The Archives of Ontario in Toronto holds the largest collection of records from the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. When I began my research into my great-great grandmother, Rosetta Fielding (“Rose”) in 2010, I contacted the Archives about obtaining her records. Because these records contain medical information, I was required to file a Freedom of Information request, explaining my relationship to the patient and the nature of my interest. Once the request was approved, an archivist did an initial search and was able to locate Rose’s entry in Volume 1 of the Asylum’s Admission Register. While she sent me photocopies of the Register pages, I knew I had to view this document in person. I immediately made arrangements to visit the Archives and travelled to Toronto in April 2010.
The Register is a large, ledger style book, approximately 16” by 20” in size. Each patient’s information spans the width of two pages. There is room for 14 patients on each pair of pages. The following information is recorded for each patient:
- Name, Nativity, Residence
- P. O. Address
- Examining Physicians
- By Whom Supported
- Single or Married
- Number of Children
- Degree of Education
- Profession of Religion
- Habits of Life
- Number of Admission
- Date of Admission
- Date of Discharge
- Time in the Asylum – Years, Months, Days
- Duration of Disorder on Admission
- Age at First Attack
- Number of Previous Attacks and Their Duration
- Duration of Present Attack
- Apparent or Alleged Causes of Disorder
- Form of Mental Disorder
- Particular Propensities and Hallucinations
- Accompanying Body Disorder
- Supposed Cause of Death – P. M. signifies that a Post Mortem Examination was made
- Whence Transferred
These Register entries provide a glimpse into the lives of fourteen patients of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. These souls were committed to the Asylum over the course of 4 weeks between September 8 and October 5, 1902. Here are their stories.
Patient 4141 – Mary Dusseau. On September 8, 1902, 54-year-old Mary Dusseau from Canada was committed to the Asylum by her husband, Henry Dusseau for the second time. She was a Roman Catholic mother of seven children, worked at “house duties”, had a “good” degree of education and was “temperate and industrious”. She was 49 years old when she had her first “attack” of “melancholia”. Apparently, her first admission didn’t do the trick. It is reported that Mary attempted suicide, so she found herself back at Hamilton. There is nothing in particular listed as an apparent cause of her sadness. In May of 1905, after 2 years, 8 months, and 1 day, Mary was “recovered” and discharged from the Asylum. Mary’s care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4142 – Violet Dies. On September 9, 1902, 18-year-old Violet Dies from Canada was committed by a Daniel Dies. She was a Methodist, not married and had no children. Violet worked at “house duties”, had a “fair” degree of education and was “temperate”. She was diagnosed with “mania” brought on by “worry and family trouble” and her present “attack” had lasted for 18 months. It was thought that there may have been a hereditary influence to her condition. Violet was “restless, noisy, immodest” and she reportedly “swears”. As if that weren’t enough, Violet suffered from “menstrual troubles”. In March 1903, after 6 months and 9 days, Violet was “recovered” and discharged. Her care was paid for by “friends”.
Patient 4143 – Nelson Abrams. Also, on September 9, 1902, 34-year old Nelson Abrams from Canada was committed by Jacob H. Abrams. Nelson was married with no children, a potter by trade, had a “fair” education, and was an Episcopalian. He was also “intemperate”. His troubles began 19 years prior when he fell in the shop. His diagnosis was “imbecile”. Nelson was “incoherent, restless and not very clean” He died of “pulmonary tuberculosis” at the Asylum in October 1920, after more than 18 years and 1 month. His care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4144 – Grace Mainwaring. On September 10, 1902, 24-year-old Grace Mainwaring from Canada was committed by Gus Mainwaring. Grace was a single, Methodist hairdresser with a “fair” education. Grace suffered from “melancholia” and had used “opium since childhood”. Her present attack had lasted for 9 months, although this was Grace’s second time in the Asylum. It is noted that this may be a hereditary condition. Grace was “suicidal, had swallowed a pin and had violent impulses. In April 1903, Grace was “improved” and discharged after 6 months and 30 days. Her care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4145 – John Dickens Cook. On September 11, 1902, 39-year-old John Dickens Cook from Canada was committed by his wife, Mrs. J. D. Cook. He and his wife had 2 children. John was a farmer with “very little” education. He was “temperate and industrious” and Presbyterian by faith. John had suffered from “mania” for 2 years prior to his commitment, a problem that he may have inherited from his mother. His latest attack was brought on by “hard work”. John thought “spirits would not let him work” and he “does not sleep well”. John recovered and was discharged in August 1904 after 1 year and 11 months in the Asylum. His care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4146 – Mary McConnell. Also, on September 11, 1902, 23-year-old Mary McConnell from Canada was committed by Robert McConnell. Mary was single with no children. She was Methodist, of “good” education and work at “house duties”. Mary was “temperate and industrious”. She suffered from “mania” possibly inherited from her mother. The present attack had lasted for 3 months and it came on at a “camp meeting”. Her symptoms are described as “destructive, heavy worries, suicidal, religious delusions. Mary died in the Asylum of “exhaustion of mania” in March 1903 after 6 months and 26 days. Her care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4147 – Mr. Bechtel. On September 17, 1902, 60-year-old (illegible) Bechtel from Canada was committed by his wife. The couple had 6 children and were of the Mennonite faith. Mr. Bechtel had attended law school and earned his living as a contractor. He was “temperate”. He also had suffered from a “loss of hearing” and “dementia” for 18 months. He was “restless, filthy” and had a “loss of memory”. Mr. Bechtel died in the Asylum 2 days later. The cause of death is illegible. His care was paid for by friends.
Patient 4148 – Margaret Patton. On September 22, 1902, 74-year-old Margaret Patton from Ireland was committed by her brother, James Patton. Margaret was a single Presbyterian woman of “good” education. She worked at “house duties” and was temperate. She was considered “feeble” and diagnosed with “senile melancholia” that had started about 2 weeks prior. She was “irritable, violent, sleepless, restless, and refuses food”. Margaret died 2 months and 18 days later in the Asylum. The cause of death is illegible. Her care was paid for by friends.
Patient 4149 – William Cummings. Also, on September 22, 1902, 30-year-old William Cummings of Canada was committed by his father. William was a single man of the Roman Catholic faith. He was a “laborer” of “fair” education, and temperate. This was the 4th time that William had been committed to the Asylum. His first attack of “mania” occurred when he was 21 years old. This present attack came on one month prior and was triggered by “overwork”. William was “suicidal” and “talked at random”. It was thought that the attack was brought on by “the severe heat of the work”. After 11 months and 27 days, William was “recovered” and discharged. His care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4150 – Bella Little. On September 25, 1902, 44-year-old Bella Little of Canada was committed by her mother, Mrs. Jane Little. Bella was a single woman of the Presbyterian faith and had a “fair” education. She worked at “house duties” and was temperate. Although this was Bella’s first time at Hamilton, it was her 2nd attack of “melancholia”, the first having lasted about 6 months. The supposed cause of the present attack is illegible. It is noted that Bella was “suicidal and had tried to hang herself and to get knives”. She also thought “herself wicked for trivial causes”. After 4 years, 3 months and 21 days in the Asylum, Bella was “recovered” and discharged. Her care was paid for by friends.
Patient 4151 – Rosetta Fielding. On September 26, 1902, 50-year-old Rosetta Fielding of England was committed by her husband, James Fielding of 52 Catherine St., Hamilton. Rosetta and James had 4 children. She worked at “house duties”, had a “fair” level of education and was temperate. She was of the Methodist faith. This was Rosetta’s first commitment. Her “melancholia” came on “1 week” prior, triggered by her “family worries”. It is noted that she was “separated from her children who live in the states”. It is also noted that she “said that people next door had an electric battery attached to her ear and were playing tunes on it”. Her care was paid for by the Province. (Note: Rose is the only patient on this page of the Register who does not have an entry in the “Date of Discharge” or “Time in the Asylum” columns. Having died in 1934 after 32 years at the Asylum, it appears that Rose outlived this particular system of record-keeping.)
Patient 4152 – Mary Jane Morrow. On September 30, 1902, 40-year-old Mary Jane Morrow of Canada was committed by her husband, Robert Morrow. She worked at “house duties”, had a “common” level of education, was Methodist and temperate. Mary Jane had been suffering from “mania” that had lasted for 3 years prior to her commitment. She was “restless, hysterical, and has an idea that she can talk with invisible beings”. Mary Jane also suffered from “uterine disease”. On September 21, 1920, after almost 18 years, she was transferred to “Coburg”. Her care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4153 – Mary Nixon. On October 4, 1902, 18-year-old Mary Nixon of Canada was committed by her brother, William Nixon. Mary was single, Methodist, and worked as a “factory hand”. She had a “common” level of education and was temperate. Mary suffered from “mania” that came on 2 weeks prior, brought on by a “love affair”. She was “hysterical, noisy, delusional” and was “afraid of being killed”. After 9 months and 2 days, Mary was “recovered” and discharged. Her care was paid for by the Province.
Patient 4154 – Jacob Cohen. On October 5, 1902, 32-year-old Jacob Cohen of the United States was committed by his wife, Eva Cohen. The couple had 1 child. Mr. Cohen was a Jew of “good” education, temperate, and worked as a “mfg. optician”. This was the 1st time that he had been committed, though it is noted that he had 3 prior attacks. He suffered from “mania” thought to be hereditary. He thought he was “Pierpont Morgan” and “talks incessantly”. One year later, Jacob Cohen was transferred to an asylum in Toronto. His care was paid for by friends.
(This post is excerpted from “Finding Rose”, the story of my great-great grandmother, Rosetta Silverstein Fielding. If you are interested in learning more about Rose’s remarkable life, including her time at the Asylum, use the link to navigate to the “Finding Rose” page on this site.)
If you are interested in the history of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, be sure to check out my other posts on the topic by navigating to the “Categories” section on this site.
(The photos contained in this post were taken in April 2010 during my visit to the Archives of Ontario. They are from my personal collection. Please give credit if you choose to use them.)