Why Oregon?

The Oregon State Hospital Museum Project blog posted an interesting article that asks the question, “Why Oregon?”

“The question still remains, why Oregon?  The State Insane Asylum (later Western State Hospital) at Fort Steilacoom near Tacoma had been in operation since 1871 and is geographically closer to Alaska than Salem or Portland.  Or perhaps even more logical would be to establish an institution in Alaska itself.  Our 1916 text hints that difficulties in transportation around the Alaska Territory made the transfer to another institution a reasonable solution.

Although Portland is somewhat remote from Alaska, it is to be remembered that Alaska, with some 3000 miles of water frontage has no central point.  A patient from the north would have to come to Seattle and be shipped back to the lower part of Alaska, if there was an institution in that region, and vice versa.  Moreover, the climate of Alaska is none too good for an insane patient.”

To read more, go to The Oregon State Hospital Museum Project blog.

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    In research for our website on the history of mental health in Alaska (http://jukebox.uaf.edu), I read a good article that provides explanation of why Alaskans with mental illness were sent to Oregon.
    See “The Treatment of the Mentally Ill in Alaska, 1884-1912. A Territorial Study” by Thomas G. Smith, which appeared in Pacific Northwest Quarterly magazine, Vol. 65, No. 1, January 1974, pp 17-28.

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