Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Certificate for Boarding a Lunatic, 1845
Transcript of original document:
This is to certify that on the 17th day of April- 1845- I offered at public vendue, the Boarding, clothing, and keeping of a Lunatic, named Eli Smith, for the term of one year, to the lowest bidder, who was Andrew Hembrie, at three hundred and sixty five dollars- who thereupon entered into bond and gave security to the people of Oregon in the sum of six hundred dollars to comply with and fulfil the requisitions, which recognizance is now in the hands of the present Justice of the Peace for the County of Clackamas- Wm P Dougherty,
Justice of the Peace
There were few services for the mentally ill on the frontier. An individual without money or family might be abandoned. The provisional government tried to deal with this problem in 1844 by appropriating $500 for the care of the insane. Any justice of the peace could conduct a sanity hearing and declare someone a lunatic. An auction would then be held, and the insane person would go to the person making the lowest bid for room, board, and clothing. The bidder had to post a bond to insure that the money he received would be used properly. This certificate shows that Andrew Hembrie, a Yamhill County farmer, was paid one dollar a day to keep Eli Smith for one year.
Words and Terms
For Further Discussion
1. What was being auctioned?
2. What did Andrew Hembrie agree to provide?
3. What circumstances would create this type of system for care of the insane?