Thursday, October 20, 2016

Western State Hospital 1916 - 1917

Information on the operation of the Western State Hospital (formerly Western State Lunatic Asylum) in Hopkinsville  is not easily found so it was a thrill to find a couple of newspaper articles describing changes in the administration in 1916[1] and additional information on the staff in 1917.[2] You will recall the hospital was also featured in this blog Here

According to the first article, Dr. Fred G. LaRue of Smithland succeeded Dr. H.P. Sights as Superintendent.  Dr. LaRue was described as a pleasant-faced gentleman of middle age. He was stoutly build, beardless and wore glasses.  His family consisted only of his mother.

Another Smithland resident, Miss Bessie Smith, was secretary.

Dr. Harry G. Sanders was continuing as first assistant physician and Dr. W.W. Durham of Christian County was succeeding Dr. Robinson as second assistant.

A representative of the Smithland Enterprise visited the Western State Hospital at Hopkinsville in March 1917 and reported that under Dr. LaRue's superintendency the hospital  seemed to be "managed with efficiency and the employees and inmates are under splendid rules of discipline."[3]

Mrs. Brown, the Matron, looked after the supplies and the cooking as well as the sanitary conditions of the institution.

Harry Wilson was the Gate-keeper and Lewis Conner was assistant electrician.  Mrs. Connor was in charge of the sewing room. Jim Hodge and wife[4] were doing well and are very well satisfied with their surroundings.

 Mrs. Browning was in bed suffering from rheumatism, but hoped to be able to visit Smithland and Livingston county friends when spring weather arrived. The sanitary condition maintained at the hospital was one of its chief points of interest. There could be learned a valuable lesson, if the house keepers of the country and towns would visit this place and see how clean it is.

The farm consisted of 720 acres of land on which were grown vegetables, corn, hay, tobacco and other crops, under the management of Mr. Byars. There are 67 cows giving milk at an average flow of three gallons each. Steam and electric power ran everything, furnishing light, heat and water in abundance. A large motor truck hauls coal from the railroad, making the trip in less than an hour, carrying several tons every trip.

Western State Hospital had been established in 1848. At the end of the fiscal year 1915, there were 540 white male patients, 481 white female patients, 170 colored male patients and 161 colored female patients.[5]

[1] "W.S. Hospital  New Superintendent and Other Officials in Office To-day," Hopkinsville Kentuckian, Tues., 1 Aug 1916, p. 1.
[2] "A Visit to the State Hospital," Hopkinsville Kentuckian (reprinted from the Smithland Enterprise) Sat., 31 March 1917, p. 4.
[3] Ibid.
[4] There is no indication if Jim Hodge and wife were part of the hospital staff or were inmates.
[5] Frank K. Kavanaugh. Kentucky Directory for the Use of Courts  State & County Officials and General Assembly of State of Kentucky, 1916.

 Published 20 October 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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