Catherine McKinley and the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul

As a final post for Providence Care’s 150th anniversary blog, Veronica Stienburg, Archivist for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, highlights the life and times of Catherine McKinley:

Catherine McKinley was instrumental to the growth of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. The order was founded on December 13th, 1861 when four Sisters of Providence of Montreal came to Kingston at Bishop Horan’s request to found a new congregation to care for the poor. Catherine McKinley was born in Kingston in 1837 and was the first candidate to join the newly established congregation in 1862.  She was appointed the congregation’s first Superior when the Montreal Sisters returned to their community in 1866. Catherine McKinley served as General Superior from 1866 to 1872, and 1884 to 1896. In addition over the course of her religious life, she also served as Assistant to the Superior, General Treasurer of the congregation and local Superior of two missions.

Catherine McKinley, ca. 1895. #601.2-1-7-B, Archives, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.

Shortly after becoming superior in 1866 Catherine McKinley realized that the House of Providence was not adequate for the sisters and the poor, the aged and the orphans in their care.  Under Catherine McKinley’s leadership the first addition to the House of Providence was constructed in 1871. In reference to the new wing, the congregational annals state that “by Christmas we were pretty comfortable installed in our New Home, the old people seemed happy, in the clean, airy homelike wards.”

Catherine McKinley’s leadership and the contributions of the other original members of the Kingston community were crucial to the early development and success of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. At the time of Catherine McKinley’s death in 1904 the congregation had grown to include 98 Sisters, teaching and nursing ministries and missions in Belleville, Brockville, Smiths Falls and Trenton. Catherine McKinley’s pioneering spirit helped set the tone for the congregation’s 150 years of service.

By Veronica Stienburg, Archivist for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul

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Drs. William Metcalf and Charles Clarke- Part Three

Beechgrove-Frontenace Hockey Team, 1903

By Alison Browne, Archives Technician

This final entry of the three part blog on the early psychiatric history of Providence Care will again focus on the administration of Dr. Charles Kirk Clarke. Clarke became Superintendent of Rockwood Asylum after the death of Metcalf in 1885. Clarke’s first goal was to continue to make changes to the asylum, targeting anything in place prior to Metcalf’s arrival.

Early on Clarke made his first of many appeals to the province to have the remaining criminals with mental illnesses removed from the Asylum, however, his appeals were not enforced. Clarke also had to face overcrowding. 150 chronic patients were transferred to Riogiopolis College, where space was rented by the Asylum. In 1892, the Asylum acquired the farm and residential buildings at Newcourt House, which accommodated 32 patients, mostly farmers who were assigned to look after the developing farm.  A year later staff and patients constructed the Beechgrove Infirmary, to be used for convalescing.

Rockwood Bicycle Club, ca. 1885

Lectures on caring for patients had been given on a casual basis since 1887.  Clarke however preferred some sort of formal training to be given to women attendants.  This instruction was possible when the government increased the wages of the female employees.  Clarke established the Rockwood Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1888, the first of its kind in Canada.

Clarke encouraged patients to get involved in activities so that they could have some kind of normal lives.  Clarke’s interest in sports spilled over into the hospital and teams called Beechgrove or Rockwood, composed of staff members, began springing up in a number of local leagues.  Clarke also continued Metcalf’s habit of taking patients for trips on the lake and he spent much of each summer hiring a “steam yacht” for these excursions.

Clubs appeared at the asylum, under Clarke’s direction, with both staff and patients as members, including golf, sketching, photography, birdwatching, bicycling, iceboating and bowling.

Musical entertainment was another staple of life at the asylum and with Clarke’s encouragement a brass band and glee club developed.

His pride and joy however was the 25 piece orchestra he formed with members from among the patients taught by himself.  After a number of performances in the community the local press were calling it the best orchestra within a 20 mile radius of Kingston.

According to Clarke there were positive effects that the physical exercise had on patients’ prognosis.  Therefore, he encouraged the first attempts at physiotherapy.  In 1894 he reported with help from the patients and staff a gymnasium had been built and daily classes were held.  One type of equipment used was bar bells.

Clarke left the asylum in 1905 to become the medical superintendent of the Toronto General Hospital and later Medical Director of the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene.

Both Metcalf and Clarke were dedicated to progressing the treatment of mental illness for their patients, and their achievements provide us with yet another reason to be proud of Providence Care in our 150th Anniversary.

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Drs. William Metcalf and Charles Clarke- Part Two

By Alison Browne, Archives Technician, Providence Care

This second entry in our series of Rockwood Asylum, precursor to Mental Health Services, Providence Care, will turn to the time Metcalf and Clarke spent running Rockwood Asylum together. In 1881 Metcalf was assigned a new assistant, Dr. Clarke, a friend from medical school. Together these students of  Dr. Joseph Workman

Dr. Charles Kirk Clarke, ca. 1885

were determined to make the asylum a credit to the province, and their enthusiasm influenced them to make more reforms.

With Clarke’s support Metcalf was able to go further than merely abolishing restraint methods, and the two began a series of changes to improve the patients’ lives, including cutlery at meals, improved dinners and clothing, and providing fresh meat.

Metcalf was convinced of the need for recreational activities.  Under Metcalf the occupational therapy department was a success with the introduction of brush and broom making, knitting and “fine work.” Metcalf also tried to educate the public about mental health by going out into the community to give talks.               

Metcalf was in support of separating criminals who were found to be mentally ill from patients who have a mental illness because of the danger that criminals may bring to the other patients. Tragically Metcalf died from an attack by a patient, on August 16, 1885.  

The next and final entry in this three-part blog will examine some of the successes made by Clarke while Superintendent.

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Drs. William Metcalf and Charles Clarke- Part One

By Alison Browne, Archives Technician, Providence Care

As we continue to celebrate Providence Care’s 150th

Dr. Joseph Workman, ca. 1830

Anniversary year, there will be three blog entries, which will highlight Providence Care’s rich early psychiatric history by providing some significant historical details of the lives of Drs. William G. Metcalf and Charles Kirk Clarke.

Drs. Metcalf and Clarke were friends, colleagues, and students of Dr. Joseph Workman who is described in records as Canada’s leading psychiatrist in the mid 19th century.  Metcalf and Clarke were heavily influenced by Dr. Workman, who had a progressive approach to mental illness during his lifetime – that it is an illness, something that needs to cured. 

This first blog entry will present some key details on Metcalf’s time as Superintendent of Rockwood asylum. In 1878 following Dr. Dickson’s retirement, Dr. Metcalf, Assistant Superintendent at London was transferred to Kingston and appointed Superintendent.  Records indicate that when Metcalf arrived at Rockwood asylum he was faced with many problems, including barren wards, filthy straw beds, and patients confined to windowless cells in the basement. Metcalf went to work to make some reforms, including abolishing restraint, and using “wristlets” and “muffs” on patients at Rockwood; however, he faced fierce opposition from staff because it was common at the time to consider removing restraint to be dangerous. Metcalf was also determined to construct two cottages for groups of long-term patients, to provide a more homelike setting. In an effort to introduce some order he installed a bell at the top of Rockwood, which signaled the beginning and end of shifts and meal times, as well as the discovery of a missing patient. Metcalf worked to rid the asylum of abusive attendants in an attempt to improve morale. 

Dr. William Metcalf, ca. 1878

The next blog entry will focus on Metcalf and Clarke working together at the asylum.

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A Call to the Community

In the 150th anniversary year of Providence Care we have highlighted historic records in our own Archives Department, and looked into the rich history of the organization and our sites. Besides our own Archives, there are historic records relating to our history housed by a number of other institutions. These include the Museum of Health Care, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Archives, the Queen’s University Archives, and the Archives of Ontario, among others. There are also historic records in private collections.

One of the more interesting such items is a postcard discovered by Kim Hooper, a volunteer for Providence Care. At a flea market in Gananoque, Kim discovered a postcard that fell out of the second-hand book she was about to purchase. The postcard details St. Mary’s of the Lake, with a written message from a woman named Maggie, dated November 5th, 1914. 

St. Mary's of the Lake Postcard, 1914

Kim’s discovery sparked an appeal to the public to submit photos, letters and other memorabilia to either donate to Providence Care or for scanning. The call to the community is continuing into the fall. Details regarding how to submit historic records relating to the history of Providence Care can be found here.

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House of Providence and the Marian Year Campaign

The Marian Year Campaign of 1954 saw a commitment to funding many changes for the Sisters of Providence, including the completion of an infirmary at the Mother House, Heathfield, the building of an additional wing at St. Mary’s of the Lake (completed in 1956), and renovations and expansions to the House of Providence (completed in 1961).

By 1954 it was clear that the House of Providence was overcrowded, the heating, plumbing, kitchen and laundry facilities were outdated and inadequate, and wooden stairs and doors presented a fire hazard.

An article in the Canadian Registrar from 1955 highlighted the difficulties that the structure posed to residents, the Sisters and staff. The photographs below show overcrowding in the dormitories and the kitchen facilties at the House of Providence.

Major renovations were planned and completed, including the addition of a wing on Bay Street, in order to improve conditions for residents. The improvements were made possible through the generous assistance received through the Marian Year Campaign.

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Rockwood Materials at the Museum of Health Care

Paul Robertson, former Curator of the Museum of Health Care at Kingston, and current City Curator for the City of Kingston, blogs below about a unique aspect of Rockwood Asylum in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Providence Care.

All images can be retrieved from the Museum of Health Care’s online database using the term ‘Rockwood’ in the quick search box.

Mental Health as a Tourist Attraction

Rockwood’s architecture and beautiful park-like site were a point of civic pride for Kingstonians and regularly featured on postcards in the early 1900s.

Originating in Germany around 1875, the production of colour postcards became possible with advances in printing technology. Their use spread with the rise of a middle class with money for leisure time and travel for pleasure. Picture postcards made nice souvenirs for travellers and a handy means to send a short message back home, much in the way people now send E-mails and text messages. They also provided inexpensive publicity for civic sites of interest.

The Museum of Health Care’s collection has a number of postcards depicting various health care institutions from the turn of the 20th century. Among these are at least three featuring the imposing limestone facade of Rockwood Asylum on the shore of Lake Ontario, the predecessor of today’s Mental Health Services facility. Travellers could choose from several images of the building, some of which were merely variations of the same image. One version not in the MHC collection features Rockwood under a romantic night sky.

Foreign to modern notions of a mental health hospital, Rockwood in the late 1800s and early 1900s was also a popular stop for visitors and the curious to Kingston. “We have been deluged with visitors,” one superintendent wrote in 1882 after the crush and confusion of a public day when 1000 visitors came to view the asylum. These visits may have helped people to understand the mentally ill better and break down some boundaries, since by then patients were actively involved in then-popular work-therapy and recreation programmes.

Postcard by Valentine & Sons, 1907, Museum of Health Care

Postcard by Henry Wade, 1907, Museum of Health Care

Postcard by Mahood Bros., 1907, Museum of Health Care

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