01 November 2023

Louise Glover Smith Dies at Traverse City State Hospital

I have ancestors who spent time in the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Grand Traverse, Michigan. My great grandaunt, Louise Justina Glover Smith, was a patient for over fifty-two years, entering the hospital in 1899. Records from the Traverse City State Hospital are difficult to obtain. A court order by a family member is usually needed. The death certificate below tells a bit of Louise's story.

Source: Michigan Department of Health, "Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1946," Index and Images, local file number 154, Michiganology (www.michiganology.org : accessed online; Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing).

Other research shows Louise Glover was born 22 July 1869 to Samuel Stillman Glover, Jr. and Adeline Dyer Glover. She lost a brother, Emerson, in 1873, and a sister, Emma, in 1874, when she was four and five years old.

She married Frank H. Smith on 27 November 1870 and had four children, Roy, Alpheus, Dottelle, and Frank H. Smith, Jr.  Researching Frank H. Smith Jr. may lead to a clue as to why Louise was admitted to the state hospital. Frank's death certificate shows that he died at the age of one of cerebral spinal meningitis. The date of Frank's death was 11 May 1899.

Source: Michigan Department of Health, "Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1946," Index and Images, registration number 81, Michiganology (www.michiganology.org : accessed online; Michigan Department of Community Health, Lansing).

Louise, age 30, was a young woman at the time of her son's death. I can imagine the grief was overwhelming to her. There weren't many options available during this time for grief counseling. While I don't know definitively that this is why she was admitted to the state hospital, I am guessing it was a contributory factor.

I found Louise in the United States Federal Census for the years 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950. She was listed as an inmate, boarder, or patient at the state hospital in the census records. Her marital status was married and later widowed. I found Frank H. Smith's 1900 U.S. Census record where he was listed as widowed. 

I shudder to think of what Louise's life was like at the state hospital. I read a book, The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear by Kate Moore. It was about Elizabeth Packard's wrongful admittance to the Illinois asylum system in the 1860's. Granted the mental health system changed from the 1860's to the 1890's, due to Elizabeth Packard's fight, some of the procedures may have yet been in place.

What caused Louise to be a patient for fifty-two years, two months, and sixteen days? Was it the death of her young son?  She died on June 24, 1951, at the age of eighty-two. The cause of death was senility. 

Other interesting facts on Louise's death certificate include that her body was removed to University Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan (University of Michigan) for dissecting. The state of Michigan passed an act in 1867 stating "authorizing the dissection in certain cases for the advancement of science," and provided for unclaimed bodies from state hospitals and prisons be sent to medical schools.

The University of Michigan has three burial sites: Washtenong Memorial Site, United Memorial Gardens, and Fairview Cemetery. Currently, a yearly memorial service is held for donor's families. Fairview Cemetery has burials from 1915-1963. I am guessing this is where Louise's remains are buried.

Frank Smith died in 1904 leaving three young children. Further research is needed to learn more about what happened to Louise's children. I know that all three lived to adulthood. I wonder what they knew about their mother and if any of them visited her in Traverse City. 

Louise's death certificate filled in a few facts but it led to many questions. Ones that I hope to explore in the future. I have seen Louise's name as Louisa and as Laura.

I don't know what is sadder that Louise lost her son at the age of one or that she spent so many years in the state hospital or that her remains may have been unclaimed when she died. My hope is that she was treated well and lived the best life that she could given the circumstances.

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