Portsmouth Asylum
W. R. Fales Memoir (downloads)

  Memoir of William R. Fales, The Portsmouth Cripple (1851)1
I came across reference to William R. Fales, originally, in Thomas R. Hazard's Report on the Poor and Insane in Rhode Island. William Fales was a different kind of poor farm inmate, he was a pauper due to an illness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, then know as Rheumatism. William Fales' story is one of perserverence, in the face of adversity.

Memoir of William R. Fales, The Portsmouth Cripple, 1851

I found William Fales' memoir, by googling him on-line. A copy of his book was available at NYU in New York. A local researcher, Matthew A. Moore, was able to transcribe some sections of the memoir for our website. In later googling activity, it appeared that a copy of the memoir might be available for interlibrary loan from a library at the University of British Columbia. In making arrangements from the Middletown Public Library, I was pleased to discover that a closer copy was found in the States. On receipt of the Memoirs, I decided to take the opportunity to scan it and share it with the geneology community. I had been in discussion with several Fales family members through the Fales Family Geneology Forum. They were delighted to find this memoir on-line!

PDF E-Book Graphical HTML Excerpts
Full (29.7MB)
Part 1/6 (4.6MB)
Part 2/6 (5.4MB)
Part 3/6 (5.3MB)
Part 4/6 (5.3MB)
Part 5/6 (5.4MB)
Part 6/6 (3.7MB)
Full Exe (18.1MB)

Tales from the Portsmouth Asylum

Thomas R. Hazard, author of the Report on the Poor and Insane in Rhode Island, 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.

[1] Memoirs of William R. Fales, the Portsmouth Cripple. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1851.


Portsmouth Asylum Links
  Historical Context
  Act Establishing (1832)
  Inventory Report (1833)
  Rules & Regulations (1838)
  Committee Report (1840)
  Committee Report (1857)
  The Portsmouth Cripple (1848)
  Produce Sold (1849)
  Meat Sold (1849)
  Town Council Excerpts
  1865 Census Excerpts
  1875 Census Excerpts
  1892 Account Book
  Committal Letters (1867)
  Oakum and Idle Hands
  Newport Daily News Clips (1851)
  Site Mapping (10/5/01)
  NPR Interview

Historical Texts:
  Report on Poor & Insane (1851)
  Fales Memoir (1851)
  Peterson's History (1853)

Selected Biographies
  Thomas R. Hazard -1
  Thomas R. Hazard -2
  Seth R. Anthony
  William R. Fales

Fun and Games
A Day at the Portsmouth Asylum

Other Poorhouse Links
The Poorhouse Story

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