Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Morningside Hospital Records: What We Know

In the time that I have been History of Medicine Librarian here, I have been asked no less than five times, by five different people, if we have patient records from the Morningside Hospital which operated in Portland during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Three of these requests have come in the last three weeks. Since this number probably represents the tip of the iceberg of people interested in Morningside and its records, I thought it best to summarize for Google searchers everywhere:

As far as I know, the patient records from Morningside Hospital are no longer extant.

Here's some brief information on the history of this private hospital:
Established and operated by the Coe family of Portland, the hospital closed its doors in 1968 after many years of service. Its final location was on a 47-acre parcel in southeast Portland, bounded by 96th and 102nd Avenues and Stark and Main Streets. The hospital was closed and the land sold to developers, Lenrich Associates and Interstate Department Stores.

A news article published on June 30, 1968, in the Portland Oregonian noted that many hospital patients were from Alaska. They had been coming to Morningside since about 1905 "under state and federal agreements and including for many years mentally retarded from the northern territory." After the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, the hospital at Valdez, AK, was rebuilt with federal funding, and additional beds were made available for psychiatric patients. As a result, Alaskan patients began to stay in state. The last Alaskan patient at Morningside was returned to the state in 1967.

For more information on the hospital, patrons can contact Special Collections at the University of Washington to get a copy of the 16-page pamphlet The insane of Alaska : for sixteen years administered under the Department of the Interior at Morningside Hospital, Portland, Oregon (Portland, Or. : The Hospital, [1920]). Also, the Oregon Historical Society has the Arthur Robert Smith Papers, which contain some records of Morningside's operations in the 1950s (guide available online).

People seeking information on burials of patients can check the cemetery registers (some available online from Multnomah County GenWeb). Death records can be obtained from the Oregon State Archives (on the web here). Consider also that the bodies of indigent who died unclaimed and intestate were often given to the medical school for study and teaching, and that burial records might not be available for those individuals.


Anonymous said...

My mother had several stays at Morningside probably starting in 1966 or 67. She committed suicide several years later, and my sisters and I are now trying to piece together her history and what happened to her. We have have obtained records from her subsequent stay in damasch, but are hoping that by some remote chance the records from Morningside still exist. Do you have any suggestions how we might direct our search? Also, our mother was involved with a priest who was on leave from his mission in Alaska. He exploited her and sexually abused me. My sisters and I were intrigue by the fact that this hospital was involved with Alaska natives, and are speculating that he must have encouraged her to go there. Do you know if Moringside had any connection with the Catholic church?
Thanks, Mary

Sara Piasecki said...

Hi Mary,

The information in this post, and my follow-up post of April 29, 2008, represent the total of what I currently know about extant records from Morningside. I suggest you contact the Alaska state archives, per Morgen Smith's suggestion, to see if there are any records there. As far as I know, the privately administered hospital was not officially connected with the Catholic Church, but I cannot confirm that for you with the information we have on hand here.--Sara

Linda Seaman said...

I am also researching the records from Morningside Hospital. If the person you are researching is from Alaska, so far I have found that the Department of the Interior and the Territorial Dept of Health were involved in sending patients from Alaska to Morningside Hospital. So I am figuring that since the federal govt paid the fees for these patients, that someone from Morningside had to submit papers about the patients to the federal govt to get paid. I am researching this angle. I will try to get back with any info that I might get as to these records. Thanks, Linda

Sara Piasecki said...

Thanks Linda! A great suggestion on potential paper trails.

Anonymous said...

If the last Alaskan patient at Morningside was returned to the state in 1967, this leaves me more confused. Apparently my grandfather died out there Jan 1971. I didn't even know he was alive, I found out later that they had sent my mother a letter upon his death. Why? Them sending him out of State left my grandmother a single parent of five children. This has created hardship over the decades.

Anonymous said...

Check out . People in Alaska are compiling old archives and posting them on-line.

Some branches bear fruit, some don't. said...

The Friends of Multnomah Park Cemetery have begun compiling a "Virtual Cemetery" for former patients of Morningside Hospital.

Eric Cordingley said...

Morningside did indeed have a connection with the Catholic Church. Assumption Parish, a Franciscan Fathers Parish located nearby, provided the Catholic patients with communion, transportation to Mass and last rites. Catholic patients were interred at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Eric Cordingley,

Eric Cordingley said...

Though the hospital closed in 1968 and sold off the land, many patients who were too frail to make the trek back to Alaska were sent to Portland area nursing facilities. The last Morningside patient who stayed behind in Portland died in 1994.
Eric Cordingley,