Norwich State Hospital and My Family, Part 5: Graziella’s Demise

Postcard detail, Norwich State Hospital, ca. 1909.
Postcard detail, Norwich State Hospital, ca. 1909.

[This is Part 5 of a series on Norwich State Hospital and its effect on my family. To start at the beginning, go to Part 1.]

After the incident in which she threw her dentures down the toilet, Graziella’s condition steadily declined. The notations in her record appeared less frequently after that, sometimes months apart. It seemed that the hospital staff had given up on her. In March of 1910, she was transferred to a ward for disturbed patients, in a building called North D which was later renamed Dix.

North D, Norwich State Hospital. Image from the 1931 appraisal of Norwich State Hospital. Courtesy of Preston Historical Society
North D, Norwich State Hospital. Image from the 1931 appraisal of Norwich State Hospital. Courtesy of Preston Historical Society

Graziella never got better. In December 1910, after a short illness, she died at Norwich State Hospital.

One of the things that bothered me most about Graziella’s case was that there was no notation in her patient record of

  • why they decided to pull all her teeth,
  • when the procedure took place,
  • and whether Philippe was contacted for permission.

I find it very suspicious that up to that time, there were frequent notations on her condition and then there was a significant gap around the time her teeth were extracted. It seemed like the hospital staff was trying to cover up their mistake.

“How long will she have to stay there yet … I like to have an idea … ” Philippe Metthe to NSH Superintendent, September 7, 1908.
“How long will she have to stay there yet … I like to have an idea … ” Philippe Metthe to NSH Superintendent, September 7, 1908.

The family secret that that came out of Graziella’s patient record was that Philippe hadn’t left her and returned to Canada, causing her to go insane. He was with her when she became mentally ill and visited her regularly. There are letters in her correspondence file in which he asked the Superintendent about her condition and when she could come home. He last saw her the day before she died, when he brought a Catholic priest to her to administer last rites.

However, Philippe had not been faithful to her while she was in the hospital and he disappeared from her children’s lives after she died. I found an article in the Norwich Bulletin from 1910 in which he was accused of stealing a necklace. His accomplice was a woman with whom he was living in Norwich.

"Woonsocket Woman and Danielson Man Arrested Here on Charge of Theft of Necklace, Property Having Been Recovered." Norwich Bulletin, April 8, 1910, pg. 5.
“Woonsocket Woman and Danielson Man Arrested Here on Charge of Theft of Necklace, Property Having Been Recovered.” Norwich Bulletin, April 8, 1910, pg. 5.

I believe that to avoid telling the children about this scandal, Graziella’s family come up with the story that Philippe had deserted them and gone back to Canada — a story passed down to Mom, and then to me. Using newspaper reports and census records, I found out where he really went. You can find out the answer to this question in the blog post I wrote called “Family Myth Busting.

Coming next:  “Beatrice’s Story.

6 thoughts on “Norwich State Hospital and My Family, Part 5: Graziella’s Demise”

  1. You’re a wonderful story teller Julianne. I look forward to future installments. I’m more passively putting the pieces of my family’s stories together to make sense of the craziness I was witness to.
    No alcohol or drugs but other compulsive behaviors and indicators of pain and secrecy are evident for those who wish to see them (which group excludes my two siblings.)

    I appreciate your work.

  2. Wow it’s crazy what has gone on behind them doors back in the day , I grew up 10 minutes away , my sister was in there in 1994 after she was raped she today still isn’t the same

  3. Hello Julianne I’ve started reading your articles and am very much interested especially going forward in this world of delusions as to why people become mentally I’ll. I was very much involved some 25 years ago in having a son who finally was diagnosed with skitsofrania it had been a long road befor that and after being in several diffrent facilities wereas when the insurance was nearing becomming used up for that year we would be told he heald and ok to return home, finally without are knowledge he was placed in that very same Facilities. We were totally upset however we went almost every day to support his healing and when we were out of town with the other children as far as upper Main my wife and I would return to that hospital for an hour or so, I’m telling you this in the Hope’s of clearaty.
    Our son was there for a couple of years in diffrent buildings at times he seemed to improve but suddenly his blood flow had become restricted it was because of what they had him on , he then went into being fully catatonic and could eat we would constantly go many hours as he sat in his wheelchair and we would put ice on his lips in those that he wouldn’t get dehydrated then we were told he would have to go to a convallesson type facility as there was no hope for the rest of his life , have forgot in telling you that we had made many friends with patients as well as staffers and doctors most of whom were marveled at the fact of the love we had for our son . At that time several doctors whom we had become friendly with worked diligently in getting him into UCONN HEALTH in Farmington he was placed in thier he was placed in the siciatric ward and with much love and assertiveness we managed with help from doctors from Norwich to convince this facility to put him in a trial drug of which was not yet on the market of America it was from Finland and called Closiral and he surely got better and better and was home again in about two months it truely a miracle drug, he got so well that he actually worked at William Backus Hospital for 14 years and then due to three back surgeries was forced to retire he had to this day found memmories of both Backus as well as Norwich Starte Hospital. My wife had worked countless hour in trying bring mental health to the forefront we were in many groups and family settings both at hospitals and private settings I became vice-president of the Norwich chapter of Camy for five years .
    My personal reflections on hospitals as well as families is rather simple many hospital staffers became so very familiar with these illnesses that they themselfs became part of the problems as is the same I found with families they lost thier seal for recovery and love, out of so many families that were trying to help but they themselfs lost that seal and thier monumental of live thier family member never got well enough as ours and the others we new and remain in knowing all is well thanks to persaviance and love and never let any one see you sweet. Please do continue in the most needed historical journey that needs to be revealed as to allow corrections to be made for now and for the future development and technics for the future of all loved ones.

    1. Wow, Joseph! I admire your persistence in seeking good care for your son, and your advocacy of him, and people like him. Thanks for sharing your story, and for reading and commenting on my blog.

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