Our Politically Incorrect Past

Nov 13, 2015 | 0 comments

Copy from Microfilm of May 17, 1901 South Bend Journal

Copy from Microfilm of May 17, 1901 South Bend Journal

As I fine-tune and double-check my almost-completed book manuscript, I am taking time to go back over newspaper reports of a hundred-plus years ago. Besides illuminating some of the terse information provided by “Prison Record No. 1 Pacific County” (upon which my book is based) those old news reports give me much to ponder.

First, of course, is the format, itself – six columns of eye-squinting type, unrelieved by white space, with few large-font headlines, and even fewer photographs or other visuals. But it’s the content that fascinates me and causes me to lose track of my quest (whatever it was) and immerse myself in stories such as this one about ‘my old friend’ Judge Miles Standish Griswold:

Sheriff Joseph H. and Martha Brownfield Turner

Sheriff Joseph H. and Martha Brownfield Turner

JUDGE GRISWOLD RETURNED TO STEILACOOM – Judge Griswold was brought over from Oysterville Saturday by B.F. Wade and J.H. Turner and was examined for insanity that evening before Court Commissioner Hewen. He was ordered sent to the asylum at Steilacoom. He is not violently insane but refuses to eat or to properly take care of himself. About three years ago he was in the same condition and a few months at the asylum where he got proper care put him on his feet again. It is believed and hoped that the present trip will end as well. W.H. Cornelius and J. H. Turner took him to Steilacoom Monday.

The article was in the May 17, 1901 issue of the South Bend Journal. I don’t think such an article would be considered politically correct these days. And yet… I had nothing but sympathy for poor old Mr. Griswold when I read it. Now, I doubt that such a “story” would be told except among his friends who would, no doubt, consider him suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Griswold's Gravestone - Note Mis-spelled Name

Griswold’s Gravestone – Note Mis-spelled Name

Griswold lived here in Oysterville, only a few blocks from my great-grandfather. He had represented Pacific County in the Territorial Legislature in 1861-62, was our first County Superintendent of Schools, and served as a well-respected Probate Judge here for many years.

The imposing Griswold tombstone in the Oysterville Cemetery tells us that his wife had died in 1898 but the judge was not laid to rest beside her. According to the “Find a Grave” website, he died at Good Samaritan Hospital on September 8, 1906 and is buried at the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in Portland. He was 85.

The article in the old South Bend Journal provided a little window on the Judge’s declining years. I’m glad I ran across it.

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