Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Maurice OTWELL (1845-1915)

Edna OTWELL > Edwin OTWELL > Maurice OTWELL

Maurice was born about 1845 in Fayette Co., Kentucky and was the only child of John Franklin OTWELL and Mary H. TAYLOR.  He was also known as Morris.  The family worked a 100 acre plantation in Kentucky and another farm in St. Mary’s, Ontario, Canada.  About 1859, the family immigrated to St. Mary’s when Maurice was 14 years old to avoid the impending U. S. Civil War.

At age 19, Maurice married his neighbor, 17 year old Jane ASH (1847-1935), on 15 July 1865 in Perth, Ontario.  After marriage, they lived on the OTWELL Farm and had at least 7 children (JohnFranklin, William Charles, Edwin James (our ancestor), Mary Ellen HALEY, Edith Ann PAGE, Ila May YOUNIE and Victoria Jane FREISLEBEN)

Maurice and his father, John Franklin, were farmers who grew crops for sale at farmer’s markets in surrounding cities.  Eventually, they began canning the produce and started a cannery at the farm.  The business was named “John F. Otwell & Sons”.  Maurice became a travelling salesman selling canned goods throughout the region.

In 1884, Maurice patented his invention of a match safe (a container to protect matches).
3 January 1884, The Argus, page 3
From St. Mary's Museum
In the late 1880s, Maurice began a campaign to repeal the Scott Act (Canada’s temperance movement).  He would give speeches in the town square and wrote letters to regional newspapers in hopes of publication.  He called this campaign the “Maurice Act” and the speech and letters (1885 and 1889) can be found on-line from the Canadian Archives. 

It has been recorded in medical records that sometime in his 30s, Maurice developed epilepsy.  This was likely caused by a blow to the head.  (Another possible cause of epilepsy this late in life is a brain tumor, but it is unlikely since he lived to age 69.)  Seizures cause scarring typically in the region of the brain that when damaged, can cause schizophrenia.  The “Maurice Act” may indicate that he was self-medicating with liquor to control his seizures.  Soon after that letter written in 1889, he tried to burn the house down and tried to kill his father.  Maurice was found insane and was admitted to St. Mary’s Lunatic Asylum 16 April 1889 at the age of 43.

Dr. Richard BUCK was the superintendent of the asylum between 1877 and 1902.  He favored humanitarian treatment of patients and he attempted to improve their mental health by providing beautiful surroundings and many social activities.  The asylum had a working farm and an amusement hall.  Dr. BUCK limited the hospital’s use of mechanical restraints.  The family did the best for Maurice by placing him here.  There were no drugs at that time to treat his condition or reduce the frequency of seizures.  In the early years, the Asylum used liquor to control patients.  Maurice never improved.

Maurice died 6 Apr 1915 of epilepsy.  He was 69 years old and had spent nearly 26 years in the asylum.  His body was retrieved by the local funeral home Smith, Clark & Sons.  We do not know in which cemetery he was buried.



The following is Maurice’s St. Mary’s medical record 1889-1890 (case #2909).  The footnotes designated as, for example, [1] are my research notes. If you want a copy of the original for purposes other than research, contact the Canadian Archives and request it under the freedom of records act. 

-Folio 20-

History: Abt 43 yrs. Married. 7 children. Bk-keeper. U.S.[1] Has been eccentric. Has been insane for years. Says he is going to revolutionize the world and fancies he is going to the sun and that he is annexed to Christ, etc. Is an Epileptic[2] – has threatened himself and attempted to injure others. Fair English education.

Dr. Sinclair- St. Mary’s Certifies: At times very talkative and again melancholy. Makes public speeches and imagines people are envious to hear him altho he talks nonsense. Opposes the Scott Act[3]. Says Maurice Act is better tho there is no such Act. Has a glass case in the post office here where he puts advice for the benefit of the people. Fancies he has business to attend to where he has none. His wife alleges that he set fire to the house and has attempted to kill his father. Got out of bed to get axe to use on someone.

Dr. James J. Hall- St. Mary’s Certifies: Reasoning faculty is disturbed & confused. Frequently he is violently excited and mischievous. Has had Epileptic Fits for 10-12 yrs[4]. Neglects his family.

Admission: Apr 16th 89. He is today admitted to the Asylum clean and alright.

Fit: Apr 18th. Had a severe Epileptic Fit this afternoon.

North Building[5]: Apr 19th. Had another fit this AM and he was very much excited. Attacked Royce (Attendant) violently and tried to choke him when he asked him to go to Hall. He is today sent to North Building. 

Bromides: Apr 23. Has been having fits but has been quiet and well behaved: is today to consume Bromides[6]

May 1. Quiet and well behaved most of the time. 

June 1. Rarely excited and only after fits.

Main Building: June 28. Has been well behaved of late and is today sent to Main Building to make room for a worse patient.

Attempted to Elope: July 17. Was sent out to work with the garden gang this afternoon and eloped about the middle of the afternoon but was recaptured by D. ROSS & brought back before he got off the grounds.

Aug 1/89. Very bad tempered of late. He made an attack on attendant because he did not give him his medicine at the time he wanted it. Tore attendant’s shirt.

Aug 5/89. Transferred from 4B to 4 North Building.

Carried forward to next page.

-From Folio 20-

Insinuating to Kill: Aug 30 1889. Yesterday, he wrote to BUCK a letter[7] in which he said he would take the Doctor’s life if he were not liberated by tomorrow evening at six o’clock. This morning he still maintains that he will kill the Doctor unless liberated. The Colleagues and all the attendants have been cautioned to be very careful of this patient while Dr. BUCK is in the hall. 

Secreting Stones: Sep 2. Was found with half a dozen stones in his pockets on coming in from airing court yesterday.

Excited and Breaking Glass: Sept 3. Was excited last night and thru a number of flower pots through a window. Broke 18 panes of glass and two window sash. Said he did it so that the Dr. would notice him: patient afterwards complained bitterly that the attendant, who took him away from the window, hurt him severely. But upon examination, no bruises were apparent. 

Oct 1. Quiet and well behaved since last note.

Nov 1. Attends amusements sometimes and is quiet and well behaved.

Dec 1. Unchanged.

1 Jan 90. Quiet and well behaved but does not improve mentally: good bodily health except fits occasionally

Feb 1. Remains unchanged.

Mar 1. Remains unchanged: thinks at present to be a great orator and wants to give a lecture in the Amusement Hall on Temperance.

Apr 1. Remains unchanged.

Main Building: Dec 1. Has been quiet and well behaved of late and is today sent to Main Building to make room for a worse patient.

Dec 2. Has been very quiet since coming to this building

 Jan 7/91. Unchanged.

 Mar 15. Has been a little excited lately. Has a great scheme of starting a pickling factory here and another in Winnipeg. Will talk by the hour on the subject giving minute reasons for his selection of London & Winnipeg.

Violent: May 7. Struck Att WRIGHT- because he wanted him to run rubber[8].

Aug 5. Has been very quiet and well behaved lately.

1891 Feb 2nd. Is in good bodily health. Improved mentally.

Nov 30. While in a fit today he fell against a radiator and burnt his left hand severely.

Dec 1. Two large blisters on palm of hand show themselves which will likely result in sloughing ulcer. 

-N.B. See page 20 of this case book.-

-Page 201-

1 Jan 1893. His hand is improving under application of bitamic oint[9]. Occasionally has fits. Is unchanged mentally. 

Jan 10. The right side of face is today attacked with Erysipelas[10]. Painted it with Collodion[11].

Jan 14. The erysipelas has involved the whole scalp. He is on Ferri Mur 8th x and Quinine as T every 2 hours[12].

Mar 23. Came up behind an att today with a chair and struck him on the head and arm without provocation. 

Dec 6. Commenced to use today on Sycosis of Face & Head a sol of Soda Hyposulphite 3T/3T frequently mopped on at night to be smeared over with Icthyol oint 388 in 3T of Lanolin.

1894 Jan1. His head is improving slowly under the above tr. Always fanatically inventing. Is quite excited at times. General health fair.

1895 Jan 8. Unchanged

July 11th. He has been very violently and struck and cut a patient badly and sent to North Building today.

1896 Jan 1. In good bodily health; is very delusional, harried, great inventive powers, is getting out patents, etc. Is quarrelsome and lecherous at times.

1897 Jan 1. No particular change mentally or physically; has occasional fits and is wonderful inventive genius, especially with direction of Railway motors, flying machines, etc.

1898 Jan 1. Continues much the same mentally and physically since last noted.

1899 Jan 1. Is very fair bodily health; no change mentally; has epileptic seizures more or less frequently.

1900 Jan 1. No change

1901 Jan 1. No change

1 May 1902. In fair bodily health, is getting more quiet and reserved in manner but still displays his “inventive genius” occasionally. Subject to epileptic fits now and then.

1903. No material change. In Main Building now. N.B.

(That is the end of the medical record.)

 Research Footnotes

[1] To date, no documents have been found to support that he was a book keeper in the US. 

[2] Epileptics had a higher incidence of schizophrenia. At this time, there were no drugs to control the seizures and brain damage occurred that led to schizophrenia. 

[3] The Scott Act was the Canadian temperance act. 

[4] Maurice began having seizures late in life; in his mid 30s. They may have been acquired through a head trauma. 

[5] The hospital segregated the violent patients to the North Building (N.B.) and Maurice spent 2 months in the N.B. after his first attack. Then returned 2 months later (Aug “89) for a 1 year 4 month stay. And again, returned to the N.B. in 1895 through 1903. 

[6] Bromide or potassium bromide is a sedative. Originally, the hospital administered liquor, but by 1887, Dr. BUCK had removed all alcohol in patient treatment. 

[7] There is an asterisk here with a note to “See Fyle”; the letter must have been kept in the file, but it no longer exists according to the Canadian Archives. 

[8] Pulling rubber was an activity designed to keep mentally ill patients calmed and focused. This might have been what they were talking about. 

[9] I could not find a reference to bitamic ointment and think this may have been botanic ointment. 

[10] Erysipelas is a bacterial infection producing large raised red patches on the face and legs. 

[11] Collodion is a flammable solution of pyroxylin (AKA nitrocellulose) in ether & alcohol that was used in treatment of skin infections. 

[12] Likely Muriated Tincture of Iron and Quinine sulfate

No comments:

Post a Comment