Monday, August 31, 2015

First Botanical Garden

These four photos were taken between 1911 and 1916 by John Davidson. Essondale Botanical Gardens.

In 1911, John Davidson arrived in Mount Coquitlam. Davidson was the province's first botanist and was destined to become a professor of botany at the new provincial university when it opened in Vancouver. In the meantime, his plan was to open a botanical garden at the new mental hospital.

Davidson's position as Provincial Botanist meant he had to assemble a representative collection of plants from all over the province. Then he was to grow a set of species for study and research as well as to determine the accurate name for each species.

Davidson set up an office, a nursery, an arboretum and a botanical garden. The first in Western Canada.

A professional portrait of John Davidson taken between 1905 and 1911 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

John Davidson in the 1930s.

Miss Mary Gruchy, Davidson's secretary, wrote to all the school principals, the mining companies and government agencies, requesting samples of plants from their regions. In return, the contributor would find out the correct identification of the plant.

This sparked an interest in botany around the province.

Over the next few years, Davidson not only collected over 600 species of plants from the province but also exchanged information and materials with other countries around the world. Much of the work done at the botanical gardens at Essondale was carried out by the patients. Some of the residences had experience in clearing the land and constructing stone walls. The patients contributed 3,718 hours of work on the creation of the botanical gardens in 1915.

Through chance and design, the gardens at Essondale were created. Mr. McLean, a landscape architect, was hired to design the hospital grounds in 1911. He convinced Dr. Esson Young to purchase half the stock of a Surrey nursery that had gone bankrupt.

Mr. McLean envisioned the nursery operating at the mental asylum farm. He saw the trees and plants grown there used at the new University of British Columbia and at government ground throughout the province.

The nursery was established and for the next 50 years, it provided trees, plants, and other vegetation for parks, courthouses and other public places around B.C.

In 1911, the Colony Farm was thriving and considered the best in Western Canada. At the Dominion Fair in Regina in July of that year, the Colony Farm won more than 20 prizes. This tradition continued well into the 1980s with multiple awards won at the Pacific National Exhibition agricultural competitions.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, a Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information and to the City of Vancouver Archives for the old photos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Friday, August 28, 2015

Treatments with Compassion

The new hospital, like many mental institutions at the turn of the twentieth century, was set in a peaceful, countryside location. Little was understood about mental illness at the time and the best they could hope for was to keep the patients safe and quiet.

The medical superintendent, Dr. Charles E. Doherty, directed the care include healthy food, recreation, work and a normal routine. The harsher treatments of the past era were replaced with hydrotherapy and massage to calm the more disturbed patients.

"Repressive measures such as confinement and punishment are, to my mind, as ineffective as they are unjust. They are morally an outrage to helpless sufferers, medically unsound and at times, fatal. Since I became superintendent in 1905, I have endeavoured to adopt the methods of the general hospital rather than that of an asylum. I think our duty to the insane is to do more than render them custodial care. The old straitjacket and box-bed are doomed. At least they have no place in my regime..." 

Dr. Doherty quoted in The Treatment for the Insane: Farming as a Cure for Madness-British Columbia's novel experiment by H. Sheridan-Bickers Man to Man Magazine, 1910

In 1906, Dr. Henry Esson Young was appointed Provincial Secretary. He later became head of the Provincial Department of Public Health and would have a significant impact on the community at Mount Coquitlam. The hospital was later named Essondale in his honour.

The treatment of choice at this time was hydrotherapy. Continuous baths were considered to be effective treatment for those who were restless and insomniacs. Patients were placed in baths at degrees of 90 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. They would stay there anywhere from 30 minutes to 9 hours. Then the patient was placed in a hot dry pack so they would continue sweating. After that, they slept soundly.

If a patient was catatonic, they were placed in electric and steam cabinets where the temperature was gradually raised to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. They were given lots of water to drink then placed under rain and needle showers before being given a massage.

For alcoholics suffering hallucinations, restlessness and insomnia, the patient was placed in a cold bath lasting 10 to 20 minutes. This was repeated every three hours and replaced the former treatment of large doses of opium or chloral hydrate.
This is a 1925 photo of the hydrotherapy room. Taken by the King Studio and compliments of Vancouver Public Library archives.

"At this institution, thanks to the munificence and enterprise of our Provincial government, a daring and unique experiment in the treatment and care of the insane is to be made. The new Colony Farm is to be the scene of the biggest adventure in mental therapeutics that have been heard of since the days of Apostles. We have hitherto prided ourselves in Canada that it was the sanity of our agriculturalists that made farming so profitable. Now we are to test the theory that it is the agricultural work that accounts for the sanity of our farmers. It is on that theory, on all events, that Dr. Charles E. Dougherty unique scheme for the treatment of the insane must be founded. The medical superintendent of the provincial asylum has persuaded the government to let his patients work on a stock farm as a new and practical treatment for lunacy, and to fit them on discharge from the asylum to obtain immediate work."

Excerpt from The Treatment for the Insane: Farming as a Cure for Madness-British Columbia's novel experiment by H. Sheridan-Bickers Man to Man Magazine, 1910.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview Hospital, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lunatics and Asylums

This photo was taken June 18, 1932 by Frank Leonard. It shows the colony farm at Essondale/Riverview. Compliments of the Vancouver Public Library archives

I told you a bit about Riverview hospital on Monday but since then I have found a PDF file, which is much more detailed so I am going to explore the history of Riverview/Essondale and the treatment of the mentally ill in B.C.

The first recorded case of insanity in British Columbia was in 1850. The jailhouse doctor, Dr. J.S. Helmcken, reported he was attacked by a young Scottish prisoner. The attack was violent and unprovoked. The immigrant was sent back to his native land where he apparently regained his mental health.

At that time, there was nothing in place to help the mentally ill. Although Victoria was B.C's largest settlement at the time, the insane were either locked up or shipped out to the nearest asylum, which was in San Francisco.

In 1872, the Victoria Asylum opened. It had seven staff members and seven patients. The patients' treatment was quite crude. They were restrained using leg irons and manacles and the asylum had a room padded with straw. A year after it opened, Dr. I.W. Powell, the province's Medical Superintendent, described the hospital as "wretched and insufficient".

Victoria Asylum, AkA the Royal Hospital, in 1872. This cottage was formerly Victoria's quarantine hospital. Photo from BC Mental Health website.

In 1873, the Insane Asylum Act, stated that a "lunatic" should be committed to an asylum only with the certificates of two medical practitioners who examined the person in the presence of another.

By 1877, the Victoria Asylum housed 37 patients and didn't have room to grow. The province decided to move the treatment of the mentally ill to a hospital on the mainland and in 1878, the first building of the Asylum for the Insane in New Westminster opened. It didn't take long for the 28 rooms to be filled. But more patients were sent to the asylum so dayrooms, hallways and bathrooms were used as sleeping rooms.

In the mid-1880s, work therapy was introduced. Men did construction work, gardening and maintenance while the women did sewing and gardening.

By the turn of the century, the Public Hospital for the Insane, housed 310 patients. To relieve the overcrowding, 48 male patients were sent to a jail in Vernon that later became Dellview hospital.

Asylum for the Insane in the 1890s. Photo taken by the Bailey Bros, compliments of the Vancouver Public Library

In 1904, the BC Government purchased 1,000 acres of land where the Coquitlam and Fraser rivers meet as the site for the new hospital for the mentally ill. Half of the area was rich, alluvial soil so this would be the Colony Farm. The other half, upland on Mount Coquitlam, was perfect for buildings.

Medical Superintendent, Dr. G.H. Manchester, planned that the farm would provide work for the patients and help support the hospital.

"The uses to which the Farm Colony shall be put at once are the production of all necessary vegetables for the hospital, fodder for the horses and hogs, all dairy products by the maintenance of a large dairy herd and the supply of fuel for the bakery and for the boilers in the summer. One year later, in 1905, patient workers started clearing land and erecting buildings at the Colony Farm site."

Care for the mentally ill had improved somewhat. The use of restraint was diminishing, herbal tonics and desiccated thyroids (a powder made from dried pig and cow glands) was found to be a useful therapy, and lifestyles were found to be helpful in treating insanity. A healthy supply of good food with regular living habits with long hours of rest and employment. The causes of insanity were thought to be heredity, intemperance, syphilis and masturbation.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care & Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill