Charges Against State Mental Hospital, 1949

20 02 2012

The following is a transcription of an editorial published in The Oregon Daily Journal, on Thursday, October 6, 1949.

The Citizens Action committee and the Central Club council of Portland and local representatives of the American Equity association have made some sensational charges of brutality and neglect in Oregon state hospital for the mentally ill.

They told the state board of control Tuesday that they have information indicating that several “murders” had been committed in recent years, that patients were kicked and beaten and that patients were forced to work in violation of the 13th amendment. Read the rest of this entry »

Suffrage and Sterilization: Dr. Owens-Adair

15 01 2012

One of the most vocal proponents of women’s suffrage in Oregon was also the leading proponent of Eugenics legislation which would affect the lives of hundreds of patients at the Oregon State Hospital.  Beginning in 1907, Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair lobbied the legislature for implementation of a Sterilization Bill intended to improve society by sterilizing those deemed criminals, insane or developmentally disabled.  Her bill passed in 1909, only to be vetoed by the governor. Nevertheless, similar legislation became law in 1923.  The Sterilization Law remained on the books until 1983 and caused the forced sterilization of over 2,500 people in Oregon’s prisons and mental health institutions.  In 2002, Governor Kitzhaber made a formal apology to those who had been forcefully sterilized under the law.[1]  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Owens-Adair’s Tract entitled Human Sterilization published sometime around 1910.[2]

In submitting this little publication to the public, it is with the desire, the hope and belief, that the ever watchful eye of our great commonwealth, will appreciate the immence [sic.] value of this process for preventing disease and crime through propagation.  Since 1883 when I said to the physician who was in charge of the Oregon Insane Asylum, that if the time ever came, that I might be permitted, I would then use my pen and my brain along these lines.  Since then I have used my tongue many, many times, in season and out of season, and I have received in return many rebukes and much good advice, as to modesty, being a priceless gem which every woman should wear.   But not until 1904 did the first opportunity come, when I could use my pen and I assure you I lost no time in sending off the following communication to the Oregonian, and my delight at seeing it in print was beyond expression, to say that this publication shocked my family and many of my friends would be putting it mildly, I am older now and my tears do not lie so shallow (as mother said) as in my childhood days, and there is something in getting used to unpleasant things and yet, I am not innured, but I can go right on smiling just the same.  To illustrate the trend of thought, only 7 years ago when I wrote my first communication to the Oregonian I received four letters all eulogizing and congratulating me on my bravery, etc., but the interesting part was, that those letters were all nameless, who would think of addressing me to-day on this subject without signing his or her name; not one, no not one.  The world is being educated along these lines and is seeking for the purification and betterment of humanity, which in time will be found and vertified [sic.] in the yet unborn children whose parents blood shall be free from disease and crime.  Through this publication I shall try to prove what I have been preaching for 30 years, that the Read the rest of this entry »

Asylum Sidewalk, 1885

30 11 2011

It is hard to imagine, but when the Oregon State Hospital was built, it stood in farmland about half a mile outside the city limits of Salem.  The route between town and the hospital would, as this article suggests, get pretty mucky when the rainy season came.  Four years before Salem’s official street car debut, a raised wooden walkway definitely sounded like a good idea to the 27 year old Edward J. Frazier (1857-1935)[1], a New York native who grew up on his father Alexander Frazier’s farm in North Salem.[2]  Frazier (or Frasier as the spelling would mutate during his life) would go on to be a prosperous real estate agent in Eugene.[3]  Perhaps this was the beginning of his career? 


Ed. J. Frazier, who is trying to raise money for a sidewalk from the city on Asylum avenue to the asylum, has nearly a sufficient amount subscribed to buy the material for the walk.  Most of the property owners along the avenue have agreed to bear the expense of putting down the walk.  The lumber can be laid down $2 per thousand cheaper than after the rains set in.  Mr. Frazier will call on you again for subscriptions.  The walk should be laid down now, and it is hoped enough can be raised to buy the materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Drug Room Inventory, 1931

15 11 2011

The following is an inventory list made of drugs housed in the drug room and various other sectors of the Oregon State Hospital as of June 30, 1931.  The list appears as part of a larger appraisal of hospital property that includes furniture and other materials.  The list transcribed below omits two columns, one of unit price and the other of total value of the quantities listed.  It is interesting to see somewhat traditional plant medicine (Marsh Mallow, Belladonna, Witch Hazel) mixed in with those more likely found in a hospital today (Morphine) and those that probably wouldn’t (Cocaine, Opium). 

Article Quantity
Acid Tannic 1/2 lb
Marsh Mallow, powdered 4 oz
Lead Acetate 1 lb
Acetphenetidin 1 lb
Cuttle Bone, powdered 5 1/3 lb
Brunt Alum 1 lb
Tragacanth, powdered 2 lb
Acacia, powdered 2 lb
Jalap, powdered 1/4 lb
Potassium Chlorate 1/4 lb
Acid Salicylic 1 1/8 lb
Milk Sugar 9 lb
Corn Starch 1 lb
Guaiacol Carbonate 1 lb
Acid Citric, rock 1 lb
Acid, Benzoic 1 lb
Read the rest of this entry »

Causes of Insanity, 1894-1896

17 10 2011

The following list was published in the 7th Biennial Report of the Oregon State Insane Asylum.  It lists “causes for insanity” of people admitted to the hospital between December 1894 and November 1896.

Cause Male Female Total
Brain Softening 1 1
Business Trouble 4 4
Childbirth 4 4
Christian Science 1 1
Concussion of Brain 1 1
Congenital 1 1
Cerebral embolism 5 5
Domestic Trouble 4 6 10
Disappointment in Love 1 2 3
Dissipation 2 2
Dementia 2 2
Epilepsy 22 8 30
Exposure and solitude 1 1
Exposure and sickness 3 3
Fright 1 1
Financial Trouble 7 7
Grief 2 5 7
General debility 1 1
Heredity 10 15 25
Hydrocephalus Read the rest of this entry »

Property Cards

5 09 2011

Probably the most interesting and emotional thing I have found in inventorying historic materials at the Oregon State Hospital was a box of index cards.  The orange box didn’t look like much, but the cards inside were a time capsule highlighting a very personal side of institutional commitment.  These property cards list patient’s personal possessions that were confiscated upon commitment to the hospital for safe keeping.  Below is a sampling of some of the materials listed on the patient property cards:

Long Illnes Comes to an End, 1930

25 07 2011

The following is an obituary published in a Salem paper June 15, 1930.  Dr. Lewis Frank Griffith, then Assistant Superintendent of the Oregon State Hospital, died June 14.

Served faithfully at State institution 39 Years; Widely Honored

Dr. Lewis Frank Griffith, recognized as one of the leading alienists and psychiatrists in the United States, passed away at 5:35 o’clock yesterday evening at his home here.  Dr. Griffith, who had been seriously ill for several months and whose death has seemed imminent more than once in that period died peacefully, being unconscious the last few hours.  His immediate family and a sister, Mrs. Helen Giese of Portland, were with him when death stretched forth his hand.

Lewis Frank Griffith was born June 3, 1868 on the old Griffith homestead 12 miles east of Salem in the Waldo hills.  He was the son of Lewis C. and Susan Margaret Griffith, early Oregon pioneers.  His first schooling was in the little country school of his district, but he entered the Salem schools while still in the elementary grades.  Later he was graduated from Willamette university and after that he taught school for a time in the Eldriedge school in Mission Bottom. Read the rest of this entry »