• The story of Morningside Hospital is a civil rights story. Prior to statehood, there were no services available in the Territory of Alaska for individuals who experienced mental illness or developmental disabilities. At the time, mental illness was considered a crime. Alaskan adults and children were arrested, convicted of being insane, and sent by the federal government to live at Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon. They were taken from their families and communities by dog sled, train and boat. In the end, at least 3,500 Alaskans were sent to Morningside between 1904 and the 1960s, when Morningside was finally closed. Many were never heard from by their families again. These are the Lost Alaskans.

    The Lost Alaskans: The Morningside Hospital History Project is an effort by volunteer researchers to document the history of Morningside through territorial court records, national and state archives, vital statistics, genealogical and burial records, and interviews. Our goals are to have the Morningside story recognized as an important part of Alaska history and to provide information to families still searching for loved ones who disappeared decades ago.

Death Certificates Posted on Records Archive

More than 200 Oregon death certificates for Morningside patients are now available in the Morningside Hospital Record Archive. You can find them here. Thanks to Portland residents Eric Cordingley and David Anderson for their many trips to the Oregon State Archives in Salem and for scanning all of these documents. Their continued commitment provides a rich source of information for families of Alaskans sent to Morningside.
Posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, Patient List | 5 Comments

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: [download id="117"]
  • 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!
Posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, Patient List, Patient Stories | 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 »
Posted in 1900-1929, 1930-1949, Court Records, Patient Stories, Treatment/Outcomes | 2 Comments

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." [download id="108"] 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 [download id="109"] to John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Dr. Fellows recommended that the children remain at Morningside. We have no information on the eventual outcome.
Posted in 1930-1949, Patient Photos, Patient Stories | 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."                    
Posted in 1900-1929, Patient Stories | Leave a comment

More Cemetery News

Eric Cordingley and David Anderson continuing their search for death certificates and burial sites. Here is Eric's most recent report. Lone Fir Cemetery, PortlandI now have a complete copy of all of the original ledgers of Multnomah Park Cemetery.  The reason this is important is because I can now trace all of the interments of Morningside patients who died between 1912 and 1942 to a time and place. A recent fact emerged that several Morningside patients who died between 1904 and 1912 may have been interred in St. Mary's Cemetery, which was moved in 1937 to make way for Central Catholic High School.  The records of the whereabout of those remains is unknown, possibly to a mass grave at Lone Fir, or they still may in their original location, which is now under a tennis court and football field. Dave and I are continuing on our monthly trek to Salem to get death certificates.  We have 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919, the next set will be 1920 because I want to see when the burial contract went from Finley to Holman and just when the burials moved from Multnomah Park to Riverview...and then back again in 1927 to 1942. Read More »
Posted in Patient Burials | 1 Comment

McNeil Island Prison

During territorial days, US Federal Marshals in Alaska made regular trips South, first delivering prisoners to McNeil Island Prison in Washington, then taking patients to Morningside Hospital. Warren Gohl is part of a group attempting to locate the graves of Alaska Natives who died while serving sentences at McNeil Island.  Please leave a comment if you have any information or ideas for Warren From Warren Gohl McNeil Island Prison circa 1890I  act in collaboration with the 13th Heritage Foundation which represents the 12 Alaskan Native Corporations in the lower 48 States and Hawaii. The foundation has initiated a  project:  "The Search". This project has as its sole purpose  the discovery of the grave sites of  22 Alaskan Natives  sent to the Federal prison at McNeil Island, Pierce County, Washington between 1872 and 1951 (dates approximate), where they passed away  while serving their Federal prison sentences. Their passing at McNeil Island prison has been  confirmed through record reserarch at the National Archives, Sand Point, Seattle in 2011. However, their McNeil Island gravesite locations remain unknown in spite of considerable inquiry to agencies of the State of Washington who assumed control of the former Federal prison and co-located properties on McNeil Island following closure of the Federal prison in 1981. The 13th Heritage Foundation seeks the physical  location of the Alaskan Native grave sites in question so as to begin closure to the Alaskan Native families who lost track of their loved ones upon their incarceration under Federal custody and subsequent demise. Any guidance, assistance, advice, etc. you may provide is of great importance, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

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 »
Posted in 1950-1960s, Morningside Hospital, Oral Histories, Patient Stories, Treatment/Outcomes | 2 Comments

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 »
Posted in 1900-1929, Treatment/Outcomes | Leave a comment

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.
Posted in 1900-1929, Patient Photos, Patient Stories, Photos | 1 Comment