July 4, 1870

Columbus, Ohio


FELLOW CITIZENS – A few words and a few facts, by way of explanation of the meaning and purpose of this occasion.

The State of Ohio during the first thirty-five years after her admission into the Union, had no State institution for the cure or care of the insane. The first important legislation on the subject was in 1815. In February of that year an act was passed by which justices of the peace were empowered to summon a jury of seven men to inquire into the sanity of any person who might be brought before them “on the application of relations, or by any overseer of the poor.” Upon the unanimous verdict of the jury that such person was “an idiot, non-compos, lunatic, or insane,” the justice was required to issue his warrant of commitment. If lunatics were dangerous to life or property they were committed to the county jail; if they were harmless, they were committed to the care of the overseers of the poor. The only asylums provided for insane persons by the laws of the State in the first half of its history were the poor houses and jails.

In 1835 Dr. Wm. M. Awl, as Corresponding Secretary of the State Medical Convention of Ohio, presented to the Legislature a memorial containing a short and powerful argument in favor of establishing a State Lunatic Asylum at Columbus. The memorial was signed by Doctors R. Thompson, T.D. Mitchell, Wm. M. Awl, John Eberle and E. Smith, as a committee, and by Dr. Peter Allen as President, and Dr. M.Z. Kreider as Secretary of the State Medical Convention.

In accordance with the recommendation of this memorial the General Assembly, March 7, 1835, passed “an act providing for the creation of a Lunatic Asylum,” which authorized a board of three directors to “procure for the State of Ohio, as a site for a Lunatic Asylum, not less than fifteen nor more than thirty acres of land, not nearer than one mile, nor more than four miles from the city of Columbus,” and “for the purchasing of such site and the consequent expenses thereto” there was appropriated “a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars.”

In November, 1858, the Asylum was ready to receive patients, and since that time the obligation of the State to make provision for the insane has been generally recognized. In the performance of this duty other asylums have been built at Dayton, at Cleveland, and at Cincinnati, and one is in the course of erection at Athens.

Prior to the legislation of the last session of the General Assembly, the law made a broad distinction between cases of chronic insanity and cases of recent origin. Those who had been insane more than two years, and those who had been returned from an asylum as incurable, were not entitled to the benefit of the provision made by the State for the Insane, but were left to such care as their families, or the counties of their residence were prepared to give. Last winter the General Assembly took a great step in advance of all our previous legislation on this subject. The second section of an act passed April 12, 1870, is as follows:

“SEC. 2 The chronic insane shall be admitted to the several Lunatic Asylums of the State upon the same terms and in the same manner that other insane persons are admitted thereto, and no discrimination shall be made against those whose cases may be adjudged chronic, nor shall any preferences be given to those whose cases may be regarded as curable.”

In order to carry out the wise and humane object of this section, extensive additions to existing asylums, and to the asylums now building were authorized. The Central Asylum here building, was required to be enlarged so as to accommodate six hundred patients, at an increased cost of $200,000, and authority was given to purchase for its site, at a cost of $100,000, the tract of land of three hundred acres on which we are now assembled.

With this legislation begins a new era in the history of the treatment of the insane in Ohio. Hereafter the policy, the purpose, will be to make as speedily as practicable ample provision for all of this unfortunate class of our people.

The Board of Trustees of the Central Lunatic Asylum, charged with the duty of establishing here an institution whose magnitude, appliances, and administration will harmonize with the new policy have thought it altogether fitting and proper to devote a part of this National Holiday to exercises and ceremonies connected with the laying of this cornerstone.

They believe that this great and beneficent progress, which the people of Ohio, by their representatives, have authorized, furnishes a fit occasion for rejoicing, congratulation and gratitude. They believe and feel that this noble State charity deserves the sympathy and support, the best wishes and the heartiest prayers of all good citizens, and that it is worthy of that Divine assistance, without which it cannot succeed, and with which it cannot fail!

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