Tag Archives: Edgar Meritt

Canton Asylum a Good Value for the Government

Most Asylums Had More Amenities Than Canton Asylum

Most Asylums Had More Amenities Than Canton Asylum

When the  subcommittee of [the] House Committee on Appropriations met to discuss Indian monies for 1924, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians came under discussion. Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edgar B. Meritt, asked for $40,000 for the asylum’s equipment and maintenance.

In his presentation of expenses, Meritt added this information:

“The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians has the custodial care of 90 patients whose hospitalization, in the majority of cases, will be during the period of their lives. This institution is maintained very efficiently on the appropriations estimated for, which is the same as allowed for the last fiscal year.

Patients Offset Many Asylum Expenses by Working, Such as These Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane

Patients Offset Many Asylum Expenses by Working, Such as These Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane

“The average annual cost, including employees, transportation, hospitalization, clothing, burials, the upkeep of the buildings and all incidentals is something less than $400 for each patient. The cost of the custodial care in State institutions ranges from $480 to $800 a year exclusive of transportation, clothing, and burial expenses in case of death. In private asylums the expenses are still greater with a larger list of exclusions.”

Unmarked Graves at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA

Unmarked Graves at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA

Meritt made a convincing case for the requested amount of money. Oddly, none of the committee members asked why Canton’s expenses were so much lower than any other institution’s. They may have been afraid of uncovering something they didn’t want to hear.

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Beset by Details

Dr. Harry Hummer

When Dr. Harry R. Hummer took over the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians after Gifford’s resignation, he immediately became caught up in the many details of running an asylum. In 1917, Hummer engaged in a fruitless round of complaint letters and rebuttals concerning a defective heater body for the asylum boiler. The Herbert Boiler Company sent a length of pipe to the Indian Bureau to finally end the dispute.

The assistant commissioner of Indian Affairs informed Hummer that though the pipe was solid with lime deposits, the boiler company wasn’t responsible for the break in it, which was the point of contention. Hummer should have made sure he ordered a water purifier with the boiler feed to prevent the problem, and hadn’t. Assistant Commissioner Meritt threw the problem back in Hummer’s lap, telling him to investigate the problem before it affected the boilers as well as the piping.

It seems little short of laughable that someone with Hummer’s medical training, and in his position,  should be handling problems with lime buildup in his facility’s boiler pipes. However, Hummer brought many of his problems on himself by refusing to delegate. Since he knew little about mechanical systems, he could not foresee issues that might arise. Eventually, his refusal to delegate brought him problems completely opposite to those of his predecessor, Gifford, who had delegated far too freely.

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