|Chapter 34: To Err is Human
Stories of Medicine in Athens County, Ohio
a multi-authored anthology compiled and edited by
Gary E. Cordingley, M.D., Ph.D.
The female patient who lately succeeded in making her escape from her ward in the Hospital for
the Insane here and who made an abortive attempt to drown herself in the artificial lake on the
premises, and who only failed for the reason of an insufficiency of water to accomplish her
purpose, has since apparently recovered from her suicidal paroxysm and now expresses her
desire to live. (The Athens Messenger, Feb. 20, 1879, p. 5.)
* * *
To the Honorable House of Representatives
of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio:
We humbly pray your honorable body to support the resolution of Representative Charles
Townsend of this county asking that a committee of your members be appointed to investigate
the management of the Athens Asylum for the Insane.
We consider that the so-called investigation by the trustees, on the 17th day of April 1879 was
incomplete, and that its decision was unjust and wrong.
In support of our plea for an investigation, we emphatically allege that Dr. P[leasant] H[enry]
Clarke(1) is incompetent and totally unfit to fill the responsible position of superintendent of such
institution. As specifications we allege that he is heedless, careless, and inattentive to the true
and proper interests of the unfortunates therein confined; that he wholly fails to enforce discipline
among either patients or employees; that he habitually absents himself from his office and proper
place of business, and shuts himself up for hours at a time where he cannot be found, and fails to
visit the wards as often as a superintendent should; that during the absence from the building, on
leave, of the assistant physician on the female side of the house while those wards were under
his (Clarke’s) charge, he neglected for three days, although frequently requested to do so by the
attendant, to visit and properly administer to the wants of a sick patient and that within a day or
two thereafter she died; that he is habitually addicted to the immoderate use of opium and
intoxicating drinks, that he has frequently been found in his private office in a drunken stupor or
sleep, with a bottle of intoxicating drink on a table by his side; that he has been found beastly
drunk in his private office at the unseasonable hour of two o’clock at night; that he has been
known to take beer bottles from the storage drug room late at night to his bed chamber, and that
they have been carried out of there by the chamber maid in the morning; that he continually kept
in his private office a bottle of whisky; that he has frequently gone into the wards in a stupid and
staggering condition, his breath smelling of whisky; that he has been unable to prescribe for
patients when he has been sent off to see them, and often went away without doing so, that, in
fact, his stupid and intemperate habits are generally understood and talked about among the
attendants and employees in the building and that the effect is demoralizing and degrading.
We further allege that the Board of Trustees of the Athens Asylum for the Insane has been for
months cognizant of the character and habits of Dr. P.H. Clarke, its superintendent, and that until
very recently they persistently refused and failed to give it any attention; that certain ones of
them have been accustomed to drink with the superintendent when they visited the building, and
have been seen at different times and late at night in a drunken condition with him, and that their
rooms in the morning have exhibited striking evidences of the previous night’s debauch.
In substantiation of what we here declare, we beg leave to refer to the evidence of parties as
familiar with these facts as we are ourselves which is hereto attached and made a part of this
J[oseph] M. HANLEY, M.D.(2)
J[osiah] W[ilson] LASH, M.D.(3)
Late Assistant Physicians of the Athens Asylum for Insane
Athens, O., April 21st, 1879
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of April, A.D., 1879,
George W. Baker, Clerk, Common Pleas Court, Athens Co., O.
(The Athens Messenger, Apr. 24, 1879, p. 5.)
* * *
On Friday last, Sheriff [James N.] Acker of Hocking County arrested Dr. F[ranklin] Baker,(4) a
practicing physician of Nelsonville, on the charge of stealing a horse from Levi [Willison], near
Logan. The doctor was committed to jail at the latter place to await a preliminary hearing, which
was appointed for last Monday. (The Athens Messenger, Sept. 9, 1880, p. 5.)
Arrested for Horse Stealing
Some time last spring a mare belonging to Levi Willison strayed away. The animal formerly
belonged to Mrs. Pelton, near Crafts. One Dr. Franklin Baker, who is a kind of itinerant,
discovering the mare at Pelton’s, and knowing her to be an estray [stray], took possession and
rode up to Logan, stopping at the Logan House, where he staid [sic] for two weeks. When about
to leave, Mr. Miller, the proprietor, refused to let the mare go until the board bill was paid. Baker
told Miller to sell the mare and after taking out the board bill to send the balance to him at
Miller sold the mare to John Galligher for $20, and Galligher put the mare to work, where she was
seen and identified as the estray of Willison.
The sheriff, being notified of the facts, went to Nelsonville and arrested Baker and brought him to
Logan where he had a preliminary examination before Esq. Davey on Monday last. Failing to give
bond of $300 for his appearance at court, he was sent to jail. (Hocking Sentinel, Sept. 9, 1880, p.
* * *
Shooting of Dr. Kelley
Monday’s Enquirer gives an account of the tragic shooting of Dr. Edward Kelley(5) at Norfolk,
Nebraska. Dr. Kelley was formerly a physician at the asylum here and the account of the unhappy
affair which has not as yet been ascertained to be fatal is as follows:
After leaving the asylum here, Dr. Kelley was elected superintendent of the Norfolk Insane Asylum
(Neb). About one month ago Drs. Kelley, Hasson and Bear of that institution were called upon to
remove a tumor from Miss Caroline Soulier, a domestic in the asylum. It was not until the knife
had done its fatal work that it was discovered that the girl was not troubled with a tumor, but was
about to become [a] mother and all their efforts to save her were unavailing. It was endeavored to
keep the matter secret, but the truth finally leaked out and the three doctors were arrested and
bound over to court.
Recently while he and his wife were driving in a carriage, they were pursued and overtaken by
two men named Soulier and Bone, relatives of the girl whose death had come about so strangely.
When alongside the vehicle they began firing, putting three shots into the body of Dr. Kelley and
leaving his plucky wife to get him back to the hospital as well as she might. It could not at once be
ascertained whether his injuries are fatal or not.
Dr. Kelley formerly lived at Belpre, graduated at Marietta College and at the Ohio Medical
College. He married Mamie Miller, a niece of Dr. [Henly Chapman] Rutter,(6) at one time
superintendent of the asylum here. (The Athens Herald, Feb. 21, 1889, p. 4.)
* * *
Our genial friend Dr. A[ndrew] J[ackson] Shrader(7) of Nelsonville has had the exceptional
experience of reading his own obituary, recently printed in the Hocking Sentinel and other
papers. But perhaps the most eulogistic mention of the kind he missed seeing, which was written
and put in type for The Messenger but which barely missed publication by our timely and
gratifying discovery before going to press last week that the doctor was not only alive but would
probably be kicking could he find the person who started the rumor of his death. (The Athens
Messenger, Feb. 13, 1890, p. 5.)
* * *
An Alleged Defaulter
Dr. R[obert] W[illiam] Hanson(8) of Nelsonville, a popular young physician and secretary of the
Building and Loan Association of that place, disappeared last Thursday and all efforts to locate
him so far have proved unavailing. A defalcation in his accounts is suspected and a dispatch from
Nelsonville on Tuesday, to the daily papers, says that great excitement prevails among those who
had stock or deposits with the association. The state inspector is expected at Nelsonville daily to
make a searching investigation. No accurate statement can be made, but the defalcation is
estimated at from $13,000 to $20,000. The latest rumors are that there is a woman in the case
and that he has deserted his wife. Mrs. Hanson is deserving of great credit since she voluntarily
deeded all the property, which was in her name, to the association. Hanson’s bond was $2000.
The bondsmen are said to be Charles Sisson, William Cozad, George Burris, John Hanson and
Peter Butt. (The Athens Messenger, Jan. 19, 1893, p. 5.)
Nothing at the time of writing this had been heard of or from Dr. Hanson, the absconding
secretary of the Nelsonville building and loan association of whose alleged defalcation and flight
we last week made mention. The extent of the shortage in the funds belonging to the association
is not yet definitely known, the state inspector not having, at our latest advices, completed the
examination of his books. (The Athens Messenger, Jan. 26, 1893, p. 5.)
Doctor Hanson’s Defalcation
The whereabouts of Doctor Hanson, the absconding secretary of the Nelsonville Home and
Savings Association has at our latest advices continued a mystery. The deputy state inspector of
building and loan associations, who has been investigating Dr. Hanson’s official books, made a
report some days since showing a shortage of $8,666.47 therein. The inspector finds that many
considerable sums were received by Dr. Hanson from various persons in his capacity as
secretary of the association that were not credited in his official books. This was particularly true
of persons who had got loans from the association and paid them off. For instance, in one case a
loan of $1,500 had all been paid back and only $400 of the sum so entered on the books. Again
it is shown that certain members of the association had been allowed to draw out larger amounts
than they had on deposit. Besides the association had, by reason of the false showing of the
secretary, been declaring larger dividends than were actually earned, some of them amounting to
over 10 percent.
The state inspector found as the result of his investigation that the financial standing of the
association was all right and its business will be continued. Mr. D.C. Cable, one of the best known
and trustworthy citizens of Nelsonville, has been elected as secretary of the association to
succeed Dr. Hanson. It is to be added that none of the stockholders of the association will lose
anything by the secretary’s defalcation, the latter having been partly offset by property
transferred to the association by his wife and the balance being paid by his bondsmen. (The
Athens Messenger, Feb. 2, 1893, p. 5.)
Dr. Hanson, the defaulting ex-secretary of the Home and Savings Association of Nelsonville, has
been heard from, he having located in San [Miguel] County, New Mexico. Having made good his
shortage, the association will not arrest and prosecute him. (The Athens Messenger, Mar. 16,
1893, p. 5.)
* * *
MORRISON INJURED AT THE HOSPITAL
Attendant Smith arrested, charged with inflicting the injuries
A ripple was caused in this city Monday by the arrest of John Smith, an attendant at the state
hospital, who was charged with assaulting Alexander Morrison, a harmless inmate of the
institution from Coolville.
The assault, according to the affidavit filed, was made on October 30th, but the manner in which
the assault was made was not designated. At any rate, Morrison’s jaw was fractured in two
places, his face was cut and [he] was bruised about the body.
Smith was taken before Squire Rose Monday, and the preliminary hearing was set for last
evening at seven o’clock. According to Smith’s statement, Morrison received his injuries by
accident. He says that Morrison was in his room and an attempt was made to open the door. He
placed himself against the door and Smith and another attendant tried to force it open. The door
was forced open with a rush and [in] striking Morrison inflicted the injuries. The affair will be
thoroughly investigated. Morrison comes of a highly respected family and is sixty-six years of age.
Smith is from Hillsboro.
Smith was given a hearing last night before Esquire Rose, and waiving examination was bound
over to appear before the grand jury this term. His bond was fixed at $500 for his appearance.
Smith has been discharged from the institution.
The condition of Morrison last night was not in any way improved. His advanced age and the fact
that he tries to talk almost continually makes the repair of his fractured jaw nearly impossible. In
his delirious condition, he declares his jaw is not broken. (The Athens Messenger and Herald,
Nov. 11, 1897, p. 1.)
1. According to The Athens Messenger (“Doings of the new hospital board,” May 2, 1878, p. 5),
Pleasant Henry Clarke, M.D. (1846–1881), was a surprise Democratic appointee as
superintendent of the Athens State Hospital who had never previously seen the inside of an
insane asylum and who had applied for a position at that facility as a mere assistant physician.
2. Joseph M. Hanley, M.D. (1855–ca. 1935), was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio. He
graduated from Columbus Medical College in 1877. His appointment as an assistant physician at
Athens State Hospital was his first job after graduation. After leaving the hospital two years later,
he returned to Chillicothe, where he completed his medical career.
3. Josiah Wilson Lash, M.D. (1852–1902), was born and raised in Athens County, earning B.A.
and M.A. degrees from Ohio University. After graduating from the Columbus Medical College in
1878, he worked for one year as an assistant physician at Athens State Hospital. Subsequently,
he relocated to Chillicothe, Ohio, where he practiced for the rest of his medical career. He was
buried in Alexander Township’s Bassett Cemetery.
4. Franklin Baker, M.D. (?–1911), died in Brookline, Massachusetts.
5. Edward (or Edwin) A. Kelley, M.D. (ca. 1856–?), was a physician at the Athens State Hospital
during the federal census enumeration of June 1880.
6. Henly Chapman Rutter, M.D. (1849–1910), is profiled in chapter 1.
7. Andrew Jackson Shrader, M.D. (1821–1913), was born and raised in Washington County. After
studying with local physicians, he took one course of lectures at Cleveland Medical College in
1850–51, subsequently practicing both medicine and law in Lancaster, Ohio, and later in Logan,
Ohio. In 1861 he moved to Nelsonville, where he continued to practice both professions. He was
also elected mayor of Nelsonville, serving from 1874 to 1876.
8. Robert William Hanson (or Hansen), M.D. (1864?–1907), graduated from Columbus Medical
College in 1886. He died with a fractured skull in Haigler, Nebraska, on January 29, 1907, having
held medical licenses in Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota.