Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mental Illness in the Family, Part I

Too often hushed, mental illness takes its toll on families. Ours was one. My grandfather’s brother, Daniel Clark Troutman, suffered from mental illness. At about age 48, he started “periods of manic rage” such as his mother had exhibited, though more severe than hers.[1] He spent most of the last thirteen years of his life in a mental institution.[2] That’s probably part of the reason my father never talked about him; maybe Dad never even met him. By 1936 when Dad first came to Virginia, his Uncle Dan was hospitalized.[3]

The early and middle years of Dan’s life seem to have been pleasant enough. On 27 September 1882, Dan’s birth expanded the Daniel A. and America (Pratt) Troutman household to four living children.[4] After the losses of Clifton, and Mary Ellen, in 1879 and Bessie in 1880, the arrival of additional children may have been a comfort. Dan’s three living siblings were Laura Estelle “Stelle,” age 12, and John W. “Bud,” age ten, and James or “Jim,” age two. Dan grew to be the tallest of the 
Troutman brothers, though his exact height is uncertain; he had dark brown hair and blue eyes.[5] Like most of the Troutman children, he probably never finished high school.[6]

Dan C. Troutman at about age 20.
Like his father and brothers, Dan became a farmer.[7] At the age of 24, he married Carrie Cosby Sexton, 2 September 1906. Carrie, born 19 July 1880 was a daughter of Thomas Sexton and Fannie (Cosby) Sexton.[8]  

Carrie was captivated by handsome Dan who loved to sing and play a banjo. His musical abilities included directing the choir at the Presbyterian Church where they later lived in Glade Spring.[9] A baby daughter was born to Carrie and Dan on 27 September 1907, a little more than a year after their marriage. They named her Warrington Catlett,[10] a strange name for a small girl. She was their only known birth child.  

Dan and Carrie Troutman and daughter Warrington, c. 1918.
The marriage may have had its challenges, for in 1910, Dan and Carrie seem to have been living apart. Both are recorded in the census in the homes of their respective parents.[11] Or perhaps the day the census taker rode by on his horse, Dan just happened to be home helping his aging father with his farm work, and Carrie had taken Warrington to visit the baby's maternal grandparents. 

By 1920,[12] Dan and Carrie had bought a place at Glade Spring, where they also lived in 1930. [13]

Dan C. Troutman home, Glade Spring, VA, c. 1925.
Meanwhile, Warrington wanted a sister. She had been begging her parents for a baby sister, which they could not provide, so they decided to adopt. During a visit to a nearby orphanage, they fell in love with an eighteen-month-old blonde, blue-eyed little charmer named Lois Marie Bethel whose parents, Walter and Elsie Bethel, had both died within a year of her birth.[14] Despite having several older siblings and aunts and uncles, Lois and her brother and sister were placed in an orphanage and taken into separate foster homes.[15] Lois was all that Warrington, Carrie, and Daniel wanted. They doted on her.

Dan C. Troutman family: Warrington, Carrie, Dan, and Lois, c. 1928.
Dan C. Troutman and daughters, Warrington and Lois, c. 1932.
Although Lois' maternal aunts objected to her being fully adopted, Lois felt loved and cherished by the Troutmans as much as any biological child.[16] She also learned to love her Grandma “Merkie,” Dan’s mother America, who lived in his home during her last years. Shortly after his mother’s death in 1929,[17]Dan started shutting himself into his room for weeks at time.
Dan C. Troutman on his front porch, Glade Spring, Va., c. 1932.

[1] Lois Faris, Glade Spring, Virginia, to Zola Noble, 15 August 2008, letter, information on life as a foster daughter in the Dan C. Troutman home; Lois Faris file, Troutman family; privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
[2]1940 U. S. census, Marion, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Southwest Virginia Hospital (Insane), enumeration district 87-4, sheet 12A, visit no. 904, Sam [Dan] C. Trautman; digital image ( ; accessed 9 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T-627, roll 4295. Census states that this was also his place of residence in 1935; his death certificate states that he died in the state hospital in 1948; therefore, he was there for thirteen years, at least. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2013, digital image ( ; accessed 9 September 2015).
[3] 1940 U. S. census, Marion, Smyth Co., Va., Southwest Virginia Hospital (Insane), pop. sch., ED 87-4, sheet 12-A, no. 904, Sam C. Trautman [Dan C. Troutman]. Census notes that he lived in the “same house” in 1935.
[4] “U. S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images (http://www. : accessed 9 September 2015), card for Daniel Clark Troutman, serial number 3142, Local Draft Board, Washington County, Virginia.
[5] Ibid. This draft card states that Dan is “Tall”; draft cards for his brothers, Clint, Lee Roy, and James, state either medium height (Clint and Lee Roy) or short (James). The oldest brother John W. Troutman never lived long enough to have his height recorded on a draft card, so it is unknown.
[6] His level of education recorded in the 1940 census cited above, instead of a number for grades completed, states “fair”; the meaning of that is unclear.
[7] For occupation, see 1940 U. S. census, Marion, Smyth Co., Va., pop. sched., Southwest Virginia Hospital (Insane), ED 87-4, sheet 12A, no. 904, Sam [Dan] C. Trautman. Also, 1920 U. S. census, Glade Spring, Washington Co., Va., population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 147, p. 5-A, dwelling 106, family 106, Daniel C. Troutman; digital image ( : accessed 9 September 2015); NARA mic. pub. T625, roll 1917.
[8] Smyth County, Virginia, Register of Marriage, Book 1: 132, Daniel C. Troutman and Carrie A. Sexton, 1906; County Clerk’s Office, Marion. This record also states Dan’s occupation as farmer.
[9] Lois Faris, Glade Spring, Va., to Zola Noble, 15 August 2008, letter.
[10] Virginia, Birth Certificates, 1864-2014, Warrington Catlett Troutman, digital image ( ; accessed 9 September 2015).
[11] For Dan: 1910 U. S. census, Ellendale precinct, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, enumeration district [ED] 89, p. 1-B, dwelling 14, family 14, Daniel Troutman family, see Daniel Jr.; digital image ( : accessed 9 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1649. For Carrie: 1910 U. S. census, Chatham Hill precinct, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, enumeration district [ED] 90, p. 10-B, dwelling 178, family 178, Fannie C. Sexton family, see Carry Troutman, digital image ( : accessed 9 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1649.
[12] 1920 U. S. census, Glade Spring, Washington Co., Va., pop. sched., ED 147, p. 5-A, dwell. 106, fam. 106, Daniel C. Troutman.
[13] 1930 U. S. census, Washington County, Virginia, population schedule, Glade Spring district, enumeration district [ED] 96-4, sheet 5-B, dwelling 107, family 112, Daniel C. Troutman; digital image ( : accessed 9 September 2015); NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2463.
[14] Lois Faris, Glade Spring, Virginia, to Zola Noble, 15 August 2008, letter.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid. 
[17] Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2013, America Ann Troutman, digital image, ( : accessed 18 September 2015).

© 2015, Z. T. Noble



  1. Hi!
    My apologies in my delay responding to to your image request. I haven't been contributing of late so I didn't see this till recent.

    Please feel free to use that photo or any others.


    1. Thank you. Now if I can just find it again. :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing. Some of us in our family think that mentally stressed individuals of our ancestors turned to alcohol to self medicate themselves. Many handled it as kind folks and a few got mean with the decades use of alcohol especially hard liquor.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. We can only speculate on some of these things when there are no records. I'm thankful for the records I've been able to find.