Pueblo County, Colorado
Colorado Insane Asylum

1880 - 1889

Pueblo Colorado Weekly Chieftain 1-8-1880
Insane Asylum - Through the efforts of the southern representatives the state insane asylum was located at Pueblo last winter. The commissioners purchased the Chilcott property west of the city, and after making needed additions and alterations, the patients from various places of confinement were removed to their new home, which is in charge of Dr. P. R. Thombs, one of the very best men that could have been appointed to take charge of it. He is assisted by Dr. J. J. Chinn, steward, and three male and one female nurse. There are thirty-four patients in the asylum. We publish an excellent cut of the building in this issue.

Golden Colorado Transcript 5-10-1882
While at Pueblo the other day we were shown an elegant new building completed so far as the outside is concerned, designed for the State Insane Asylum, which has cost, perhaps $20,000. $10,000 more ought to finish the building and furnish it for occupancy. It is rumored that the delay in completing the building is for the reason that the appropriation has run out. If our memory serves the sum of $75,000 was appropriated by the last legislature for the purpose of supplying the great want of a suitable asylum for the insane of the state, and after a lapse of nearly two years nearly every jail in the state has one or more of these unfortunates for whom room cannot be found at the state asylum, besides quite a number whom friends have been compelled to send to eastern institutions at private expense. Sheriff Johnson informs us that he has two violently insane people who have for the last six months been confined in the Jefferson county jail, and that during that whole time he has been unable to gain admittance for them to the asylum. Every one knows, of course, that they cannot be properly cared for here, to say nothing of the injustice and annoyance to the sheriff and to the prisoners incarcerated there. Many of these people are only confined there to await trial because unable to furnish the required bond. Well informed people claim that the appropriation was ample for putting the building at Pueblo in proper shape for the reception of inmates, and that it should have been completed long since. An explanation is earnestly called for.

Aspen Weekly Times 12-9-1882
The Insane Asylum – The fourth legislature should make an appropriation amply sufficient to complete and furnish the new asylum for the insane. It is a great waste of money to permit the building to stand in its present condition any longer, and besides the increase of accommodations for the unfortunates confined there is sadly needed. – So. Pueblo News. – It is quite true – something should be done. The News speaks of the matter on account of the poor unfortunates confined there. There are other reasons why something should be done, and one of them is, that within the past year two persons adjudged to be insane by the County Court of Pitkin county, have had to be taken to Jacksonville, Ills., on account of there not being room in the asylum at Pueblo to receive them. The expense of taking these persons to Jacksonville cost the county four times the actual cash rate, because of the low valuation of our county warrants. Undoubtedly a part of this expense is borne by the State.

The male center was built in 1883. It was demolished in 1968. At that time they preserved the cornerstone and it now resides in the hospital museum. (photo courtesy of CMHIP Museum)

Castle Rock Journal 3-5-1884
(excerpt) Governor Eaton appointed Pembroke R. Thombs as superintendent of the State Insane Asylum and Jose Romeros of Conejos county as Commissioner.

The Alamosa Journal 1-15-1885
In the Governors message it shows that the Insane Asylum had a financial deficiency of $25,718.00

Aspen Weekly Times 1-17-1885
The Governor's Message – A Careful Review of State Affairs to all Departments – The following is an abridgement of Governor Grant's Message to the State Legislature. It is a long and carefully written document… The Insane Asylum – The new asylum has been occupied by the male patients since November 20, 1883. The main building is 320 feet long by 100 feet in depth, with two dormitories 64 by 28 feet, and three stories height. The east wing is designed for the male patients and the west wing for the females; each wing is divided into three wards; each ward will accommodate thirty-five patients, so that the building when finally completed will accommodate over two hundred patients, and this will doubtless meet the requirements of the state for the insane for a number of years to come. In the east wing two wards have been furnished and are now occupied by seventy male patients. The third ward has been completed, but is not furnished. The west wing has not been completed, the walls are not up, the roof is on and the halls and rooms have been partitioned off, but not plastered, the work having been stopped for want of funds. On November 30, 1882, there were forty-nine patients at the asylum; since then 125 have been admitted, making a total of 177 treated in the two years ending November 30, 1884. Of this number 77 have been discharged, 53 having recovered, 1 improved, 3 escaped and 20 having died, leaving 97 at the asylum at the present time, being an increase of 48 since 1882. The last legislature appropriated $6,000 to complete the third story of the institute building. This work has been done in a satisfactory manner and other improvements have been made, consisting of a stable, gas works, laundry, shop room, etc…

The new building for females was built in 1888 and housed 185 women patients. Another wing was later added in 1904 for 100 more women. (photo courtesy of CMHIP Museum)

Castle Rock Journal 3-28-1888
The insane asylum at Pueblo is so crowded that fifteen patients are obliged to sleep on the floor.

Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle 12-15-1888
A disgrace to Colorado. Saturday morning Acting Sheriff Loomis received a letter from Dr. P. R. Thombs, superintendent of the state insane asylum at Pueblo, saying that he did not know when it would be possible for him to receive the man, Whitney, who was adjudged insane in the county court of Lake County on Wednesday last. Dr. Thombs added the additional information that there were already five insane persons in the Pueblo county jail awaiting admission to the asylum. Such a state of affairs is a disgrace to Colorado! All the dictates of the commonest humanity command us to take the best care possible of this unfortunate class of persons. To confine them in the several county jails tends of course to aggravate their disease and to diminish their chances for ultimate recovery. In those jails there are, of course, no proper facilities for the detention of insane persons. They make life a burden to the jailers and to their fellow prisoners; and in violent cases it has been frequently found necessary to confine them in noisome and unhealthy dungeons. This is positively inhuman! Besides, it entails much greater expense upon the state. The more violent patients have to be watched by special guards; whereas, if they were placed in the asylum, that expense would be unnecessary. The cases we have cited are not the only instances of this grievance. In almost every county in the state a similar condition of affairs prevails. The trouble of course proceeds from the unwise parsimony of the last legislature. That body was not willing to make sufficient appropriations for the purpose of enlarging the accommodations of the asylum. We have been informed upon eminent and thoroughly trustworthy legal authority that the state officials could have remedied this disgraceful condition of affairs by borrowing money enough to complete the asylum accommodations. It seems to us that they have been guilty of gross negligence in not adopting such a course. All the instinct of humanity and mercy cry out against the abuse; and it is to be hoped that the next legislature will give the matter their earliest possible attention.

Carbonate Chronicle 1-14-1889
Insane Asylum – Both the business and professional management of this institution reflect great credit upon the superintendent, Dr. Thombs.  The number of patients discharged cured is without parallel in the history of insane asylums.  Much of this result is, no doubt, due to our climate; but the skill, experience and ability of Dr. Thombs is no unimportant factor in these cures.  The commissioners ask an appropriation of $93,436.27 for new buildings and furniture, $3,000 for insurance and $1,500 for building an irrigation ditch.  The two last items should be granted at once, so that the property may be insured and the ditch built in time for spring use.  The $14,599.01 desired for the completion of the west wing of the male building should also be appropriated, as the present capacity is crowded and patients are being held in jails and other improper places, waiting for accommodations.  The care of the insane and criminal is the greatest and most expensive problem with which modern legislation has to contend.  Since the organization of our state, the keeping of these unfortunate and vicious element(s) of society has taken 30 per cent of our entire revenue, over $2,000,000 having been spent upon the penitentiary, insane asylum, deaf mute institute and industrial schools, out of $6,62?,081,74 collected for all purposes since our state life began.  While it is an ever increasing burden upon the tax payer, every consideration of government and humanity compel wise and liberal expenditure in these channels.

Rocky Mountain Sun 5-11-1889
A female inmate of the state insane asylum at Pueblo suicided the other day by cutting her throat with a very dull case knife. Only a short time ago one of the inmates was run over by an engine and killed. In both cases the victims were supposed to be on the high road to recovery, and so far advanced as to not need any care. Someone is paid to care for these unfortunates, and the salary should be sufficient to make them vigilant. The inmates of the asylum are entitled to much more care and consideration than the 200 or 300 people confined in the penitentiary who should have been hanged years ago.

to the Pueblo County Index Page.

Please e-mail comments and suggestions to Karen Mitchell.
© Karen Mitchell