1902 Insane Patient Escapes

Insane Patient Escapes – Jumps From Ward’s Island Into The East River – Picked Up by Steamboat and Returned to Institution – Claims to Have Recovered His Reason. 1902.

Augustus C. Ward, who for the past seventeen months has been an inmate of the State Insane Asylum on Ward’s Island, escaped from the institution yesterday by jumping into the East River. He took with him a ten-foot plank, and when he was tired swimming he rested himself on the plank. He found it very difficult to steer a true course and was being carried rapidly down stream by the strong tide when he was picked up by the steamboat Middleton of the Hartford Line, bound from Hartford to this city. Ward was detained by the harbor police at Pier A, and later was taken back to Ward’s Island. When seen in the station house, Ward said that he came from Rastus, Banks County, Georgia, about three years ago and secured a position with Broadway Rouss in the tinware department. His health failed him and he became very nervous. He was sent to Bellevue Hospital, and he believes that through his brother’s wife, who lives in Washington, he was sent to Ward’s Island March 2, 1901. He said that he had written many times to his mother since his imprisonment in the asylum, saying that he was well and wanted to come home, but he thinks that his letters were intercepted. Whenever he received a message from home the letter was always opened and it would be marked, ‘Opened by mistake.’ He declared further that whatever trouble he may have had, he had entirely recovered, and that the authorities were only keeping him at the institution because he could do work with which others could not be trusted.

Joseph Reid, who has charge of the tinware department at Charles Broadway Rouss’s store, where Ward worked, said yesterday that the young man was there for about three months in the early part of 1901. One day he became melancholy, burst into tears, and was then sent to Bellevue Hospital. He was there examined by physicians, who said that Ward would have to go to some asylum for treatment. About three months ago, Mr. Reid said, he received a letter from Ward asking him to take him back into the store. Reid wrote to the authorities on Ward’s Island and received word from them that Ward was not in a fit condition to leave that institution. Superintendent A.E. MacDonald of the East Hospital, where Ward now is, said yesterday afternoon that the young man was very penitent, and had promised not to try to escape again.
SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published July 24, 1902, Copyright @ The New York Times.


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