Category Archives: 1900-1929

Citizens Hired as Guards for Patients and Prisoners

I got an interesting email yesterday from John Drews, who relayed a part of the Morningside story I’d never heard before.

“Many years ago I interviewed a gentleman in Fairbanks who had worked as a Deputy Marshall in Alaska during the territorial days. He told me about criminals and “others” that would be held in the jail until court hearings could be held. This could take up to a year at times because of the traveling justice.

When they had folks that were to be transported out of Alaska, they would advertise that any honest civilian wanting to go to Seattle could hire on as a temporary deputy to assist on the trip. They would transport criminals and the “insane” together and many times had to keep them all in restraints. He told of one man who had to be strapped to a cot for the entire trip because of his insanity and violence. The trips were made from Fairbanks by stage or later by train and then onto a steamer bound for Seattle. He never mentioned Morningside by name but it is pretty clear now.

The fellow I interviewed was a Deputy Marshall there in the 30’s & early 40’s, he later joined the Fairbanks Police Department. I was employed at FPD from 1975-95 and was interested in the early history of the department and did the interview for that reason.”

After doing a little research on, it was apparent that this practice started very early on. The following article is from December 17, 1908 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News.

FDN 12171908


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Early Travel to Morningside

Niesje Steinkruger sent this picture of the Valdez Stage. Her description is below. Keep in mind that the trail between Fairbanks and Valdez was 400 miles long.

Valdez Stage“This is  a good picture of the Valdez Stage.  Many patients travelled from Fairbanks and the Interior to Valdez  via this Stage.  It was a long, hard trip by Stage, Boat and Train to Morningside Hospital in Portland.  The patient was accompanied by a US Marshall. Sometimes the patient was transported with convicted criminals the Marshall was taking south.”

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More Death Certificates Online


Nearly 300 more death certificates are now available in the Morningside Hospital Research Archive. Once again, we have Eric Cordingley and David Anderson of Portland to thank for these invaluable records. I’m sure they’re on a first name basis with everyone who works at the State of Oregon Archives. Thanks to Eric and David’s dedication and persistence, there are now approximately 500 death certificates posted in the Research Archive.


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Michael Carey: Suicide has long been an Alaska wilderness hazard

Interior-Aleutians Campus, University of Alaska

Nulato, Alaska

Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He can be reached at He gave us permission to share his column.

Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” is one of the rare pieces of fiction set in the Gold Rush that continues to attract readers. In vivid economical prose, London rapidly tells the story of a greenhorn who freezes to death, alone except for his dog, on a remote Klondike trail. This is a tale of small mistakes at 50 below zero (or colder) following a profound failure of judgment. When the man leaves his warm cabin without recognizing the danger the cold presents, he is doomed.

London’s fiction is founded in fact. Men did freeze to death on Alaska trails, and not all of them were greenhorns. Territorial inquest records confirm this. But the hundreds of inquests in the State Archives in Juneau suggest suicide was more common than freezing to death. Clearly suicide constituted an occupational hazard to many men who trapped, mined, cut wood or otherwise supported themselves in the woods. My Dad, Fabian, who spent 30 years trapping, made a distinction between “trappers and misfits with trapping licenses.”

Of course we don’t know if suicides had emotional problems when they arrived in the woods or developed them while living there. Read More »

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“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.

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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 [Download not found] 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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Death Certificates Posted on Records Archive

[image title=”Carlson, Gustave-1″ size=”full” id=”1107″ align=”left” ]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.

Also posted in 1930-1949, 1950-1960s, Patient List | 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:

[image title=”Pages from 17-citing-records” size=”full” id=”1093″ align=”right” ]

  • 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 not found]
  • 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!

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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 1930-1949, Court Records, Patient Stories, Treatment/Outcomes | 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.

[image title=”08081911trial” size=”full” id=”1043″ align=”right” ]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.”



[image title=”08091911appeal” size=”full” id=”1045″ align=”right” ]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.”

[image title=”08141911holding” size=”full” id=”1046″ align=”right” ]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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