Category Archives: Patient Stories

“Insanity Raging”

Thursday, October 25, 1906
Fairbanks Evening News

Man Being Brought From Richardson Is the Third Case Which Has Developed Within Past Three Weeks

Marshal Perry is in receipt of a telegram from Richardson, stating that two men, Maher and Espy by name, left the Tenderfoot town yesterday with an Insane person in charge, who will be kept here until there is some improvement in his condition or otherwise, until he can be sent outside to Mount Tabor (the early name for Morningside Hospital).

This is the third case of insanity which has developed in the Tanana during the past three weeks. Jack Spencer was brought up from Gibbon and tried before Commissioner Erwln, and, although he was discharged, the general opinion appeared to be that he was a fit subject for the wheelhouse, unless he could be kept away from the Influence of hootch. Jack was Interdicted by the Jury which tried his case, or a recommendation was made to that effect.

The case of Mrs. Black is hardly a week old. Mrs. Black, the mother of a family at Gibbon, went violently Insane at that place, and the commissioner there having no jurisdiction to try the case, the afflicted woman is now on her way to Rampart, where she will be held awaiting some improvement in her condition or until her case is dispensed of by Commissioner Green.

Commissioner Hedger has already dispensed of the case of the patient at Richardson, but there being no place at that point where such cases can be properly handled, It was thought best to send the Insane person to Fairbanks. The name of the man is not known here, the Richardson commissioner having failed to mention it in his various dispatches.

Also posted in 1900-1929, Media Coverage | Leave a comment

Lawrence Ross 1921 – 2012

Brother and uncle, Lawrence Joseph Ross, 91, died Sunday, July 22, 2012, at Denali Center where he had lived for the past 39 years.

Born in Ruby, on March 26, 1921, to Charles F. Ross, of Stockholm, Sweden, and Emma A. (Alexander) Ross, of Anvik, Lawrence recalled being raised by “the doctor” because of early diagnosis of polio. As Emma’s ninth child, he remembered all his siblings and extended family well, having lived along the Yukon River until 1955.

Lawrence began institutional living at Morningside Hospital in Portland, Ore., at age 34. He also lived in facilities in Anchorage and Valdez before moving permanently to Fairbanks in 1973 to be closer to his sister, Edith.

His career as a janitor began in the days when he used to keep the Pioneer Hall in Ruby clean. Quite a storyteller, he would recount housekeeping chores he did at Harborview in Valdez. His jobs at Denali Center included picking up laundry, wiping down tables and handrails, and checking to make sure that office doors were locked after hours. Read More »

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Gustav “Gus” Berglund 1881-1956

Lina Olafsson lives in Stockholm, Sweden,  and recently discovered that her grandfather was sent to Morningside Hospital when he was a young man. She kindly provided the following story and photos.

By Lina Olofsson

My mother died last year, leaving a box with an old diary, some pictures and old letters from my grandfather.

Gus Berglund, seated on the right

Gus Berglund, seated on the right

My grandfather, Gus Berglund, was born in 1881. He lived in the little mining town  – Malmberget  – in the north of Sweden, just about 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. He came from a large family, with three sisters and six brothers. His father and the older brothers worked as iron-ore miners.

At the age of 27, my grandfather Gus immigrated to Canada with one of his younger brothers – Conrad – and four of their friends. They arrived to Quebec on the Empress of Ireland on May 1, 1909. Their brother Erik had emigrated some years before, and was living in Spokane, Washington with his young wife and a son. Their sister Elin emigrated some months after my grandfather, and she settled in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and four children.

1917 Letter to Morningside Hospital

1917 Letter to Morningside Hospital

From 1910 to 1914, the two brothers, Gus and Erik Berglund, worked together in different railway camps in the Spokane-Seattle-Vancouver-area. Sometimes together – sometimes apart.

My grandfather kept a diary during the first years in Canada and United States, where he wrote some short notes about the different jobs. But the last note is dated 1914, and there are no letters after that time saved between the siblings in Canada and their family in Sweden.

But I found a letter (0) from February 1917, written by a brother in Sweden to Doctor J. W. Luckey at Morningside Hospital, asking about my grandfather Gus. He had heard that Gus had been admitted at Morningside, but the family was worried and could not get in contact with him at the hospital.

Gus Berglund, standing left

Gus Berglund, standing left

The patient records I found from Morningside state that my grandfather Gus Berglund was admitted from Knik on May 8, 1916. His diagnosis was, “Catatonia, Silent, uncommunicative, Morose”. About a year later , on June 7, 1917,  he was discharged to Seattle where his brother Conrad was living with his family.

Gus probably went Alaska, to build the Alaskan railway, which was constructed at that time in the area of Knik. He probably lived in the Wasilla railway camp with his brother Eric when he was taken ill. Or maybe he went to Alaska for the gold? I probably never will find out what happened to my grandfather Gus in Alaska.

After First World War grandfather Gus returned to Sweden. From 1923 to 1932 he was building railways in the north of Sweden.

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Mamie Ball

The city of Nome was founded on April 9, 1901. By the end of the decade, there were 20,000 residents, most of whom were starry-eyed optimists convinced they were going to strike gold on the beaches of Norton Sound.

Mamie Ball and her husband Harry were two of the gold-seekers. Harry died in 1927 but Mamie lived in Nome until she was committed to Morningside in 1941.

Her death certificate was among those posted on the Records Archive earlier this month. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, there was a note written on the back of the Oregon Death certificate that detailed her death soon after her arrival in Portland.

The other interesting aspect is that there are two death certificates, one from Oregon and the other from Washington. It appears that the Oregon certificate, filled out soon after her death, was corrected by Eliza Scott, her sister. Mrs. Scott lived in Seattle and took Mamie’s body there for burial. Apparently, the Washington death certificate was needed to do that. The death certificates and note can be found here. Ball Death Certificates (751).

Also posted in 1930-1949 | 1 Comment

Morningside Hospital Record Archive

Morningside Hospital sent monthly and quarterly reports to the US Department of the Interior that contain a wealth of information about the patients. Our goal from the beginning was to make this information available to families and researchers.

The first installment, which includes 200+ monthly and quarterly reports, can be found here: Morningside Hospital Document Archive

Some basic information about this set of records:

  • The Archive is in Google Docs and you will need a google/gmail account to access them.
  • These records are from the National Archives II in College Park, MD. If you use them in an article or book, they are from Record Group 126 and please use the NA II standards of attribution: Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States (806)
  • The files are indexed by year and month.

And let’s all take a moment to thank Marylou Elton for her countless hours scanning these documents, and many more. Thanks, Marylou!

Also posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, Patient List | Leave a comment

What to do with the criminally insane…

Article by Marylou Elton

Downloadable documents related to this post can be found at the end of the article.

Morningside Hospital was not a prison.  In 1917, Dr. Henry Waldo Coe was proud to note that the new “Parole Home” had “neither bolts, bars or restraining screens”.  “Without doubt”, wrote Coe, “the humane phase of our non-restraint at Morningside, aids greatly in the large percentage of recoveries at Morningside, the records showing, as on file in the Department (of Interior), the largest percentage of recoveries of any institution in the United States, the value of the change of climate, of course, being the greatest factor therein.”

But what was to be done with the criminally insane?  Those who were repeat violent offenders or committed multiple murders?  The law at that time was clear that someone found insane at the time they committed a crime could not be convicted of the offense.  The law also stated those found insane in the Territory of Alaska should be sent to an institution designated by the secretary of interior (Morningside Hospital) – where there was a danger of them being discharged upon recovery or eloping.

By 1917 the issue was coming to a head.  Several individuals convicted of criminal offenses and sent to Morningside escaped and then went on to commit additional crimes.  A discussion of the problem can be found in letters between Dr. Coe, Alaska district judges in Valdez and Juneau, and the departments of Justice and Interior.  Dr. Coe’s letters deny any carelessness on the part of Morningside and note that criminals escape everywhere.  The judges lobby for a change in the law that would send those found criminally insane to facilities where adequate lock-up could be provided.  Read More »

Also posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, Court Records, Treatment/Outcomes | 1 Comment

Native Tubercular Children

Three children were admitted to Morningside on September 16, 1930 from Riverton Sanitarium in Seattle. They all had tuberculosis and no mental illness or other disability. They were sent to Morningside by the US Department of Education and arrived with no records of any kind.

The picture below is from 1931. The caption sayes, “Native tubercular children. These children are cared for in their own department at Morningside Hospital.”

Clinical Notes (621) from 1932 indicate that Bertha Koenig was 9 when she arrived at Morningside after spending 4 years in Seattle hospitals. Her family was from McGrath and the record notes that her father was white and her mother Native Alaskan. Her prognosis was, “poor for recovery. Duration of life uncertain, perhaps a few years.”

John Mosquito was 5 when he was admitted. His record noted, “We have never learned from what part of Alaska this child came, nor the names or where-abouts of his relatives, if any.” He had the same prognosis as Bertha.

In 1933, the National and Alaska American Legion demanded that the children be moved elsewhere. F.S. Fellows, the medical director of the Alaska Medical services, summarized their criticisms and demands in a letter (1432) to John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Dr. Fellows recommended that the children remain at Morningside. We have no information on the eventual outcome.

Also posted in 1930-1949, Patient Photos | 1 Comment

One-Eyed Shaw Creek Tony

In the early 1900s, Fairbanks newspapers often carried stories about the arrests and trials of those accused of being mentally ill. I recently came across the story of Anton (One-Eyed Shaw Creek Tony) Kozlowski. A series of stories covered his trial and appeal of the jury’s guilty verdict. After the appeal, he was kept in jail to see if his condition would improve. He was eventually admitted to Morningside on October 22, 1911 and discharged a year later.

August 8, 1911: The Fairbanks Daily Times reported that a six man jury determined that Anthony Koslowski was  insane.

The newspaper reported that, “He declared that he was being pursued by men intent upon taking his life, and even now is under the impression that there is some one in town intent upon killing him for reasons that he refuses to divulge.”

The six man jury deliberated for a short time and delivered the following verdict:
“We, the Jury, Impaneled and sworn to Inquire into the sanity of Anthony Kozlowski do find that he is Insane and that he ought to be committed to the sanatorium provided for the insane of the territory of Alaska. Dated at Fairbanks, Alaska. August 7, 1911.”

 

 

August 8, 1911: The Fairbanks Daily Times noted that Kozlowski decided to appeal the jury’s decision:

“Anthony Koztowski, better known as “One-Eyed Shaw Creek Tony,” who was adjudged insane recently by a jury in the commissioner’s court, has decided to carry the case to the district court.”

August 14, 1911: The Alaska Citizen reported, “Kozlowski will not be sent Outside
at once, it having been determined to hold him here for some time to see if his condition improves.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Patient’s Perspective on Morningside in the 1960’s

Steve B. was a patient at Morningside Hospital in the mid-1960s. He is the first former patient to contact us and provides a look at life at Morningside from the patient’s perspective. If you have a question for Steve, please leave a comment and we’ll pass them along to him.

By Steve B.

During my stay, both drugs and EST were used. I was not treated with EST, only drugs, among which I am sure there were anti-depressants and tranquilizers. There were perhaps six or seven teens in my ward and one or two of them were administered EST. Memory tells me that most EST-treated patients were in the older population. On my ward, meds were kept in a locked chest located on the wall near the aides’ station. These were carefully measured and administered by the aides themselves. Mine were in powder format, mixed with orange juice for tolerable palatability.

Dr. Roy Moss, in “talk therapy” individual sessions, addressed my problems, but I was never given a diagnosis or nomenclature for those problems. Perhaps my parents were given a technical-medical name for what was ailing me, but they never mentioned it and I never inquired.

Hindsight tells me there were probably well over a hundred patients during the period of my stay, but these were scattered among different wards/dorms, and I never witnessed a mass-gathering of patients, so this is only my best guess.

There were many native Alaskans at Morningside during my stay. Again, since I have no real grasp on the total population, I can’t accurately say how many their numbers were. But I would run across them “all the time”, especially in larger gatherings such as daily cafeteria meals, so I would guess that they were still constituting a substantial portion of the general population. Most of these were older males (didn’t notice many, if any, females), and other than the normal courtesies, unfortunately, I didn’t converse with them – so I can’t relate anything regarding the frequency and/or process of returning them to Alaska. One exception was the only teen Alaskan I knew, who was an affable sort except when his anger management issues would trigger outbursts. However, I didn’t learn anything from him pertaining to native American life in Alaska. On my ward there was also a Native American named Reggie Hunt, but if I’m not mistaken, he was from Central (Warm Springs Reservation?) or Eastern Oregon, not Alaska. My first experience of Alaskan culture came in the hospital’s main office, where my parents brought me to be admitted. The walls were hung with all kinds of native crafts, a lot of masks and suchlike.

The aides were exceptional – reasonable, responsible, and approachable, some with wild senses of humor, which of course, immensely helped patients during their (in many cases) involuntary “incarceration”. The aides never abused anyone and were extremely helpful in all ways. Discipline was maintained, but I believe always in tandem with communication with the doctors – i.e., no unilateral, “fascistic” decisions were made by the aides. One punitive measure I recall was being “put on restriction”, which meant isolation from the rest of the community in the ward. Such patients would be permitted to attend the school, but were not allowed to return to the ward except at night for head-count and sleep. I recall one incident in which I was the only “innocent party” – and all the rest of the teens were put on restriction. It was a strange but exciting feeling for me to have my freedom, limited though it was, while all my peers were on off-ward restriction.
Read More »

Also posted in 1950-1960s, Morningside Hospital, Oral Histories, Treatment/Outcomes | 2 Comments

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 discharge letter (621) 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 1900-1929, Patient Photos, Photos | 1 Comment