Nome Court Records

We’ve dragged two new volunteers into our pursuit of the history of Morningside Hospital. Niesje Steinkruger and Meg Green, retired Superior Court Judges from the Alaska Fourth Judicial District, are taking the lead in researching the Federal and State court commitment records.

Meg recently returned from a trip to Nome, where she spent a few hours at the Nome Courthouse:

“I was in Nome doing some work the first three days of this week and had a couple of hours at the end.  I found the federal Probate Docket book from the Cape Nome Precinct at the Nome courthouse.  I had earlier been told that Nome did not have them.  There are 5 volumes running from 1918 to statehood.  There may be an earlier volume, but I could not find it (what I saw starts with volume “2.”)


Central Washington University, James E. Brooks Library, Digital Archives

Here is some preliminary data: between 1918 and 1929 there were only 5 sanity proceedings, one of which was a finding of not insane (but he lost about 2 months later and headed to Morningside). Everyone who was found insane was transported to Morningside.

Things picked up markedly in 1930-1936, perhaps because there was a doctor in Nome.  It is apparent that all of the actions were started by a non-medical person.  The Commissioner then appointed a doctor to examine the person accused.  During most of this period, the doctor’s name was Swartz. There were 32 sanity proceedings filed. There were two findings of someone being sane, and the US Attorney dismissed another 7 cases before trial.  Some of the reasons for dismissal were great, “condition brought on by alcohol” and “he is an old man who has been placed in the Pioneer Home in Sitka” being my favorites.

My most exciting find was a 1954 letter to the Governor copied to the Nome clerk of court and pasted in the docket book.  This letter is just like those we have seen in the Juneau files. It gives me hope that we will see more in the later volumes.  The letter was about the death of Antonio Sliscovich, Morningside patient number 1507.  He was judged insane in Nome in June 1933 and was admitted  to Morningside on July 3, 1933.  He died May 27, 1954; the letter was dated the next day.  The body was turned over to Miller and Tracey Funeral Directors for burial at Greenwood Hills.  He died of congestive heart failure and a “report of postmortem examination” was referenced.  He had a niece (in California?) who was notified.  I could not copy the letter because it was quite firmly attached in the Docket Book.  I did not have my camera with me.  Mr. Sliscovich’s court record is #450 in volume 3.

Niesje and I will try to persuade the Nome folks to send us the records here in Fairbanks on our promise to return them. Failing that, we will try to get the rest of the information reviewed next time one of us is in Nome.”

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