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Massillon History: State Hospital

Massillon State Hospital

written by archives intern Hannah Sues and Archivist Mandy Altimus Stahl

The grounds where the State Hospital exists originally was owned by James Duncan, founder of Massillon. In 1817, he and his wife Eliza moved into a cottage on the land called “Estramadura Farm,” or “The Plains.” The home was built by William R. Dickinson to raise Merino sheep, and Estramadura was the name of the region in Spain where the sheep originated. By 1821, the Duncan family moved to Kendal, Ohio, and later built homes in Massillon.

During William McKinley’s first term as the governor of Ohio, the city of Massillon was chosen for the very first state hospital in the United States and Canada in 1892 (the site was authorized in this same year). The construction of the hospital began in 1893 with the groundbreaking for McKinley Hall. This hall was built while William McKinley was governor, and was the first hall used to house mental patients. The hospital opened on September 6, 1898, housing 300 patients from 21 different counties.

Even though it holds the name of a “city” hospital, it was not really owned by Massillon itself. This is because there was no money collected from the city in taxes, and the “hospital supported entirely from the money received from patients for services rendered”. The hospital is both a member of the American and Ohio Hospital Associations and it functions through the Board of Trustees (consisting of nine local men).The hospital was originally the Eastern Ohio Mental Asylum, but was later changed to the Massillon State Hospital.

The McKinley Hall hospital was one of the most popular and “the most beautiful institution in the world”. By 1950, the hospital housed 3,100 patients with approximately 365 full and part time workers and nurses. The expanse of the land was so beautiful that many family picnics took place on the lawn, as well as the Massillon football and baseball games.

Under Dr. Hyde, the most popular superintendent of the hospital was very well liked and Judge John H. Lamneck said that Dr. Hyde “did more than any other single individual in Ohio for the mentally ill”.

How do I find my relatives who lived at the Massillon State Hospital?

Please note that the Massillon Museum does not hold any archives related to patient records. You must contact the Ohio History Connection. We cannot help you acquire those records, as you must go through their research department directly.

The Massillon Museum preserves a small collection of photos of the Massillon State Hospital, which may be viewed here. Reproductions of these images are available upon request. Prices may be found here.

*UPDATE 2016: The Massillon State Hospital admission records do exist in the collection of the Ohio History Connection, but are sealed to the public and may only be accessed by close relatives, but are available after that person has been gone for 50 years. Here is what their research department has to say:

The Ohio History Connection holds some records from some of Ohio’s state institutions. Please be aware that Mental Health records in the collections of the Ohio History Connection that relate to patient records are restricted by state law. As per Ohio Revised Code 5122.31, these collections can be accessed by the staff of the Ohio History Connection at the request of the closest living relative of a deceased patient, or if the patient has been deceased for 50 years or more. All restricted collections in our holdings carry a restriction notice in our catalog records. These record books and files are restricted from public review, even by the closest living relative. For this reason, we would prefer that you refer potential researchers directly to us.

The following collections from the Massillon State Hospital are restricted:

  1. Index to Admissions, 1898-1911 (call#: State Archives Series 654)
  2. Record of Treatments, 1920-1923, 1926-1927 (call#: State Archives Series 663)   
  3. Superintendent’s Correspondence, 1927-1930 (call#: State Archives Series 667)
  4. Case Record Books, 1898-1919 (call#: State Archives Series 697)

Learn more about the Ohio History Connection Archives and Research Library here.

Other Resources available online:
For a full WorldCat listing of records related to the Massillon State Hospital, click here.

History clippings, articles, and book excerpts are available on our website here.

Massillon State Hospital 1908 Annual Report
by the Board of Trustees and Officers of the Massillon State Hospital to the Governor of the State of Ohio

The former State Hospital grounds are owned in part by the City of Massillon, Quest Recovery Services (CommQuest), and by Heartland Behavioral Center. Heartland only holds patient records for the last 10 years, and are not available to the public. The Massillon Museum does not have any records of residents. You may wish to read the Mental Health Records: An Introduction for Researchers by the Ohio History Connection.

If you are interested in the history of mental hospital facilities in the United States and Ohio, this is a great article from the Ohio Department for Mental Health.

Another way to track down your relatives' information is through the Stark County Recorder's Office. There is a complete listing of places to obtain vital information, including birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates. Please click here to visit their site.

Photographs of the State Hospital

The Massillon Museum preserves a small collection of photos of the Massillon State Hospital, which may be viewed here. Reproductions of these images are available upon request. Prices may be found here.

Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Investigations at the State Hospital

Some of the original State Hospital buildings are still standing, owned by the City of Massillon, Quest Recovery Services, and Heartland Behavioral Center. Heartland does not allow any access to their buildings, and previous attempts by Ghost Hunting groups have not received any permission from the city of Massillon.

For more information contact Archivist Mandy Altimus Stahl over the phone: 330-833-4061, or via email. Please note that Mandy cannot help you obtain the records at the Ohio History Connection.

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