Category Archives: 1950-1960s

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[image title=”copper” size=”full” id=”617″ align=”left” linkto=”viewer” ], 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.

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Oregonian Historical Archive

[image title=”logo_oregonlive” size=”full” id=”428″ align=”left” linkto=”viewer” ]The Oregonian Historical Archive is online! This is wonderful news. We found a limited number of articles on Morningside at the Oregon Historical Society, most of which had to do with the 1950s. The new online archive lists 345 articles on Morningside Hospital, many providing insights into the day-to-day activities there. You can get a one-day pass, which includes up to 50 downloaded articles, for $9.99. Monthly subscriptions are $19.50/month with which you can view up to 200 articles a month. Here’s where you can find the archive.

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Working at Morningside Hospital

Charles Kurtz recently contacted the blog and offered to share his experiences at Morningside Hospital during the 1950s and 1960s. He gave me permission to post his email messages and I hope to interview him later this year. We’d love to hear more about day-to-day life at Morningside from other former employees of the hospital.

“My mother worked as a chef/cook at Morningside Hospital from the early 1950’s until 1965. I also worked there myself on a couple of occasions.  As a high school summer job,  I worked in the kitchen for a couple of months.

Beginning in 1962,  I worked as a psychiatric aide–working nights while I finished college.  I remember well–though maybe not always by name–many of the patients on the ward I worked.  This was a ward mainly for men with acute psychosis.  Most were in treatment focused on returning them home, so there was always a turnover, with some patients staying only a month or so.   Of course there were some patients so chronically ill or so developmentally disabled they were essentially permanent residents. Read More »

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Patient Death Certificates

by Sally Mead

Over the past two weeks in Portland we’ve unearthed quite a bit more backdrop on the search for the burial locations of Morningisde patients. Working closely with Robin Renfroe and her sister Peggy, from Salem, we visited the State of Oregon Archives to search for death certificates for over 150 people. Robin had done research on the Wickersham Paper, US Census reports and Morningside Admittance lists to unearth as many Alaska Native people (or known family names) as possible.

Outside Archives

OR Archives, Salem

We have now searched all 121 names on the Wickersham list (pre 1916) as well as around 50 more Alaska Native people reported from 1920 to 1957. It is not complete but an important start.  Not all of them had a death certificate, but most did. The certificates are telling, from full names, to cause of death, burial location and family members if known. Those lines were almost always empty…. It was very sad to see how many were listed with epilepsy as cause of death.



Paggy and Sally

Peggy and Sally

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A History of Morningside Hospital

From “The East Portland Historical Overview and Historic Preservation Study” published by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (March 2009)

“For nearly sixty years, Morningside Hospital sat on a 47-acre parcel in Hazlewood, at the junction of SE Stark Street and 96th Avenue. Formerly agricultural land, the site was developed as a psychiatric hospital complex and working farm in 1910. After WWII, many of the farmers in the surrounding area retired and their land was developed into suburban communities. The rising population increased consumer demand and the under-construction interstate freeway promised easy access; in 1970 the site was redeveloped as Mall 205.

The hospital, founded in 1899 by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, was originally run out of his family’s home. In 1905, Coe purchased the Massachusetts Building from the Lewis and Clark Exposition and moved it from the exposition site in NW Portland to Mt. Tabor, where it was converted into a psychiatric hospital. Five years later, Dr. Coe moved Read More »

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Patient list from 1955 Department of the Interior Report Added

The Morningside Hospital patient list found in the 1955 Department of the Interior (DotI) Report has been posted and incorporated into the Wall of Names.

You can view these lists here: 1955 Department of the Interior Report

The Wall of Names is sorted alphabetically by last name, and then by first name, rather than by source. The intended reason for this was to organize the names in a way that makes it easier for someone researching their family history or looking for a specific name to find the name they’re looking for. The other effect of sorting the names like this is that names that appears on more than one list group together. In adding the names from the Department of the Interior Report from March 1955, I stumbled upon a few patients who’s names appear in Judge Wickersham’s list from Morningside in 1916 and in the 1955 DotI Report. Read More »

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UAF Project Jukebox

The University of Alaska Oral History Program is doing interviews with people involved in the closure of Morningside Hospital, the court battles that lead to the establishment of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and the development of  mental health, substance abuse, developmental disability and Alzheimer’s Disease services. The interviews, plus a lot more, can be found on their website. The following is from the UAF Jukebox site.

“The Mental Health Trust History Project Jukebox offers insight into the long struggle to provide quality mental health services in Alaska from the perspective of people who participated. There is discussion about how the mentally ill were treated prior to Statehood when they were sent to Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon; how in 1956 Alaska Read More »

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Arrest and Adjudication

Prior to the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956, a person accused of being mentally ill was to be brought before a jury of six people, who would rule him sane or insane. The patient was often sent to prison until his transfer to Portland. Medical or psychiatric exams were not required. This commitment process was established in 1905 by the 58th US Congress.

The full text for the part of the act relating to, “the care and support of insane persons in the district of Alaska…”, can be found here.

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1960s Morningside Hospital Photos

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What was the care like at Morningside Hospital?

The story of the hospital and the transition to building a care system over several decades is fascinating and sometimes quite heartbreaking. Lets face it –the standards of what we deem acceptable treatment for persons with mental illness and other conditions has evolved dramatically and for the better in the last one hundred years. Morningside Hospital presented itself as a sanitary, humane, and medically focused facility for the care of people the Territory of Alaska did not want. Government oversight of the program existed because the Interior Department was paying the bill. Investigations occurred from time to time with no real result until the U. S. House of Representatives launched a series of investigations into the care and the finances of the Hospital in the late 1950’s. Read More »

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