Henry County, IAGenWeb

"The Place"


The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
March 9, 1861

The Iowa Lunatic Asylum-Formal Opening March 6th.
    Wednesday last being a remarkably pleasant day, we took the early train West and visited the beautiful town of Mt. Pleasant, putting in the time until 4:30 in the town, and at the Lunatic Asylum.
    Mt. Pleasant has improved greatly since we last saw it, notwithstanding that it is the most beautiful town in Iowa, and one of the most attractive as a place of residence. We noticed a large number of new and really fine residences, put up since we were there, several new business houses, and a new school house, probably the largest and finest in Iowa. Eight hundred children are in attendance in its walls, upon the public schools, which are said to be unsurpassed.
    We yesterday, for the first time, visited our State Lunatic Asylum, one and one half miles East of Mt. Pleasant. We had never before been nearer it than the Railroad, which passes about one mile North. It is built of brown stone, procured near Mt. Pleasant, which looks remarkably well, and it is believed to be as durable and as little affected by frost or moisture as the best quality of Limestone. So far as we can see, it is just as good as granite, and looks about as well.
    This is the first permanent building erected in the State. It is of large size. We have not the exact dimensions before us, but it is sufficient to say that when fully completed it will accommodate between 300 and 400 patients and will compare creditably with similar structures in other States. Accommodations are now provided for one hundred patients, and the other portion of the building will be got in readiness and furnished as fast as needed. Dr. Patterson, formerly of Ohio, assisted by Dr. Dewey of Iowa City, take charge of it. Dr. Patterson has had much experience in other States, in the treatment of this class of persons, and comes among us with an excellent reputation. We think we can venture to promise to the people of this State that under his management the Iowa Hospital for Insane persons will become one of the best in the country. Mr. Winslow remains as Steward. He has also had experience, and is entirely at home in his department.
    Before diminishing the subject, we think simple justice to the Directors and builder, and to all parties concerned, under the circumstances, renders it proper for us to say something further in regard to this building and the manner in which the public have been expended upon it. When we look at its extent, at its massive walls and firm foundations that nothing short of an earthquake could move, at its innumerable rooms and dormitories, all the partition walls being of brick- at its miles of iron pipe for heating purposes, hot and cold water and gas- at its pipes and flues in every part of the building for purposes of ventilation- at its engine and boilers, kitchen and laundry, et cetera, et cetera, our wonder was that so much had been done for the sums appropriated by the State. The Institution it an honor to the State, and will stand an imperishable monument to the skill, business capacity, faithfulness, and probity of Mr. Wilslow. Every possible contingency seems to have entered into the account and been amply provided for. For instance, although it would seem hardly possible for it to occur, as there is little that can burn in the building and no fire used, yet if a fire should occur, sufficient hose is provided in every suit of apartments, and upon every floor, connecting with the cisterns in the garret, holding 25,000 barrels of water, while egress from the building is provided for by two different stairways. But we have not room for specifications. It would take up half our paper to describe all we saw noteworthy, and then we should fail. We hope, now that it is open and receiving patients, that all citizens of the State who can make it convenient to do so, will visit the Asylum. They will find it a very pleasant place to spend an hour or two, and, notwithstanding its grated windows, and unfortunate inmates, having a cheerful, orderly and happy look.
    There was quite a large attendance upon the Inauguration ceremonies. A large number came in from the west mostly from Fairfield, while a few attended from Burlington. Mt. Pleasant turned out en masse, including the children form the Public Schools. The Mt. Pleasant Greys were out. A Brass Band from Fairfield and Choir from the Churches in Mt. Pleasant gave us excellent vocal and instrumental music. At 1 o'clock the chapel and halls adjoining were crowded. We found it impracticable getting within hearing distance and did not hear the speeches. Gov. Kirkwood did not attend, as expected. Dr. McGugin, of Keokuk, spoke at some length, giving an interesting account of the treatment of insane persons at different periods and the progress which had of late years been made in effecting cures of large numbers and greatly ameliorating the condition of the hopelessly incurable. Dr. Patterson made a brief speech. He says insanity is almost always curable when taken early- after six months sixty per cent are curable and as the time increase the per cent curable is diminished. Col Sanders, of Henry, and Mr. Scott, of Story, made neat and appropriate speeches.

Burlington Hawkeye
Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
Jan. 25, 1877

Sunday, Jan. 21

     Iowa has 4,481 postoffices.
     The Mount Pleasant insane asylum has 578 inmates.

Burlington Hawkeye
Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
Aug 31, 1882


   The time has come when the great state of Iowa, with nearly two million people within its borders, ought to have a more comprehensive policy with reference to its charitable institutions. The hospital for the insane at Mt. Pleasant is an illustration. It has a healthful capacity for about 300 patients. By skilful management this limit might now be extended to 350. it now contains over 500 patients, who are crowded in and are thus deprived of the care and comfort which such an institution should afford. The result is increased mortality and less success in effecting the recovery of the curable.
    There is another great wrong growing out of this overcrowded condition of the asylum. It is impossible to properly classify patients. The best results are attained by judicious separation according to the nature of the disease and the treatment required. To confine a partially sane patient, or one having lucid periods, with those whose mental aberration is continuous is an unfavorable condition for recovery. And to promiscuously huddle the insane thiefs, murderers and other criminals sent to the asylum from the state prisons and jails, in the same room with patients who are there not because of crime but because of misfortune, many of them for treatment with hope of ultimate recovery, is indeed shocking and an outrage upon the moral sentiments and sympathies of the public. These are evils for which the great state of Iowa, and not the asylum management, is directly responsible and which demands early and radical remedy. There is no excuse for Iowa with all its wealth of fertile soil and trade, commerce, manufactures and powerful and intelligent pulpit and press tolerating such a shameful condition of things as now perplexes and saddens the officials and trustees of the Mt. Pleasant asylum. There ought to be and must be a speedy remedy and we hope to see a public agitation spring up that will right these wrongs and avert their recurrence.
    It is a mistaken policy, when fully cognizant and even boastful, of the wonderfully rapid development of our state, to shut our eyes to the corresponding increase of the insane, the blind, and the other subjects of state charities. It is inevitable that there [sic] increased demands will come, and it is common humanity as well as wise public policy to anticipate them in time rather than wait until human suffering and fresh graves arouse us to duty.
    There are other features of the asylum that demand improvement. We shall not attempt to enumerate them all at this time as we only seek now to arouse public attention to the deplorable condition of the patients who are crowded beyond all reason into walls fitted to contain only sixty per cent of their number. When to this is added the suffering and inconvenience of an insufficient water supply and the startling fact the the county poor house sewer empties its foul contents into the water basin that supplies the water reservoir, the great need of vigorous measures upon the part of the state at once becomes alarmingly apparent. The trustees and officials are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but the state must provide ways and means and give authority to afford adequate and permanent relief.

Burlington Hawkeye
Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa
Nov 8, 1883

The biennial report of the trustees of the insane asylum at Mt. Pleasant has been in print for some time and contains much matter that is of interest to readers of THE HAWKEYE in Iowa and elsewhere.
    The superintendent's report shows that the number admitted in twenty-one months has been five hundred and thirty-four; three hundred and nineteen men and two hundred and fifteen women. The total number treated during the period has been ten hundred and seventy-eight; six hundred and sixteen men and four hundred and sixty-two women. The whole number discharged during the period has been six hundred and eight men and two hundred and twenty-six women; of these seventy-three men and forty-seven women were discharged recovered, one hundred and nine men and seventy women improved, one hundred and forty one men and sixty-seven women stationary or unimproved, fifty-seven men and forty-one women died, and one man was found not insane, being a plain case of drunkenness, leaving in the hospital June 30, 1883, two hundred and thirty-six men and two hundred and thirty-six women.
    The death rate has been large, which is due chiefly to the overcrowded condition of the hospital, and the imperfect system of ventilation, which is now being remedied. The daily average for the period has been five hundred and eighteen; two hundred and seventy men and two hundred and forty-one women.
    Much seems to have been done to increase the comfort, cleanliness and safety of the institution. The arrangement for ventilating and heating have been overhauled and improved to some extent, but the three sections of the west side have not been touched. As needed improvements and repairs the superintendent asks for $8,500, to preserve the sub-basement walls, which are pronounced unsafe; for renewing worn-out water pipes, $1,500; for remodeling the ventilating apparatus on the west side $5,000; for a water filter $5,000; for mattresses $2,000; for washing machines, $2,500; for sheds for stock, to replace those destroyed by cyclone, $3,000; for remodeling the west wing, $10,000, and for a fire alarm $2,000; aggregating $40,500.
    He also urges the increase of accommodations for the insane, either by extending the present building at Mt. Pleasant, or by erecting another building in some other part of the state. He agrees to erect, in connection with the present building accommodations for three hundred additional patients at a cost of $150,000, - but he urges with some force the advisability of erecting a separate institution.
    In regard to the criminal insane, Dr. Gilman recommends that they be confined in some other institution, and suggests that especial provision be made for them by an addition to the additional penitentiary at Anamosa. The suggestion is one that is entitled to consideration. The unfortunate and criminal classes ought not to be indiscriminately associated.
    The statistics tables are full of interest for those who care to study them. The great preponderance of cases of insanity seem to occur between the ages of 15 and 40 years in both sexes. Of the males, out of a total of 2,916 admitted since the opening of the hospital, 1,615 were attacked between the ages named, while of 2,216 females, 1,473 were similarly attacked. During this period liability to insanity seems to develop most between the ages of 20 and 35, there being reported between these ages, out of the totals just given, 1,110 males and 1,038, showing clearly that the proportionate liability of females to insanity between these ages is greater than that of males.
    Of the insane in this institution, Ohio furnishes the most, 850 patients having been born in that state. Iowa comes next with 619, Great Britain follows with 518, Germany 470, Pennsylvania 413, and other states and countries sent smaller numbers. Of the counties in the state Lee county has sent the greatest number to the asylum, 259, Des Moines county the next greatest, 214, Polk and Scott counties 177 each, Henry 163. Thirteen other counties have sent 100 or more, and other counties less than 100.
    As having a tendency to indicate the liability of various occupations to insanity we condense from table VII; Of the entire number admitted to the institution those engaged in domestic duties were 1,988 being all females out of a total of 2,216. Considering that the social status of women places her almost exclusively in the domestic circle, these figures are not very instructive. Of the males, out of a total of 5,132, 1,364 were farmers, 580 were laborers, 274 reported no occupation, attorneys are credited with 8 and lawyers with 10, although outside of an insane asylum the distinction would scarcely be made. Carpenters sent 69, and no other calling furnished 50. Editors have only furnished 2 victims, which show, unquestionably, the saving influence of a clear conscience and strict adherence to the truth in warding off such calamities.
    The civil condition of the insane as shown in table VIII, indicates that unmarried males are more subject to insanity than the married, while the reverse is true of the females. 1,500 males patients were unmarried, and only 1,271 married, while only 727 were unmarried females against 1,267 married.
    The labor involved in the preparation of these tables is great, the real meaning of the figures we present can only be read by comparing them with the tables of population, but their careful compilation is one of the indications that has marked Dr. Gilman's brief administration of the affairs of this institution where his greatest qualifications are seen in the daily administration of its affairs and the care of its unfortunate inmates.

Chief Reporter
Perry, Dallas,  Iowa
May 31, 1900

    The state board of control is preparing the list and amounts to be paid the patients at Mount Pleasant asylum. This money was provided for by the last legislature. It was embezzled by Dr. Gilman while superintendent of the institution.

Ottumwa Courier
Ottumwa, Wapello, Iowa
Sep 24, 1903

Mt. Pleasant Institution Costs State Large Sum
Bulletin of Iowa State Institutions Gives Statistics Concerning Iowa Hospitals-
Majority of Insane Patients Come From the Farms

    The asylum for the insane at Mt. Pleasant, next to the institution for feeble minded children at Glenwood, was for the quarter ending June 30, 1903, the most expensive institution under the supervision of the state board of control. The total increase of 643 in the population of the state institutions under the direction of the board exclusive of the penitentiaries, within two years, is shown by the Bulletin of Iowa State institutions, a quarterly publication issued by the state board of control, which is just off the press. There has been a decrease of 32 in the population of the penitentiaries, making the net increase of 611 for all state institutions.

Increase in Population.
    The increase in the population of the different state institutions is as follows:
In the state hospitals......452
In the school for deaf..... 32
In the Soldier's Home...  31
In the Soldiers' Orphans' Home...48
In the institution for Feeble Minded Children.....38
In the Industrial School for Boys...................... 22
In the Industrial School for Girls....................... 30

    The total figure would have been greater were it not for the fact that the girls' dormitory at the institution for feeble minded children was injured by a storm, necessitating the return of many to their homes.

Operating Expenses.
    The total expense of operating the state institutions during the quarter ending June 30, 1903, was $287,458.34, divided among the different institutions, as follows:
Anamosa...................$  21,913.16
Cherokee..................    23,784.49
Clarinda....................    29,509.73
Council Bluffs...........    13,635.08
Davenport.................   14,893.00
Eldora......................    13,801.49
Fort Madison...........    21,510.18
Glenwood...............     35,000.35
Independence.........     34,089.06
Marshalltown............   28,631.86
Mitchelville................    7,309.61
Mount Pleasant.........   34,886.53
Vinton......................     7,043.00
     Total..................  287,458.34

    The figures are taken from statistics tabulated by Frank I. Herriott, Ph. D. professor of economics and political science at Drake university, who has had charge of this work during the summer months.

The Insane Patients.
    Professor Herriott also contributes an article to the Bulletin on the subject, "Occupations, Physical Health and Diseases in Insanity," in which he makes public researches along a line hitherto never taken up in the state. It relates to the occupation of those going insane, to their physical health, to the assigned or supposed causes of their insanity and to the causes of their death by those dying while insane, as given by returns from the Clarinda hospital.
    The table showing the occupation of insane patients prior to their admission to the state hospital at Clarinda from 1893 to 1903, shows that out of a total of 3416 admitted, 1382 of whom 989 were men and 393 women, were engaged in agricultural pursuits; 1056 in domestic and personal service and 148 in professional work. These are the three largest classes. Of those admitted during the biennial period 742 were in good or fairly good health, and 765 suffering from some form of disease, diseases of the nervous system being the most prevalent.
    A classification of the causes of insanity from 1893 to 1903 shows that among others emotional and moral causes were responsible for 812 commitments, diseases 835 and congenital causes 456.


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