Category Archives: Morningside Hospital

It’s HERE! The Morningside Hospital Patient Database

Carlson, Gustave-1When the Lost Alaskans blog went online five years ago, we began to hear from people who were searching for friends and relatives who were committed to Morningside Hospital, some as long as one hundred years ago. We hope the Morningside Hospital Patient Database will make their search easier and answer their questions.

There are three types of records available. The Quarterly Reports have diagnoses and other information on patients, the Death Certificates are those who died while at Morningside, and the court records document the commitment process. There are gaps in all of the record sets so the search continues.

The database will be formally announced in January. In the meantime, give it a try and send comments and recommendations. Click on Search Patient Records and then enter at least three consecutive letters of the patient’s last name and, optionally, any part of the patient’s first name. The database searches both the name as entered as well as alternate spellings found in the records.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority for their long-term support, especially over the past six months. The Trust made it possible for our volunteer researchers to get to record archives in Maryland, Alaska and Oregon. The entry of 45,000 records would not have been possible without Trust support.

And thanks to the volunteers who collected the information in the database. Volunteers by type of record are Meg Greene and Niesje Steinkruger (Court Records), Eric Cordingley, David Anderson and Sally Mead (Death Certificates) and Marylou Elton, Karen Perdue, Ellen Ganley and Robin Renfro (Quarterly Reports), and Deborah Smith (Alaska State Archives).

Many thanks to Doug Toelle, our project manager at Access Alaska And last, but not least, thanks to database programmer Don Kiely, web designer Jana Peirce, and data entry queen Nancy Lowe, all of whom are hugely talented and extremely patient.

Also posted in Court Records, Patient Burials, Patient List, Research Project News | Tagged , , | 2 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.
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Also posted in 1950-1960s, Oral Histories, Patient Stories, Treatment/Outcomes | 2 Comments

1909 Dixon Investigation Report

Henry Waldo Coe and his partners (the Sanitarium Company) began providing mental health care to Alaskans in 1904. Prior to winning their first contract, they operated Crystal Springs Sanitarium which provided care to private-pay patients.

The pictures below show how the hospital changed as it morphed into Morningside Hospital, going from private-pay patients to government contract supported care of Alaskans. These images are from an October, 1909 investigation report on the care of Alaskan patients at Crystal Springs Sanitarium. The report, written by Edward W. Dixon, is from US Department of the Interior records at the National Archives II in College Station, MD. You can read the full report and see additional photos here – [Download not found].

The changes in the architecture are striking.

[image title=”Massachusetts building” size=”full” id=”853″ align=”left” ]



The Massachusetts Building (Crystal Springs Sanitarium) with the Nurses Cottage (to the left).




[image title=”Morningside Asylum” size=”full” id=”872″ align=”right” ]



Morningside Asylum building, where Alaskan patients were housed.



Also posted in 1900-1929, Investigations & Inspections, Photos, Quality of Care, The Coes | Leave a comment

Then and Now


[image title=”front of MH” size=”full” id=”739″ align=”right” ]Morningside Hospital in the 1950s or 1960s. There were many other structures on the property, including patient housing and farm buildings.







[image title=”205 Mall” size=”full” id=”743″ align=”right” ]In 1968, Morningside Hospital was sold to the developers of the 205 Mall. This is what it looks like today.

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We’re a Top 50 Hospital Blog!

This is old news, but the Morningside Hospital Blog was rated among the 50 best hospital blogs by healthcare blog, “Nurseblogger.”  This happened last September but I wasn’t aware of it until I stumbled on it while doing Morningside research.  I think we’re probably the only blog about a hospital that no longer exists among the top 50.

Some of the other “Top 50” hospital blogs included:

  • “Beyond Vermont State Hospital (VSH) Blog” in Vermont
  • “Porter Adventist Hospital” in Colorado
  • “Save Charity Hospital” in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • “Knoxville Hospital and Clinics Blog” in Iowa
  • “Lexington Medical Center” in South Carolina
  • “OSF St. Joseph Medical Center: This is Health Care” in Bloomington, Illinois
  • “Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley” in California
  • “Virginia Hospital Center” in Arlington, Virginia
  • “Children’s Hospital and Health System” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Also posted in Research Project News | Leave a comment

Christmas at Morningside Hospital

Among the few pictures of Morningside are a two taken at Christmas celebrations in the 1920s. The US Department of the Interior records included correspondence from Wayne Coe about the 1922 Morningside Hospital Christmas party and an accounting of the party and patient gift expenses.

These two photos, which are from the Oregon Historical Society, were not dated but appear to be from the 1920s.


The caption on the photo above is an account of the Christmas Festivities at Morningside from a Portland newspaper. “Morningside Hospital provided three Christmas trees for the inmates. Natives helped to provide the entertainment which was held in the Assembly room of the new Parole House. Gifts were provided for all the patients in the institution by Dr. Coe, the Chief Officer. After the exercises in the main hall the women retired to their own buildings where trees awaited them, while the men had their remembrances in the assembly room.”

The founder of Morningside Hospital, Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, is standing to the right of the Christmas tree.

Xmas2The photo above appears to be from the early to mid-1920s. Children were first admitted to Morningside at the end of 1922 or early 1923. Read More »

Also posted in 1900-1929, Patient Photos, Photos, The Coes | Leave a comment

Three Amazing Days at the National Archives

Karen Perdue (l) and Ellen Ganley

Karen and I spent Wednesday through Friday of last week at the National Archives II in College Park, MD. After worrying that we wouldn’t find any patients records, we found more than I imagined possible. Too much, in fact. They have nearly all of the Morningside Hospital patient lists from 1904 through the early 1950s, plus contracts, investigation reports, personnel records, medical officer reports, and administrative correspondence between Morningside and the Department of the Interior. We worked each day for 10 to 11 hours, scanning and copying. In the end, we had nearly a gig of scanned documents and photos and a 4 inch stack of copies. I don’t think we made a dent in what’s there.

This presents us with an entirely new set of questions, the most important of which is how to handle this much information and make it readily available to families and other researchers. Over the next month, we’re going to seek advice on the organization of historical collections and database design. In the meantime, we’ll post more patient lists and articles on some of the more interesting information and photos we found in the files.

Stay tuned.

Also posted in Research Project News | Leave a comment

We’re off to the National Archvies!

Karen and I are headed to College Park, MD, next week to spend three days at the National Archives. Prior to statehood, the US Department of the Interior, Office of the Territories, contracted with Morningside Hospital for the care of Alaskans with mental illnesses. The federal records for these years are at the National Archives.

We are very excited about two record groups in particular:

Letters Received and Related Records concerning the Alaskan Insane, compiled 1900-1911: National Archives, College Park, MDThis series consists of letters received, copies of contracts, telegrams, vouchers, lists of patients, and other records.  Some of the correspondence refers to policy, but most of it concerns the custody and care of mental patients, discharge of cured individuals, and related topics.

Record Group 126, Records of the Office of the Territories: This record group includes 26 boxes pertaining to the care of the insane in Alaska. 

The records will undoubtedly provide more information about the operation of Morningside Hospital and its relationship with the federal government. Of course, our greatest hope is that the boxes at the National Archives contain patient lists. If the patient lists are not there, we’re out of ideas and pretty much at a deadend.

Please contact us if there are particular records that interest you. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Also posted in Patient List | Leave a comment

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 »

Also posted in 1900-1929, 1950-1960s, The Coes | Leave a comment

1920 US Census Data Added

The 1920 US Census data has been posted and added to the Wall of Names. The Census data is interesting in that it contains information that our other lists do not, including birthplace, marital status, literacy, race, and mother tongue, all of which will be helpful to researchers tracking down family history. This was a hand-written document that had to be transcribed into a spreadsheet, we’ve done our best to ensure the data was copied accurately, but there may be typos.

You can view these lists here: 1920 US Census

When we posted the 1955 Department of the Interior Report, we pointed out some names that appeared on both that list and the Wickersham Papers. With the addition of the 1920 US Census list there are even more names that appear on multiple lists, helping to fill out the profile of some Morningside patients. Read More »

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