Aged Man Must Go to Asylum

That title certainly caught my attention while I was researching.

I had stumbled across a clipping from the  Bakersfield Californian Newspaper dated August 6, 1907. My heart dropped. Mental care was oftentimes nothing short of abuse in the 1900s. It is the stuff haunted houses are made of.
According to an article from science, “Large Victorian public asylums haunt the history of psychiatry. They were hailed as places of refuge for some of society’s supposedly most vulnerable men and women. These buildings were called ‘lunatic asylums’, and later renamed ‘mental hospitals’. They earned a reputation as dehumanizing, prison-like institutions.” Perhaps Dewitt Clinton Biggs was not in a “prison-like institution.” I would like to hope.

 Although it is noteworthy that DeWitt spent his last days suffering from mental illness and was repeatedly admitted to an asylum, it doesn’t define his life. He grew up, married, and had a family of his own. He had at least eight children and supported his family through mining.

The article is attached below. Read on to find out more about his family life.


The article says:

The Bakersfield Californian August 06, 1907


De Witt Biggs is in County Jail Again.    Parades Street on Saturday Night with Shotgun on His Shoulder

DeWitt Clinton Biggs, and aged man whose mind has been falling for some time past, was locked up in the County Jail yesterday, after having been released only a short time before, and an effort will  now be made to have him re-committed to the asylum for the insane at Stockton.

    Biggs is over 70 years old. He is connected with one of the best families in the county by marriage, but old age has weakened his mental facilities. He is an old inmate of the northern asylum, but was released about two years ago apparently cured.

    The other day, while in one of his tantrums, he was arrested by the local police officers, who thought he was intoxicated. When he appeared in the justice court the next day, however, he appeared to be perfectly sane and was released.

    Saturday night however, he left Tom Owen’s house where he was seen stopping, and imagining that his life was in danger, paraded up and down before the house for some hours, a heavy shotgun on his shoulder, looking for imaginary enemies, who had threatened his life, he said. The next morning he started out on the street, using and old broom for a cane. Finally he arrived at the County Jail, and went inside, saying that he wanted to see some of the prisoners. His condition was recognized by “Doc” Staley and he was locked up in a cell.

It is probable that Biggs will be taken before either Judges Mahon or Bennett tomorrow, and be examined as to his sanity, there seems to be no other way of taking care of him than by this method.


The Stockton California Insane Asylum where DeWitt most likely spent the remainder of his days. DeWitt passed away six months after the newspaper article was written on February 15, 1908. (photo courtesy of

DeWitt Clinton Biggs was the son of David Biggs.His father married a Scotch-Native American woman named Martha “Patsy” Chisholm.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

dewitt c

DeWitt Clinton Biggs (Courtesy of James Mahar – from Album of Mary King)

A younger DeWitt on the right with wife Mary Martha Busik and most likely their son David (photo courtesy of James Mahar – print. Original from Mrs. Dorothy Biggs)

According to records, Mary Martha Busik /(Busic) was either 13 or 16 years old when she was married DeWitt, who was 35 years old. (25 February 1866, White River, Tulare, California). Although this seems young, it was not uncommon at the time.


DeWitt on left, friend on the right. Taken approximately 1870. (Courtesy of James Mahar – Print. Possibly with partner in mining venture)

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.  (photo courtesy of Joanne. "This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands." )

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.
(photo courtesy of Joanne. “This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands.” )

May you rest in peace DeWitt Clinton Biggs.


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