Orillia in Pictures
Ontario Hospital or the Orillia Asylum for Idiots
Comments (10)
Comments from Users
Posted by Dianne Stone, 12 August 2009 at 23:44

I am just wondering if this would have been the only mental institution in Orillia around 1936. I am working on a history of our family and, unfortunately - some of the events our ancestors had to live with in the past are fact. My Dad's father died when he was 9 years old. He and his sisters were placed in a "children's shelter" for an unknown length of time (in Welland, ON) as their mother didn't have any means to pay for housing. My Dad's brother had cerebral palsy so he wasn't sent to the shelter with the others. His disability only affected him physically however, because he was disabled, he was sent to a "mental institution" in Orillia. I went online to see if I could find out anything about this place when I came across this site. My uncle would have been about 4 years old at the time - and I can just imagine how afraid he must have been to arrive at such a place! Honestly - I want my children and grand-children to read this account as I believe it may help them to appreciate and respect how things are today. Some people dealt with horrific times in the past and I believe it is important that we use this information to teach our children to be more compassionate and non-judgemental. I would like to thank you for posting these pictures on your site.

Thank you for your insightful comments. Yes, it's true. We take so much for granted today. Even people with epilepsy and other conditions were put in a "mental institution" at one time. Yes, there is only the one home in Orillia. That has now closed down. It was called the Huronia Resource Centre or HRC at the time of closing. The last patients left there last year.
Posted by Lucile Barker, 22 November 2009 at 15:28

Sorry, but that was the term. If you wish to rewrite history, do it on your own time. Those of us who are doing research need to have the correct nomenclature of the era.

Yes, it was harsh and it was cruel and to ensure that it has ended and never happens again, we have to face the prejudice and ignorance of our ancestors.

Instead of whining and whining, go volunteer with your local Community Living Association. What you are doing now is a denial of the past. Make things better rather than wasting your time and energy in this silly manner.

Oh, and by the way, I have a child who would have been the recipient of that terminology at that time.

Posted by Stuart Tait, 2 February 2011 at 21:59

I am looking for the gravesite of a Charlotte Jane Tait who was an inmate of the Orillia Mental Hospital as she was deaf and dumb as the result of an accident. Her Death Register entry shows her dying at the hospital in 1922. She was also shown to be an inmateof the hospital in the 1911 Canadian Census. I cannot find any burial information for my family history and would appreciate any help, especially medical records and burial site and any photos of the gravesite and Institution. Thanks Stu Tait

Posted by [Name Withheld], 21 May 2011 at 1:32

Even though this term is terrible it is important to leave the information as it was for the era, to acknowledge it and the people that suffered, we need society to be able to see it and be disgusted by it so that we never let something so horrible happen in our own communities.

Thank you for your comment. You are quite right. We can't change history and thankfully we have made great strides in respecting people since those days.
Posted by Sue McPherson, 13 April 2012 at 22:01

I think that recent commenters have missed the point entirely. The problem is not that the institution was known by that name, Asylum for Idiots. The Orillia Library has offered up the postcard to be sent electronically, using the title, 'Asylum for Idiots'. I wonder if the Library is using the complete title for effect. The title doesn't appear on the front of the postcard. I have seen a couple of postcards from that era that have the title 'Orillia Asylum' on the front. Asylum for Idiots is a derogatory term, and if they are using it, and the postcard offer, to garner attention to their project, then their intentions are misguided.

I'm not denying the past. I'm suggesting it be approached with more sensitivity - as well as the truth. I'd like to see the other side of the postcard, to see what the title on it was.

Posted by Peggy, 30 June 2012 at 22:10

In the 1800s the terms "idiot" and "moron" were not colloquial words used in conversation, they were medical terms.

Today we call individuals of diminished capacity "developmentally challenged or delayed". Words cannot change the facts that regardless of century, there are and always will be people who are not capable of caring for themselves.

In the 1800s, people were proud that their tax dollars went to provide such a facility otherwise individuals may have had to resort to begging on streets if they did not have family who could care for them.

In the 1800s the name Ontario Hospital for Idiots was not offensive. When I was a kid, it was just called the Ontario Hospital in Orillia. Everyone knew it was a an institution not a hospital for broken legs and other such situations.

Posted by george w bush, 2 July 2012 at 13:32

Perhaps there is some hope when 'modern' people get offended about historical terms. Nevertheless Idiots, Imbeciles and Morons are (were?) specific medical terms, Nigger was common usage, cotton pickin' was a worse epithet than today. Chink, Coolie, Wop, Spick, on and on it goes. Should we cut those words out of the copies of Mark Twain novels?

Several thousand years ago Vitrivius considered caryatides (column women) as a symbol of ridicule or punishment of the women of Karyæ. Should we remove those structures because they were considered insulting, or just admire the workmanship?

Bedlam was a mental institute, but I doubt many people realize that when they refer to their children's behaviour.

IDIOTS!!!!!??????. Yes, that's what they were called, and the phrenologists could prove it, too.

Lets hope we can keep slowly removing the offensive parts of this society, but not just by pretending they didn't happen.

Posted by Miriam Davidson, 13 July 2012 at 16:45

I am searching for my mother's cousin, Elsie Penelton who was placed in this home as a young child. She was deaf. That was her sole handicap. It breaks my heart to think she spent her entire life in such a place. If anyone has any information on her I would so appreciate it. She was born sometime around 1926

Posted by [Name Withheld], 15 August 2012 at 11:11

I find the following statement rather puzzling: My Dad's father died when he was 9 years old.

Posted by Gail Berchuk, 27 September 2012 at 18:42

I had an Uncle that was sent to Orillia, possibly around mid 1920's. We do not know why. He lived until he was about 55. We would like to know why he was there and what happened to him. There is no one alive today to tell us why my Great Grandparents sent him there. His name was Gordon Cherofsky. Son of Harry and Gertie Cherofsky of Manny Street in Toronto. If you hve any information, please contact me.

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Ontario Hospital or the Orillia Asylum for Idiots

Asylum for Idiots