DR. ROSSER WILL RETIRE
Superintendent of the Terrell
Insane Asylum Resigns.
The Patients Contented and
py Under Their Unfortu-
Texas, December 18.--- I have spent a night in an insane asylum.
What weird fancies does that call up. Poets have used that
sentence as a theme for their songs, story builders have worked
the subject into a tale of fiction far more strange than truth
could pictures of the experiences of such a night.
I confess that I carried to my
couch an uncanny feeling when I began to think of the songs I
have heard sung, the stories I have heard told and the pictures
I have seen portrayed. But, I decided that it was all the veriest
rot, and leaving the door unbolted, settled myself for a good
night's rest, and I had it.
The North Texas asylum for the
Insane is one of the State institutions of which many people
in Texas know little about, still it is not the least of public
buildings. The writer, as a representative of the Post, accepted
a very cordial invitation to visit the place and see what is
to be seen, hear what is to be heard, and have an idea of what
Texas is doing for those of her citizens who have been so unfortunate
as to lose their minds.
There is a general idea among those
who have never visited institutions for the insane that a night
spent in an asylum subjects one to hours of unrest and possibility
of being dragged from the bed in the dim watches of the night
by some half-crazed person laboring under hallucinations too
numerous to mention. This is a popular mistake. An asylum is
the safest place in the world as far as danger from people of
unsound mind is concerned. In an institution of the kind, every
person is suspected. No matter how docile the patient may be
for days, weeks or months, or no matter how pleasant or desperate
he or she may appear, the attendants are always on the lookout,
anticipating at any time, an outbreak of some kind, and therefore,
ready to prevent injury to others, or to the patient himself
during an attack. At night, the key is turned on everyone.
Locked within their rooms, the patients are safe from an attack
from each other and those within the institution in no danger
Dr. C. M. Rosser, superintendent
in charge of the North Texas Asylum for the Insane has signified
to the governor his desire to retire from the position, and is
now only awaiting the return of his excellency from the North
and it is expected that the resignation will have immediate effect--in
fact, Dr. Rosser expects to return to Dallas to live, about January
It has appeared that this conclusion
to resign was hurriedly reached by the young physician, who is
now at the head of the largest asylum for the insane in the South,
and his friends feared that some political troubles, some friction
with the administration caused it all, but such is not the case.
For six years previous to his appointment as superintendent
of the asylum, which appointment was made in 1895, Dr. Rosser
was associated in Dallas with the late Dr. J. S. Letcher. The
two had a large practice in that city, and when Governor Culberson
called the younger of the two physicians to be one of the official
family of Texas, Dr. Rosser left his patients in Dallas in the
care of his associate. Recently, Dr. Letcher has passed away.
Ill only a short time, his death came unexpectedly, and it was
this reason that actuated Dr. Rosser in his sudden determination
to retire from public life. The salary of the superintendent
of the asylum is only $2000 per year, and living expenses of
the official and his family. When it is considered that the
official must be a physician and must possess other capabilities,
which will be mentioned further on, it can be seen that a physician
having any kind of practice can not, for the sake of holding
public office, give up his private practice.
With Dr. Rosser, there was another
argument which actuated him. He is not a politician. He is,
in all things, strictly professional. Being a physician, the
ethics of his profession influencing a proud and sensitive nature,
the work of a political wire puller is particularly abhorrent
to him, and he has found that he gets deeper into political life
every day he holds a position by political appointment. He has
an influence, and of course, he is called upon to use it at times---and
there are incidents in the recent campaign which, if told, would
form interesting stories of the peculiar influence of one man
in behalf of his party.
Dr. Rosser desires to separate
the physician from the politician, and in returning to his profession,
he can do so. there is not the slightest friction between him
and the administration. In fact, the friendship he has for the
governor, and the governor for him, is very strong. The doctor
has served two years, he has gained an experience of work on
a specific line, and it has supplemented his education with knowledge
that will be of value to him in the future.
with the Post correspondent, Dr. Rosser said:
"The arrangement here is for
the superintendent's family to reside in the building and to
be maintained from the stores of the asylum. This throws my
wife and children into more or less, constant contact with the
insane and prevents our apartments being, in all respects, a
home. In order that such a position could be desirable as a
permanent one, it would be necessary to provide a separate residence
and to increase the salary to an amount nearly, if not equal,
to the earning of a successful practitioner in private practice.
The family could then maintain themselves independently to their
own ideas without reference to inquiry or the opinions of the
curious who can, at any time, comment on the living expense of
"The State has no such building
here, and perhaps, will not have soon. I would not recommend
it until all the unfortunate people of the State who ought to
be cared for can have provisions whereby they can be received.
Under the present conditions, I had thought only of remaining
the next two years, and would, I presume, have done so, but for
the business reason, which I have given you. Dr. Letcher's untimely
death makes it necessary that I endeavor to regain my practice
at once, for even a few months' delay may render it more difficult,
and then, too, I have some corporation practice that can not
well wait longer than January 1. I am only concerned that the
institution shall be under the best possible management. I am
indorsing no one, although my first assistant is an applicant.
I believe he will be appointed, but do not know. Of course,
I shall feel complimented if the governor so decides, but retiring
as I am, for my own personal advantage, I regard it as improper
to make a personal request in the matter."
have any idea of the magnitude of the institution located at
Terrell. The property embraces 600 acres of land, fifty acres
of which, are utilized as a park and for the building; forty-five
acres used as a garden, 300 acres are in cultivation and the
remainder is a meadow. The institution is located three-quarters
of a mile northeast of the depot of Terrell, and is within the
corporate limits. It is upon an elevation, and is approached
by a long drive, the gateway being about a quarter of a mile
from the entrance to the building. The building is constructed
of brick with stone trimmings. The main portion of the structure
is devoted to the private apartments of the superintendent and
his family, parlors, reception rooms, superintendent's office,
drug room, library, etc. The left wing is the female department,
the male being to the right. Each department is divided into
eight wards, a supervisor being in charge of each side. Male
nurses are in charge of the male department and female nurses,
correspondent made a tour of the institution, accompanied by
Dr. C. M. Rosser, who will soon retire as superintendent. The
visitor was impressed with the evident feeling of friendship
which the unfortunates showed for the superintendent. Each had
something to tell the doctor, each wanted to grasp his hand,
and he seemed to have the confidence of each one of them.
"Doctor, I want to got to
my husband," said one.
"Doctor, my wife and sons
have made a poor crop this year. Don't you think I had better
go home for a visit," said another.
Another was found who imagines
she is a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria and Baron Rothchild,
and that she became lost in the building and can not find her
The ward where the incurable females
are housed is one of great interest, and probably excites the
greatest sympathy from the visitor. Forty-three unfortunates
are found in this department. Women with misshapen heads, some
who are quite and morose at all times, others who insist upon
telling you a story of imaginative life, some who talk and others
who sing, some who cry and others who laugh--all stages of insanity--never
to be cured, and finally bereft of mind, separated from friends
and kinsmen, they lay the shattered frame of mortality upon the
couch and the soul passes to a realm beyond where "saints
immortal dwell," where all are of one mind, where the intelligence
is not darkened by an affliction like that which followed them
on this earth.
In every ward, some new feature
is seen. Dr. Rosser would stop here to sing with an accomplished
pianiste, would pass to another and talk to her of an imaginary
wrong, would hear the mutterings of another, and in each instance,
seems to be able to say something that was pleasant to the patient.
Indeed, he has the confidence of every one of the inmates.
They believe he is doing everything that is best for them and
they have confidence in his assistants. Having the confidence
of the unfortunate ones is half the battle, being able to give
pleasure to those afflicted, is a gift few men have, but Dr.
Rosser possesses it and, in this way, his administration has
been a success.
The Post correspondent passed through
the kitchen, saw the immense oven of the bakery which will hold
thirty-two large pans of bread, saw the store room with its stacks
of flour, cans of fruit and other things; was shown the two dynamos
which furnish the light, passed through the engine room, which
gives heat to the building, runs the laundry and pumps the water
for the hospital system. It was all interesting. It showed
a little world within the confines of the one institution. People
of all classes, engaged in all kinds of pursuits, sewing, soldering,
baking--in fact, one saw every branch of life presented as he
passed through the building from cellar to garret.
The attendants are very courteous.
Young ladies with neat caps and white aprons were seen in charge
of the female wards, and on the male side, male attendants in
cadet gray uniforms, care for the wants of the men. As pitiful
as it appears to see the unbalanced humans groping about in a
darkness of mind, it was a pleasure to see them so well cared
to the institution develops one thing. A man to properly manage
a place of the kind at Terrell must indeed be of many accomplishments.
1. First, he must be a graduated
physician competent to care for the sick in body and mind.
2. He must be possessed of humanity
and feeling to cause him to give the unfortunates that treatment
they deserve; to allow no cruelty and to desire to help those
who are unable to help themselves.
3. To be able to gain the confidence
of the patients so they will believe he is doing for them everything
that is for their good, and in this way, make them contented,
and when contented, their mind will improve.
4. To be a man of enough executive
ability to control the one hundred and twenty-five employes of
the institution and bring about a discipline that will guarantee
to the State the best service in the various departments.
5. To be able to know that the
head farmer is conducting the cultivation of 300 acres of land
in the proper manner.
6. To be able to understand how
the dairy should be run so that the 135 Holstein bovines are
of value to the institution.
7. To be of business ability sufficient
to expend the annual appropriation as it should be expended,
giving to the State, value received for each dollar expended.
In all this, Dr. Rosser seems to
have been successful. His recent report, published in full in
the Post some time ago, indicates that his administration has
been thoroughly successful. In fact, the figures speak for themselves,
and by his voluntary retirement, the State loses an officer who
has been faithful in every duty required.
needs enlarged facilities for caring for the insane. The three
asylums have a combined capacity of 1750 patients, and it is
estimated that there are as many insane people in county jails,
on poor farms and being cared for by relatives, as are in the
Dr. Rosser makes a suggestion.
In his recent report, he says:
"I have also, by other correspondence,
discouraged the application of probably a hundred more who have
written, inquiring as to space and giving a history of cases
in which they were interested. A great man of these, thus declined,
have been from families able to reimburse the State, and who
were denied admission because of the fact that indigent patients,
to which the law gives preference, have required our utmost capacity.
The few private cases that have been received, were of an acute
character, readily restored, and were persons, not themselves,
able financially, but whose relatives, not legally liable, preferred
to enter them in that way. I believe that a system of cottages,
as recommended in my last report, to be devoted to the care of
incurables, and a male infirmary, which is much needed, would
solve the problem for this section of the State for years to
come. A farm properly improved for the colonization of epileptic
persons, the majority of whom are incapable of self-maintenance,
is a necessity which should not be longer neglected by the State."
for incurables would involve very little additional expense for
maintenance, the present electric and waterworks system, the
same kitchen, the same matron and supervisors could be extended
to include the cottages, and there would be a ward which could
then be devoted to the treatment of those who can be brought
to their right mind.
of epileptics at the asylum is demoralizing to the patients,
and, hence, Dr. Rosser's suggestion for a colonization of them
upon a farm. The epileptics are very clannish and affectionate
to each other; they can support themselves and are all right
except just before and after and during a fit. The superintendent
believes if they can be put out on a State farm and cared for,
that it would improve the system. An epileptic fit, in the presence
of a patient not similarly affected, has a bad influence. Dr.
Rosser has declined to receive that class of patients, although
there are several at the institution.
is also needed for those males who are sick. At present, there
is an infirmary for the females, but none for the males, and
it is necessary to use about thirty beds in the male department
for a hospital, which deprives the institution of that much capacity
for patients. With this addition, the sick could be better cared
for. J. H. Q. in Houston Post.
- December 27, 1896,
Dallas Morning News, p. 16, col. 1-3.
- o o o -