Vol. IV. SEPTEMBER, 1859. No. 3.





Page 369


      IF ANY person would fully realize the untold blessedness of a sound mind, let him pay at least one visit to the Asylum for the Insane. The vessel that left our port but yesterday with every timber sound, and every rope and sail in order, her captain skillful and her crew able seamen, spreads her canvas to the breeze and rides in majesty past the rocky shores of the Golden Gate, and out to sea, may, even when the pilot is at the helm, and after braving in safety many a storm, strike some unknown and unexpected reef and become a total wreck. How very often is it thus with the human mind? From sources and causes the least suspected, they strike and founder in the deep, dark sea of chaotic delirium; or, as sometimes is the case, are stranded upon the sandy shore of circumstances, for a season, until the next spring-tide of Reason lifts them up, and they are borne upon it by the favoring breezes of kind attention, back again to the joy-welcomed haven of Consciousness, and are themselves again once more. Ah! Blessed return.

      A few days ago we visited the Asylum which the State has provided for the unfortunately afflicted, and, if the reader pleases, we will relate to him that which we saw and heard.

      The building is situated in the suburbs of the city of Stockton, about three-quarters of a mile northeast of the steamboat landing, and which, as you approach, presents an imposing and very inviting exterior. The beautiful flowers and luxuriant foliage of its well laid out and cleanly kept grounds--the work of the patients themselves--tend very much, in our estimation, to relieve it of that repulsiveness which many very naturally feel when visiting such an institution for the first time.

      We had scarcely rang the bell, and been shown into a sitting-room, on the left of the entrance, when the resident physician, Dr. Aylett, very kindly offered to escort us through its long corridors and numerous apartments, to see for ourselves the various phases of the minds diseased.

      But as the Doctor has been called away for a few moments, while he is absent we will relate to the reader that Capt. C.M. Weber, of Stockton, donated one hundred acres of land to the State for this purpose, and on the 17th of May, 1854, an Act was passed, and appropriations made, by the State Legislature, establishing the Asylum for the Insane. About twenty acres, out of the one hundred, are in a high state of cultivation, and from which an ample supply of vegetables are obtained; and as there are about one thousand five hundred young and thrifty fruit trees growing, of different kinds and varieties, fruit will be obtained next year in abundance.

      The buildings themselves are commodious and conveniently arranged. The main structure is seventy feet square and three stories high, to which two wings have been added, of the same hight (sic), each of which is one hundred feet in length, making, in the aggregate, three hundred and ninety feet front. There are two large yards, male and female, inclosed by a wall twelve feet high at the lowest grade line.

      The management of this Asylum is entrusted to a Board of five Trustees, appointed by the Legislature, who discharge their duties without compensation, and whose term of office expires in 1861. Dr. William D. Aylett is the Resident Physician, under whose general superintendance the institution is managed, and whose salary is $5,000 per annum. Dr. Thomas Kendall is the Visiting Physician, who attends daily and prescribes for each patient, and whose salary is $3,000 per annum. But here comes the Doctor, so let us depart with him and inspect the building and it inmates.

      As we began to tread the bright, clean floors of the first story, we were somewhat at a loss to divine whether a large portion of those men we saw walking hither and thither, or engaged in some useful employment, were patients or assistants and keepers; but our guide soon relieved us of any doubt in the premises, by informing us that they were patients, and that this division of the building was devoted to those whose cases were of a milder type. Some were reading, others were writing, in one or another of the rooms opening on the main corridor; and the rest were walking up and down, as if meditating. From here we passed into the yard, where some were sitting beneath the shade of a tree, amusing themselves with a game well known among children as "Fox and Geese"; others were looking on, or seeking the shade of the doorways and walls. Here also was a wooden tower, and a water tank capable of holding 7,000 gallons, into which water is pumped up by steam power, and from thence distributed in pipes to every part of the building. Here also is the dining-room, and hot and cold baths for the men, each one of whom is required to bathe once a week, some twice a week, and others every day, just as their case requires.

      From the yard we re-entered the building, and examined the store-rooms, kitchen-range, and other apartments on the ground floor, and found them very convniently arranged; after which, we ascended to the second story, where the corridors were divided into several compartments by a strong lattice-work, the doors of which were kept locked. As might be expected, here the countenances of the patients indicated a more malignant form of the disease; and although a few were employed in some useful or amusing occupation, a large proportion were wandering up and down, talking to themselves; others, as though glad to see strange faces, sought us for their auditors, while they descanted upon the pastimes they were about to enjoy; the vessels they owned, and hourly expected from some prosperous voyage, with very valuable cargoes; the noises they heard; the apparitions they saw, &c; but as it would be impossible to give scarcely a brief epitome of these things in this article, we shall refer to them in some future number.

      What was our astonishment here to hear our name several times pronounced by different persons, with the inquiry-"Don't you know me, Mr. --?" and from some of those, too, whom we had known under very prosperous circumstances, several long, long years ago. How Change, Disappointment and Misfortune sometimes do their work! We noticed, too, that although their hands were extended to us in warmth and kindness, and their faces were lighted up with a gleam of brightness, it was but momentary.

      From this point, we passed to the female department, and which was as cleanly kept as that of the males. Here, one woman, who had passed the prime of life, was engaged in working a sampler, on which a rude attempt was made to give it the resemblance of a planet, under which she persisted she had been born; some nodded and smiled; others looked solemn and melancholy; others, again, were sewing, and knitting, and reading.

      It is a depressing sight, indeed, to witness either man or woman when reason is dethroned; but it is a wise provision of the State that such should be well cared for, and by kind and suitable treatment, both physical and mental, restored to their former sanity.

      The most prolific causes of insanity, we regret to learn, are masturbation and intemperance, especially the former; next to these, want of chastity and incontinence in another very productive source of this malady; to these add physical debility, loss of property, disappointment in love, puerperal fever, spiritualism, religious excitement, epilepsy, fright, and various other evils, both mental and physical.

      The number of patients now under treatment in this institution, are two hundred and eighty males, and sixty-six females, making in the aggregate three hundred and forty-six.




      This flourishing commercial city is situated in the valley of the San Joaquin, at the head of a deep navigable slough or arm of the San Joaquin river, about three miles from its junction with that stream. The luxuriant foliage at the trees and shrubs impress the stranger with the great fertility of the soil; and the unusually large number of windmills of their manner of irrigation. So marked a feature as the latter has secured to the locality the cognomen of "the City of Windmills".

      The land upon which the city stands is part of a grant made by Gov. Micheltorena to Capt. C. M. Weber and Mr. Gulnac, in 1844, and who most probably were the first white settlers in the valley of the San Joaquin; although some Canadian Frenchmen in the employ of the Hudson Bay Co. spent several hunting seasons here, commencing as early as 1834.




      In 1813 an exploring expedition under Lieut. Gabriel Morago visited this valley, and gave it its present name-the former one being "Valle de los Tulares", or Valley of Rushes. At that time it was occupied by a large and formidable tribe of Indians, called the Yachicumnes, which in after times was for the most part captured and sent to the Missions Dolores and San Jose, or decimated by the small pox, and now is nearly extinct. Under the maddening influence of their losses by death from that fatal disease, they rose upon the whites, burned their buildings and killed their stock, and forced them to take shelter at the Missions.

      In 1846, Mr. Weber, reinforced by a number of emigrants, renewed his efforts to form a settlement; but the war breaking out, compelled him to seek refuge in the larger settlements, until the Bear flag was hoisted, when Capt. Weber, from his knowledge of the country, and the devotedness of those who had placed themselves under his command, was able to render invaluable aid to the American cause.

      When the war was concluded, in 1848, another and successful attempt was made to establish a prosperous settlement here, but upon the discovery of gold it was again nearly deserted.

      Several cargoes of goods having arrived from San Francisco, for land transportation to the southern mines, were suggestive of the importance of this spot for the foundation of a city, when cloth tents and houses sprung up as if by magic. On the 23rd of December, 1849, a fire broke out for the first time, and the "linen city", as it was then called, was swept away, causing a loss of about $200,000. Almost before the ruins had ceased smouldering, a new and cleaner "linen city", with a few wooden buildings, was erected in its place. In the following spring a large portion of the cloth houses gave place to wooden structures; and, being now in steam communication with San Francisco, the new city began to grow substantially in importance.

      On the 30th of March, 1850, the first weekly Stockton newspaper was published by Radcliffe and White, conducted by Mr. John White.

      On the same day the first theatrical performance was given, in the Assembly Room of the Stockton House, by Messrs. Bingham and Fury.

      On the 13th of May following, the first election was held--the population then numbering about 2,400.

      June 26th, a Fire Department was organized, and J. E. Nuttman elected Chief Engineer.

      On the 25th of the following month, an order was received from the County Court, incorporating the City of Stockton, and authorizing the election of officers. On the 1st of August, 1850, an election for municipal officers was held, when seven hundred votes were polled, with the following result: Mayor, Sanuel Purdy; Recorder, C. M. Teak; City Attorney, Henry A. Crabb; Treasurer, Geo. D. Brush; Assessor, C. Edmonson; Marshal, T. S. Lubbock.

      On the 6th of May, 1851, a fire broke out that nearly destroyed the whole city, at a loss of $1,500,000. After this conflagration a large number of brick buildings were erected.

      In 1852, steps were taken to build a City Hall; and, about the same time, the south wing of what is now the State Asylum for the Insane, was erected as a General Hospital; but which was abolished in 1853, and the Insane Asylum formed into a distinct institution by an act of the Legislature. In 1854 the central building was added, and in 1855 the kitchen, bakery, dining-rooms and bathrooms were also added.

      On the 1st of February, 1856, another fire destroyed property to the amount of about $60,000; and on the 30th of July following, by the same cause, about $40,000 worth of property was swept away.

      Of churches there is an Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, Catholic, Methodist Episcopal South, First and Second Baptist, Jewish Synagogue, German Methodist, and African Methodist.

      There are two daily newspapers published here, the "San Joaquin Republican", Conley & Patrick, proprietors; and the "Stockton Daily Argus", published by Wm. Biven. Each of these issue a weekly edition.

      Of Public Schools, there are four--two Grammar and two Primary--in which there are about two hundred scholars in daily attendance, and four teachers, one to each school. There are also four private Seminaries--Dr. Collins', Dr. Hunt's, Miss Bond's, and Mrs. Gates'.

      Stockton can boast of having the deepest artesian well in the State, which is 1002 feet in depth, and which throws out 250 gallons of water per minute, 15,000 per hour, and 360,000 gallons every twenty-four hours, to the height of eleven feet above the plain, and nine feet about the city grade. In sinking this well, ninety-six different stratas of loam, clay, mica, green sandstone, pebbles, &c., were passed through. 340 feet from the surface, a redwood stump was found, imbedded in the sand from whence a stream of water issued to the top. The temperature of the water is 77 degrees Fahrenheit-the atmosphere there being only 60 degrees. The cost of this well was $10,000.

      Several stages leave daily for different sections in the mines.

      One of the principal features connected with the commerce of this city, is the number of large freight wagons, laden for the mines; these have, not inappropriately, been denominated "Prairie Schooners", and "Steamboats of the Plains". Some of these have carried as high as 32,000 pounds of freight.





Transcribed by Sharon Marie Robinson.

Source: Hutchings, James Mason, Hutchings’ California Magazine, Pgs 369-371 & 377-380. Edited by R. R. Olmsted & reproduced by Howell-North 1962.

© 2010 Sharon Marie Robinson.