Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Madness - Religiously Insane!

"Hans O. Tvedt, a Norwegian of this town went to Insane Asylum in Augusta a few days ago. He is said to be religiously insane."  This was an entry made in Andrew Walker’s diary on Friday, 6 November 1896 (Kennebunk, Maine).  The subject of that entry was the husband of my Great-Grandaunt.

Hans Olaves Tvedt was born about 1855 in Østre Molands parish, Aust-Agder, Norway to Samuel Joakim Tvedt and Marthe Olsdatter.[1]  He married Clara Eugenie Bye, daughter of Carl Olavus Hansen and Julianna Marie Rasmusdatter, between 1880 and 1883 probably in Arendal, Aust-Agder, Norway.[2]  It is believed that Hans and Clara immigrated to the U.S. in either 1880 or 1884. His younger brothers, Anthon (Antoine) Marthin Tvedt and Samuel Marthin Tvedt immigrated in 1880 and 1884 respectively.[3]  The brothers settled in Kennebunk, York county, Maine.  Hans created a successful leathergoods business in Kennebunk where they manufactured leather trunks from leatherboard.  They actively recruited other Norwegians to immigrate to Kennebunk to staff the factory, which is presumably why Clara’s family came to the U.S.

So, what happened to Hans in 1896?  He went from a prosperous businessman living the American dream to a raging lunatic at the insane asylum within 16 years or less.  Well, to begin with, he and Clara had only one living child, Julian Martine Tvedt (discussed in a previous post), who was born in Maine in 1888.  While I have been unable to locate any records, we can safely assume that Clara either miscarried or lost children before and maybe after Julian.  Clara died on 6 March 1895 of consumption.  Hans sold his leathergoods business to his brother Samuel shortly after.  Hans must have been consumed with grief.  His son Julian was only six years old when he lost his mother but his father was apparently unable to care for him; Julian was sent to live with his mother's sister Hilda (Bye) Crowley.  

Hans was admitted to the Augusta Mental Health Institute on 21 October 1896, 20 months after Clara’s death, and remained until his death nine years and seven months later.  The Augusta Mental Health Institute’s records are difficult to decipher.  Below is the transcription as best as I can make it out:

21 Oct 1896: Hans Tvedt of Kennebunk, 1st ad., Native Sweden, age 35, was admitted to the Augusta Mental Health Institute. Religious id?????  predominate. Thinks his friends have turned against him.
30 Oct 1896: Very delusional and despondent.
5 Nov 1896: Delusions in regard to religious matters.
10 Jan 1897: No improvement mentally. [This is repeated for 1 Apr and 10 Apr 1897]
20 Jan 1899: Well disposed. Has fixed delusions.
30 Jan. 1900: No change in past year.
18 Mar 1901: No change in past year.
14 Dec 1902: Much the same.
12 ??? 1903: In good physical health. No change mentally.
19 Oct 1903: ditto
15 Sept 1904: Much the same in every respect.
5 May 1906: Recently became very much excited and noisy
8 May 1906: Very much exhausted. Mania is exhausting.
12 May 1906: Died this morning. Exhaustion Mania

Here is the record that was sent to me. If anyone can make out some of the words that I was not able to, please let me know.


Acknowledgement: My cousin, Karl Bye, found much of the information in this story. He discovered the diary entry and the information about the leathergoods business. Thank you for sharing your finds with me, Karl! It inspired me to research poor Hans' story a little further.

Thanks for dropping by.

[1] 1865 census for Christiania, Norway, Samuel Joaki Tvedt household, numbers 22 thru 29, 0918 Østre Moland.
[2] Marriage record has not been located to date. Place of marriage is assumed based on the parish where her sister Marie Elevine Bye’s 1881 birth was recorded. Marriage date is estimated based on assumption that they were married before they immigrated.
[3] Antoine and Sam’s naturalization petitions.  No immigration or naturalization records have been found for Hans.


  1. Thanks for sharing--The terse wording and lack of emotion of the updates by the staff at the mental health institute are jarring.

  2. Not only that, but the gaps in recording his conditions was sometimes greater than a year. Makes you wonder if they even bothered to check on their patients any more often than that.