Washington Insane Asylum

The legislative assembly of 1861-2 authorized the governor and auditor to contract for the care of the insane, the contract being let to the St John lunatic asylum at Vancouver, in charge of the Sisters of Charity. A fund was set aside out of the general fund of the territory to pay for their keeping, and they were kindly cared for.

A memorial was forwarded to congress, asking that an appropriation might be made to erect a building somewhere on the Sound which should serve both for a marine hospital, which was needed, and an asylum for the insane. But congress had not responded, when the legislature of 1866-7 passed an act again authorizing the governor and auditor to make contracts for the care of the insane, the contractors giving bonds for the proper performance of their duties, and the law requiring them to report annually to the governor. A board of inspectors was appointed to visit the asylum quarterly, and to audit the accounts submitted by the institution. The patients were removed from St John’s, Vancouver, to a private asylum in charge of James Huntington and son, located in the Cowlitz valley opposite Monticello, where the accommodations were inadequate, and where by the unusual flood of Dec. 1867 the improvements were swept away. It was in reference to these facts that Gov. Moore called for a radical change in the system adopted, and advised the purchase of a farm and the erection of an asylum which would meet the requirements of those suffering from mental diseases, who, with intelligent treatment, might be restored to society.

At the session of 1867-8, however, nothing was done except to petition congress for a grant of land, the proceeds of which should be expended in providing a fund for the erection of a suitable building and the support of the insane. But at the following term an act was passed authorizing the purchase of the government buildings at Fort Steilacoom, should they be offered for sale, and appointing the governor and auditor commissioners to secure the property. The purchase of the abandoned military quarters was effected in Jan. 1870, by James Scott, territorial secretary, and other commissioners appointed by the legislature, Delegate Flanders having in the mean time proposed to congress to donate them to the territory. H. Ex. Doc., 202, 42d cong. 2d sess.; Id. Doc., 175; Cong. Globe, 1868-9, 554; Olympia Transcript, Feb. 27, 1869.

The price paid for the buildings was $850. In March 1873, soon after the settlement of tho Puget Sound Company’s claims, congress did donate the military reservation for asylum grounds, giving Washington one of the most beautiful sites on the Sound for the use of the insane. The patients were removed in Aug. 1871. The number of patients in 1870 was 23. In 1877 it was 67. There were 25 acres of ground in cultivation, and 300 fruit-trees set out. Tacoma Herald, April 14, 1877. The disbursements for the insane in 1879 were $52,325. Olympia Standard, Oct. 10, 1879.

Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

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