Good Bye!

I started this blog on July 10, 2011, thinking that maybe 5 people would actually read it and find the posts interesting. Five years later, I have created 12 pages, written 211 posts including countless PDF files, published 739 comments, and received 352,795 views. I self-published The Inmates of Willard 1870 to 1900: A Genealogy Resource, on December 17, 2011, with my own money, to further the cause of restoring dignity to the forgotten people who lived and died at New York State Hospitals (Insane Asylums), who had been buried on New York State property in anonymous, unmarked cemeteries and graves for over a century. New York State Senate Bill S840A-2015 became a law on August 18, 2016, but it did not include provisions for a searchable database available to the public as New York State lawmakers and the Office of Mental Health believed that if they did so, they would be sued. Their belief is that putting a name on a memorial or a headstone in public is different than publishing the names on a specific public website (as if no genealogy geek in the future will photograph the graves along with the names and publish them on the internet). This makes no sense to me. I believe that the New York State Office of Mental Health did not want to disclose the names of deceased patients because the burial ledgers may have been carelessly lost or destroyed. They would also have to explain why these cemeteries had never been marked in over 150 years, why they fell into such a state of neglect and disrepair in the first place, and why Kings Park State Hospital Cemetery is being used as a youth baseball field. The following states took a different approach and put searchable databases on the internet available to the public: Kansas; Minnesota; Nebraska; Ohio; TexasMaryland; Florida; Washington; and even Binghamton State Hospital of New York has a searchable list on line.

Monument For The Forgotten-Museum of disABILITY History, Buffalo, NY.

Monument For The Forgotten-Museum of disABILITY History, Buffalo, NY.

The reason why New York State Hospitals / Insane Asylums, Feeble-Minded and Epileptic Custodial Institutions are so important to the world is because there were 26 of them, possibly more. These institutions housed many newly arrived immigrants during the mid 19th and early 20th centuries from all over the world, especially Western Europe. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would like to know the final resting place of their long, lost ancestor. It just doesn’t seem fair to me that this one stigmatized group of people are being denied the one and only thing that we really have to be remembered by; our name. Even though I initiated the original bill in August 2011 and it was introduced to the New York State Senate by Senator Joseph E. Robach in March 2012, I was never allowed to write it. This is the bill that I would have written:

“This bill is important and necessary in order to restore the dignity and personhood of the thousands of people who were incarcerated and died at former New York State Insane Asylums, (later renamed State Hospitals), Feeble-Minded and Epileptic Custodial Institutions. When the bodies of the inmates were not claimed by family members, they were buried in anonymous, unmarked graves, or, their bodies and brains were given to medical colleges for research. These forgotten souls deserve to have their names remembered and available to the public by means of a searchable internet database. Some of these deceased patients were undoubtedly United States Veterans who served during the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, who suffered from PTSD and Shell Shock. Their graves deserve to be marked with the American Flag and honored like any other veteran’s grave.

The list of these former New York State Hospitals includes but is not limited to: Binghamton, Buffalo, Central Islip, CreedmoorDannemora, EdgewoodGowanda, Hudson River, Kings Park, Long Island, Manhattan, Marcy, Matteawan, Middletown, Mohansic, Pilgrim, Rochester, St. Lawrence, SyracuseUtica, and Willard

The Feeble-Minded (Intellectual Disabilities) and Epileptic Custodial Institutions of New York includes but is not limited to: Craig Colony for Epileptics, Letchworth Village for Epileptics & Intellectually Disabled, Newark State School for Intellectually Disabled Women, Rome State School for Intellectually Disabled Adults & Children, and Syracuse State School for Intellectually Disabled Children. There may be more.

There is no good reason why these long deceased souls need to be punished and stigmatized in death for an illness or intellectual disability that they lived with in life. The great majority of these former state hospitals closed in favor of smaller group home settings or changed their names to Psychiatric Centers in the early 1970s. This in turn led to many patients being thrown onto the streets to live in cardboard boxes, or thrown into jail with no psychiatric services, just as they did 150 years ago. I do not understand why anyone would need to have their name withheld from any cemetery list until 50 years had passed after their death. This requirement in the bill only serves to feed the stigma.”

Well, the bill that I wanted didn’t come to pass. I will keep this blog up and running for the purpose of historical research and I might post something now and then but there is nothing left for me to blog about, and I will not continue to bang my head against the wall trying to convince New York State lawmakers and the New York State Office of Mental Health to change their position. So, I will say, Good Bye! A few years ago, I donated $100.00 dollars to the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project and I cannot afford to give any more. If you are so inclined, please donate to the cause or start a cemetery organization of your own. The saddest part of this law is that by the time this organization raises enough money to mark 5,776 graves, I will be too old to care, and I am not aware of any other cemetery organizations for the other 25 New York State institutions. Thank you for all of your support over these past five years! May God Bless You and Your Loved Ones!!

Sincerely, Linda S. Stuhler

QUESTIONS & CONCERNS: CONTACT JOHN ALLEN, Director, Office of Mental Health, Office of Consumer Affairs, Central Office Staff, 44 Holland Avenue, Albany, New York 12229, Phone: (518) 473-6579, Fax: (518) 474-8998.

Photo by Roger Luther at

Photo by Roger Luther at


1896 New York State Commission in Lunacy

Before you read The New York Times Article, I have given a brief explanation of what the New York State Commission in Lunacy was and who it was responsible for. It eventually morphed into the present day New York State Office of Mental Health. Instead of a president, the head of the OMH is the commissioner.

“The commission is composed of a physician, who is its president, a lawyer and a layman, aiming thereby to secure due attention to the medical, the legal and the material or business matters which concern the insane and the institutions for their custody and care. The commission collectively and individually is invested with a wide range of powers and is charged with a corresponding extent and variety of duties.”

“The commissioners are paid for their services as follows: To the medical member, $5,000 per annum; to the legal member, $3,000 per annum; to the lay member, $10 per day for each day of actual service; and to each member an allowance of $100 per month in lieu of all expenses for travel or other purposes.”

“Under the amended constitution of the State which took effect on January 1, 1895, the commission is raised from a legislative to a constitutional body, and made a permanent branch of the State government. It is endowed with sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the insane and over all institutions, public or private, for their custody; but it has been relieved from all connection with or charge of the idiotic, the epileptic and feeble-minded, or other defective and dependent classes. Its present composition, on the threefold basis above referred to, is calculated to insure efficiency in performance and success in administrative results in a larger measure than could be attained by perhaps any different arrangement.”

SOURCE: Report of the Investigation of the State Commission in Lunacy, and the State Hospitals for the Insane, by the Subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees. Transmitted to the Legislature May 10, 1895, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1895, Pages 4,6,7.

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

President MacDonald of the State Commission Ridicules the Idea that the Patronage of the Hospitals for the Insane Will Go to Politicians –
He Expects Gov. Morton to Make Good Appointments Under the Horton Act.

Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, President of the State Commission in Lunacy, yesterday ridiculed the notion that the patronage of the State hospitals for the insane would be transferred to politicians through the operation of the Horton act, which was signed by Gov. Morton on Wednesday.

The Governor is empowered by the act to appoint new Boards of Managers for all the State hospitals for the insane except the Homeopathic Hospital at Middletown. The number of managers in each case is to be seven, to be appointed at first for terms of one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven years, and afterward for the full term of seven years.

“I am quite sure” said Dr. MacDonald to a reporter for THE NEW-YORK TIMES, “that Gov. Morton will appoint men and women as managers whose character and standing in the community will be a guarantee of their efficiency and uprightness.

The State Commission in Lunacy is an absolutely non-political body in the performance of its duties, and if it were otherwise I should not be connected with it. While the clause in the Horton act removing the present Board of Managers was not suggested or approved by the Lunacy Commission, I do not believe that the appointment of new boards will make any serious changes in the system at present in vogue.

“Under the act passed in 1893, the Lunacy Commission has large powers of audit and supervision over the various State hospitals for the insane. No expenditure can be incurred by any Board of Managers without its sanction. This rule applies to small things as well as to great ones. No repairs to buildings can be made until the Lunacy Commission has given its consent to the work and to the price which is to be paid for it.

“Most of the staple articles – such as meat, clothing, milk, and so forth – are obtained through contracts, tenders being invited for three, six, or twelve months at a given price, the articles to be supplies as required. These contracts must be submitted to the Lunacy Commission, which sees that there is no serious inequality in price between the tenders from different districts. In some cases the commission uses its powers so as to make several districts combine to purchase their supplies of certain staples from one particular contractor, selected by open competition, to insure the reduction in price which comes from buying goods by the wholesale.

“Supplies for each hospital are now ordered by its steward with the approval of the Medical Superintendent, and therefore the Board of Managers has no power to increase such orders. The appointment of all subordinates in each hospital rests with the Medical Superintendent, under carefully regulated and rigorously observed civil service rules, so that this important branch of the service is not open to the attack of politicians.

“The Medical Superintendent of each State hospital for the insane is, indeed, only after competitive examination, open only to those who have served five years as medical assistants in one the State hospitals for the insane. This is an excellent provision, as it insures promotion for those who devote their abilities to the study of insanity. The Medical Superintendents cannot be removed except for cause.

“The list of managers appointed by Gov. Morton for the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island is an indication of the class of men and women he will appoint for all the hospitals. These are now Henry E. Howland, George E. Dodge, Mrs. Eleanor Kinnicut, John McAnerney, Isaac N. Seligman, Miss Alice Pine, and George S. Bowdoin.”

The State hospitals for the insane whose managers will go out of office by the terms of the Horton act are the Manhattan State Hospital, the Long Island State Hospital, in Brooklyn; the Hudson River State Hospital, at Poughkeepsie; the Buffalo State Hospital, the Rochester State Hospital, the Binghamton State Hospital, the Utica State Hospital, the St. Lawrence State Hospital, at Ogdensburg; the Willard State Hospital, at Ovid, Seneca County, and the Collins Farm, in Erie County.

The total annual expenditure for these hospitals is upward of $4,000,000. There were 18,269 insane persons confined in the public hospitals of this State on Oct. 1, 1894. These required 3,304 medical and ordinary attendants.

The improvement which has taken place in the State management of the insane in recent years is due in large measure to the increased powers of audit and supervision given to the State Lunacy Commission as a result of disclosures of mismanagement in the Hudson River Hospital and elsewhere in 1892.

Francis R. Gilbert, Deputy Attorney General, was directed by Gov. Flower to make an investigation of the affairs of the Hudson River State Hospital in February, 1893. It was proved that one dealer had had a monopoly of supplying this hospital with meat for the preceding twenty-one years, getting from 2 to 2 ½ cents a pound more than the market price.

It was also shown that the price paid for coal was excessive, and the quantity used extravagant. The attention of the public was directed to this mismanagement chiefly through the columns of THE NEW-YORK TIMES, and the consequence was the introduction of reformed civil service methods in the administration of all the State hospitals for the insane.

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published May 15, 1896. Copyright@The New York Times.

1891 Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital

This is a very lengthy Letter to the Editor of The New York Times written by MEDICUSThe Medicus – A Journal for the Busy Practitioner, of the nineteenth century. What MEDICUS was basically stating among other things was: After 1890 with the passage of THE STATE CARE ACT, all New York State Hospitals accepted both CHRONIC and ACUTE patients from their corresponding districts so that the patients would be able to remain in their hometown area. There were no longer asylums specifically for the CHRONIC INSANE as in WILLARD and BINGHAMTON State Hospitals. However, if an asylum became overcrowded, the state would transfer patients to another state hospital out of the patients’ district. The main point that MEDICUS made was: If New York State was transferring patients out of their district to another state hospital, why couldn’t the State pay for the transportation of patients whose family and friends wanted them to receive HOMEOPATHIC medical care as opposed to ALLOPATHIC medical care? They eventually won their case. There were two STATE HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITALS for the Insane: MIDDLETOWN located in Middletown (1874), Orange County, New York; and GOWANDA (1898), located in Collins, Erie County, New York.

“HOMEOPATHY: a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

System of therapeutics founded in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann on the principle that ‘like cures like.’ That is, substances that in healthy persons would produce the symptoms from which the patient suffers are used to treat the patient. Hahnemann further stated that the potency of a curative agent increases as the substance is diluted. When it was introduced, homeopathy was a mild, welcome alternative to heavy-handed therapies such as bleeding, but it has since been criticized for focusing on symptoms rather than causes. With the rise of alternative medicine, it has seen resurgence.”

“ALLOPATHY: a system of medical practice that aims to combat disease by use of remedies (as drugs or surgery) producing effects different from or incompatible with those produced by the disease being treated. 2. a system of medical practice making use of all measures that have proved of value in treatment of disease.”
SOURCE: Merriam

Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital 1896

Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital 1896

THE MIDDLETOWN HOSPITAL. It’s History And The Laws Which Govern It.
How It Is Affected By The State Care Of The Insane Act –
How Proposed Legislation Would Affect The Insane Poor.

 To the Editor of the New-York Times:

The State Homeopathic Hospital, or, as it was formerly called, the State Homeopathic Asylum, was established by act of the Legislature of 1870 and was opened in 1874. The friends of homeopathy, in order to secure an asylum for the insane in which the treatment should be exclusively of the homeopathic order, entered into an agreement with the State substantially to contribute $100,000 for each $100,000 which the State should furnish. This agreement was carried out to only a very limited extent.

The utmost claim put forth by the friends of homeopathy as to the extent of the carrying out of the agreement on their part is this – that they contributed a few hundred acres of land and the sum of $50,000 in cash. The State was induced to waive the carrying out of the remainder of the agreement, and the institution was fully organized and equipped as a State institution in all respects whatsoever, differing in no regard from the other hospitals of the State, with the exception of the insertion of a special clause in the statute which provided that the treatment should be wholly of the homeopathic order. Subsequent legislation was obtained providing that the acceptance of the office of Trustee should amount to a pledge on the part of such officer that the principles of homeopathy should be maintained. A reference to the organic act will show that, with the above exception, it was placed precisely upon the same footing as the other, at that time, so-called “acute” asylums for the insane, said act of 1870 providing for the doing of that which had been and might be done without its passage, namely, that to the extent of its capacity courts and Judges should have the power to commit such pauper and insane poor from any part of the State as might desire to secure homeopathic treatment. The right to receive private or pay patients was also conferred upon the MiddletownStateHomeopathicHospital in the same manner and to the same extent only as was conferred upon the UticaStateHospital, which is the governing act of all the State hospitals in the State.

This act provided that such private or pay patients might be received whenever there were vacancies. From the foregoing it will readily be seen that the Legislature unquestionably intended that, while the treatment given should be purely of the homeopathic order, in all other respects the hospital should be conducted under the same laws and in the same manner as all the other State insane asylums.

By the passage of this act and the erection of this asylum the Legislature of 1870 did what had never before been done in the history of its dealings with the dependent insane, to wit, recognize a particular school of medicine-a distinction which to this day no other school has sought or had-yet, so far as a study of the statutes reveals, it was indisputably intended that the corporation of this asylum should be held to as strict a measure of legal accountability as any one of the other State asylums, an that it should enjoy no other or greater privilege than was possessed by all of them.

This institution, from the time of its erection down to the time of the passage of the State Care act, had always been regarded in the same light as the other State asylums of the State. It received appropriations from the Legislature and its capacity was enlarged from time to time, the laws under which it was governed remaining the same as when established, except as modified by the State Care act, which was prepared, it is understood, by Theodore W. Dwight, the distinguished Warden of the Columbia College Law School-than whom a more just or equitable man never lived-provided, as is well known, for the division of the State into as many districts as there were State asylums for the insane, and provided that the insane poor of any particular district should be sent to the hospital situated within said district. But the author of the statute, no doubt having in view the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital and the special treatment given there, provided that, if a patient or his friends elected so to do, he might be received into an asylum beyond the limits of the district in which he lived upon the following conditions:

First – That there shall be a vacancy in the hospital in which the patient desired treatment.

Second – That the consent of the Superintendent of the hospital and the consent of the Chairman of the State Commission in Lunacy shall be obtained.

Third – That the patient’s friends or relatives should pay the expense of transportation beyond the limits of the district in which the patient resides.

It would not have been necessary to impose any condition upon the free choice by a patient of a hospital in which he might desire treatment, had it not been for the fact that, except for some such condition, Superintendents of the Poor, for the sake of the increased mileage and emoluments which could be derived from traveling long distances, might frequently take patients to asylums situated a long distance from the place in which the patient lived. In fact, but for this reason it perhaps might not have been necessary to have established any districts whatever, as, if the element of greed could have been eliminated, convenience, accessibility, and the desires of the patients and their friends might safely have been trusted to regulate the whole matter. It was necessary, however, that some check should be imposed, in order that patients may not be obliged to travel greater distances than are absolutely necessary; and, therefore, on of the conditions named was that of requiring the consent of the President of the State Commission in Lunacy. But inquiry at the office of the commission shows that since the State Care act went into effect on the lst of October, 1890, less than thirty applications to go beyond the limits of the district have been received, thus clearly showing that a comparatively small number of people have any choice or care anything whatever as to what particular institution their insane relatives of friends shall be cared for in.

The legal rights heretofore enjoyed by the Middletown Hospital have not been interfered with in any way by the passage of this law except in the manner herein indicated. The right to receive private or pay patients under the law is precisely the same to-day as it was at the time the hospital was first opened, namely, the right to receive that class of patients when vacancies exist. The passage of the State Care act did not in any other manner whatever change existing laws upon the subject. But upon the taking effect of the State Care act on the 1st of October, 1890, it was found that there were about two thousand more insane poor to be provided for than could be accommodated in all the State hospitals in the State, and, of course, there ceased to be any vacancies for the admission of private or pay patients in the State hospitals. The State Commission in Lunacy, to which is confided the execution of the laws of the State so far as they affect the insane, were compelled to enforce the law in regard to the admission of private patients. It did not, however, enforce the law as rigorously as it might have done. It held that, at least within the spirit and intent of the law, private patients whose means are limited to the extent of being able to pay but a small sum per week might be admitted, and such patients have been admitted without objection from that time to this: That it declined to permit the admission of wealthy or high-priced private patients on the ground that the admission of such patients was not provided for by the statute, and that they could be provided for in the private asylums of the State, of which there are a large number representing the two principal schools of medicine, or equally open to both.

The bill which has passed the State Senate, if it becomes a law, will for the first time in the history of the State establish a principle which has been justly regarded as foreign to the spirit of our institutions, namely, the principle of paternalism in government – the duty of the State to provide for a class of its citizens able to provide for themselves. Moreover, it places at the disposal of one of the schools of medicine in the State a great hospital for the insane, which has cost in round numbers a million of dollars, and practically discriminates against all the other schools of medicine. This bill, which many have believed to simply restore the law as it existed prior to the passage of the State Care act, not only does this, but goes very much beyond it, as it provides for the admission of the indigent and insane poor from any part of the State, and also for the admission of “private patients” of whatever grade and upon such terms and conditions as may be fixed by the Trustees of the institution. In fact, the words “private patients” are for the first time recognized in the statutes of the State. The words “when vacancies exist” are wholly eliminated, so that it becomes a pure matter of discretion in the Trustees of a State institution, which is owned and controlled by the State and supposedly erected for the benefit of the insane poor now in the poorhouses or the wealthy private or pay patients. This is the really objectionable and dangerous feature of the bill. No matter how pressing may be the necessities of the insane poor, the rich who are able to provide for themselves may have the preference if the Trustees choose to give it. Singularly, too, no restrictions have surrounded the question of the determination of who desire homeopathic treatment. Upon the mere say-so of the patient or his friends, which would be sufficient to a Superintendent of the Poor, a patient may be transported hundreds of miles across the State to this institution simply for the purpose of adding to the fees and emoluments of a Superintendent of the Poor.

The right of the indigent insane for whom homeopathic treatment is desired to free admission to the Homeopathic Hospital from any part of the State might, perhaps, be conceded without any intervention or concurrence on the part of the Lunacy Commission, although in practice, as already stated, the occasion for such concurrence seldom arises. And incidentally, it may be added at the Lunacy Commission office the fact is freely admitted that they would, personally, be glad to be relieved of all connection with the matter, provided that some other efficient safeguard against imposition and abuse in the matter of transportation charges were suggested.

It is claimed by the friends of the Middletown State Hospital that medical liberty has been encroached upon by the passage of the State Care act. It is difficult, however, to see wherein this effect has been produced. The free and unrestricted right of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital to give homeopathic treatment has not been abridged in any manner, nor, so far as it is known, is it claimed to have been abridged. But while by the passage of the bill under discussion this liberty demanded in the name of homeopathic profession will have been extended even further than as it was held before the State Care act became law, an equal measure of the same liberty is practically denied to all other schools of medicine.

The laws of the State of New-York, with the exception above indicated, have never recognized any particular school of medicine whatsoever, and do not do so now. The rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission, so far as they relate to schools of medicine, place them upon an equality, and always have done so. The right of any particular school of medicine, so far as the method of treatment in the other State hospitals is concerned, is not abridged in any way. A homeopathic physician may secure appointment in any of the other hospitals in the State, and enforce such medical treatment as he believes in, without let or hindrance. But, if medical liberty is to be enjoyed by one school of medicine, it is difficult to see why it should be denied to the others; in other words, why a wealthy private patient who desires homeopathic treatment should be afforded by the State magnificent opportunities for its enjoyment at Middletown, while another patient who, for example, desires allopathic treatment in the Buffalo State Hospital or the Utica State Hospital, should be denied an equal privilege. It is hard to conceive how the State can thus discriminate against its citizens, can thus patronize one school of medicine at the expense of another, can place a great hospital, with all the prestige which such an institution commands, at the exclusive disposal of one school of medicine, without conferring a like privilege upon other schools; how, for instance, the eclectic school of medicine be denied the same privilege of the use of a State Hospital wherein only the eclectic method of treatment shall prevail.

The effect of the passage of such an act could not fail to be most pronounced upon State care of the insane, for it can hardly be denied that if this privilege is extended without restriction to the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital it will ultimately, if not immediately, be claimed for and must be given to all other State hospitals of the State. This would, in practical effect, destroy the distraction system, would greatly embarrass the operation of the law, and would necessitate making large additional provisions for the insane poor, since the amount of space for the insane poor, since the amount of space occupied by the wealthy private or pay patients is out of proportion to that occupied by the insane poor. Frequently it is as high as six to one, sometimes as high as twelve to one. Over and beyond the question of the recognition of one particular school of medicine by the State to the exclusion of the others, the broad question remains of how far the State is to make provision for of its citizens as are able to make provision for themselves, how far it is willing to compete with the efforts of private individuals, who are permitted and in fact encouraged by law to operate and maintain private insane asylums.

Let it be repeated that the passage of this bill will confer privileges which the institution never before enjoyed, and which an examination of the statutes heretofore enacted will clearly show were never intended to be given. It hardly seems credible that the great body of the homeopathic medical profession desire to be relieved from their share of the responsibility of caring for the insane, or to be given privileges which cannot be exercised in an equal degree by the other medical schools of the State.  MEDICUS.
BUFFALO, Sunday, April 12, 1891.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published April 19, 1891. Copyright @ The New York Times.

1894 Attendant Suspended at Buffalo State Hospital

Another Story of Alleged Cruelty at the Buffalo State Hospital.

BUFFALO, N.Y., May 26. – John J. Clifford, an attendant at the Buffalo State Hospital, has been suspended by the Board of Managers pending the action of Acting District Attorney Kendrick in the Felton case.

Clifford is the man whom Attendant Mahoney swore to have seen in Killen’s company just before Felton was assaulted. Mahoney swore before the State Lunacy Commission that Killen went into the next ward and got Clifford; that they came back together, and shortly after he heard Felton crying: “Boys, what have I done?”

Mrs. Jacob Loeb has a sad story to tell regarding the treatment of her son Fred at the hospital. He was confined in July. When taken to the hospital he was a tall, powerfully-built young man, whose mind had been unhinged by misfortune. A few days after his incarceration he was confined to his bed, where he remained in a deplorable condition for months. For a long time his friends were not allowed to see him, and when at last they gained access to his bedside they say they found him a mass of bruises and helpless as a babe. “They hung me up with a towel and pounded me,” he told his mother. Since his release he has spoken but a few words. Several times, however, he has said, when complaining of pains in his chest: “They used me hard out there.”

Buffalo State Hospital

Buffalo State Hospital

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published May 27, 1894. Copyright @ The New York Times.

Photo – City of Buffalo, New York Website

1881 Brutal Attendants At Buffalo State Hospital

A Story Of Cruelty From The State Asylum At Buffalo.

BUFFALO, Feb. 6. – A story of terrible cruelties practiced upon patients at the new State Insane Asylum here has been made public to-day, for which Frank P. Churchill, of this city, formerly a keeper, is responsible. He claims to have resigned on account of these practices, and says they were carried on by two men names Jones and McMichael whom Dr. Andrews, Medical Superintendent, brought with him from Utica. He says that John Turney, a monomaniac, was choked with towels so severely tha they had to blow in his mouth to restore consciousness. Being noisy one day while bathing, McMichael held his head under water until he was almost drowned, and pounded him on the stomach until a bunch was raised as large as a hen’s egg. They would go into his room at night and pound and kick him for the slightest disturbance. At one time Jones pressed both thumbs against his windpipe and jammed him into a chair with such violence that the back of the chair made two large holes in the wall. Another object of cruelty was Abraham Vedder, who was apt to be fractious at times. As a result of their attentions, he appeared on day with one eye blackened, the skin peeled off his throat, and the pit of his stomach black and blue. A railroad conductor named White, who was harmless, but so nervous as to be unable to keep quiet, was pounded by McMichael until he cried out, “My God, my God, don’t kill me.” If a man was slow in entering the dining-room he would be knocked down, kicked, and cursed in the vilest manner. A man named Vedder, from Alden, went to Jones and threatened to report if the abuse did not cease, and Jones frightened him from telling, by threatening to pound him to death. None of these things were done when Dr. Andrews was about, but Churchill claims to have frequently reported these things to him, and that the Doctor said he must be mistaken, as he had the fullest confidence in Jones and McMichael.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published February 7, 1881. Copyright @ The New York Times.

Commissioner Ordronaux
Recommends The Discharge Of The Accused Attendants.

BUFFALO, March 2. – The State Commissioner in Lunacy has rendered the following decision in regard to alleged abuses in the Buffalo State Insane Asylum:

To the Managers of the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane:

Gentlemen having been requested by your board to make inquiry into the truth of certain allegations of Frank P. Churchill, late an attendant at your asylum, charging that two fellow-attendants, named Robert H. Jones and J.F. McMichael, had, to his personal knowledge, habitually maltreated patients confided to their care, the Commissioner submits herewith the findings and conclusions to which he has arrived after a careful consideration of the same. The organic act of the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane lodges in its Board of Managers the original power of control over all the property and concerns of the institution not otherwise provided for by law, and it is made their duty to take charge of its general interest, and to see that its great design be carried into effect and everything done faithfully according to the requirements of the Legislature and the by-laws, rules, and regulations of the asylum. Among these prerogatives is the power of employing and discharging servants, prescribing their duties, and otherwise regulating the domestic service of that institution. A request on your part to the Commissioner in Lunacy for an inquiry into this service is to that extent a surrender o the territory of your proper jurisdiction. Moreover, no formal complaint having been made to the Commissioner against any department of your administration, and no evidence having been laid before him furnishing any ground for his further official interference, the action of the Commissioner in the premises and under these circumstances becomes, strictly speaking, advisory rather than judicial.

The publicity of this inquiry, added to the fact that the evidence received is spread before the public in the files of the daily press, renders it unnecessary for the Commissioner either to refer to it in detail of to weigh its probative force under the rules regulating the value of legal proofs. Besides which this evidence, by reason of its conflicting character, presents no preponderance in favor of either side, and the charges remain not sufficiently established to warrant any affirmative decision upon their truth. It is manifest, however, from the very nature of the guardianship exercised over lunatics in asylums, that attendants who are in constant and immediate appendance upon patients should be free from any taint of suspicion. In these peculiar positions of trust the character of every person implicated in allegations of this kind and brought into the field of public inquiry, although sufficient proof has not been adduced to justify a conviction, yet suffers in public estimation from the fact alone that the evidence is conflicting. Where such evidence, therefore, leaves the presumptions equally in question the effect nevertheless operates to the public discredit of the parties concerned and their services should, in the Commissioner’s judgment, be dispensed with for prudential reasons. I am, very respectfully yours, John Ordronaux, State Commissioner in Lunacy.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published March 3, 1881. Copyright @ The New York Times.

Buffalo State Hospital

Buffalo State Hospital


BUFFALO, N.Y., March 18. – The Assembly sub-committee appointed to investigate the charges of abuse at the State Insane Asylum arrived here and was in session to-day. The testimony of Dr. Andrews was taken, and a visit made to the asylum. All the evidence given before Dr. Ordronaux’s investigation will be reviewed, as the members of the committee express themselves determined to get a the bottom facts of the case.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published March 19, 1881. Copyright @ The New York Times.

Kirkbride Buildings – Buffalo State Hospital

1896 State Care System Complete


The Governor has approved the bill creating the Manhattan State Hospital and providing for the transfer of the lunatic asylums of this city and the care of their inmates to the State. Thirty days are allowed for carrying its provisions into effect, and then the system for the State care and maintenance of the dependent insane will be completed, save for perfecting the accommodations and facilities required.

Sixty years ago all the indigent insane in this State whose friends or relatives could not or would not take care of them were sent to the county poorhouses. The care they got and the condition of their wretched loves may be imagined. In 1836 the State hospital at Utica was established for the reception and treatment of acute cases of insanity only. Nearly thirty years later, in 1865, the movement originated by the State Medical Society for the State care of the chronic insane was carried to partial success by the establishment of the Willard State Hospital. That was a formal adoption of the State-care policy, and was followed by the opening of the Hudson River Hospital, at Poughkeepsie, and the Homeopathic Hospital, at Middletown, in 1871, the Buffalo State Hospital in 1880, and the Binghamton State Hospital in 1881.

Instead of fully carrying out the policy thus adopted, the Legislature began to exempt one county after another from the operation of the act of 1865 and to permit them to retain the milder cases. It caused a relapse in about a third of the counties of the State to the old poorhouse system, with all its horrors. This was deprecated by the State Board of Charities, the Commission in Lunacy, and the State Charities Aid Association, and many reports and recommendations were made in favor of completing the State-care system and transferring all the dependent insane to the State hospitals, whose accommodations and facilities should be enlarged correspondingly. It was in 1886 that the State Charities Aid Association took the first active steps in formulating a plan and preparing for legislation. Its first bill was introduced in 1888 and was defeated. It was defeated again in 1889, but in 1890 it had rallied public opinion to its support with so much effect that the State Care bill was carried through both houses, in the face of vigorous opposition from county authorities, and was approved by the Governor. The same year the St. Lawrence Hospital was completed.

The act of 1890 established the hospital districts and placed the administration of the system in charge of the Lunacy Commission and the first special appropriation f $454,850 was made in 1891. This was for enlarging the facilities of the existing hospitals and preparing for the reception of patients from the county asylums and poorhouses. The three counties of Monroe, Kings, and New-York had been exempted from the operation of the act because they had adequate institutions of their own, but provision was made for bringing them into the system by their own voluntary action upon the transfer of their asylum property to the State. Monroe County took advantage of this in 1891, and her asylum was reorganized as the Rochester State Hospital. The first appropriation for maintenance of the system by a special tax levy was made in 1893, and amounted to $1,300,000, and by the beginning of 1894 the transfer from poorhouses and the miserable “asylums” of counties was completed.

New-York and Kings still remained outside the State system, though they had to contribute their share of the special tax for its support. This payment was contested by New-York, but not by Kings, and last year the act was passed which took possession of the Kings County institution at St. Johnland and made of it the Long Island State Hospital. The bill effecting the corresponding result for this city would have become a law then also, except for the litigation over the unpaid arrears of State taxes and the condition imposed in the bill of their payment and the abandonment of the suit then pending on appeal. A short time ago the litigation was ended, and now the Manhattan State Hospital act is a law of the State. This will bring the dependent insane of the whole State, now numbering 18,898, under one uniform, enlightened, and effective system of care and maintenance.

For this gratifying result much credit is due to the State Charities Aid Association and the Commission in Lunacy, which worked persistently and zealously together for years, and the completion of the system will redound to the honor of the State of New-York.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published January 30, 1896. Copyright @ The New York Times.

1856 Insanity As A Defense

The Trial of Charles B. Huntington, spelled Huntingdon by The New York Times, is interesting because it was one of the first trials where insanity was introduced as a defense. Drs. C.R. Gilman and Willard Parker, were called to testify on behalf of the accused. With 27 indictments from the grand jury, Mr. Huntington was charged with forgery, duping a half million dollars or more from Wall Street Investors. His defense counsel, James T. Brady and John A. Bryan, admitted his guilt but stated that he suffered from “Moral Insanity,” which was “an insanity developed in reference to the moral nature, rather than the purely intellectual processes.” The defense went on to state that, “Whether the intellect may be generally intact and yet the affections, emotions, or will be impaired, is a question about which learned investigators differ. But none of those who deserve or enjoy any reputation doubt that insanity-as a physical disease of the brain-may be manifested, exclusively, in developments affecting the moral part of our nature.” (1)

The two expert witnesses, Alienists, an old term for modern-day Psychiatrists, examined Mr. Huntington and stated that he suffered from Monomania, a term that is no longer used, but in today’s terms might be compared to Obsessive Compulsive Behavior, which is basically an obsession with one idea, thing or subject. The Prosecution for the State of New York, District Attorney A. Oakey Hall, with William Curtis Noyes, rejected this line of defense saying that Mr. Huntington was a career criminal. Elisha S. Capron, City Judge of New York City Court, presided over the trial. The jurors were: Charles H. Groves, Morris L. Samuel, William Holme, John Nicholson, George Lazarus, Robert T. Newcomb, Henry Pincus, Joseph Cristadoro, William H. Kipp, William Wood, William H. Dayton, and James P. Kinsey. They found Mr. Huntington guilty of forgery and he was sentenced to four years in prison.

Included below are the links to many of the original newspaper accounts. They are quite lengthy. The descriptions of people and their actions in “Mr. Huntingdon’s Effects Under The Hammer” and “More Insanity” are very entertaining. Some of the words and dollar amounts used in these articles were illegible and some I simply didn’t understand in which case, you will see a question mark next to the word or dollar amount.

NEW-YORK CITY. Mr. Huntingdon’s Effects Under The Hammer.
The costly collection of Dresden China vases, Parian marble groups and statuettes, ormolu ornaments, bad pictures with ponderous gilt frames, immense pier glasses, elegantly carved rosewood furniture, beautiful service of plate, general ginercrackery?, and a considerable quantity of household goods, with which MR. HUNTINGDON (that celebrated financier who forgot prudence in success, and consequently found himself suddenly stowed away one fine morning in a cell in the Tombs) had crammed his late residence, No. 86 East Twenty-second-street, were sold in an auction yesterday by HENRY H. LEEDS. The notice of the sale attracted a large crowd of people. Everybody seemed anxious to obtain a souvenir of the distinguished though fallen operator. The natural consequence of this was a very brisk competition, especially for the merely ornamental articles. The crowd was always greater in the parlors and drawing-rooms than in the bed-rooms or kitchen. The moment the auctioneer announced his intention to proceed to sell the goods in one of the former a horrific rush to it occurred, and it was crammed almost to suffocation before he could reach the door. The throng crushed, and pushed, and elbowed, and shouldered, and squeezed one another in utter defence of all the rules of polite intercourse and conventional gallantry. In one corner you might observe an old lady of remarkable rotundity-(that being a very frequent characteristic of the female contingent of the assemblage)-flattened against the wall by a lank young gentleman with very red eyes, her bonnet crushed to one side and her face red as a lobster, in the vain struggle to push him aside. Elsewhere, a slim female of dubious age and very long nose, on which her gold spectacles were set ludierously awry, would request, in a tone of studied calmness, the stout gentleman tramping on her toes, to move off, and, in a loud voice, express her astonishment that people who had no business there would insist on forcing themselves in places where they were not wanted. Here a weak-minded gentleman, prompted in all his bids by his wife and daughter, who held him a close prisoner, would writhe about in torment when the solid crowd, in its irregular heavings, caused his nearest neighbors to trample on his corns. There, a careworn-looking young man, just about to commence housekeeping, would be thrust against a young lady who had been separated in the universal crush from her “pa” or “ma,” and would apologize with a sickly smile? for his inevitable trespass. Here, a thin-legged swell in pursuit of the marble Venuses in puris naturalibus for which the brilliant HUNTINGDON was supposed to have an excessive penchant, would cast contemptuous glances through his quizzing glass on the heavy? old bachelor beside him, who made a bid for everything, and would have had no hesitation, if HUNTINGDON had been hung, in paying $1,000 for the rope. In another corner a stern dowager, in black, would figet about at every shove she got, and anxiously slip? her hand on her pocket to find if her porte-morale had been abstracted.

The sale began at 10 1/2 o’clock and lasted until six. The articles of least use brought comparatively the highest prices. A towel rack, for instance, sold at $1 121/2?, a China foot tub for $4, a pair of excellent window-shades for 62 1/2? cents each, and an admirable velvet carpet for $1 321/2? cents a yard, whereas an ormolu vase and shad was knocked down at $35, and a parlor suite of furniture, consisting of a sofa, a tete-a-tete, two arm and four parlor chairs, at $390. A carved open-work center table with marble top, went at $90, a rosewood etagere at $250, a rosewood encoignure? at $70, a mantel glass at $120, a bronze gas chandelier at $49, an indifferent painting of “The Deer by the Lake,” at $75, a small rosewood bookcase by BELTES, richly carved, at $160, and a pair of China spittoons at $330?…”
To read the rest of this article: NEW-YORK CITY. Mr. Huntingdon’s Effects Under The Hammer, November 5, 1856, Published November 6, 1856

Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon for Forgery. Extraordinary Phase of the Huntingdon Trial. – Our criminal report, this morning, opens one of the most extraordinary chapters in the whole history of criminal jurisprudence. The counsel of HUNTINGDON, on trial for forgery, concede the fact of his guilt,–acknowledge everything alleged in the indictment,–exaggerate to the greatest possible extent the criminal acts of their client,–and swell the amount of his forged paper to the incredible sum of Twenty Millions of Dollars,–for the purpose of setting up the plea of–Insanity!

We publish a verbatim report of the speech of the prisoner’s counsel in entering upon this novel and most extraordinary line of defence. It has evidently been prepared with care, and is the result of deliberate and protracted consultation on the part of the eminent lawyers who are acting for the defence. Indeed, Mr. BRYAN states, in the speech, that this line of argument was adopted only as a last resort:–that, after studying the whole case, his counsel told HUNTINGDON that there was no possibility of his escape,–that the proof was too clear, and too overwhelming, to leave the remotest chance of an acquittal, and that the best thing he could do would be to plead guilty, and throw himself on the mercy of the Court. This, however, he refused to do, and persisted in the declaration of his innocence and of the certainty of his acquittal. His apparent insensibility to his position, and the strange pertinacity with which he denied his guilt, staggered his counsel, and finally led them to fall back upon a chance remark dropped by a witness, and repeated by the Justice, that he believed HUNTINGDON was crazy. They have accordingly taken this as the line of their defence,–and will do everything in their power to convince the Jury that he is not morally responsible for his acts.

It is confessed that HUNTINGDON’S insanity is not of a species recognized in books of medical jurisprudence. A new kind of insanity is invented for his particular case. It is styled a monomania for forgery,–a species of insanity which impelled him to commit act of forgery without any motive, except the desire to handle large sums of money, and without taking any of the ordinary precautions to prevent discovery. A very curious and interesting narrative is given of HUNTINGDON’S early life and entire career up to the present time, in which are included a great variety of particulars concerning his style of living,–the luxury of his furniture,–the speed of his horses, and the lavish scale of his expenditure generally. All this is intended to create the impression that he acted recklessly, without reflection, and in a way to indicate on his part an entire lack of prudence and common sense.

Everybody, of course, was taken by surprise upon hearing the declaration by the prisoner’s counsel of the line of defence they should adopt. What is likely to be its success must be matter of conjecture,–nor would it be quite proper, perhaps, at this stage of the proceedings, to canvass the merits of such a plea. It is very obvious, however, that if this new species of insanity is to obtain recognition, all such things as crimes will speedily disappear. We shall have monomania for murder, for theft, for rape, for arson, for every act indeed which is now deemed criminal, pleaded as a bar to conviction. The theory of the defence nullifies the idea of moral guilt, and resolves all crime into disease. Many speculative philosophers have indulged in the same views,–but they have never hitherto obtained recognition in our courts of justice. The speech of HUNTINGDON’S counsel will be found exceedingly interesting and worthy of persual.”
SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 20, 1856. Copyright @ The New York Times.

MORE INSANITY. – At this season of the year it will be prudent to guard against a general insanity which is developed among all classes; it manifests itself chiefly in an extravagant expectation of being complimented with a costly present, while in some it shows itself in a desire to give everything to everybody. Dealers in fancy articles manifest most alarming symptoms of insanity compared with which the financial operation of the insane HUNTINGDON were rational and business-like. They have an idea that nothing gives the public such satisfaction during the holiday season as paying three or four times the value of an article for the sake of making an extravagant present. We know an excited shopkeeper in Broadway, who says he finds it difficult to have sufficiently high priced articles for his customers. If he is not insane, his customers clearly must be.

But the EVENING POST relates an instance of insanity which is said to be prevalent in fashionable circles, which we had not before heard of. The POST says it is customary to hire costly wedding presents of the jewelers, and after they have been used to dazzle the eyes of the guests, and excite their envy at the happiness of the bride, to return them to the shop from which they were borrowed. There have been a good many magnificent weddings lately, which have been the talk of the town; but we hope their magnificence was not all bogus. Of course none but a hopelessly insane person would be guilty of such practices as the POST has exposed. It is time to enlarge our lunatic asylums.”
SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 22, 1856. Copyright @ The New York Times

CONVICTION AND SENTENCE OF HUNTINGDON. – It would be an affectation of maudlin sentimentalism, if we expressed any other opinion in reference to the conviction of HUNTINGDON, than that of satisfaction; and we believe that the public at large will feel relieved from an impending disgrace by knowing that the ends of justice have been fulfilled in his sentence. We have no disposition to exult over the debasement of a fellow creature; but the monstrous frauds of this man were so undeniable, he had, apparently, been rioting in his extravagant course of wickedness, because he imagined that the Law could not reach such dashing villany as his, that when his counsel set up the defence of insanity, it was felt to be an outrage upon the public. If he had been exonerated from the consequences of his gigantic forgeries on the ground of insanity, or even if the Jury had not been able to agree upon a verdict, it would not only have had a damaging effect upon public morals, but it would have been a disgrace to our whole community. Happily, we have been spared such a result. It has long been a reproach to us that a wealthy rogue could not be convicted in our Courts; but the conviction and prompt sentence of HUNTINGDON will do something toward effacing this stain upon our character. The remarkable course pursued by the defence in attempting to establish the insanity of the prisoner by proving how irreclaimably bad he had been from his boyhood, deprives him of all claim upon the sympathies of the public; and if society congratulate itself upon being rid of a most dangerous character, of whose reformation there could be no reasonable hope, the fault must be laid at the door of his own counsel.”
SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 31, 1856. Copyright @ The New York Times.

Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon for Forgery-Twenty-Seven Indictments Against Him – First Day’s Proceedings, December 16, 1856, Published December 17, 1856

Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon for Forgery-Second Day, December 17, 1856, Published December 18,1856

The Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon, Third Day, December 18, 1856, Published December 19, 1856.

Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon for Forgery, Mr. Brady’s Address for the Defence, Monday, December 29, 1856, Published December 30, 1856

The Trial of Charles B. Huntingdon for Forgery, Conclusion of Mr. Noyes’ Address for the Prosecution, Charge of the Judge, Conviction and Sentence of the Prisoner, Published December 31, 1856.

1. Trial Of Charles B. Huntington For Forgery. Principal Defence: Insanity. Prepared For Publication By The Defendant’s Counsel, From Full Stenographic Notes Taken By Messrs. Roberts & Warburton, Law Reporters. New York: John S. Voorhies, Law Bookseller and Publisher. No. 20 Nassau Street. 1857. Page viii.

1873 Our State Charities

“The State Board of Charities, of which Dr. Charles Hoyt is the Secretary, and Prof. Theodore W. Dwight the President, has just issued its fifth annual report. The duty of this Board is to inspect the public charities of the State, and make such recommendations to the Legislature as they deem best on their management. Few who have not studied the subject can have an idea of how broad is the field of work of our charities receiving aid from the State. Their property interest alone is enormous, amounting during the past year to $20,450,272 of real estate, and $3,727,602 of personal property. The aid they received from the State Treasury reached the sum of $1,635,558, and from municipalities the large amount of $3,341,762, while their total annual receipts were $7,832,902, and their expenditure $7,259,568. The whole number of persons in these institutions during the year was 92,741; the number temporarily relieved, 98,368; the number receiving outside free medical and surgical aid, 294,364, and the number under gratuitous educational training, 70,339.

In the County Poor-houses alone were, during the year, 18,933, and in the City institutions 39,286 persons. The Houses of Refuge trained and sheltered 5,619 of our youth, the Catholic Protectory containing much the largest number, 2,380. Of idiots, 681 were specially cared for, and of inebriates, 315 in the Binghamton Asylum. The number of deaf and dumb instructed and relieved were 714; of blind, 549;  of insane, 5,073.

The report of Prof. Dwight in regard to the management of our County Poor-houses contains suggestions of the highest value. It is well known that when this Board began its labors, the condition of these misnames houses of charity was shocking in the extreme. There was but little classification; old and young, unfortunate, virtuous girls with abandoned prostitutes, children and hardened ruffians, sand and insane, sick and well, the purely unfortunate and the lazily vicious, were all herded together in one building, and sometimes in the same rooms. The result was that one of the most terrible diseases which can afflict a civilized community began to break out here in our rural districts-hereditary pauperism. The Secretary of the State Board visited one almshouse in Western New-York where four generations of females were prostitutes and paupers. Even at this time, in the Westchester Almshouse, there are two or three generations of paupers. The treatment of the insane and the blind or deaf or sick in these institutions was simply atrocious. The first great step of reform in the State was the classification of the insane, and the withdrawal of large numbers from the County Poor-houses and the placing them in the State Willard Asylum, on Seneca Lake.

Still another important measure was the separation of the pauper children in Broome County and several adjoining counties from the almshouses, and placing them in an institution near Binghamton, called the “Susquehanna Valley Home.” This wise measure, however, should at once be imitated in all parts of the State. A poor-house is no place for children. They catch the bad habits of the institution, and they grow up lazy and dependent. They are paupers even in childhood. The taint of an almshouse rest on them all their days. Of girls, it is well known that they are often corrupted in these places before they go forth in life. There is no excuse in this country for retaining a single child in a poor-house. The demand everywhere for children’s labor is beyond all supply, and thousands of homes are open to shelter and instruct such unfortunate children. Before the Randall’s Island Nursery was so exclusively under Roman Catholic influence, the Commissioners of Charities used to send forth each year hundreds of their little waifs, under the charge of the Children’s Aid Society, to homes in the West, where many have grown up as prosperous farmers. All our almshouses could easily thus dispose of their children, if of sound mind and body. Indeed, the report of the “State Charities Visiting Society“-alluded to very favorably in Prof. Dwight’s report-states that the Children’s Aid Society had offered to the Westchester County Poor-house where are housed some sixty pauper children-to send them all to homes without expense.

The only place for a pauper child is a family. Even the Binghamton Home would fail of its great object if it retained the children during any long period. We trust that an act will pass during this session of the Legislature, requiring the Superintendents of the Poor in the various counties to place their pauper children in intermediate houses, like the Susquehanna Valley Home, which institutions shall be under State and private management. Every five counties should be allowed a “Children’s Home,” and the counties need not be required to pay any more for the support of the children than they do now. Then each Home should be required to place out very carefully every sound pauper child after a six months’ residence. Prof. Dwight also recommends, very wisely, the establishment of “industrial almshouses.” Our county poor-houses are full now of able-bodied paupers. Each Winter they sail in there for harbor. They ought to be made to support themselves. As it is now, the county paupers of the State only pay one-fifth of their cost, or about $32,342. If State work-houses were established these county able-bodied paupers could be separated, classified, and made to earn their living. Then the county houses could be limited to the sick, aged, and helpless. All that considerable class, moreover, who commit minor offenses, and are put for short periods in county jails, ought to be placed where they would support themselves, and at the same time learn some useful branch of industry.

At present these petty criminals spend their time in complete idleness in the county jails, and go out worse than they entered. To improve this class there should be a separate department in the State work-houses proposed, and the criminal statutes should be changed, so that the magistrates could commit them to these, and for longer terms than is at present the custom. We trust that the present Legislature will enlarge the authority of this Board, and enable it to go on with the great reforms which it has inaugurated.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: January 14, 1873, Copyright @ The New York Times.

1883 Places To Increase Insanity

A Report Read At The State Charities Aid Association.

The State Charities Aid Association met yesterday afternoon at No. 6 East Fourteenth street. Mr. Charles S. Fairchild presided. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President – Charles S. Fairchild; Vice-President – Mrs. William B. Rice; Treasurer – Charles Russell Hone; Librarian – Miss A.H. Woolsey; Board of Managers – John Jay, Mrs. d’Oremieulx, Judge Henry E. Howland, Mrs. Lydia M. Hoyt, John A. McKim, Miss Grace H. Dodge, Frederick N. Owen, Miss Emily Tuckerman, James H. Fay, Miss Rosalie Butler, Miss Emily Hoppin. The Treasurer reported that the expenses of the association for the year ending Nov. 30, 1883, were $5,176.24, and the receipts $4,946.97.

The Secretary’s report was a lengthy document, embracing a history of the work of 44 local visiting committees, in addition to the standing committees and the New-York County Visiting Committee, with its branches. The subject of the treatment of the insane in poor-houses and in the County asylums was treated at length, and descriptions were given of the asylums and poor-houses visited in different counties. The report dwelt upon the desirability of doing away with the local institutions for the insane, which were described as rather calculated for the encouragement of insanity and misery generally than for their suppression. In the visitations of the association to the County asylums and poor-houses a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs from the moral and hygienic point of view was found to exist. Lunatics who, perhaps, might be cured or improved with proper care in State hospitals were found cooped up in close cells like ox-stalls, as in Chenango County, or chained to strong iron rings in the wall of the yard, like wild animals, as in Genesee – the lack of suitable care-takers making this recourse to restraint necessary. In Broome County the bath-room was found in the coal-cellar – six patients bathing in the same water, which was then saved to wash the clothes in the laundry. As a general rule the insane in county poor-houses were kept in attics, basements, and out buildings filthy and squalid. In Niagara County, the Secretary found insane patients shoeless, bareheaded, compelled to sit on the floor, and all, both men and women, under charge of a male pauper. The report recommends that poor-house insane wards and county asylums be abolished, and that all classes of insane be cared for by the State, in cottages of moderate coast on the vacant lands of the six present State institutions. The report also recommends the opening of training schools for nurses in insane hospitals.

The poor-house buildings in Tioga County are described as old and uncomfortable. There is lack of hospital accommodation for the sick and of bathing conveniences. The poor-house in Chenango County presented a sad spectacle of disease, depravity, and insanity. There were many distressing cases of suffering and misery. It is said that this poor-house contains a larger number of inmates who are mentally and physically diseased than any other in the State. In Fulton County the paupers are improperly provided for. Men and women, sick and well, sane and insane, were herded together like animals. The sick have no special care taken of them. The Genesee County Poor-house building is described as a pestilence-breeding place.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 14, 1883, Copyright @ The New York Times.

1893 Shocking Desecration Charged, Flatbush Insane Asylum

Shocking Desecration Charged.
Flatbush Insane Asylum Doctors Said to Have Profaned a Dead Woman’s Body.

“I heard something the other day,” said a Brooklyn woman to a reporter for The New-York Times, “which I think should be made public. It was the story of what a certain doctor did who is employed in the Asylum for the Insane at Flatbush. My informant’s name I withhold for the reason that if I should give it to you a person related to him who is now employed in the asylum would certainly lose his place.

“My informant tells me that about a week ago an aged woman died at the hospital who had been there for a long time. According to the regulations of the institution, the doctor referred to, in company with others of the medical staff, viewed the corpse.

“The doctors were in a merry mood and made quite a lark of the inspection by cracking jokes about the body, and altogether behaving in an unseemly manner. Finally, as I am informed, one of the doctors took a cigarette out of his case and, approaching the bedside, said: ‘Let’s give the old lady a smoke.’

“Immediately thereafter he pried open the lips of the corpse and placed the cigarette between them. ” ‘How’s that, old gal?’ he exclaimed, and then all hands gathered about and made sport of what they saw.”

Dr. Tracey, physician in charge at the Kings County Insane Asylum at Flatbush, was seen by a reporter for The New-York Times and the foregoing statement was laid before him. At first his face flushed and then he gasped out: “It’s false – a malicious falsehood!”

“Doctor, I would like to know before we go any further what deaths occurred Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of last week of old women who had been inmates here for a long time.” said the reporter.

“How ling do you call a ling time?” the doctor asked; then added, “I cannot give you any information upon this subject. It is an imputation upon the whole staff of the asylum, and until the matter in complaint is laid before the Commissioners of Charities and Correction, I refuse to open my mouth.”

“Why do you refuse me the information which I seek?” asked the reporter. “Because I don’t choose to give it,” he replied. As the reporter was leaving him Dr. Tracey said: I haven’t said anything, you know.” Dr. Sylvester, the Superintendent, was away and could not be seen.

The reporter then visited the rooms of the Commissioners of Charities and Correction at Elm Place and Livingston Street, Brooklyn, where he saw Col. Gott, President of the board, and Commissioner Murphy. He learned there that Mary Hamilton; a woman sixty years of age and friendless, had died at the asylum a week ago yesterday, and that Elizabeth F. Meyer, seventy years of age, also friendless, had died there the next afternoon. One of these, doubtless Mary Hamilton, is the subject whose inanimate remains were so grossly maltreated.

On hearing the story, Commissioner Murphy at once expressed his absolute disbelief in its truthfulness. President Gott, however, thought that it might not be entirely without foundation, although he said his inclination was to regard it as he had come to regard all anonymous communications, “very gingerly.”

In speaking of the matter he said: “A thing of that kind might occur, but it is highly improbable. I do not think Dr. Sylvester, the Superintendent, would retain a doctor one minute when he learned of it. You know that the under help and staff at the asylum are beyond our reach, as we have no power to remove or appoint anyone except the Superintendent. We are constantly receiving many anonymous communications similar to this one, and when investigated they prove groundless, as I believe this one also will.”
SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: September 11, 1893. Copyright @ The New York Times.