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1896
DR. ROSSER WILL RETIRE

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Superintendent of the Terrell
Insane Asylum Resigns.

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THE INSTITUTION WELL REGULATED.
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The Patients Contented and Hap-
py Under Their Unfortu-
nate Condition--A
Farm Suggested.

     Terrell, 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 whatever.
     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 1.
     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.

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     In conversation 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 superintendent.
     "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."

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     Few people 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, the other.

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     The Post 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 way out.
     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 for.

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     A visit 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.

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     Texas sadly 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 asylums.
     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."

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     The cottages 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.

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     The presence 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.

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     An infirmary 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.
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