Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Genealogy Records From a Mental Hospital?

I have an ancestor, James Wiley Town (Apr 1841 - 20 Dec 1921) who was born in Caldwell County Kentucky and died in Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky. He was married in 1868 in Lyon County Kentucky.

I followed him through the census records and found his wife, listed as a widow, living in Lyon County Kentucky, in 1900, with all their children. Many people would have assumed that James Wiley Town had died before the 1900 census. However, I had seen his tombstone in the Saratoga Methodist Church Cemetery (Lyon County KY) which showed a death date of 1921. I wrote for his death certificate and found that he died in 1921 in a Hospital in Hopkinsville Kentucky. I've not found him in the 1900 or 1910 census records, but I did find him in 1920 as a patient in the Western State Hospital [a hospital for the mentally ill] in Hopkinsville. I then wrote to the Western State Hospital for information. Here is the information from a letter I received from them:

"Mr. John W Towns was admitted to Western State Hospital on June 4, 1901. He was 59 years of age, married and a farmer by occupation. He was committed to the hospital by the Lyon County Court. The reason for admission was given as mania and it was also alleged that he indulged in alcohol. He expired on November 20, 1921 due to Myocarditis."

They told me in the letter they had no further information, but optimist that I am, I stopped by the hospital the next time I went through Hopkinsville and asked anyway. They couldn't even find the original record that time, so I'm extremely glad I have this letter. I have not yet found the county court record where he was committed to the hospital. You never know where you'll find interesting information.

James W Town was my great grandfather. I had heard no family stories about any ancestor being committed to the mental hospital. Makes you wonder - did his wife tell people she was a widow in 1900 or was that a census taker's mistake (she's listed as married in the 1910 census); I wonder if people visited him in Hopkinsville? I called my older cousins and they didn't know he had been in the hospital either. One said she had heard that he had "gone back to Ireland but had never come back". She was a little vague on whether it was actually this ancestor in the Ireland story. Either way, this Towne family dates back to William Towne who came to this country in the 1630's from England. William was the father of two of the women hanged for being witches in Salem Massachusetts in 1692. Our James Wiley Towne is descended from Jacob, the son of that William Towne.

1850 Caldwell County KY census shows:
Elizabeth Towns 40 F 150 KY
James W 10 M KY
Robert H 5 M KY
Dicey Jones 25 M KY

1860 census shows Elizabeth b abt 1811 living with Samuel Pearce b abt 1806 and the following:
Addison Pearce 20 laboror b. Ohio
James W Town 19 laboror
Robert W Town 16 laboror
R(?) Moore 33 Male b. PA
Erminia H Moore 24 F b. Ohio
Samuel E Moore 2 male b. Ill.

1870 District 1, Lyon Co KY Census
158 159 Town, J.W. 29 m w farmer 250 400 KY
, M.E. 25 f w HKeeper KY
, J.W. 4/12 m w KY
, Elizabeth 62 f w NC
, R.H. 26 m w KY
Jones, C D 56 f w NC
Ford, Liza 61 f w NC
Freeman, Jack 44 m b farm hand NC

1880 Lyon Co KY Census
James W. TOWN Self M Male W 38 KY Farmer VT SC
Mary E. TOWN Wife M Female W 34 KY Keeping House KY KY
Willard TOWN Son S Male W 10 KY KY KY
Elizabeth C. TOWN Dau S Female W 7 KY KY KY
Sarah J. TOWN Dau S Female W 3 KY KY KY
Elizah E. TOWN Dau S Female W 5 KY KY KY
Joseph M. TOWN Son S Male W 7M --- --- ---

1900 Lyon Co KY Census:
355 373 Town, Mary E Head W F June 1845 54 Wd 9 8 KY KY TN
John W son W M March 1870 30 S KY KY KY
Morris son W M Sep 1879 20 S KY KY KY
Nola dau Jan 1885 15 S KY KY KY
J Zara son Dec 1881 18 S KY KY KY
Henry son W M Oct 1887 12 S KY KY KY
Knoth, Leonard J boarder W M May 1880 20 S KY KY KY
Knoth, Fred A boarder W M Sept 1869 30 S KY KY KY

1910 Lyon Co KY Census:
248 248 Townes, Thomas H Head M W 22 S KY KY KY [note: this is Henry]
Mary F W 64 mother M141 9 8 KY KY KY

1920 Christian Co KY Census
Enumeration District 6, Sheet number 5B, 6 Jan 1920
Western State Hospital, Palingra Precinct
Towns, John patient m w 78 M KY US US


Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

Deb, you might want to check the circuit court order book. Sometimes this type of case went through circuit court rather than county court. If you find him listed, there should be a case file at the Archives.

Good luck.

Gail said...

So interesting to come across this note of yours. I just had the same experience...

I was told that my GGF died in Jan 1910. The 1910 census has my GGM as a widow. I was not certain the name of my GGF, however the SS ap for my GUncle had LEE as the first name. I came across a LEE as an inmate at Western Kentucky Asylum for Insane in 1910 census. I did hear he went, I'm thinking this is my GGF.

Who or what address did you use to get he info re: your ancestor? Did you write the current Western State Hospital? Was there a charge for the letter.

Thank you very much for sharing your information.


Deb said...

I wrote to the current hospital, but their information was very limited, which is why I had to go searching in the county court records. You didn't leave an email address, so I'm responding here. What county was your great grandfather living in before the commitment?

Gail said...

Hi Deb,
It's been about 6 months...Just happened upon your site when I searched the name of the hospital. You wanted my email address... I believe my GGF was living in Davies county. I'm trying to view the 1920 census at the hospital, but can't find it.
Have a terrific evening. Gail

Susan Claire Mace said...

Oh my gosh, I was so surprised to see the 1860 census you shared that includes many of my family members - my 2x great grandfather Samuel Moore, my 3x great grandparents Ermina Pierce/Pearce and Levi Moore, my 4x great grandfather Samuel Pearce, and a woman I was never quite sure was my 4x great grandmother, Elizabeth Pearce. I suspect now that Elizabeth Pearce is the Elizabeth Town you've written about, perhaps Samuel's SECOND wife (they married in 1859 in Lyon Co.), and that James and the other son were Samuel's stepsons. I believe my own 4x great grandmother was actually Samuel's FIRST wife, last name Reed, but I've been able to discover little else about her. I've been stuck on this line for a long time, and have wondered who the Townleys were. What a fascinating story you shared about them. Please get in touch if you have any more to share about the Pierce/Pearce family. Thank you.
Susan Cornell

Susan Claire Mace said...
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