The Ingleside Hospital for the Insane
From: Past and Present Adams County, Nebraska
Edited by: Judge William R. Burton
Assisted by David J. Lewis
Published By: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1916


The Ingleside Hospital for the Insane, located a little more than a mile west of Hastings, is the largest institution in Adams County, and one of continuous interest. The bill locating the hospital was passed by the Legislature of Nebraska in 1887, and $73,000 was appropriated for the erection of buildings. The appropriation was made on the condition that 160 acres of land should be donated at Hastings for the use of the hospital. Forty acres were given by Adams County and 120 acres additional by A. L. Clarke, Samuel Alexander, James B. Heartwell and a number of other citizens.

The first bill for the location of the hospital at Hastings was introduced in the Legislature of 1883 by Fred P. Olmstead, representative from Adams County. Mr. Matthewson of Norfolk was the speaker of the House in that session, and favorable to Norfolk: the net result of the legislation was the substituting of the name of Norfolk into Mr. Ohnstead's bill in place of Hastings. One of the weaknesses in the proposition for Hastings which Mr. Olmstead was authorized to make was the offer of forty acres of land, while Norfolk offered 320.

The contract for the erection of the original building, the administration building, was let to Ellis Reynolds & Sprecher. C. C. Rittenhouse was the architect and S. J. Weigel the superintendent of construction. The cornerstone of this building was laid July 25, 1888. By subsequent appropriations the land area of the institution has been increased to an aggregate of 629 1/2 acres, less the rights of way of the Missouri Pacific and the Burlington railroads, which leaves a net of approximately 620 acres. The lands are located as follows: 120 acres on section 9. 40 on section 10, 320 on section 16 and 1451 on section 15, all in Denver Township.

In 1891 the north and south wings were added to the original building, and in 1897 the South Annex was built. In 1902 the North Annex was erected. The cornerstone of the newest building, the Cowles Building, was laid April 26, 1910. In 1904 and 1905 Amusement Hall, where the patients' dances and various entertainments are given, was built. The hall is 60 by 100 feet. During the same two year period, the farm cottage on the northeast quarter of section 16 was built, and two new greenhouses were constructed. The dairy barn on the northeast quarter of section 16 was built in 1914. It is a modern, sanitary barn, equipped with James steel stanchions, and will accommodate sixty six cows. A large herd of Holstein cows is maintained at Ingleside. About seventy five are milked at the present time, the milk and cream being used by the dwellers at the hospital.

The cost of the dairy barn was $5,500, in cash, but the patients performed a great deal of the labor and the barn is valued at $10,000. The hospital has its own electric light and power plant and waterworks system.


Dr. M. W. Stone was the first superintendent of the institution. Doctor Stone came from \Yahoo and was appointed May 1, 1889. J. W. Liveringhouse of Grand Island was the first steward.

Nebraska politics was convulsed in 1891 by the struggle of John M. Thayer and James E. Boyd for the governorship, and the struggle is reflected in the records of Ingleside. Governor Boyd served first from January 15, 1891, to May 5, 1891. On April 20th Governor Boyd appointed Dr. G. W. Johnston superintendent. On May 5th Governor Thayer resumed his seat as governor and on the same date removed Superintendent Johnston, who had served only twenty four hours. Governor Thayer then, May 5th, reappointed Dr. F. G. Test, whom he had first appointed May 31st and who had served until his removal by Governor Boyd. On September 15, 1891, Doctor Test was removed and Dr. F. J. Bricker appointed. February 15, 1892, Doctor Bricker was removed and Dr. G. W. Johnston reappointed. Doctor Johnston assumed control of the institution February 15, 1892, and served until Dr. Robert Damerell, of Red Cloud, appointed by Governor Holcomb, March 28, 1895, assumed charge April 10, 1895. Dr. J. T. Steele, of Hastings, was appointed assistant by Doctor Damerell, succeeding Dr. W. B. Kern, who had filled the position under Doctor Bricker. Doctor Kern had come from Wood River, and this was his first connection with the hospital.

Dr. J. T. Steele was appointed superintendent by Governor Poynter and assumed control May 16, 1899. Dr. W. B. Kern was appointed superintendent by Governor Charles H. Dietrich, February 1, 1901, and S. Woodard, of Aurora, was assistant physician. Doctor Woodard was later appointed superintendent of the Lincoln Hospital by Governor Shallenberger. Harry C. Waverly, of Hastings, became steward with the superintendency of Doctor Kern, and Alma J. Chapman second assistant. Mr. Haverly continued as steward until December 1, 1907, when he resigned to become landlord of the Bostwick Hotel. He was succeeded as steward by George James.

Doctor Kern was superintendent continuously from February 1, 1901, to February 1, 1909, when he was succeeded by Dr. M. W. Baxter, who was appointed by Governor Shallenberger. Doctor Baxter served until February 1, 1911, when Doctor Kern again assumed charge, having been appointed by Governor Aldrich. When Governor Morehead was elected, he again appointed Doctor Baxter, who served from February 20, 1913, until his resignation, which took effect January 31, 1916. Upon that date the present superintendent, Dr. W. S. Fast, assumed charge. Doctor Fast was appointed by the board of commissioners of state institutions, and was formerly superintendent of the school for the feeble minded, at Beatrice.


The purpose of the institution, originally, was to relieve the institutions at Lincoln and Norfolk of those cases believed to be incurable, and the legal name was "Hospital for the Incurable Insane." Very emphatic objections were made by superintendents, in their reports, to this name. Doctor Johnston argued that it was unfair to those individuals confined and who were able to comprehend their situation, to force upon them through the name the realization that they were in an institution from which they would not be released. It was also urged that the name was a misnomer, because in many instances patients recovered their mental normality of their own accord. Doctor Kern also urged this matter upon the Legislature. After 1895 the name appearing in the reports of the superintendents is "Asylum for the Chronic Insane." It was the Legislature of 1905 that changed the name and character of the institution. The name was changed to the "Nebraska State Hospital," and instead of being an institution for the chronic insane of the state, it was made the hospital for all classes of insane in a district comprising fifty three counties. The Legislature of 1915 gave the institution its present designation, "Ingleside Hospital for the Insane."


June 26, 1905, the United States Government established a postoffice in the institution, designating it as Ingleside. This was the origin of the present name, Ingleside. The superintendents were the postmasters until March, 1913, when Ingleside, together with all other fourth class offices, came under the civil service. Percy M. Jones, the bookkeeper of the institution, became the first postmaster under the civil service and served until his resignation in the spring of 1914. At that time, Mrs. Una Norris, wife of the present supervisor, assumed charge of the office. Mrs. Norris died in March, 1915, and Miss Mae Baxter was acting postmistress until the present postmistress, Mrs. Golda V. Crutcher, qualified, August 26, 1915.

Until the Legislature of 1913 established the "Board of Commissioners of State Institutions," which organized July 1st of that year, Ingleside was in the care of a board of control composed of the governor, secretary of state and the commissioner of public lands and buildings. The institution, having its management strictly a matter of political patronage, has always been the object of a great deal of political maneuvering, and at intervals the newspapers of the two political parties have found much to say, sometimes sensational matter, about Ingleside.


The first disturbance came early in the history of the institution. T. H. Leavitt, a state accountant, having been assigned to investigate the accounts of the hospital, reported August 5, 1891, for the previous twenty five months. The report was made to the president of the Board of Public Lands and Buildings, A. R. Humphrey. The report charged lax methods generally for the period, and declared that it was impossible to trace where some of the public money had gone to. It could be seen, for instance, that on May 25, 1889, J. V. Smith had been paid $300 for a team of horses, but to whom had been paid $106.35 for a barn, harness and wagon could not be ascertained from the record. After enumerating some of the obscurities, the report said: "There are probably irregularities in the accounts in sight, covering from $12,000 to $20,000, which neither the papers in my hands nor the time to which you have limited me have made it possible to examine into." "Bills have been paid in duplicate or in excess of what was due." "It is noticeable concerning the checks given to parties ties named in the payroll that some of them are far less than the sums named in the vouchers to the state treasurer." It was also charged that spurious names had been entered upon the payroll and money drawn to pay their salaries. Such is a sketch of early irregularities reported at Ingleside.


The theory underlying the legislative enactment of 1913, which created the board of commissioners of public institutions, was to improve the checking and accounting systems and to lessen the political patronage feature. Since its creation, this board has appointed the superintendent, Superintendent Fast being the first. If the theory works out, superintendents will not hereafter be necessarily changed as the fortunes of political parties change. The board is appointed by the governor, the members having six year terms, except the first board, which gave Henry Gerdes, of Falls City, six years, Judge Howard Kennedy, of Omaha, four years, and Silas A. Holcomb, of Broken Bow, two years. At the expiration of his first term, Mr. Holcomb was reappointed.


When Superintendent M. W. Stone assumed his duties in 1889 the property put in his charge was valued at $80,598.66. This included land and all other property. The last inventory made was February 20, 1913, when the value of the Ingleside property was listed at $1,265,995.91. The estimated value at present is $1,500,000.


Patients were first received at the hospital August 1, 1889. Forty four were brought from Lincoln on that date. The first of these to be taken, becoming Number One, was Melvin Meals, who remained an inmate until his death, October 7, 1895. Of the party that came that day, Peter Hedstrum is the only one that remains. There had been received up to December 18, 1916, 4,115 patients in all, and the inmates upon that day numbered 405 women and 747 men.


Among the notable patients at Ingleside at present is Hans Albert, a violinist of distinction and who still plays his instrument with much skill and feeling. Hans Albert relates that he was born in Austria and was brought to this country by Mrs. Grover Cleveland. Another musician of much ability is George McPherson. He is a colored man and was graduated from several musical conservatories. He is a skilled pianist and spends many hours at the piano, and has played at concerts. Another notable inmate, though with a different talent, is Bertha Liebbecke. She is known throughout the United States as "Fainting Bertha." She gained this name through her habit of falling in a faint into the arms of pedestrians on city streets. Generally, when the pedestrians had disengaged themselves and provided care for the fainting woman, they found afterwards that they had been relieved by Bertha of their pocketbooks, watches, jewelry or other valuables. "Fainting Bertha" has escaped from Ingleside on some occasions and afforded opportunities for sensational captures.


There were at Ingleside on December 18, 1916, 155 employees, with an aggregate payroll of $6,000 per month. The staff at present is: Superintendent, Dr. W. S. Fast; assistant physician, Dr. W. H. Crutcher; second physician, Dr. C. A. Oaks; third physician, Dr. W. W. Hedlund; fourth, physician, Dr. Clara M. Hayden; Pathologist, Dr. J. S. Leisure. Percy M. Jones has been bookkeeper and Michael O'Mera steward since February 20, 1913. Mrs. Libbie Thorsden is the matron.

Ingleside is a world to itself, a community full of human interest. Cheerfulness and optimism among the employees is brought into strong relief because of its nearness to the great tragedy enacted by the unfortunates who find their home here. Among the employees there exists a bright social life. By them the institution is often referred to as the "matrimonial bureau." Many marriages have resulted from acquaintances made at Ingleside. The care bestowed upon the buildings and grounds makes Ingleside, in spite of the nature of the place, an object of pride to the people of Hastings and Adams County.

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