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Bryce Hospital Collection

Identifier: MSS-0225

Scope and Contents

This collection contains various materials on the establishment and history of the Alabama Insane Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, later known as Bryce Hospital. Included in the collection are annual reports and addresses given by two of the hospital's superintendents, Dr. William Dempsey Partlow and Dr. Peter Bryce, as well as minutes of the Board of Trustees. It also contains a number of monthly, weekly, and/or daily forms and reports from the Farm Department's Dairy/Livestock collection, including Daily Milch Reports, Individual Cow Record, Weekly Hog Report, and payroll forms.


  • 1849-1991


Conditions Governing Access

Access to portions of this collection has been restricted for privacy.

Please contact the University Libraries Special Collections at or 205.348.0500 for more information. on access to the restricted portions of this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections.

For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

The notion of the need for a state hospital for the mentally ill was championed in Alabama in 1849 by Dorthea L. Dix, the noted activist who lobbied state legislatures and the US Congress on behalf of the indigent insane. Her lobbying paid off in 1852, when the Alabama Legislature passed the Act to Establish a State Hospital for Insane Persons in Alabama. 326 acres of land adjacent to The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa were purchased for $6,525.00, and building began in 1853. A Board of Trustees was established and soon advertised for the position of the Hospital's first superintendent.

Dr. Peter Bryce of Columbia, South Carolina, submitted his application in December 1859 and was elected to that position by the Board, at a salary of $2,000, plus rent and household expenses, with the stipulation that he must be married before assuming his duties. Bryce, 26, married Ellen Clarkson, 19, also of Columbia, South Carolina, in 1860.

In April 1861, John Kehoe arrived to supervise the buildings and grounds, while his brother, Pat Kehoe, was part of the first administrative staff of the hospital. Miss Ellen Barry of Mobile, Alabama, arrived in Tuscaloosa to become the first nurse.

The first patient, a forty-eight-year-old soldier sent from Fort Morgan on the order of General Duff Green, was admitted on 5 April 1861. His illness was diagnosed as Mania A, the alleged cause unknown, the alleged exciting cause was political excitement.

After the Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6 -7 in 1862, the east wing of the hospital was turned into a military hospital. In early April 1865 Federal troops under the command of General John T. Croxton entered Tuscaloosa. Pat Kehoe, the inside supervisor for men, was in town and raised the alarm at the university and the hospital. While the university buildings were burned, the only loss suffered by the hospital was the confiscation of its horses and mules.

By the late 1960s, the on-campus population was recorded as over 5,000. This severe problem of overpopulation helped bring about the landmark Wyatt v. Stickney federal court case. The judge's decision, handed down in April 1972, established for each civilly-committed mental patient minimum standards for humane psychological treatment. In September 1986, after fourteen years of being monitored by the federal court, the Wyatt case was settled. Many of the original standards of this case have become the core requirements used by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Psychiatric Hospitals throughout the nation. This order, coupled with the Lynch v. Baxley decision of 1974 which established the criteria for committing patients to the hospital, aided Bryce in significantly reducing the in-house population. All the while, the hospital has been dramatically improving the quality of treatment programs, the physical plant, and the professional staff.

In 2010, The University of Alabama purchased the 168-acre campus of the original Bryce Hospital from the state Mental Health Commission. By June 2014, a new Bryce Hospital was scheduled to open on the grounds of the W. D. Partlow Developmental Center campus in Tuscaloosa.


6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Various materials on the establishment and history of the Alabama Insane Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, later known as Bryce Hospital.

Custodial History

The Bryce Hospital Collection is comprised of several different smaller collections. The Farm Department materials were found in the old barn on the hospital campus in June 1988 prior to the barn's destruction in the late 1980s/early 1990s and given to the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library by Robert O. Mellown. The letterbook (as well as a ledger in the Bryce Family Papers) were given to the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library by Lynn Zeanah in 2005.

Related Materials

Peter Bryce Collection, University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections, The University of Alabama; A. L. Anderson Letter, University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections; Sara Mayfield Papers, University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections

Processed by

Martha Bace, 2009; updated 2012, 2014, and 2019
Bryce Hospital Collection
Martha Bace
revised December 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266