Names of patients who were incarcerated at state insane asylums 72 years ago or more can be difficult to find; not because they aren’t there but because they are buried in old documents, records, and books. It is rare that one finds a first hand account of the experiences of a person who had lived to tell the story of being locked up at the state lunatic asylum. Miss Phebe B. Davis, wrote and published a pamphlet entitled TWO YEARS AND THREE MONTHS IN THE NEW-YORK STATE LUNATIC ASYLUM, AT UTICA: TOGETHER WITH THE OUTLINES OF TWENTY YEARS’ PEREGRINATIONS IN SYRACUSE, in 1855, with her own money. Her goal was to inform the public about the terrible abuses that were endured by the patients while in “the house.” I read her story with one hand over my mouth for many different reasons, and at times, I could be heard to say, “Oh, Jesus!” and “Oh my God!”
I have transcribed her pamphlet word for word and bolded the names of all the people she mentioned. This is what I meant in my book when I said: “To believe that all our ancestors were good, kind, law abiding citizens who were literate, owned their own homes, and held steady employment is unrealistic.” Some of our ancestors were down right mean!
The pamphlet is not an easy read since it was written 157 years ago, but all 64 pages are worth the effort. I knew that some words were printing errors but everything else I kept as originally written. If you have read my blog, you will already know Dr. Amariah Brigham and Dr. John P. Gray. In the coming days, I will do more research on Miss Davis, Dr. Benedict, Dr. Nichols, and Dr. Cook “Bub.”