All My Ancestors

4 May 2008

Census notes: St. Louis Insane Asylum

Filed under: Ephemera, Missouri by allmyanc

Since I’ve gone to work at a place where I look up other people’s relatives in the census on a daily basis, I’ve been amazed at the institutions that are enumerated, and the information found within. I learn something new every time I find one of these. I’ve posted previously about the prison population posted in the 1900 census for Detroit, Michigan.

The most recent find is the 1900 enumeration of the “St. Louis Insane Asylum” in, where else, St. Louis, Missouri. There are 15 pages of records–the first page and half or so are employees and the rest are listed as inmates. Hugo M. Vollmer, census taker, appears to have done a very thorough job. I wonder how he did his work–did he go through records, did he interview staff, did he interview inmates, how did he gather all this information? A check on him reveals that he is a 26 year old clerk employed at the Asylum, born in Missouri to Germany-born parents. That makes me believe that he probably did his work from the records at his disposal.  1900 is the census year that gives the month and year of birth, the year of immigration and citizenship, plus the place of birth and that of the entry’s parents. Most of the places of birth for parents is entered as “unknown” for the inmates. But, a profession listed for each person, including Alice McCormack, Irish-born 28-year-old prostitute. There’s 68-year-old female physician Sarah L. Jones–what is her story? I kept coming across “nihil” listed in the profession column. It took me a while to realize this meant “none,”–as in “nil,” I suppose.

It would be interesting to compare the demographics of this population with those of St. Louis at large–for example, many of the inmates appear to have been foreign-born. I was somewhat surprised to find a few more males than females listed.

There’s more information about the Asylum at Early St. Louis Hospitals, Homes, and Asylums.


7 Responses to “Census notes: St. Louis Insane Asylum”

  1. Dear Debra, My name is Duane Brockman. I just started do research on my family history. One person in my family seems to have been in the St. Louis Insane Asylum in 1900. Her name was Lena Brockman. Age:31, Female, White,Birthplace:Germany. That’s all I know. How can I find records of her stay at that place. Any info you could help me with would great.I could really use some help. Thanks, Duane

  2. Hello Debra,

    I can tell you that Sarah L. Jones was my husband’s Great Grandmother! I was shocked to find her in this asylum in 1900. She was a college-educated woman and professor from Hiram College in Ohio. She was a homeopathic doctor and had connections to President Garfield. Her grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War. She was quite eccentric and wrote scores of journals. We still have some of her clothing! Her daughter probably committed her there for her eccentricity, but we don’t know. She did end up living her later life with her daughter and dying in Vancouver, WA. Just fascinating that you would mention her!


  3. Thanks for checking in and filling in some of the rest of the story. She sounds like a person I’d love to have in my family. :-)

  4. Oh — her name was Sarah Sawyer Lanphear Jones, and she was born in Watkins Glen, NY. Her father was a preacher, and her grandfather was Deliverance Sawyer Jr. She was actually my husband’s Great Great Grandmother.

  5. I have been searching for mu Great Uncles wife. She aparently died in 1881. She lived in St Louis. Can you search for her in insane asylum between 1876 and 1881.

  6. The only information I have about the inmates of this asylum are the ones that were on the census. You might check the 1880 census for her name–it was apparently opened in 1869 according to the link I included in the post. Good luck!! And I give some info on finding the listing for the 1880 census in today’s post.

  7. Hi Debra. I had some help from a genealogical researcher in St. Louis who told me that my great-great-grandmother (Elizabeth Thatcher) died at the St. Louis Insane Asylum. (She is on the 1900 asylum census.) She did add, however, that sometimes tuberculosis patients were confined there among the insane.

Leave a Reply

9 − two =