Eastern State Hospital

C29  by Emma Rose Moore
(The Story of Craig County Its People and Places, Vol. 1, pg 39-40)
Current Address:
Eastern State Hospital
Hospital Road
Vinita, OK 74301-1418
(918) 256-7841

Eastern State Hospital has been a major factor in the economy of Craig County since 1913, and its influence in mental health matters has extended well beyond its service area.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the mentally ill first were cared for through contract with private sanitariums. In Indian Territory, Cherokee Nation had maintained an asylum at Park Hill.

Eastern Oklahoma Hospital for the Insane was established by the Oklahoma State Legislature in 1909, to be located at Vinita, Craig County; on a 160 acre tract of land given to the State by the City of Vinita for this purpose. The land on which the hospital was established originally was owned by S.S. Cobb.

An appropriation was made to erect buildings, which were completed late in 1912.

Dr. F.M. Adams was appointed August 12, 1912, by Governor Lee Croce as the hospital superintendent. His original four-year appointment stretched into a lifetime job. Dr. Adams served until his death in December 1955.

Mrs. Mildred (Peggy) Winchester, who with her husband, the late R.E. Winchester, was an original member of the hospital staff, said in a 1983 interview that her husband would walk out from Vinita at night before the hospital opened in order to check on equipment and be sure all was functioning properly.

Mr. Winchester recalled, "Forty-five people, mostly from Vinita, were employed. Ward attendants' salaries ranged from __ to $60 a month; they worked 13 hours a day with half a day off each week."

The first patients were received on January 28, 1913, when 300 people were transferred by special train from the Oklahoma Sanitorium at Norman. The special train was unloaded at a siding designated "Asylum Spur," a little more than a mile south of the hospital. Wagons were sent to carry the women and a few older men, and the others walked to the new hospital.

During 1914 Building No. 3 was completed, and immediately 300 more patients were moved here from Norman. By 1954, the institution had a capacity of 2,600 patients and a capital investment of  $6,541,050.

The hospital opened with two doctors, Dr. Adams and Dr. Edwin Williams, a physician from Philadelphia who had some experience with the mentally ill. He returned to the east about two years later, and Dr. P.I. Hays became assistant superintendent.

Dr. Hays remained on the staff, succeeding Dr. Adams as superintendent and serving until October 1961. Both doctors were widely recognized for pioneering efforts in treatment of the mentally ill.

The gradual expansion over the years, to the peak population of the mid-1950's, saw buildings steadily added, and more land acquired.

Facilities which were added included hospital wards for male and female patient, 1916; administration building, 1922; barn, implement sheds, greenhouse, new power house equipment in 1924; a fire station and sewage plant, 19,30; a canning plant in 1938; central dining room, kitchen, a maximum restraint building for men, 1939; administration building, 1949; an employees' dormitory in 1953, named Adams Hall in honor of the long-time superintendent.

After Adams Hall was completed, a two-story house known as the "Farm House" was torn down. The house had been the home of Mr. and Mrs. S. S. Cobb before the hospital was established.

For many years, most of the hospital employees were required to live on the grounds. Meals were provided as part of the salary. Some roomed in basements of ward buildings and others lived in two old barracks buildings, according to long-time employees. These buildings were moved in after World War 11.

Although employees worked long hours with very low pay, there was a feeling of camaraderie, as if the staff was one big family.

During the 1950's, employees worked a 48-hour week, with 15 days of vacation, 15 days of sick leave, and six holidays per year and participation in Social Security began in January 1951. In 1984, no salary was lower than $4.48 per hour.

The Social Work Department was begun in 1957. Joel Donovan, MSW, was the hospital's first full time social worker, serving briefly. Then Miss Merle Beebe, Academy of Certified Social Workers succeeded him. When she retired in 1974, LaRoe Haney, ACSW, assumed directorship. Due to treatment needs and standards required for accreditation, the staff has been expanded to 22 at Vinita, plus three in Muskogee and two in Tahlequah outpatient clinics.

Eldrige Chandler served as chief clinical psychologist from 1956 until his death in November 1965. By 1984, the hospital had a staff of 12 psychologists headed by Brent Dietsche, with more than half of these holding Ph.D. degrees.

During the years of peak patient population, the farm was an important economic factor. Swine, poultry, and dairy operations provided meat and milk, while garden produce was used fresh and also was canned for later use. Many farm-oriented patients worked alongside employees, and this provided valuable therapy.

The hospital's Holstein dairy herd was considered one of the best in the state, with some of the cattle setting production records and winning prizes at state fairs. The dairy was closed in 1968. Other farming operations were gradually phased out in the early 1970's.

Through the first 40 years of the hospital's history, much of the patient care was custodial in nature. Staff was limited, but treatments, which were innovative at the time, were introduced.

Dr. Hays pioneered in many types of treatment, including luminal, sodium amy-tal, and various types of shock treatment. He was among the first to use malaria in treatment of syphilis. He was the first in the nation to use atropine sulphate as a treatment for Parkinsonian syndrome. In 1956, the ESH staff under Dr. Hays' direction took part in a research program to test the tranquilizing drugs Thorazine and serpasil.

Dr. Adams became recognized as one of the nation's foremost hospital administrators. Even with limited funds and staff, he pioneered in new types of treatment and psychotherapy. For his service in the field of mental illness, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November 1954.

In 1947, the Hospital was renamed Eastern State. From that time forward, the state saw increased awareness of the needs of the mentally ill and increased funding which made possible more intensive, specialized treatment.

The dining room burned in 1951; a new central kitchen with men and women's dining rooms was built about five years later.

Dr. W.C. Reed, Vinita dentist who had served the hospital part-time for 20 years, closed his private practice and became full-time dentist at ESH.

In 1951, Sam Seabolt became director of the Recreation Department. He remained on the staff 33 years, serving as Director of Activity Services, comprising occupational, recreational, music, work therapies, and volunteer services. Until 1983 he also supervised the chaplain and adult education services.

A new medical service building was opened in 1952; in 1960 the building was named Hays Treatment Center in honor of Dr. P.L. Hays.

During the 1950's, the Rev. Moody Nicholson, who had been pastor of Vinita's Pilgrim Presbyterian Church, became full-time chaplain at the hospital. Later, an All Faiths Chapel was provided. Dr. A.D. Barrett is head chaplain.

In 1956 the first Department of Nursing was established, with Dorothy Hall, RN, a professional nurse administrator, as director.

When she took the post, ESH had six professional nurses and nearly 400 non-professional workers in psychiatric nursing, responsible for 72 ward units. By contrast, at the end of February 1984, the nursing department had 460 employees of whom 64 were Registered Nurses and 58 Licensed Practical Nurses. In 1984 the hospital was operating 18 ward units with a daily census of less than 400. Although more than 3,500 admissions were recorded in 1983, average length of stay was 39.6 days.

Volunteers have played a vital role in the hospital. Red Cross volunteers from Miami, Vinita, Claremore, Nowata devoted much time to work with patients. The Bartlesville Gray Ladies, who began weekly trips to ESH in 1955 and Gray Men, continue to serve, as have some Vinitans.

After the resignation of Dr. Hays, Dr. Wayne J. Boyd was superintendent until 1963. He was succeeded by Dr. Ruth V. Annadown, 1963-64. Dr. B.F. Peterson then came from Tennessee in July 1964 and headed the hospital until his death in 1972. Dr. A. Lawrence White served 1972-73; Dr. D.W. Shupe 1973-74; Dr. Joe Tyler 1974-78. Dr. Robert O'Toole became superintendent from October 1979 until February 1983, then Dr. Mason W. Robison assumed administrative duties.

In 1964, state mental hospitals were desegregated and patients at Taft were moved to the state hospitals in Vinita and Norman. In 1971 the first floor of Adams Hall was remodeled for administrative offices.

A dining room was located in the east wing of the Food Services Building. The changes in Food Service were especially evident. Dr. Peterson had believed that food was a factor in therapy. When men and women started having meals together, a noticeable improvement in personal appearance took place.

Outpatient services were begun in the 1960's to provide aftercare for discharged patients.

As the patient population declined, patients needing surgery have been transported elsewhere for care. The Medical Services do include a medical clinic, laboratory, X-ray, dental clinic, and pharmacy. During Dr. O'Toole's administration, ESH was designated as the treatment center for all inmates of the Department of Corrections requiring mental health services, and the hospital also handles all Oklahoma court-ordered observation-evaluation. Building 12 was completely renovated as a maximum security facility in 1983.

Heading the business operations of the hospital since 1969, Joe Gerrior in 1984 is deputy superintendent for administration. Dr. Leoncia Curva is deputy superintendent for clinical services. The medical staff consists of 19 physicians, six of whom are fully licensed psychiatrists.

Dr. Robison, current head of ESH, is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and has an extensive medico-legal and teaching background.

Dr. Robison's wife, Barbara, a clinical nurse specialist, is employed by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health as a nurse consultant.

The hospital has maintained accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals since 1974.


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created 10-21-1999

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