Clarinda State Hospital: Daniel Ross Wilson

Evidently, Iowa towns didn’t have nursing homes during the early 1900s. Both of Clabe Wilson’s folks died at the Clarinda State Hospital. Their records certainly give insight into what life was like at home when Clabe was a young adult. Dan and Georgia Wilson left no letters, so the only other information about them came from short newspaper items when they were ill, and one terrible episode.

In May 1908, Mrs. Dan Wilson was listed in the Panora Vedette as very sick. That July, Dan evidently had an attack of apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage or stroke). He had another stroke in October.

January 14, 1909, “D.R. Wilson has been quite ill for some time. One day last week he had a stroke of paralysis and is now dangerously ill.” (Panora Vedette) A week later, Dan and Georgia’s daughter Alice married Ed McLuen and moved to Stuart.

The February 21, 1909 Vedette reported that D. R. Wilson had thrown a corn knife at his son, Clabe. Yes, it was in the local paper.

Dan Wilson sent this postcard to his wife Georgia from Stuart, February 23, 1909 (but postmarked in Coon Rapids): “Dear Georgia and family I got up here all right write and let me [know] who they are all geting [sic] along write just as soon as you hear from me for I am anxious to hear from you all love to you all from your best friend”

Since he wrote this at Stuart, I wonder whether he was staying with his daughter Alice and her new husband Ed McLuen.

Clarinda State Hospital

The records from Clarinda State Hospital, which his granddaughter (my mother Doris) requested, give a clearer picture of what happened two days after the card was written.

This is the other side of the 1909 postcard, which had been postmarked in Coon Rapids.

March 1, 1909. Daniel Ross Wilson was admitted to Clarinda State Hospital, Case No. 5603. “Age 42, farmer and stock raiser. Alleged cause: sickness and trouble, 6 months duration. Organic Dementia. 4 children – youngest 2 years.

“First symptoms manifested by mental aberration. Likes and dislikes were too pronounced. A dislike for any person turned into intense hatred without sufficient cause. I subject to attacks of frenzy when crossed. Feb. 21st threw a corn knife at his son [Clabe] and after possessing himself of a butcher knife threatened to kill him. Has threatened, but not attempted suicide. . . . Has been a periodical drinker to excess up to about five years ago. Has always had a violent temper and inclined to fight. . . . has been a very sick man at times for the past three or four years. Had an attack of apoplexy June 908 from which he has partially recovered. Marked mental deterioration has accompanied this. Domestic relations have never been pleasant.”

Mar. 20, 1909. Ward Notes: “Is in rather poor physical health, suffering from a left hemiplegia and the left arm is practically useless. Mentally he is somewhat demented and is considerably depressed just at present. He is neat and orderly and quite agreeable.”

April 3, 1909 “. . . He got a long very well for a week. . . but a sudden change developed and he gradually failed until the end came. He died at 10 p.m. The remains were sent to Coon Rapids, Iowa.”

Daniel Ross Wilson was just 42 years old. At home were his widow Georgia (44), Clabe (21), Rectha (18), Fonnie (6), and Verna (2).

Clarinda State Hospital, 1920s

Panora Vedette, April 15, 1909. “Death of Dan Wilson. Monday of last week, Dan Wilson died at Clarinda, where he was at the state hospital for treatment. He lived a good many years on a farm in Jackson township, and was well known in this vicinity. He was a man given to attending to his own business and took quite an interest in raising fine swine. For some months past he had been in failing health which continued to the end. He was brought home for burial.”

Actually, Dan Wilson was buried in Coon Rapids, among his Wilson pioneer ancestors.


  1. That’s a sad and premature ending. I wonder if he was injured in a way that caused his mental issues? I’ve heard of being kicked by horses and mules doing that, or farming implements.

  2. That was quite an interesting backstory about Daniel Ross Wilson. Fortunately, Clabe survived his fits of wrath. The age spread of his children and his early demise makes me believe you’re probably right about the possibility he was an alcoholic!

  3. Sad that so many of the family would never meet Dan. I had a grandfather die in his mid-forties and it always bothered me that I could not meet him.

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