A New Life in Canton

Three Teepees, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Three Teepees, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Canton Asylum’s first patient, a 33-year-old Sioux man named Andrew Hedges, arrived at the facility on December 31,1902. The entire asylum staff turned out to greet Hedges. They were nearly as excited as the townspeople, who believed that the insane asylum would put the bustling little city of Canton on the map. Both groups were sure that this asylum—new, beautiful, and unique—would be a Mecca for prominent alienists (the early term for mental health professionals) from around the world.

The Land of the Atsina, circa 1908, courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Land of the Atsina, circa 1908, courtesy of the Library of Congress

The facility would have been impressive enough anywhere, but it was especially imposing in such a sparsely populated area. Two stories tall and surrounded by lushly planted trees and bushes, it had all the modern conveniences—electric lights, coal-stoked boilers, and a sewage system. However, no architect or landscaper could dress up the fact that its inmates were hundreds—if not a thousand—miles away from home. The distance was too great to allow relatives and friends to visit.

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One thought on “A New Life in Canton

  1. Caroline

    while everyone thinks we have progressed, one should be careful, we are still in the dark ages, we make up “mental illnesses:” we make them diseases- we should be careful because we are still-alienists

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