A Young Life Lost in an Institution

Lawrence Orlando Taylor, born in 1908 in Oklahoma, had a difficult life. His mother Florence Davis Taylor died of pneumonia in 1910, when Lawrence was 2 years old. The next year his father, Henry Orlando Taylor, a railroad conductor, died after a brief illness and gallstone surgery. Lawrence and 2 siblings went to live with his newly married sister, Nellie, and her husband Stephen.

For unknown reasons, in 1914, Lawrence was sent to the Oklahoma Institute for the Feeble Minded, 160 miles away from his family. The facility was intended to care for patients 16-45, so it is unclear how Lawrence came to be in this place when he was only 5 or 6 years old.

A few years later Lawrence died of influenza during the 1918 flu pandemic when he was 10 years old. To add to the tragedy, the physician at the Institute was investigated for his treatment of patients during the pandemic. Witnesses indicated that Lawrence was not given any medication during his illness, and when the attendant asked the physician to admit him to the hospital he refused. He finally relented, but Lawrence died three hours later.

Nancy Casey, who has blogged about this (see here & here) wrote:

“We can identify with Lawrence’s story. He had a place in his family. He likely delighted his mother and father as a baby, and one can imagine his older siblings fussing over their new brother, playing with him, teaching him, and caring for him.

We can relate to his pain, when as a toddler, he lost both parents in such quick succession. One can identify with his confusion and sadness.

One can also feel for Lawrence’s sister Nellie and brother-in-law Stephen, who with their heavy responsibilities as new parents, guardians and estate administrators, may not have been able to give him all the time or special care that he needed.

Yet, Lawrence’s brief life may have also brought some light to the darkness of the Oklahoma Institution for the Feeble Minded.”

Story and images shared by Nancy Casey. See her blog posts for more details and citations.

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