Category Archives: 1900-1929

Dr. Coe Prescribes Whiskey for Patients

The following article is by Marylou Elton, our volunteer researcher who lives in Washington, DC. Marylou spends most Wednesdays digging through Morningside Hospital administrative records at the National Archives II. The documents she used for this post were from Record Group 126 at the NA2. There are links to the letters at the end of this article. By Marylou Elton Dr. Henry Waldo Coe saw himself in the role of a father figure – a man who was firm but willing to give a patient a hand up or a second chance.  Morningside did not offer “treatment” but Coe was proud the hospital offered a safe place to eat, sleep, and possibly pass the time at some chores while recovering from whatever symptoms had induced fellow Alaskans to call for the individual’s commitment.  There were several times he petitioned the Interior Department to allow a patient to be reinstated if, after discharge, they were not able to make their way in the world or if the “symptoms” came back. Many of the battles he waged with Congress and the Interior Department were to increase funding that would eventually impact his own bottom line (especially during World War I when the cost of goods rose dramatically).  But some of the skirmishes he entered into with the bureaucracy were strictly on behalf of the patients. A true example of this was his pursuit of whiskey for his patients during Prohibition in the 1920’s.  In late January of 1920, Coe was notified that whiskey impounded due to Prohibition could be made available to his patients at Morningside if he would contact the U.S. Attorney in Oregon to apply to the courts for the necessary order.  Coe immediately gave a positive reply, noting “a few ounces of spirits for some of these old Alaskans at times is really a life-saving substance”. Read More »
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Katharine Hodikoff

Katharine Hodikoff was admitted to Morningside Hospital from the Aleutian Islands on October 6, 1913. Her diagnosis was, “acute mania, irritable, resentful, improved, inclined to suicide, industrious, fair physical condition.” She apparently improved over time, so much so that she was discharged in August 1916. A few days before she left Morningside, Dr. Henry Coe, the president of the Sanitarium Company, informed the Department of the Interior of her release. In the letter, he described her as, “strong, vigorous, active, cleanly, and the most capable Eskimo woman I ever saw.” He goes on to say that she will be leaving with a baby named Mary McLoshkin (apparently born at Morningside?) who she adopted. You can read the [download id="53"] here. Coe notes that Katharine was in a photo with him and a Department of the Interior inspector (above, from the Library of Congress). He also wrote that she made fine baskets. I believe that this is a photo of one of her baskets. The caption under the 1916 photo (from the National Archives II) reads, “Made by an Alaska Native who was returned by Morningside to the island of Attu, 4000 miles distant.” Dr. Coe ends the letter with, “I am going to write up her story, one of these days. It is stranger than fiction.” I wish he had. I’ve checked many sources but can find nothing on Katharine after her discharge from Morningside. Please leave a comment if you know more about her or her family.
Also posted in Patient Photos, Patient Stories, Photos | 1 Comment

1911 Investigation

Governor Walter E. ClarkJoseph Von Kowski was adjudged insane in Tanana on March 13, 1911 and admitted to Morningside Hospital on April 15, 1911. He only stayed at the hospital for a short time, escaping on July 15. He subsequently wrote a letter to the matron of the Fairbanks Jail alleging that Morningside was “worst than any slaughterhouse from the beginning of the World” and that patients were “kept as slaves.” He also maintained that patients were tied up and beaten. Walter Clark (right), Alaska's first territorial governor, went to Morningside and spent 4 days "investigating  conditions at the asylum", where he conferred with Edward Dixon, the Department of the Interior inspector who also conducted the 1909 inspection. The following documents detail the complaint and investigation. [download id="50"], [download id="51"], [download id="52"]
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1909 Dixon Investigation Report

Henry Waldo Coe and his partners (the Sanitarium Company) began providing mental health care to Alaskans in 1904. Prior to winning their first contract, they operated Crystal Springs Sanitarium which provided care to private-pay patients. The pictures below show how the hospital changed as it morphed into Morningside Hospital, going from private-pay patients to government contract supported care of Alaskans. These images are from an October, 1909 investigation report on the care of Alaskan patients at Crystal Springs Sanitarium. The report, written by Edward W. Dixon, is from US Department of the Interior records at the National Archives II in College Station, MD. You can read the full report and see additional photos here - [download id="48"]. The changes in the architecture are striking.     The Massachusetts Building (Crystal Springs Sanitarium) with the Nurses Cottage (to the left).           Morningside Asylum building, where Alaskan patients were housed.    
Also posted in Investigations & Inspections, Morningside Hospital, Photos, Quality of Care, The Coes | Leave a comment

Patient Court Records

Researchers Niesje Steinkruger and Meg Greene, both of whom are retired Superior Court judges,  have made incredible progress is locating and documenting Morningside patient court records. Below are photos of some of the things they've found with descriptions provided by Niesje.   This photo (L) is of a subpoena given to the Federal Marshall by the Judge. Subpoenas were issued for the alleged insane person and the witnesses. Summons were also  issued for six jurors. All persons alleged to be "insane and at large" had a 6 person jury trial.     This (R) is an example of a Probate Docket book from Ketchikan. Inside are records of Estates, Guardianships, Adoptions and Sanity court cases.   This photo (L) is an example of a page from a Ketchikan docket book from 1953. The amount of information varies from date to date and location to location. Some have entries with basic information only. Others have complete verbatim documents and testimony summary.   This photo (R) is of the vault in the Clerk of Court Office in Nome, Alaska. The vault was barged to Nome during the Gold Rush. We found the Probate Docket books in this vault. The Probate Docket books have entries for the sanity proceedings from the late 1800's to 1960.     This (L) is the inside of the vault in Nome where historical files, journals and dockets were kept. In early days, gold was also kept here.
Also posted in 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, Court Records | Leave a comment

Virtual Cemetery Update

Eric Cordingley and David Anderson, of the Friends of Multnomah Park Cemetery, have identified the burial places of more than 100 Morningside patients. They created a Virtual Cemetery site that includes all of the patients they’ve identified, pictures of gravestones, and other information on the patients.

They are relying on two sources of information in their search.  They’re using the quarterly reports submitted to the Department of the Interior that list the names of patients who died, the cause of death, and the burial location. The Oregon Death Index has also been useful in finding burial locations. The certificate below is from the Virtual Cemetery site. It notes that Rita Lane, from Nome, died of pneumonia at Morningside when she was 14 years old. The burial location, Multnomah Cemetery, is at the bottom of the right side of the death certificate.

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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.

Also posted in Treatment/Outcomes | 1 Comment

OSH Copper Canisters

In an earlier post, I wrote about the copper canisters that hold the cremains of patients who died at the Oregon State Hospital.  The names of the patients, and other information such as date of death, are now online. The webpage, Honoring the Past - List of Unclaimed Cremains, explains that: “The Oregon State Hospital is the custodian of the cremated remains of approximately 3,500 people who died while living at Oregon State Hospital, Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital, Mid-Columbia Hospital, Dammasch State Hospital, Oregon State Penitentiary, and Fairview Training Center between 1914 and the 1970s. These cremains were never claimed.” The site includes information on how to claim cremains if you can prove you are a relative. The 6 Alaskans who died there between 1900 and 1903 were not on the list. Thanks to Eric Cordingly of the Friends of Multnomah Park Cemetery for sharing this link.
Also posted in 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, 1970-1980s, Patient Burials | Leave a comment

1923 DOI Inspection

Research team member Marylou Elton lives in Washington, DC, and spends many of her Wednesday’s at the National Archives II scanning Department of the Interior (DOI) administrative records of Morningside Hospital. She recently sent an interesting set of documents relating to the 1923 DOI inspection of the hospital, including the DOI inspectors report and recommendations, Morningside owner Henry Waldo Coe’s response, a list of exhibits and photos.

A few of the more interesting things in the report:

  • On July 25, 1923, there were 246 patients at Morningside, including 35 Alaska Natives.
  • 25% of the patients had syphilis. One of the symptoms of late stage syphilis is mental illness. Read More »
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Before Morningside

Prior to the Morningside Hospital years, the Department of the Interior contracted for care of Alaskans at the Oregon State Insane Asylum, now known as Oregon State Hospital (Salem).

Between 1901 and 1903, 69 Alaskans were sent to there, 31 of whom were later transferred to Morningside. Six men died while in Salem, including:

  • William Johnson, d.23 Aug 1901 (age 30, b. England)
  • Thomas A. Wilson, d. 9 Jan 1902 (age ___, b. England)
  • Alexander H Carpenter, d. 30 Mar 1902 ( age ___, b. ___)
  • Robert Sweet, d. 9 Nov 1902 (age 48, b. American)
  • Wm. Ukas, d. 24 Jun 1903 (age ___, b. Alaska)
  • Louis Bronson, d. 27 Jun 1903 (age 68, b. Germany)

On January 11, 1902, the Oregon Statesman published Thomas A. Wilson’s obituary. They reported that he committed suicide by jumping from a third floor window. The article went on to say:

“Wilson was committed to the Insane Asylum from Alaska, and he had recently shown marked signs of improvement. When realizing that he was in an insane asylum, he was very much distressed. He had thus far shown no signs of suicidal tendencies, and was generally considered a model patient.”

One of the interesting aspects of this is that the six men who died at the Oregon State Insane Asylum may be among those whose remains are in the copper canisters I wrote about on September 15. Another lead to follow the next time I’m in Oregon.

Also posted in Patient Burials, Patient List, Patient Stories | Leave a comment