Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fire, Ice & Joyous Singing

Oh, what's to be done with an old singing lady who drives patients at the hospital crazy with her incessant singing and wild Irish ways? Send her to the asylum of course.

Bridget Ryan was an elderly lady with a singing affliction when she arrived at Emergency Hospital in late January of 1899. She belted out odes to "Ould I-r-r-eland" for a long week before finally be removed to the county home. In between she had bouts with nurses, patients and anybody who got in the way of her love for Ireland.


I'm not positive of her actions thereafter but this death certificate from 1906 seems to match.


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Poor Joseph Stiner arrived at the Wayne County House neither by insanity nor bankruptcy but by the misfortune of being a stranger in a foreign land who bad-lucked himself into a situation of need.

Mr. Stiner was an immigrant from Switzerland and was staying with a friend in Detroit on a stipend from his mother. Having been unable to secure work in the area he traveled to Wisconsin in hopes of finding employment. Likewise unable to find employment he returned and became waylaid in Wayne.

I don't know if he walked back from Wisconsin, his train stopped short of his destination or he was indeed lost like he claimed to authorities but he slipped on ice and sprained his ankle. To compound the misery his feet also became frozen and he was unable to continue his journey. Stiner found shelter in hay bails on the farm of Charles Lotz and drank ditch water for 9 days before the farmer's brother found the aggrieved sufferer and brought him to town for help.

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Up until the first part of the 20th century fires were a frequent and cataclysmic occurrence. In houses of the sick, elderly and infirm this was an especial problem due to the reduced ability of the group to care for themselves.

With a rash of fires at other asylums during the era the Board of Poor Commissioners decided to fireproof the asylum. Considering that there were several fires in the years afterward they apparently didn't do a bang-up job.


from The Detroit Free Press,  February 3, 1892

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