Fales Family Genealogy Forum
Hi John, My relation to William R. Fales is through my research on the Portsmouth Asylum. The site of this Poorhouse in Portsmouth, Rhode Island is on my employer's property. In 1991, we formed the Raytheon Employees Wildlife Habitat Committee, REWHC, to develop and execute a wildlife management plan for the site and become certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, an international organization. My involvement included historical research of the woods surrounding the buildings on our campus. I was delighted to discover the poor form site on the property and am developing an interpretive nature trail through the site. The theme is a day in the life at the Portsmouth Asylum. Research brought me first to the Commissioner's report on the Poor and Insane in Rhode Island of 1851. It described poor farms and poor houses across Rhode Island with Portsmouth Asylum noted as a bad example and the trials and tribulations of its inmates discussed. The author, Thomas R. Hazard, was a good friend of William R. Fales as excerpted below from the report:
"The occasion of my visit to Portsmouth Asylum at that time was to execute a commission which I had received from some excellent ladies in Philadelphia, to remove from the Asylum and place at board for life in a private family, at their expense, William R. Fales, one of the most remarkable and interesting young men with whom I was ever acquainted. For many years this young man had been afflicted with a rheumatic complaint to such a degree as not to be able to lie in any other position than on his side, neither he turn or move himself in bed without assistance. His limbs were wrenched and distorted in the most shocking manner, and there was scarcely a particle of flesh on them. He was in almost constant pain, which a great part of the time was excruciating; yet through all his suffering his faith in the mercy and goodness of God never forsook him. To the last moment of his life his countenance retained a highly intellectual and almost heavenly expression. Whilst lying in this state he managed to write with a pencil many letters and some essays, which since his death have been arranged and published by one of his female friends in Philadelphia, and altogether form an exceedingly interesting and instructive memoir. The sentiments expressed in some of his essays bear a striking resemblance to those of Fenelon, and seem to be breathed forth in the same gentle spirit. His mind was of the finest mould and of the highest order, and nothing but health and education was wanting to have rendered him one of the first of men. He was removed from the Asylum about a year since and placed in a family where he received every necessary attention, but at the expiration of about months he was visited with a complicated disease, of which he died, aged about 30 years. Gifted with an exceedingly sensitive mind and of a delicate physical organization, both rendered more keenly susceptible by a most painful malady, it may well be conceived how his sufferings must have been increased by the constant apprehension of being attacked, in his helpless and perfectly defenceless condition, by the insane. He used sometimes whilst at the poor house touchingly to remark to me that he passed many long and weary nights without sleep on account of excessive pain, and that when his pain abated he was sometimes kept awake by the ravings and babbling of an insane woman who occupied an adjoining room."
It is hard to imagine life at the Portsmouth Asylum for an intelligent, sensitive, young man such as William R. Fales. His Memoir adds another spark of life to the story of this period in our local history,a story we are in the process of sharing with scouting groups, school groups, the local community on-site, and the wider community via the internet.
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