George F. Berger

15 07 2012

In 1905, 48 people were admitted to the Oregon State Insane Asylum with a diagnosis of “alcoholism” and 16 for syphilitic symptoms.[1]  George F. Berger was one of those people.

Berger was born in Wisconsin in April of 1869 to Frank and Margaret Berger, Germans who had immigrated to the United States from what is now Baden-Württemberg.[2]  His family, including an older sister Mary, farmed in Randolph, Courtland, Columbia County, Wisconsin.[3]

Sometime between 1870 and 1880, the family moved to Oregon.  By the 1880 Federal Census, George was 12 years old and living on Olive Street in Eugene.  Father Frank is no longer in the picture and mother Margaret is going by the last name of Haney, suggesting she may have remarried.  With a two year old brother named Jacob Berger, it would further suggest that George’s father died or left sometime between 1878 and 1880, leaving George as the man of the house at a very young age.

Due to an unfortunate fire which destroyed the 1890 Federal Census, we are forced to pick up George’s trail again in Oregon City in 1896 when we find him working as a bartender for Thomas Trembrath.[4]  Four years later, he had moved back to his mother’s 5th Street home in Eugene, where he and his now 21-year-old brother both worked as bartenders.[5] Berger did not keep a low profile after his move back to Eugene.  He was arrested and fined for gambling at least twice.  As a 1903 Oregonian article reported: Read the rest of this entry »

Watchman, 1908

4 07 2012

The following is the description of duties of the watchman and watchwomen employed by the Oregon State Hospital as spelled out in the Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Oregon State Insane Asylum, Revised April 15, 1908.


1. The duties of the watchman will commence at 8 o’clock P.M., at which time he will visit the office to receive instructions for the night.

2. He must, while on duty, be faithful and vigilant; visit every part of the male wards at least every hour during the night, making as little noise as possible, never conversing in a loud tone, and opening and shutting the doors as quietly as possible.

3.  He must be kind, gentle, and soothing in his manners to the patients, and use every means in his power to tranquilize those who are excited, and to allay the fears and apprehensions of the timid; he will pay particular attention to the sick, the suicidal, and those recently admitted; will see that the patients are properly supplied with water when it is asked for, and will attend to all other reasonable wants;  will notice any unusual noise in the patients’ rooms, endeavor to ascertain the cause, and, if necessary, report the same to the attendant.  He will notice anything unusual occurring during the night, and enter the same on a a slate or book provided for the purpose [see example of book here], and he shall report any irregularities, neglect of duty or violation of rules which may come under his notice.

4.  It will be the duty of the watchman to look after the heating apparatus during the night; he must be very watchful about fire, and, in case of its occurrence must immediately give general alarm;  he shall ring the bell at the hour for rising in the morning, and he shall perform such other duties as may be required of him.


1.  The watchwoman shall have charge of the interior of the female department during the night.  In the management of the patients, and in the discharge of other duties, she must be governed by the rules and regulations laid down for the government of the watchman.

The Matron, 1908

20 06 2012

The following was published in By Laws of Trustees Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Oregon State Insane Asylum,revised April 15, 1908.

Article V.


Section 1:  The matron shall, under the direction of the superintendent, have charge of the female department of the asylum.  She shall have a general supervision of the sewing department.  She shall be with the female patients in all the wards as much as possible; see that they are kindly treated; that their food is properly cooked, served and distributed; that their apartments are kept clean and in good order, and properly warmed and ventilated; that the female employees attend to their duties in all respects, and report to the superintendent any departure on their part from the rules and regulations of the institution.

Oregon State Insane Asylum Staff, 1908-1910

22 12 2011

The following is a transcribed staff list from the Biennial Report of the Oregon State Insane Asylum for the Biennium covering the years 1908 -1910.  The list includes information on staff members, their positions, and monthly salary.  Also cross-referenced, is the 1910 Federal Census shows the marital status, age in 1910 and birthplace of some of the staff members.

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 »

An Interview with Simeon Edward Josephi

6 06 2011

From the Oregon Health Sciences University's Archives




The following is an interview with Dr. Simeon Edward Joesphi, physician (1877-1881) and superintendent (1881-1883) at the Oregon Hospital for the Insane and one time superintendent of the Oregon State Insane Asylum (1886-1887).[1]  The article appeared in two editions of Fred Lockley’s column, Impressions from a Journal Man, in the Oregon Journal starting September 1, 1926. The column regularly featured interviews with influential people in Oregon.

Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man

By Fred Lockley

Here begins an installment story of the career of a pioneer physician of Portland, who came hither in 1867.  A second chapter is forthcoming.

Dr. S.E. Josephi is, in point of service, dean of the medical profession of Portland.  When I interviewed him recently at his office in the Corbett building, he said:


“I was born in New York city on December 3, 1849.  My father, Edward Josephi[2], with his brothers Henry and Isaac, conducted a wholesale jewelry establishment in Maiden Lane.  My father was born at what was then St. Petersburg but is now Leningrad, Russia.  My mother’s maiden name was Sarah Mendoza.  Her parents were Spanish but she was born in England.  You can see that I am a product of the melting pot.  There eight of us children.  I had five sisters and two brothers.[3]  I went to school to Professor Quackenbos.  He had a private school in New York city at that time and was the author of an arithmetic that was very popular.  Later I attended the public schools of New York city and still later the Free Academy, now known as the New York college.  I secured work as a clerk in a wholesale hat house. Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon Hospital for the Insane, Portland 1861-1883

31 08 2010

The first institution in Oregon devoted to the care of the mentally ill was the Oregon Hospital for the Insane.  Drs. James C. Hawthorne and A.M. Loryea opened the private hospital in September of 1861 in a temporary building on Taylor Street between First and Second Avenues in Portland.  Somewhat ironically, the proprietors made it very clear that their hospital was only a temporary fix for the state’s mental health care needs, and stated at the dedication of the new institution that they would happily turn over their patients to the state in the event that it created an asylum to care for them.

In 1862, the hospital was moved to a new building off of Hawthorne Avenue, east of SE 12th Avenue.   The State of Oregon contracted with the hospital in the fall of that Read the rest of this entry »

By the Numbers: Oregon State Insane Asylum — Year One

10 08 2010

Within the first year of operation of the Oregon State Insane Asylum (October 1883-October 1884):

Patients were admitted (396 men/145 women)
Patients were discharged
Patients died
Patients escaped (only 12 returned)
358 4/9
Was the average daily patient population
Wards were in operation (8 for men, four for women)
Source: OSIA Daily Statistics Report 1883-1899.  Oregon State Archives (2/10/7/9)

Now that’s Entertainment

4 08 2010

In the cataloguing process last week we came across an interesting little leather-bound book with an ink scrawled title: “OSIA Invitations to Dances and Entertainments.” Inside the book are guest lists for dances held at the Oregon State Insane Asylum (OSIA) from 1900-1907.  While interesting to think about formal dances being held at the Asylum, some of the names listed caught my eye. Chauncey Bishop, future founding partner of the Pendleton Woolen Mills and the son of prominent Salem clothier C.P. Bishop and Fannie Kay (daughter of Thomas Lister Kay of Thomas Kay Woolen Mill renown) is listed as a guest for a “Special Dance” in April of 1900.   Read the rest of this entry »

Affected His Brain, 1894

20 04 2010

The following announcement was published in the Oregon Statesman Newspaper on August 26, 1894.  Prior to the passage of Federal laws regarding patient privacy, it was not uncommon for commitments to OSH (then the Oregon State Insane Asylum) to be published in the local newspaper.

AFFECTED HIS BRAIN. — Charles Forshay was an insane commitment to the asylum yesterday from this county.  He is aged 33 years and is a native of Denmark.  Dr. Henderson and A. O. Condit, deputy prosecuting attorney, conducted the examination.   Forshay is a tanner by trade and was employed at times in the tannery of the Salem woolen mills.  His demented condition is caused by a spell of love-sickness.