Did John Oliver Meeks Have Wife Louisiana Brown Committed to a Lunatic Asylum?

Family lore says it’s true. Supposedly, Louisiana was disowned by her family and placed there by her husband.

To be fair, the name of the institution had been changed to Georgia State Sanitarium at the time Louisiana (aka “Lucy Ann”) was likely there. Prior to her time as an “inmate,” it was known as the Georgia Lunatic Asylum. Located in Milledgeville, today the history-filled (some say haunted) grounds are known as Central State Hospital. But anyone and everyone who grew up in middle Georgia knows that’s where they sent the “crazies.” Some of us might’ve even been threatened “to be sent to Milledgeville” a time or two.

— Lucy Ann Meeks listed as Inmate in Georgia State Sanitarium for 1900 census.

Louisiana “Lucy Ann” Brown was born 5 May 1863 in Baldwin County, Georgia. Her parents were William C. “Billy” Brown (d. 1898) and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Thigpen (d. 1897), and Lucy Ann was one of at least twelve children born to them.

Lucy Ann married John Oliver “Ollie” Meeks, son of Bennett B. Meeks, on 14 January 1883 in Washington County, Georgia. Lucy Ann was four months shy of her twentieth birthday. John was two to four years her senior.

Ten months after her marriage, Lucy Ann started having babies. She would have at least nine of them by the time she was thirty-three years old. The last one I can account for, Bettie, was born about 1896. Before Bettie was four years of age, possibly well before, her mother was an inmate in the Georgia Lunatic Asylum / Georgia State Sanitarium.

I’ll list the known children of John and Lucy Ann in a bit. First let me tell you about John’s previous marriage.

John Oliver Meeks married Nancy Brown, daughter of James and Emerline, on 8 October 1877 in Washington County. I do not know of any familial connection between Nancy and Louisiana.

Nancy seems to have been about aged sixteen years when she married John, and the couple had son Benjamin approximately one year later. This small family was listed with Nancy’s parents for the 1880 United States Federal census, and I have a hunch Nancy’s daddy James did the talking when the census taker came around.

In the space saved for noting John’s occupation, it was written, “Tramp – nothing good.” See below (third line down).

— 1880 Washington County, Georgia, US Federal census

Knowing John married Louisiana a few years after this census, I wondered how his and Nancy’s marriage ended. The 1900 census (same locale) shows Nancy Brown as the divorced daughter of J. and Emmaline. Nancy’s son “Bennie” was there, too.

If you might indulge me for a moment, I ask you to look again at the image of the cropped 1880 census entry above. See the Armstrong family next door to the Brown / Meeks family? Head of household A. C. Armstrong’s wife Ann is listed, but it’s also noted she was “in Lunatic Asylum.” [I wonder if this gave John any ideas?]

I know husbands (and doctors) sometimes institutionalized women who suffered from postpartum depression, and it would not surprise me if this was the case with Lucy Ann.

According to Paul K. Graham’s Admission Register of Central State Hospital: Milledgeville, Georgia, 1842-1861, other “causes of commitment” sometimes attached to women include —

  • disappointed and/or misplaced affection / love
  • anxiety
  • birth of her last child / child bearing
  • menstrual derangement / disorder / suppression
  • domestic difficulties
  • ungovernable disposition
  • distress
  • domestic disturbance
  • religious enthusiasm or excitement
  • disappointed expectations
  • ill health
  • intemperance
  • well founded jealousy
  • lactation
  • critical period [of] life
  • loss
  • unhappy marriage
  • puerperal condition or insanity
  • spiritual rappings
  • novel reading

Truth be told, I don’t know for certain why my 3rd great-aunt Louisiana “Lucy Ann” Brown was put in the lunatic asylum / sanitarium. I do know she died in Milledgeville on 27 June 1907 at the young age of forty-four. She was buried in Cedar Lane Cemetery, also known as Central State Hospital Cemetery #1. She, surprisingly, has a grave marker. So, so many — too many — that are buried there do not. I have a feeling it was added some time after her death.

— Image by John Moon via FindAGrave. Permission for use granted in bio.

— Cedar Lane Cemetery Historical Marker

Not long after Lucy Ann’s death, John Oliver Meeks married again. This time, to a woman named Bessie. She would give him at least three more children before his death in 1921. After John’s death, Bessie married again to a Mr. Cox. Bessie Cox was mentioned as a surviving stepmother in a 1968 obituary for one of Lucy Ann’s daughters.

A list of known children born to John Oliver “Ollie” Meeks and Louisiana “Lucy Ann” Brown:

  • Addie Meeks Lindsey (1881-1949)
  • Jane E. Meeks (b. abt 1885, not found aft. 1900 census)
  • Willie Robert “Algie” Meeks (1887-1965)
  • Sarah A. “Sallie” Meeks Johnson (1890-1960)
  • Marion M. Meeks (b. abt 1891, d. 1900-02)
  • Henry Clayton Meeks (1892-1936)
  • Clara Belle “Pet” Meeks Brantley (1895-1968)
  • Ruth A. Meeks (b. abt 1895, not found aft. 1900 census)
  • Bettie R. R. Meeks Bridges (1896-1942)

Visit Louisiana “Lucy Ann” Brown’s page in the Lincecum Lineage database.

2 thoughts on “Did John Oliver Meeks Have Wife Louisiana Brown Committed to a Lunatic Asylum?”

  1. Lucy Ann was committed due to “epileptic fits”, very sad! Algie Meeks was my grandfather. We placed the marker and held a service approximately 20 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the information, Russell! I was definitely at a loss for reasoning. And I agree with you — a very sad situation. (Lucy Ann’s father was my 3rd great grandfather. Always nice to “meet” a cousin!)


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