The Craig Colony for Epileptics opened in Sonyea, NY, in January 1896 as “a new form of charity, recently adopted by this State, and is based upon the idea of being, as fully as possible, self-supporting.” Indeed, it was only the second such institution in the United States. This brief report, written in November 1896 by Committee members Dr. Enoch V. Stoddard, William P. Letchworth, and Peter Walrath, is an assessment of the Colony’s first year in operation. Their conclusion that “this experiment on the part of the State has proved, during its first and most difficult year of trial, to be not only justifiable, but such as to meet the further expectations of those who have been most interested in it origin and development” was quite prescient, as the Colony (which was eventually renamed Craig Developmental Center) continued to operate until 1988.
In their report, the Committee describes the progress made on renovating the existing buildings of the former Shaker site where the Colony is located and makes a case for construction of a new administration building; new dormitories for patients (alternately referred to as inmates); a house and office for the Superintendent; and living quarters for employees, most of whom have had to find lodging in Mount Morris, a village some four miles distant. Much praise is given to the doctors at Craig, who have established meticulous record-keeping based on careful and scientific observation and have made advances in classifying, and thus treating, epileptic patients. Treatment includes occupation (patients engage in real agricultural work, earning $14,230.20 for the Colony in its first year, and other household and technical work), diet (very little meat, lots of fruit and vegetables), and “a common school education” (a school was opened in September 1896 to provide “moral and mental treatment” for the patients.)
As medical science progressed and treatments for epilepsy evolved, Craig Colony’s useful life came to an end in the late 20th century, but it became the foundation for the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office based in Rochester, NY.
This work, originally published in 1897, is reprinted by Milne Library at the State University of New York College at Geneseo as part of the Genesee Valley Historical Reprints series. The Genesee Valley Historical Collection is Milne Library’s largest and most accessible collection of local history materials. Its geographical scope covers the eight counties surrounding the Genesee River in New York State: Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Wyoming. For more information, see: http://go.geneseo.edu/gvhr.