Far Instead of Near

Quapaw Agency Office Near Wyandotte, Oklahoma, courtesy Columbia University

Quapaw Agency Office Near Wyandotte, Oklahoma, courtesy Columbia University

Though Congress had tried to site the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians as centrally to the majority of Indian reservations out West as possible, it was still a difficult place for families to visit. Many reservations were hundreds of miles away, and few relatives had the funds to visit regularly.

The family of Robert Thompson was probably typical. Thompson had been admitted to the Canton Asylum in 1907 at age 30, with a diagnosis of hemiplegia–meaning that he had paralysis on one (more typical) or both sides of his body. The condition could be due to several reasons, but because of his age, may have been from cerebral palsy or a tumor rather than a stroke. His diagnosis was later revised to epileptic psychosis.

Epilepsy Was a Feared Condition

Epilepsy Was a Feared Condition

In 1921, the superintendent of Quapaw Indian Agency in Oklahoma wrote to Canton Asylum’s superintendent, Dr. Harry Hummer, asking that he consider transferring Thompson to a facility closer to his family. Thompson’s sister and aunt had visited him within the year, and had offered to care for him at home. Hummer would not approve of this plan, so the women had contacted the state asylum at Vinita, Oklahoma, which was less than 30 miles away rather than Canton’s 500 miles.

Eastern State Hospital in Vinita, Oklahoma, courtesy Oklahoman Archive

Eastern State Hospital in Vinita, Oklahoma, courtesy Oklahoman Archive

The state asylum was willing to accept Thompson as a patient if the family could get a commitment for him from the county, but Hummer was apparently not so anxious to let him go. Thompson was not released from the Canton Asylum until more than two years later.

 

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2 thoughts on “Far Instead of Near

  1. Maryann Hurtt

    Hello Carla Joinson,
    First, I need to thank you- I never wrote back after you responded to my questions about Robert Thompson-so thank you. And now you have a post about Robert- am so curious about how you found this information. Robert has haunted me for years. Have you happened to see old pictures of him before going to Hiawatha? I keep looking at Figure 18 “a group of male patients” and wondering if I am seeing Robert. Could you tell me how you came upon the Springer Publishing Company book? As an aside, my grandmother and great grandmother worked at the Quapaw Agency and I have sat on the porch pictured in your blog. I visited Robert’s grave this past April and he is an integral part of my manuscript.
    I am glad you have worked so hard to get these stories out- what an amazing amount of research.
    Hope to hear from you and thanks again.

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