Oregon Insane Assylum

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The Assylum


Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon, United States, established in 1883 as the Oregon State Insane Asylum,
is the primary state-run psychiatric hospital in the state of Oregon since Dammasch State Hospital closed in
1995. The 620-bed facility is best known as the filming location for the Academy Award-winning film based on
Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[1] The aging facility (along with the state legislature
which funds it) has been criticized as providing substandard mental health care. For more histor go to

image courtesy of USGenWeb Archives Penny Postcards

Are you missing a burial for family members who were patients? The Oregon Health Authority has a listing of Unclaimed Cremains

KATU2 News article on trying to locate missing graves at the Oregon State Hospital

Oregon Blue Book (online version) Constitution of Oregon: 2015 Version

Section 4. Residence. For the purpose of voting, no person shall be deemed to have
gained, or lost a residence, by reason of his presence, or absence while employed
in the service of the United States, or of this State; nor while engaged in the
navigation of the waters of this State, or of the United States, or of the high
seas; nor while a student of any Seminary of Learning; nor while kept at any alms
house, or other assylum [sic], at public expence [sic]; nor while confined in any
public prison.—


I recieved the following information from Pam Roach and Lyn Horine

I asked my Salem friend whom I collaborate with and that I consider an expert to comment on the fact
that many Oregon death certificates for Oregon State Hospital patients were changed to reflect the
county that the patient was committed from as the county that the patient died in instead of Marion
County for example where OSH was and is located in and here is her answer:

Lyn Horine:
"What I remember about this is mostly anecdotal - and I can't quite recall how it came about, but
probably from looking at old dcs (death certs) and finding that Marion County was crossed out by some
subsequent clerk with the county of residence prior to OSH written in ink by another subsequent clerk.
The real county of origin can be validated by searching the "Great Books" ledgers at Archives and I
have also confirmed a number of those records by looking in the Ledger for the names (if one knows when
they were first committed or sentenced, and there is usually a record (in fine penned hand) of name,
date of commitment/sentence, offense or diagnosis (and the diagnosis is often couched in old language
especially at OSH, but also other terms for words like syphillis are often used. There is often a time
of discharge or death, often a column for readmit (both for OSH and OSP) and other "odd" items. In some
cases, there are files or "jackets" for those who were in OSP that contain more details about charges
against them, or clues to old newspaper files. The OSP files are missing a "chunk" but I can't remember
the era missing, but I was searching and found there a couple of boxes brought over from OSP that are
miscellaneous. I also know that until the second decade of the 1900s, many counties didn't trust the
Legislature to stay serious about centralized records, so there were some creative filing techniques used!"

"This pretty much stopped in the 1920s (changing the death county)."

I hope this is helpful to other researchers. It has made me more curious to look further at the Archives
in Salin Salem as I haven't looked in the "Great Books" there.

From Oregon Historical Newspapers: The Corvallis gazette. (Corvallis, OR.) 1862-1899, October 13, 1882, Image 3

To read more interesting articles on the Oregon State Asylum in Salem, check out Historic Oregon Newspapers

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Last updated: 22 May 2019