Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Whispered O of A to Z

When I was very young, whenever the town of Osawatomie was mentioned, it was mentioned in whisper.
You see...it was where the State Insane Asylum was located. Now it's called the Osawatomie State Hospital. Pictured below is what it looked like when built in 1866.
 Doctors did not know how to treat the symptoms of disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety and certain other physical conditions such as epilepsy.
Insane Asylums
"Before the Civil War, the mentally ill had been placed in poor houses, workhouses, or prisons when their families could no longer care for them. Patients often lived with criminals and were treated likewise, locked in a cell or even chained to the walls. By the 1860s, Americans wanted to provide better assistance to the less fortunate, including the mentally ill. The number of facilities devoted to the care of people with mental disorders increased significantly. Meant to be a place of refuge, these facilities were referred to as insane asylums. Between 1825 and 1865, the number of asylums in the United States increased from nine to 62.
The establishment of asylums did not mean that treatment greatly improved. Doctors still did not understand what caused their patients' behavior. They listed such things as religious excitement, sunstroke, and reading novels as possible causes of mental illness. Additionally, they believed that patients had lost all control over their morals, and strict discipline was necessary to help the patient regain self-control. The asylum provided the restraint a patient could not supply himself. Confining the patient in a straitjacket was one way to do this."

Mom suffered from depression. Dad, being the sadistic person that he was, would threaten mom and my grandparents to send her there. I was too young to understand what was being said, or the meaning, but was fully aware of the upset "he" was causing. Mom could be quiet and distant...but even at a young age, I could see that he was punishing mom for her illness.

The Osawatomie State Hospital Burial Grounds are located north of the city of Osawatomie.  It is a small cemetery consisting of 346 markers identifying people, mostly patients, who had no families that would claim them. Burials were discontinued during the early 1950's. It's my understanding that only one of the 346 markers has been identified and has a name.
Osawatomie State Hospital, originally known as the Kansas Insane Asylum, had beds for 12 patients when it opened. By the end of the next year it housed 22 with applications for 50 more. In 1945, the ratio of patients to physicians was 854 to one. As a result of such conditions, restraints were used longer at Osawatomie than in Kansas' other mental health facilities. The documented use of straitjackets continued until at least 1956.
Around 1950, Charles H. Graham, a reporter with the Kansas City Star, wrote a series of articles on the conditions at Kansas' state hospitals. At Osawatomie he found that force was commonly used to restrain male patients, while females wore straitjackets and wrist cuffs. One attendant reported that of the 70 patients on the ward, half might be in straitjackets at any given time. Graham saw no apparent abuse in the women's ward, but described the scene as bedlam:
"These women were doing the best they could in a building that is utterly unfit for the care of mental patients, or any other kind. . . . There is no place to which any patient can retire to escape momentarily the Bedlamic scene, and as a result, some of them 'blow up.' That brings on the restraints."
Graham found it interesting that Osawatomie continued to use restraints while Larned State Hospital, a facility for the criminally insane in western Kansas, had abandoned them by 1948.
Osawatomie was eventually able to phase out the use of restraints through increasing staff and improving facilities. Advances in psychology, including the development of tranquilizing drugs, made the devices unnecessary. Attendants were still leery of removing the restraints, though. According to one, "They were convinced that the patients would kill us. We couldn't get a mental image of any other way than repression."

Asylum Bridge
Connected the community to the state hospital.
The Asylum Bridge which crosses the Marais des Cygnes River,  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No other examples of this bridge design have been located to date. It has been closed to vehicle traffic since the mid 1970s. It’s a shame that Osawatomie is letting this historic bridge fall into ruin. It was built in 1905 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only known example of a “Reverse Parker Truss” bridge.
The 1930 Creamery Bridge is a Maple Arch bridge which has a rainbow span 140 feet above the Marias des Cygnes River.
The Osawatomie Dam Falls
Surely this is not going to be the extent of Kansas falls????
This was simply beautiful! The third floor was a ball room...wowza!
The Mills House
The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1902, oilman, William M. Mills built this Queen Anne style house for $49,000.00

This day trip was fascinating - the town is steeped in history.
Abolitionist, John Brown,  was headquartered here. He tried to protect the town from The Border Ruffians, but could not. This is another example of the "Bleeding Kansas" time period. " By stiffening the backbone of Northerners and showing Southerners there were those who would fight for their cause, he hastened the coming of the Civil War".
I spent hours there. Visited John Browns Cabin and the site of the where the battle was fought,  the museum, Soldiers Monument, The Old Stone Church and left the town feeling somewhat "unsettled" ....
For me, anyway, I felt that this town had a very strange energy. I also noticed that trees, near the Asylum, were twisted and bent, some intertwined (should have taken pics of them)...
We have a brave history, filled with courageous people, but there were certainly some dark times too...
ommmm

17 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Any mental hospital exudes an aura of misery, as far as I'm concerned. So much suffering has gone on within their walls, how could they not? Sorry to hear your Mom was punished by your Dad for her depression. In those days (and sometimes still today), people figured those with mental illness could control it "if they really wanted to."

turquoisemoon said...

Debra, All n all, it was an extremely interesting visit. Times have changed, thank goodness, for people suffering with any form of mental illness. People seem more compassionate, now, and also more educated. I was very young when all that went on. Mom later divorced dad. She continued to suffer depression, but was not punished for it.

Introverted Art said...

They do exude an aura of mystery. They also evoke so much pain, sorrow, and abandonment feeling in me. Things were tough especially for women who were constantly threatened to be committed if they didn't "behave." It's sad your dad put your mom through more sorrow than I believe she needed with her illness.

turquoisemoon said...

Ana, They do the same to me too! Did you notice that bridge? I saw so many others with tangled, twisted, intertwining limbs...that's got to be the energy, don't you think? I think sensitive people "feel" that. Anyway, the entire visit was so interesting. Funny...I was on O and forgot? that I live in Olathe??? Could have stayed right here, but I don't think my O would have been as interesting.

Out on the prairie said...

i work at a state hospital.It started as a civil war orphange.

Linda Starr said...

It's sad what people do to others in so controling and mean, so sorry for your mom's suffering and your's.

Never heard of these cities so interesting to learn of the history and see the buildings and the bridge.

turquoisemoon said...

Steve, I remember you mentioned that you worked at a hospital...Ooh I bet the history of that is fascinating. Do you know anything about those orphan trains??? BF was telling me about those. Those days were tough,weren't they???

Linda, I found it super interesting...but history just is. I found that ole bridge amazing. I hope it doesn't just disappear. It's too unique. I hope they restore it. Yes...people can be mean, but I also feel that people can surprise with kindness...

Arkansas Patti said...

Excellent post about a painful time in our history. How brutal those places were. It makes your heart ache for those poor inmates.
I am so sorry your Mom suffered depression. Being threatened by your Dad certainly wasn't helpful.

turquoisemoon said...

Patti, I tend to romanticize our history, but like all nations, there have been growing pains. I'm glad there has been studies and new techniques are now in place to help with mental illness. Shoot...years from now, our techniques may be criticized as archaic.

turquoisemoon said...

On the flip side, even as late as in 1945, the ratio of patients to physicians was 854 to one. Can't imagine the difficult situation they were facing.

Chung said...

That certainly is a lot of history that you unfolded, thank you, but it saddens me with what your mom had to go through.

One Fly said...

Glad I missed the heyday. Appreciate the effort put into this. I learned a lot.

Up north our local equivalent was in Cherokee and that's the way it was framed. "they took him to Cherokee" that type of thing.

turquoisemoon said...

Chung, Thanks Chung! A lot of people suffered because of a lack of knowledge about mental illness. Mom had support, many of those in the asylum had none. Mom was lucky, I think.

Fly, ME TOO!!! I was talking with a friend this morning, and she knew all about the asylum. I think just the younger generation is unfamiliar with those ole time asylums and the stigmas that went with them. I'm sure everyone, my age and older has heard of Osawatomie...and in your case, Cherokee.

Manzanita said...

Too bad the way mental patients have always been treated. Today the shrink world understands the mental illness can be cured by diet, and minerals. Private institutions adhere to that but not the government run places. I started out adult life as a psychiatric nurse and I'd help with around a hundred shocks and perhaps 50 insulin shocks a day. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.

turquoisemoon said...

Manzanita, Times have changed. There's more understanding and much more knowledge now. There's still some stigma, but even that's better now a days. I normally don't give a hoot about political correctness, but it has helped the public be more understanding when it comes to mental illness...

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

What an intriguing post about Osawatomie! The history of the asylum is incredulous. To think how these poor folks were treated. I understand in many states it was OK for anyone in your family to enter you into such an institution without your permission. One had better be good or someone in the family could assign you to an institution. It is no wonder that you felt an uneasiness when you left the town. I could not live in such a town with its asylum history. I do think that the hordes of negative energy emanating from that place twisted those trees you noticed when you were leaving. barbara

turquoisemoon said...

Barbara, I wonder how many wives, going thru menopause or baby blues, were sent to an institution??? ...or just unruly wives??? The effects of all that negativity were amazing. I've watched programs about plants and how kindness/soft music had effects of them-then on others harsness/loud noises.