Her name was Sarah Vining but her family called her Sadie. She was born in Missouri on November 17, 1876. Her father, Henry, was 39, and her mother, Nancy, was 25. She was the second-born of their 13 children. She had a half-sister and two half-brothers as well, who were older than her.
The family moved to Wilson County, Kansas when she was only 2 years old. Her 9-year-old half-brother, James Ashlock, died that year. When she was 3, a new brother arrived, but baby William H. Vining died after three months.
I’m not sure if the family moved several times or if her mother just went to different places for the birth of the children. The towns or townships were Cedar, Thayer, Wilson, Newark, and Neodesha. The census taker listed them at various times for Newark with Henry’s occupation recorded as farmer.
The children attended Pea Ridge School and the students were photographed in 1893 with their teacher, J.F. Haas. Sarah is the girl in the back row with the X above her head.
Sarah’s life changed abruptly when she fell ill of typhoid fever. It apparently affected her greatly. The newspaper in November 1894 said she had been ailing for three years.
“Untreated typhoid can cause permanent psychiatric problems such as delirium, hallucinations, and paranoia over the long term. Delirium is a sudden state of confusion due to physical or mental illness. Hallucinations are false and distorted perceptions of events. Paranoia is a symptom of a psychotic disorder in which patients become suspicious of others and feel that the world is out to get them. (MayoClinic.com)”
Although Sarah Vining survived the typhoid fever, several news reports show what happened next. The news tidbit from November 1894 reported that “until about a year ago she was remarkably bright.” The probate court presided over by Judge McPherson, and with a jury of six men agreed that Sarah was insane.
Sarah Vining – More details of her becoming insane. Fri, Nov 30, 1894 – 3 · Wilson County Sun (Neodesha, Kansas) · Newspapers.com
She was placed in her father’s keeping until she could be admitted to the state asylum at Osawatomie, Kansas. This clipping attributed her insanity to “female trouble” and spoke of “her aberration.”
The sheriff transported the “unfortunate young lady” to the asylum. Her mother accompanied her on the journey of 85 miles. Sarah was one of 434 people committed to Osawatomie in 1894. Most of the patients were older. She and 19 other young women under the age of 20 were admitted that year.
Sarah Vining lived in Osawatomie from age 18 to age 77 when she died in 1953. I checked on Find-A-Grave but discovered there were about 350 headstones in the Osawatomie State Hospital Cemetery but only one bears a name. The rest have only numbers. It is possible that she is buried elsewhere.
You can read the two-year state report on the institution online. Below is part of a page from it that lists the causes for patients admitted during that time.
I wish we knew the rest of the story, but doubt that individual patient records can be accessed. Were they able to treat Sarah’s condition at all? Did she live in reasonable comfort during those many long years in the institution? There are scary stories from institutions in the early 1900s about the treatment of the mentally ill entrusted to their care.
Did the family ever visit her? My grandmother Ruth Vining was Sarah’s sister, born 3 years after Sarah went to Osawatomie. Also in 1897, their father (Henry Vining) died, putting the family in crisis. They moved to a homestead in Oklahoma for a short time, then to Tyro KS. I doubt that there was time or money to visit poor Sarah.