HISTORIC PHOTOS: Photos
from the old days at the Madison State Hospital show patients
at several of the jobs required
to keep a large institution going. The pictures are among
a number of artifacts
on display at the new Madison
State Hospital Gatehouse Museum, which was prepared by the
County Historical Society
MSH museum offers insight into history of mental
By Wayne Engle, Courier Staff Writer
Nearly a century
of history at the Madison State Hospital is being encapsulated
in the new Jefferson County Historical Society Gatehouse Museum.
a wood stove, a strange-looking device known as a “colonic
irrigator,” a human brain preserved in formaldehyde, many
old hospital photographs, and a number of other items will
be on display in the museum, scheduled to open to the public
The gatehouse is
a familiar sight to anyone who has driven by the south entrance
to the state hospital, just at the top of the Hanging Rock
Hill. Look across the short bridge over the tracks of the
Madison Railroad cuts, and you will see the gatehouse directly
dates to 1910
On Feb. 21, 1905,
the Indiana legislature passed a bill to construct a mental
institution in southeastern Indiana. A commission named for
the purpose chose Madison as the site of the institution.
It was built mostly on land purchased from Henry and Ford
Hitz at $100 per acre, atop the hills overlooking the Ohio
The first patients
were accepted at the new Southeastern Indiana Hospital for
the Insane on Aug. 23, 1910. The approximately 600 patients
were transported here from Central State Hospital in Indianapolis
by train. Guards who stood watch over them carried shotguns
loaded with rock salt.
There were 200 two-story
buildings with 20 to 70 beds each to house the patients, with
the buildings being placed in a symmetrical pattern with administration
and service buildings in between. Men’s buildings were on
one side of the grounds, women’s buildings on the other.
patients had been “warehoused” in huge buildings. But the
new, enlightened view of “moral treatment” current in the
early 20th century was that disturbed minds could be restored
to sanity in a beautiful, peaceful and accepting environment
such as the new state hospital offered, with its breathtaking
view of the Ohio River Valley.
The breaking up
of the patients’ housing into smaller buildings, known as
the “cottage plan,” also was aimed at more humane treatment
of the mentally ill and at trying to restore them to sanity.
The name of the
new institution was changed to Madison State Hospital in 1927.
But from its earliest days, the institution came to be known
locally as “Cragmont,” a nickname that died out only in recent
Studies on mental
disorders of nationwide significance were done at MSH over
the years, according to Gerry Michl of the Jefferson County
Historical Society, which has been in charge of preparing
“For instance, they
studied Huntington’s chorea, which is a degenerative neurologic
disease that is hereditary,” Michl said. She said there has
been a more frequent occurrence of the disorder in this community
than is true nationally.
Brains of long-deceased
patients, which were studied after the patients’ deaths as
part of the research into the disease, are preserved at the
Other studies were
done of criminal sexual psychopaths, and of the results of
the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Involved in the various studies
were such physicians as Dr. George Zirkle, Dr. Peter King
and Dr. Ott B. McAtee, who was the superintendent for many
worked in early days
“When the first
patients arrived, the landscape (at the hospital) was very
bleak. There were no roads,” Michl said. “Expectations of
men’s and women’s work were very separate, and very clear.”
While the structures
were already in place when the first patients arrived, the
patients themselves kept the institution going, Michl said.
“There were huge farming operations here. It was very self-sufficient,”
she said. They also built the roads at MSH, Michl said.
As recently as the
1950s, patients could be seen working under supervision in
the gardens at the state hospital. A number of the photos
on display in the new museum show work crews made up of patients
in the old days.
But in the 1960s,
the legislature decided that such unpaid work constituted
indentured servitude — that patients either had to start receiving
pay in money, or not be required to work anymore. It was decided
that it was cheaper to do away with the farming operations
and buy food for the patients on the market.
Among the buildings
that pre-date the establishment of the state hospital, the
gatehouse is one of the very few that have survived. The stone
portion in front dates to the 1840s; the rear part, to 1926.
The original owner
of the gatehouse was John Hoffman. His son, Matt, was a bricklayer
who helped construct the tunnels that still connect the various
buildings on the hospital grounds.
The museum was the
brainchild of Vern Reindollar, the assistant superintendent
for administration at MSH.
and (former superintendent) Jerry Thaden talked about preserving
some of the history” of the state hospital, Michl said. “While
Vern was a member of the board of the historical society he
suggested going through (State Rep.) Markt Lytle to get (the
gatehouse) and three acres for a museum.”
Lytle obtained $50,000
in “Fund Indiana” monies for the museum, which was used to
renovate the building and to add a parking lot and walkway.
Plans called for
work to start on the museum in January 2000. But late that
month, a tragic fire at Reindollar’s home resulted in the
death of his wife, Dorothy “Dotti” Inglis Reindollar, and
the loss of their house.
“Also there was
a change of administration at the hospital,” said Michl. “So
Vern was unable to give his full attention to this.”
Finally this January
work began in full force, and by this month the museum was
“We set a deadline
for Sept. 1 — it looks like we’re going to make it,” Michl
said. The historical society board put her in charge of the
project. “Since May 10 I’ve been here just about every day
for several hours,” she said.
All the artifacts
came from the state hospital. “There’s nooks and crannies
over there, and I’m sure there’ll be more stuff added,” Michl
The museum will
be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; then
each Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with
other times being available by appointment, Michl said.
She advised visitors
to be sure to use the north entrance to the hospital, and
follow the signs, which will lead them to the parking lot.
Then follow the walkway to the museum.
John Cutshall, community
services director, is compiling an oral history of the Madison
State Hospital for the museum. He is also operator of the
TV studios at MSH, and just finished 30 years of employment
“I’m doing both
video and audio tapes,” Cutshall said. “One person didn’t
want to have her picture taken, so we did audio. We did Mr.
Thaden on video, sitting out in front of the administration
building. He talked almost an hour.”
Cutshall said he
has worked mostly with past employees who are now retired.
These include Helen Spry, director of nursing; Lucille Maxey,
who was an attendant and attendant supervisor; and Dr. Robert
Snodgrass, who came to MSH one summer in the early 1950s,
then came back several years later. He was a medical student
when he first arrived.
“I did Val Camenisch,
a rehabilitation therapist; and Zelpha Giltner, an attendant,
who is now 91 years old. And I’ve done Nancy Fisher, who worked
here for 50 years,” said Cutshall. “Vern Reindollar will probably
be my next one.”
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