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NCGS Journal Highlight: North Carolina Insane Asylum

North Carolina Insane Asylum in Raleigh – Wake & Vance Counties (c. 1856-1889)

Introduction by Diane L. Richard

NCGS Journal 43, no. 1 (Feb 2017): 32

The Raleigh Insane Asylum, later known as Dorthea Dix hospital, began admitting patients in 1856. The transcribed records featured in this journal article were found in the Eugene Grissom Papers at Duke University, in a register of admissions, 1883-1887.

“This particular transcription is interesting for a few reasons:
1. the record type – insane asylum patients
2. the name of a patient and his brother
3. the value of using the post office information to provide geographical context

“For the 1st item… Eugene Grissom, in 1868, “was appointed superintendent of the North Carolina Insane Asylum in Raleigh and served in that capacity until 1889.2 The referenced volume included information about white patients admitted to the Raleigh Insane Asylum including names, N.C. county of residence, and occasionally the outcome of their admission (typically either their cause of death or the note that they had left the hospital, cured). This register tracked only admissions for the Eastern Division of white patients in North Carolina. Patients residing in the Western Division were treated at an insane asylum in Morganton. We focused on Vance and Wake county-listed patients for the transcription.

Regarding the 2nd item, interestingly, I recognized a name in the transcribed records. Dr. E Haywood, Raleigh, listed as the brother of Thos B. Haywood, who was admitted in 1856 and lived in the asylum until his death in 1883. It ends up that Dr. E Haywood, aka Edmund Burke Haywood, surgeon in the Confederate Army, has a collection of papers just down the road from Duke in The Southern Historical Collection.5 Apparently, “Edmund Burke Haywood served as president of the Board of Directors of the State Insane Asylum from 1875 to 1889” overlapping some of the many years when his brother was confined. I recognized this particular name because I photographed select records from his collection and they have been (and continue to be) transcribed by the Wake County Genealogical Society:

  1. Volume 23 Issue #1, Wake Treasures, E. Burke Haywood, MD (Raleigh, N.C.) Notes Patients & Symptoms – 1848-1862.
  2. Volume 25 Issue #1, Wake Treasures, Physicians Account Book for visits to patients (formerly volume 33), Dr. Ernest Burke Haywood, V1290/51:1854. This book gives a fascinating look into Dr. Haywood’s patients – from those residing on Governor Manly’s plantation, to his extended family (Miss E. G. Haywood, Edward G. Haywood, etc.), to other patients including someone at Lovejoy’s Academy.

For the 3rd item, since patients were identified by their “post office” and it was clear that many of the mentioned locales are no longer extant communities, resources regarding postal history were very helpful in “placing” the patients within their county of residence. We will discuss the value of postal records more in future journals and, in the meantime, at the end of this introductory piece is a bibliography in case you cannot wait.”

To view the transcription, head to NCGS Journal 43, no. 1 (Feb 2017): 32. The transcription continues in NCGS Journal 43, no. 3 (Aug 2017): 209.

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