The Resource Records of Western State Hospital

Records of Western State Hospital

Records of Western State Hospital, 1825-1884
Records of Western State Hospital
Inclusive dates
  • These records are part of Auditor of Public Accounts. Administration of State Government: of State Government - Institutions. State Mental Institutions
  • Records, 1825-1884, including accounts, checks, lists of patients, promissory notes, receipts, reports, and vouchers of the Western State Hospital located in Staunton, Virginia. The bulk of the records relate to the expenses for building the hospital as well as running and maintaining the hospital and inmates. The accounts and receipts, 1825-1884, detail purchases of materials (timber, rail, nails), food (beef, veal, sugar, molasses, butter), salaries of the keepers and doctors, hire of slaves, transportation costs to jailers for bringing patients to the hospital, clothing, repairs to the building, purchases of furniture, and other sundry items
  • Of note are Reports of the Court of Directors, 1828-1833, which contain financial information, resolutions, and lists of patients. Also included is a ledger, 1828-1835, of patients, listing the patients name, residence, dates of commitment, and expenses
Agency history record describes the history and functions of the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts (1776-1928) (Search as Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts (1776-1928))
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Biographical or historical data
  • In January 1825 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation providing for the construction of an asylum in the western part of the state. A Court of Directors was commissioned by the Governor to serve as the asylum's governing body and charged with purchasing a site close to the town of Staunton, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on which to build an asylum to house the mentally ill of western Virginia. The institution, which became known as Western Lunatic Asylum, was the second mental health facility built in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The buildings and surrounding gardens were designed to embrace the idea of "moral therapy" for mentally ill patients by providing an aesthetically pleasing and tranquil atmosphere in which patients lived comfortably, exercised and worked outdoors.
  • Western Lunatic Asylum opened in 1828, accepting both male and female patients suffering from a variety of mental disorders. Common diagnoses included "hard study," "religious excitement," and "debility of the nervous system." The asylum was overseen by a Keeper, a Matron and a visiting physician during its earliest years. The hospital also employed attendants, gate keepers, night watch personnel, farm hands, and a steward who handled the day-to-day financial operations. The first superintendent appointed to oversee Western Lunatic Asylum was Dr. Francis T. Stribling. Dr. Stribling was a proponent of the moral therapy approach, and was a leader in the early mental health community. Dr. Stribling was one of the thirteen founders of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, which later became known as the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Stribling served as the hospital superintendent and as a physician until his death in 1874.
  • It should be noted that the hospital underwent a short-lived name change between 1861 and 1865, when it was known as Central Lunatic Asylum. (It should not be confused with an asylum of the same name later built in Petersburg, Virginia to house African American patients). From 1865 to 1894 the name was again Western Lunatic Asylum. However, in 1894 the General Assembly passed legislation changing the name to Western State Hospital.
  • The records in this series generally concern the construction and maintenance of the hospital.
Cataloging source
Records of Western State Hospital
Alphabetical by folder title.
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Inventory
  • Finding aid
Immediate source of acquisition
Western State Hospital records, 1825-1884
Type of unit
cu. ft. (12 boxes)

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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