Friday, September 19, 2014

52 Ancestors: #34 Augusta Lange, Asylum Patient for 31 Years

My great-great-great-grandmother was born on Christmas Day, 1845, in Germany.  Her first name was Augusta, but I have not been able to find out her maiden name.

She married Charles Lange in 1872, prior to their immigration to America.  By 1880, they were living in Vincennes, Indiana.  According to census records, Augusta never learned to speak English. Charles and Augusta had four children. Wilhelm, her first son, was born shortly before the Langes left Germany.  The other three, Charles Carl (my great-great-grandfather), Alvina, and Mary, were all born in Vincennes.

Main building of Southern Indiana Hospital for the Insane in Evansville, early 1900's
On December 14, 1897, at the age of 51, Augusta was admitted to the Southern Indiana Hospital for the Insane in Evansville, Indiana.  She was patient #490.  I assume that means Augusta was the 490th person admitted since the hospital opened.

"Woodmere", as the institution was locally known, was situated on 879 acres of land and surrounded by thick woods.  The facility opened to patients on October 30, 1890.  In 1927, the asylum changed its name to Evansville State Hospital.  Among the buildings on the grounds were a carpenter shop, well house, railway station, greenhouse, chapel, assembly hall, bakery, laundry, dairy and stock barns, carriage house and two silos.

Although Augusta remained at Woodmere for 31 years, the only record I have discovered is an index card with limited information: her physical health at admission was good, her mental illness was "mania acute," and her father was a drunkard.  The majority of the records of patients admitted before 1943 were destroyed in a disastrous fire.

Postcard of "Woodmere" at the time Augusta was there.
The fire began in the early morning hours of February 9, 1943, while nearly 1200 patients were sleeping.  A hospital employee later confessed to starting the fire and was herself ultimately committed to a mental institution. The building was destroyed, and the records were totally lost; however, heroic action of the staff saved almost all of the patients.  The hospital was closed for two years while a replacement facility was built at a new location.

Augusta Lange was released from Woodmere on October 11, 1929.  I think the hospital must have sent a letter to Augusta's family saying that her health was declining and suggesting that she be brought home.  Only a week later, on October 19, she died at the home of her son, Charles, in Vincennes.

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