A Troubling Topic

I find the story I will share with you today very difficult to write.  In fact, I had previously discovered some of the facts I will share in this post, but chose to not write the story at the time.  Today, I decided that despite being a topic that is troubling, the situations which are explored are part of reality.  I think it is time to address a topic that has shown up in several Perry County families, including my own.  That topic is mental illness.

The story today begins with the birthday of August Engert.  He was born on February 23, 1871.  To begin with, his birth is pretty incredible.  His father, August Friedrich Engert (who was called Frederick), was 64 years old in 1871, and his wife, Anna (Jungclaus) Engert, was 41 years old.  I wrote a story about this father who sired 23 children during his lifetime…..10 with his first wife and 13 with his second wife (Anna).  The August Engert born in 1871 was the 23rd child.  That previous post was titled, Another Fertile Father.  Below is August’s baptism record from Immanuel Lutheran Church.

August Immanuel Engert baptism record - Immanuel Altenburg MO
August Engert baptism record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

The first census in which we find August was the one taken in 1880.  August’s father died before this census.

August Engert 1880 census Brazeau Township MO
1880 census – Brazeau Township, MO

On January 11, 1894, August Engert married Julianna Liberta Palisch.  She was the daughter of Moritz and Pauline (Koenig) Palisch.  A previous post was written about this couple also.  It was Palisch #10.  Julianna’s grandfather, J.G. Palisch and August’s father, Frederick Engert, were part of the original immigration in 1839.  Julianna Liberta was born on the last day of 1872….December 31st.  Below is her baptism record, also from Immanuel, Altenburg.

Julianna Liberta Palisch baptism record - Immanuel, Altenburg, MO
Julianna Liberta Palisch baptism record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

After looking at the differences in handwriting between August’s and Julianna’s baptism records, it made me wonder if there was a change in pastors that took place at that time.  My suspicions were confirmed.

We also find Julianna, called Liberty, in the 1880 census for Brazeau Township.  You can see that her grandfather, J.G. Palisch was still the head of that household.

Moritz Palisch 1880 census Altenburg
1880 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Below is the marriage license for August and Julianna.  Julianna was called Bertha on this form.  That probably comes from the name Liberta.

Engert Palisch marriage license
Engert/Palisch marriage license

The two images below show the marriage record from Immanuel.

Engert Palisch marriage record - Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

Engert Palisch marriage record 2 - Immanuel, Altenburg, MO
Engert/Palisch marriage record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

We also have this wedding photo for August and Julianna.  It’s another example of a black and while wedding dress.

Engert Palisch wedding
Engert/Palisch wedding

I have to make a correction here.  In the previous post about Moritz and Pauline Palisch, I identified this photo as being their wedding photo.  I was wrong.  I am pretty well convinced that this is the photo of August and Julianna.

There were three children born into this marriage, the last one being born in 1898.  We have this delightful photo that was taken of these three children.

August Engert children
August Engert children

Now comes the troubling part of this story.  In the 1900 census, we do not find August living in Perry County with the rest of his family.

Liberta Palisch 1900 census Brazeau Township MO
1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

I did manage to find August in that year’s census.  We find him living in Fulton, Missouri, which is near Jefferson City.  We also find him in what is called the State Lunatic Asylum No. 1.  August is described as a patient.

August Engert 1900 census Fulton MO heading

August Engert 1900 census Fulton MO
1900 census – Fulton, MO

The Fulton State Hospital, which opened in 1851, was the first public asylum west of the Mississippi River.

Fulton State Hospital
Fulton State Hospital

I can only begin to imagine the distress that must have been experienced by the Engert and Palisch families as the decision had to be made to move August into such an institution.

In an article about the history of mental hospitals in Missouri, the following passage can be found:

“In her subsequent history, Missouri established three additional institutions for the mentally ill. St. Joseph State Hospital was established by an act of the Missouri General Assembly in 1872. The first patient was admitted in 1876. Fire destroyed the original institution on January 25, 1879. It was rebuilt and reopened on April 1, 1880. Nevada State Hospital was created by an act of the 33rd Missouri General Assembly on March 19, 1885. The original building was completed and the first patient admitted October 17, 1887. Farmington State Hospital was established by the Missouri General Assembly in 1889 and opened to receive patients, January 1, 1903. It was one of the first cottage plan institutions to be built in the United States. Each institution was managed by an independent board. It was during the year 1903 that the designation “State hospital” was adopted to replace the earlier label, “asylum for the insane.”

Apparently, sometime after State Hospital #4 was opened in Farmington, Missouri in 1903, August was moved to that location.  He may, in fact, have been one the first residents in that new hospital.  We find him there in the 1910 census.

August Engert 1910 census St. Francois Township MO
1910 census – Farmington, MO

August is the very last name from the State Hospital in that census.  It may have been a decision made by census takers, but over the years, you see residents of these institutions called either “patients’ or “inmates”.  The 1910 census calls them inmates.

Another event happened in the time period between the 1900 and 1910 censuses.  Back in Altenburg, Julianna died at the early age of 33 in January of 1906.  Her death record in the Immanuel books say she died of typhus.  That left the three children as orphans.  We find these three in the 1910 census.  Alfred, the oldest, was living in the Arthur Palisch household, while Edward and Flora were living with their grandparents, Moritz and Pauline Palisch.

Engert children 1910 census Brazeau Township MO
1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The census records for 1920, 1930, and 1940 all show August still located in Farmington, Missouri at the State Hospital.

August Engert 1920 census Farmington MO
1920 census – Farmington, MO
August Engert 1930 census Farmington MO
1930 census – Farmington, MO
August Engert 1940 census Farmington MO
1940 census – Farmington, MO

The ages given for August show discrepancies, especially between 1920 and 1930, which show him the same age in 1920 as in 1930.  Below is an aerial photo of the State Hospital #4 in Farmington.

State_Hospital_
State Hospital #4 – Farmington, MO

August died on July 2, 1945 in Farmington at the age of 74.  Here is his death certificate.

August Engert death certificate
August Engert death certificate

August’s birthday is incorrect here.  This form also states that he was at that hospital for a little over 42 years.  That would give credence to the fact that August was moved there in 1903 when that hospital opened.  August’s body was returned to Altenburg where he was buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery.  Julianna is said to be buried there also, but Findagrave.com does not have a photo of her gravestone.  There is one for August.

August Engert gravestone - Immanuel Altenburg MO
August Engert gravestone – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

The fact that residents in state hospitals were sometimes called patients and sometimes inmates is somewhat indicative of the differing views that people have had about people with mental illness.  The term “inmate” conveys the idea that such people were in a sort of prison, whereas the term “patient” gives the idea of persons with an illness.  Mental health is not a new issue, nor has it always been treated in the same way.  Mental health has been an issue in America for a long time, and continues to be.

I know for a fact that mental health has been considered a taboo subject in many people’s families.  Since I have been living in Altenburg, I have discovered such a situation in my family.  My grandfather’s brother, Ernest Schmidt, can be found in the same 1910 census from Farmington in which you find August Engert.

Ernest Schmidt 1910 census Farmington MO
1910 census – Farmington, MO

I have never heard any stories about this relative of mine being in a mental institution.  I guess it was just one of those stories that was not shared in my family.  I know that Ernest, too, was brought back to Altenburg to be buried.  There is a death record in the Trinity church books.  However, you will not find a gravestone for him in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery.  Out of curiosity, I took a trip to the cemetery this morning.  Ernest died in December of 1918.  Below is a photo I took at the cemetery.

Ernest Schmidt grave location - Trinity Altenburg MO
Ernest Schmidt grave location – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

The grave on the left that says “Mutter” on the top is the last gravestone for the year 1918, and the one to the right of it is the first gravestone for 1919.  The space between is empty.  I have every reason to believe that is where Ernest Schmidt was buried.  Apparently, for some reason….possibly embarrassment….no gravestone was placed there.

Mental illness is a reality.  It is indeed an illness.  Maybe we should talk about it without embarrassment.


3 thoughts on “A Troubling Topic

  1. Well, I’m so sorry. I know that August lived a long time ago, but his pain was real for him, and his family then. It’s also real fo you l now. Thinking about that has to hurt. Mental illness was mysterious and frightening back then, and to some extent, it still is.
    Even today, mental illness is difficult to diagnose, and there is still some stigma associated with it. Many people just don’t understand that a mental illness is a physical illness with mental symptoms. Alzheimer’s wasn’t discovered until 1906 and some people still don’t understand that it’s a neuro degenerative disease. They think it’s just memory loss. August could have had early onset Alzheimer’s or another neuro degenerative disorder, or depression or bipolar disorder. None of these conditions were known then. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  2. It would be interesting to know what their symptoms were that labeled them insane, when it could possibly have been Dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other type of disease, like bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia. People need to be aware, and there needs to be discussion to see if things are genetically passed from each generation.

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