New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Provincial Lunatic Asylum, Report of the Medical Superintendent, 1875

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From the blog at

This blog post is from the 1876 report of the Medical Superintendent of the Provincial ‘Lunatic Asylum’ in Saint John, excluding tables of accounts. It begins with statistics of the numbers of patients, etc., but continues with more interesting topics. These include the use of alcohol as a stimulant for patients and the need for building repairs. The growing numbers of permanent residents for whom a cure was deemed unlikely and the resulting overcrowding are also discussed. There are remarks regarding how important it was that patients be well and comfortably accommodated but, with a nod to the budget people, phrases such as ‘without resorting to extravagance’ are inserted. The Superintendent, John Waddell, advocated to treat patients with dignity beyond what was typical at that time.

For more information about this institution, refer to the blog posting of February 27, 2013, entitled “St. John Poor House and Workhouse.”

Insane Asylum

The ‘Lunatic Asylum’ at St. John

From the New Brunswick Museum

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Provincial Lunatic Asylum, Report of the Medical Superintendent, 1875

On the 31st October, 1874, the date of the last Report, there were two hundred and forty two Patients on the Record, one hundred and thirty five males and one hundred and seven females. During the year there have been admitted one hundred and ten—fifty five males and fifty five females. The total number under treatment, three hundred and fifty two—one hundred and ninety males, and one hundred and sixty two females.

The result of treatment is, one male and one female remain recovered, forty two have been discharged recovered—twenty one males, and twenty one females; one female much improved; twelve improved—five males, and seven females; forty have died—twenty four males, and sixteen females; and there remain in the Institution two hundred and fifty seven—one hundred and forty males, and one hundred and seventeen females.

The cause of death in thirteen was exhaustion from various forms of chronic insanity; in consumption, six; in epilepsy, four; in pneumonia, diarrhoea, softening of the brain, old age, and erysipelas, two each; in cancer, dropsy, bone sores, tumour of the neck, paralysis, disease of the brain, and “Visitation of God,” one each.

Seventeen of those who died were buried by their friends, fourteen by the Rev. Dr. Scovil, seven by the Rev. Mr. Dunphy, and one each by the Rev. Mr. Boyd and Rev. Mr. Teed.

Of the two hundred and fifty seven remaining on the Record, one male and one female are recovered, forty nine are improved—twenty five males, and twenty four females; and two hundred and six unimproved—one hundred and fourteen males, and ninety two females.

Of the whole number under treatment during the year, there were one hundred and forty seven from Saint John; York, forty; Charlotte, thirty one; Northumberland, twenty six; King’s, twenty three; Westmorland, sixteen; Queen’s, fourteen; Gloucester, thirteen; Carleton and Albert, each ten; Kent, nine; Restigouche, four; Sunbury, three; Victoria, two; and Nova Scotia, four.

The monthly average during the year has been two hundred and fifty five. The greatest number at any one time, 16th August, two hundred and seventy two; and the smallest number at any one time, 30th November, two hundred and forty seven.

Eighty patients have been admitted during the year under the Act of Assembly 33rd Victoria, Chap. 25, for seventy nine of whom either a Warrant on the County Treasurer, or cash, have been received; and one from Saint John County half cash, and Warrant for half, also received; and for one admitted from King’s County, the Magistrates have failed to forward a Warrant.

Sixty Warrants on County Treasurers, twenty dollars each—say twelve hundred dollars, and one for ten dollars, making in all twelve hundred and ten dollars—have been put into the hands of R.W. Crookshank, Esquire, for collection. The money for eighteen at twenty dollars—say three hundred and sixty dollars, and for one ten dollars, making in all three hundred and seventy dollars—will be paid to the credit of the Provincial Receiver General at the Bank of New Brunswick.

The amount received from this source for five years from 1870 to 1874 inclusive, (see last year’s Report), is five thousand nine hundred and sixty dollars. The receipts for this year from Orders on County Treasurers is twelve hundred and ten dollars, and cash to the credit of the Receiver General three hundred and seventy dollars, making a total for six years of seven thousand five hundred and forty dollars.

In treating the insane, brandy, wine, and ale, and all stimulants that they represent, should be given on the same general principles that govern the general physician in prescribing them, and brandy with milk for food in some cases is indispensable. Ordinary drugs should be used also in treating the physical diseases of the insane, as they are prescribed in common practice among the sane. Many cases of insanity depend on physical disease, and when the cause is removed, the mental difficulty disappears. Every case, however, ought to be treated on its own condition and symptoms, irrespective of preconceived opinions; for example, one physician may entertain such decided views in regard to non-restraint as to try to abandon it altogether; but if a case occur where restraint would afford greater safety to the patient, and in case of violence less danger to those in attendance, and where it would prevent serious destruction of property, it ought certainly to be applied; and if another case requires stimulants, they should not be denied because the practitioner entertains strong views on the teetotal question; nor, on the other hand should brandy, wine, &c. be too freely given, as if they were in some measure to take the place of food.

In hospitals for the insane, it is very desirable to obtain the largest measure of home comforts that can be commanded without resorting to extravagance. An abundant supply of good, wholesome, well-cooked food, also, the best arrangements possible to provide for the patients that are able and willing to work, the means to do so in a manner the most agreeable to them; also, the means to relieve those who do engage in work, by alternating with books, amusements and recreations.

Overcrowding is a subject on which I have frequently written in my former Reports, but faithfulness to all the interests involved demands this further reference to the subject.

On examining the “Brief Statements” at the end of this Report, it will be found under the head of “Patients remaining and in what condition,” that only forty nine are returned as improved. From these, and from those who may be admitted in the course of the year, will the recoveries for the year 1876 principally come. There will also be found in the same Table two hundred and six returned unimproved. From among these but few may be expected to recover, and to this incurable class there is being made every year some additions, and the evil is steadily growing worse and worse. The building was originally designed to accommodate only two hundred. It will be observed that the crowding amounts to one in addition to every four, and the worst feature of the case is, that the house is filled to its original limit with incurables, or, with those from among whom but few may be reasonably expected to recover, and the only alternative to meet the difficulty is to increase the capacity of the Institution or to limit the number of patients to be admitted.

In last year’s Report I referred to some improvements and repairs that were then required which have not yet been made, but I deem it unnecessary to make further reference to the subject, feeling assured that they will be attended to at your earliest convenience. On the whole, the house is in as good a condition as it can well be put under the circumstances.

The Farm and Garden have been cultivated with our usual care and attention, and have produced an unusually large crop. This department has always had a fascination for the writer, and he has always taken an interest in it, but in no year of his superintendence has he been more gratified with the results than the past one.

At the commencement of the farming and gardening operations it required the years of 1850 and 1851 to reduce the rough land to make the necessary preparations for a crop. In 1852 we secured our first return, the proceeds from that date to 1874 inclusive, say twenty three years, was twenty six thousand three hundred and seven dollars eighty eight cents, as is stated in last year’s Report. This year the amount received was one thousand one hundred, and eighty six dollars ninety nine cents, making a total for twenty four years, twenty seven thousand four hundred and ninety four dollars eighty seven cents.

Newspapers, &c, have been continued gratuitously by their generous proprietors, and I desire, on the part of our household, to thank them most sincerely for their thoughtfulness and liberality. There is no kind of literature that insane persons peruse with greater gratification than the newspaper, especially when it contains the news of the locality whence they come.

The following are the Papers, &c. received:— “The Patriot” and “Argus,” Charlottetown, P.E. Island; “Religious Intelligencer” and “Christian Visitor,” St. John, N.B.; “Saint Croix Courier,” Saint Stephen; “Union Advocate,” Newcastle; “The Times,” Moncton; and also “The Christian Work,” London, England; besides these, the Rev. G.M. Armstrong contributed for the use of the patients a large package, unbound, of the illustrated paper, “The Graphic.” To that benevolent Rev. Gentleman our thanks are hereby cordially tendered.

I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, held in Auburn, New York, last May. The meeting was well attended, and able and valuable papers were read on subjects connected with the care and treatment of the insane; and the discussions which followed, elicited the views of members generally on all practical questions, each contributing to the general fund of knowledge the result of his observation and experience. The meeting was in every way interesting and instructive from a professional point of view, while from social consideration, it was extremely gratifying to renew old friendships and form new ones among Gentlemen engaged in the same interesting and benevolent work.

Last year I gave a brief account of the origin and progress in developing this Institution, and thought at the time I had mentioned the name of every one who had been engaged in the work. On looking over afterwards, however, I regretted to find that I had altogether omitted the name of the Hon. Mr. Anglin. As Commissioner, that Gentleman was always active in the discharge of his official duties in relation to the Institution generally, and on one occasion, especially at a time and under circumstances when just such assistance as was in his power to give he most cheerfully rendered, and in doing so, laid me under personal obligations which I still remember with gratitude.

The Rev. Canon Scovil, Ph.D., returned from England the 1st June last, and resumed his duties of Chaplain, and as usual, has continued them since. During his absence for about six months, the Rev. Stanley Boyd officiated for him. Mr. Boyd performed the duties with regularity, and his services were highly appreciated by all to whom he ministered.

In 1852 the Chaplain was appointed. From that time to this he has attended personally to his duties, or, when absent, provided another to take his place. During all these years his attention to his Sabbath services, and to the sick and the dying, have been regular and unremitting; and his sympathy for any of the inmates in distress of any kind, has exhibited itself in many acts of substantial kindness.

I avail myself of this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable and self-denying services of Mr. Graham and Miss Archibald. They have both held their respective appointments upwards of twenty years, and faithfully and well have they performed their several duties. I most cordially yield to them full share of any success that has been attributed to my management.

I desire at the same time to accord to the staff of attendants and servants engaged in domestic and other duties, a full acknowledgment of their services, some of whom have been here ten, fifteen and over twenty years, Before concluding, I beg to express my sincere thanks to the Commissioners, and to their Secretary, for all the kindness they have shewn me, and for all the assistance they have afforded me in my work.

On retiring from my official relation to this Institution, I have more than a little to gratify me, but the chief source whence my satisfaction arises is the result of my professional labour—in knowing that many families throughout this Province, and elsewhere, have been made happy by the return to them of patients who have been treated here and recovered, and have gone back to be a comfort to their friends and to be good members of society.

And now, commending the Institution in all its interests for the future to the care and protection of Him—whose blessing is essential to success in any undertaking—and praying that He may ever watch over it and make it instrumental for good to the inmates, to their friends, and to the Province at large—I respectfully submit the twenty eighth Annual Report.


P.L. Asylum, St. John, N. B., 31st Oct., 1875.


Written by johnwood1946

May 27, 2015 at 8:37 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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