for two years, 235 ; during the
same time 133 were discharged, of whom 65 were restored, 56 died,
and 10 escaped.
On the 30th of November, 1861, the main building was destroyed at
mid-day by fire, which caught
from sparks from a chimney falling upon a shingle roof. The 210
patients escaped uninjured, except
one, who fastened himself in his room, near where the fire
originated, and perished in the flames.
The court house and other buildings in Hopkinsville were kindly
tendered for the use of the unfortunates; twenty-three hewed
log-cabins were speedily erected at about $90 each, and everything
done that could well be to mitigate the sufferings of the patients.
The walls being mainly uninjured it was estimated that $50,000 would
replace the brick and wood work, and $67,000 more (including $3,856
for tin roof and
gutters) would complete the building. In February, 1861, the
Legislature made an appropriation to begin it, and before January 1,
1867, had appropriated in all $258,930 to complete the rebuilding.
This, added to the manager's probable net valuation of the property
after the destruction by fire of the interior of
the main building $145,420 (exclusive of the enhanced value of the
land itself, makes the total value of the improvements at that time
(1867) $404,350, providing comfortably for 325 patients.
Some time in the year 1863 the present able and successful
Superintendent, Dr. James Rodman, took
charge of the asylum. The total number of patients received and
treated up to October 10,
1871, was 1.273. of whom 321 were then in the asylum. Calculated
upon the number of patients
received, 50.847 per cent were discharged restored, eight were
discharged more or less
improved, two were unimproved, one escaped and twenty-two died.
There is (nearly) one insane
person (October, 1871) in every 1,000 persons of the population, at
least 1,400 in Kentucky, of
whom there is room in the two asylums for only 850, and both are
full. (Western Lunatic Asylum
is an excerpt from "County of Christian, Kentucky" By Wm. H. Perrin,
1884. ) Since the above article was penned for Collins' History,
the asylum at Anchorage has been built, and some changes have been
made in the one located here, so far as relieving it of a crowd of
patients it was unable to accommodate. As a conclusion to this
sketch, we give the officers and board, which are as follows: Dr.
Superintendent; Dr. B. W. Stone, First Assistant Physician; Dr. B.
F. Eager, Second Assistant
Physician ; Frank L. Waller, Steward; John B. Trice, Treasurer;
George Poindexter, Clerk of Board. The present Board of
Commissioners: S. E. Trice, Chairman; S. G. Buckner, John N. Mills,
James E. Jesup, J. C. Tate, George 0. Thompson, R. T. Petree, John
Feland and Charles M. Meacham. The commissioners are appointed by
the Legislaturethree at each session. The term of the first three
mentioned will expire in 1886; that of the next three in 1888, and
that of the last three in 1890. The institution bears the name of
being one of the best-managed in the United States. The present
Superintendent, Dr. Rodman, has been in charge of it for over twenty
years; no other words in his praise are needed his long period of
service denotes his fitness for the responsible position.
Central State Hospital - Lakeland, Anchorage, Kentucky:
"Lakeland Asylum" was actually the
Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane. Built in 1869 in Anchorage,
it initially housed juvenile
delinquents and was called the Home for Juvenile Delinquents at
Lakeland. In 1873, it became a
lunatic asylum and was renamed the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum.
By the time "The Little
Colonel's Knight Comes Riding" was published (1907), the name had
been changed to the Central
Kentucky Asylum for the Insane. The facility cared for patients with
psychiatric disorders, mental retardation and brain damage and was
located next to where Louisville's E. P. Tom Sawyer Park stands
today. The original building shown in the post card above was
bulldozed in 1996. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
escaped lunatics were an every day hazard of life in Pewee (Lloydsboro)
Valley. The Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum was located only a few
miles outside the city limits and inmate
escapes occurred with some frequency. - (excerpted from the Little
The secluded, rural setting was typical for such facilities in the
late 19th century, as such an environment was thought to be
beneficial for recovery from mental illness. However, not all
patients had mental disorders, some suffered from brain damage,
mental retardation or were simply poor or elderly. Though built for
1,600 patients, by 1940 there were 2,400. However, starting in the
1950s, changing community perception of the mentally disturbed, as
well as the development of effective psychiatric medications, lead
to fewer patients staying permanently in mental hospitals, and the
average stay at the facility was two
weeks by the 1990s. In 1986 a new facility was completed on the
original grounds, and the old
buildings were razed. Though it flirted with privatization in the
1970s, it is publicly operated today....
The land that is now Anchorage was a part of Isaac Hite's 1773 land
grant, which awarded most
of the land in today's Jefferson County to officers in the Virginia
militia, in exchange for their service in the French and Indian War.
Early maps refer to the area as Hite's Mill. Part of his original
grant now makes up the grounds of Central State Hospital and E. P.
"Tom" Sawyer State Park. (from their website)
Eastern State Hospital, Lexington, KY: From 1792 until 1824,
the mentally disturbed residents of
Kentucky were boarded out with individuals at public expense, or a
few were sent to Eastern
State Hospital at Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1816, a group of
public-spirited citizens in Lexington, banded together to establish
a hospital to be called the Fayette Hospital. It was to be for the
poor, disabled and "lunatic" members of society. A building was
started that year and, in 1817, the Honorable Henry Clay gave an
oration at the dedicatory ceremony; however, the building was
neither finished nor occupied. On December 7, 1822, the General
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky passed an "Act to Establish
a Lunatic Asylum". Ten acres of land, along with the unfinished
building of the Fayette Hospital, were purchased and thus the second
oldest state mental hospital in America was established. The first
patient was admitted May 1, 1824.
Samuel Theobald, M.D., a physician on the hospital staff and a
member of the faculty of Transylvania University Medical School here
in Lexington, wrote in 1828, a dissertation titled, Some Account of
the Lunatic Asylum in Kentucky, that the goal was "the custodial
care of the insane and the protection of society.Most of the
lunatics admitted were incurable cases, as non-violent insane were
to be maintained in
private homes, being sent to the hospital when no longer tame enough
to be kept at home." In these
early years, even the custodial treatment was less than ideal and
barely met the minimal needs of the residents. There was no medical
staff directly associated with the hospital at this time. Any severe
medical problems were treated by physicians in the community, or by
faculty and students of Transylvania College School of Medicine.
In 1844, Eastern State Hospital welcomed its first medical
superintendent, John Rowan Allen, M.D.: Eastern State Hospital has
been under a full-time director ever since. With this change began
an era of "moral treatment" during which the hospital staff strived
to treat the residents humanely. ("Moral treatment" meant
compassionate and understanding treatment.) Dorthea Dix, one of
America's great philanthropists interested in better treatment of
the insane, visited the hospital in 1847, and again in 1858.
Restraints including strait jackets, leather cuffs, chains, etc.
were originally used and were accepted treatment for the mentally
ill. Beginning with Dr. Allen's administration, the use of such
measures was largely eliminated. Following the discontinuance of
Transylvania University Medical School, around the end of the Civil
War, fortunes declined. The patient population increased, there was
much over-crowding, and the use of restraints was re-activated.
During the late 1800's and the early 1900's, modes of treatment
changed often, usually as a direct reflection of the degree of
interest and support provided by the public. In general, hospital
staff attempted to give the best treatment possible with the current
knowledge and with the resources made available by the public.
In its first years, because of its being the only facility of its
kind in the area, Eastern State Hospital admitted people from all
over Kentucky and from nearby states. The census of the hospital has
varied over the years. In 1945, the hospital was very crowded with a
population of 2,000; as late as 1967, there were over 1,000 Eastern
State Hospital residents.
Eastern State Hospital was an isolated institution, separate from
the community around it. Many employees lived on the grounds in
cottages, dormitories, separate rooms in the main hospital building,
or on wards with the residents. Residents did most of the work
required to operate the hospital. Among the many jobs performed by
the residents were farm work; grounds and building maintenance;
custodial work; cooking, serving, and dishwashing; laundry, sewing,
and mending service. The hospital grew
and prepared most of its foodstuffs on the hospital grounds. At one
time, Eastern State Hospital grounds consisted of 400 acres, and
most of this acreage was farm land. In 1956, over 300 acres were
sold to IBM; at present, 88 acres make up the Eastern State Hospital
When it was first established, the name of the hospital was the
Lunatic Asylum. In 1876, it was called Eastern Kentucky Lunatic
Asylum. On January 2, 1912, the General Assembly, Commonwealth of
Kentucky, officially renamed the facility Eastern State Hospital.
(c) Copyright 24 Sept 2009, Sandra K. Gorin
TIP # 856 - EARLY LUNATIC ASYLUMS - PART 2