Who Watches the Watchers?

Thomas Kirkbride Verbalized the One Man and One Rule Philosophy

Thomas Kirkbride Verbalized the One Man and One Rule Philosophy

The insane asylum at Yankton, SD (see last post) was typical of its time. It had a board  of  men in a trustee relationship who were charged with watching over the running of the asylum. Their duties were varied and wide-ranging, and it is likely that the asylum’s superintendent was not always happy with their oversight.

Many of the early alienists resented “laypeople” telling them how to run “their” asylum, and most adopted the attitude that one man and one rule–obviously the superintendent’s-should be the order of the day.

Boards Frequently Reported on the Activities of the Asylum Under Their Charge

Boards Frequently Reported on the Activities of the Asylum Under Their Charge

Though many histories focus on the weaknesses of asylum administrators, it was Yankton’s oversight board that caused a problem for the institution. In 1887, the governor removed the majority of the Yankton board “for official misconduct and neglect of duty.” The rest of the board resigned, and a new board of five men were appointed to take their place.

The displaced board members quickly “took legal proceedings to test the power of the governor to make such removals” and found to their chagrin that he could. The new board evidently took up the supervision of two new wings to the facility, and that may have been where the official misconduct lay.

Main Building of the Yankton Asylum

Main Building of the Yankton Asylum

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