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 EDMUND TAYLOR WILKINS, M. D.

Obituary - from unknown source - submitted by Larry Seaton, transcribed by Kathy Sedler from original copy, no corrections

[Note:  * Read by Dr. L. F. Dozier, of the Napa State Asylum, at the meeting of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane at Washington, May, 1891.  For portrait see frontispiece (not included in copy).]

Dr. Edmund Taylor, Wilkins, * who fell a victim to influenza, February 10, 1891, was born in Montgomery County, Tennessee, October 20, 1824, and was the son of Dr. Benjamin and Jane Taylor Wilkins.

He received his collegiate education at that most ancient, with one exception, of American literary institutions, the old William and Mary College, founded in 1692, and located at Williamsburg, the early capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and from which he graduated in 1844.  After leaving college, the object of this sketch turned his attention to the cultivation of the soil, and was for several years engaged in raising cotton in the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, and afterwards conducted a sugar plantation at New Iberia in the latter State.

Like many other enterprising spirit of that day, he soon became deeply impressed by the glowing accounts and excitement consequent upon the discovery of gold in California, and in March, 1849, took passage on the schooner St. Mary, from New York, for the Pacific Coast, by way of Cape Horn.

After a most tedious voyage, filled with irritating delays and great peril, and extending over a period of nearly a year, the small craft on which he sailed cast anchor in the bay of San Francisco.

Dr. Wilkins made a short stay in San Francisco - then a village of rude huts, constructed of rough boards and canvas, but now a beautiful young city of three hundred thousand population and magnificent prospects - providing himself with the proper tools, provisions, etc., necessary for life and labor as a miner in the far interior mountains, which he reached in the spring of 1850.

His first effort at mining, and it seems his last as well, was in the attempt to turn the Trinity River from its course by means of a dam, constructed of sand-bags.  This proved unsuccessful, and having spent the summer, and all his available means, in this fruitless effort to compel the river to "give up its hidden treasure," he abandoned the mines and the occupation of mining forever.

In 1853 he returned to his native State and attended one course of medical lectures at the Memphis Medical College, after which he sold his sugar plantation in Louisiana, and returning to California in 1854, purchased land in Yuba County, near the town of Marysville, and again turned his attention to farming.  In 1855, he married Miss Matilda P. Brandler, of Virginia, who bore him three children, and died in 1867.  He was married a second time, to Miss Camilla Price, of Missouri, in 1877, who also died, in 1889, without issue.

Finding farming unprofitable, Dr. Wilkins concluded to adopt medicine as his life's work, and taking a second course in the Memphis Medical College, graduated and took his degree from that institution in 1861.  On receiving his diploma and returning to California, he left his farm and made his residence in Marysville, then the most flourishing inland town of the State, and devoted himself entirely to the study and practice of his profession, and in the course of his reading gave some special attention to the subject of insanity.

The Legislature of 1870, having authorized the Governor to appoint a Commissioner to compile all accessible information as to the construction and management of asylums, and the different modes of treating the insane, Dr. Wilkins was chosen for that important mission, and entered at once upon its execution.  He visited some fifty of the principal institutions in the United States and Canada, then crossing the Atlantic, spent the greater portion of two years in travel, and inspected during that time about one hundred asylums in Great Britain and on the continent of Europe.  The results of this mission are embodied in his report, made to the Executive Department upon his return to California, which was published in book form, and distributed to the various organizations of public charity, and to many individuals in the different States in the Union, because of the many valuable charts contained in it, giving the plans and specifications of the best asylum buildings then in existence, or being constructed, and other important information gathered by his interviews with the more distinguished al enists of European nations, as well as those of our own country, as to the various methods of treating and managing the insane.

It was but natural, in view of the experiences and observations of his late mission, that Dr. Wilkins should be selected as one of the Commission to locate a site and adopt plans for an additional asylum, provided for by the Legislature of 1872, and in the following year, with his confreres of the board, located the "Napa State Asylum for the Insane."

Being the moving spirit in this matter, his excellent judgment and good taste are alike manifest, for in all the essentials necessary and most desirable for an institution of the kind, it has no superior, if indeed an equal, in the world - beauty of scenery, combining mountain and valley; its accessibility both by rail and water transportation, and convenient proximity to the flourishing town of Napa; salubrity and delightful characteristics of climate; purity and abundance of water supply, furnished from mountain streams, through permanent works and by gravitation entirely; exceptional and almost perfect natural facilities for sewerage and ventilation; while for grace of outline, convenience and solidity of construction and ornate finish, the building itself is a model of mechanical skill and architectural design.

Dr. Wilkins was elected Resident Physician of the Napa Asylum in March, 1876, and had he lived five years longer, would have completed his fifteenth year as its superintendent.  Having been so conspicuously and intimately connected with the projection of this institution, the selection of the site, the adoption of plans for building, and all the preliminaries for its completion, it became at once his pride and special pet, and he entered upon the administration of its affairs with a feeling of parental affection.  With a zeal and enthusiasm which seemed untiring, he bent his efforts to develop its material resources and add to the rare beauty of its natural surroundings, by embellishing its grounds in calling to his aid the best skill of the landscape gardener.  And to-day the grand pile, erected at a cost of a million and a half dollars; with its valuable appurtenances of extensive and permanent water works; of fields for grain; of ample pasturage, made perpetual by a system of irrigation; of extensive orchards and vineyards, and abundant acreage for the growing of vegetables; with its magnificent avenue of approach, more than a quarter of a mile in length and one hundred feet in width, bordered by tall trees, flowering shrubs and variegated plants, and flanked on either side by a graveled walk, arched by an unbroken vista of lapping boughs; with its immediate environments of drive-ways, of winding walks, of grassy lawns, of brilliant flower beds, of sheltering arbors and cosy retreats; and all shaded and protected by splendid trees; this magnificent property stands at once an enduring monument to the generous charity of the State of California and the untiring labor and fertile brain of Dr. Edmund T. Wilkins.

As a man, his many good deeds, his noble, manly virtues, his pure and unostentatious life, combined to make him many friends and to endear him to all.

As a citizen, he was broad in his views and full of enterprise, always alive and progressive, and ready to counsel and assist in all that was calculated to advance the material prosperity and moral happiness of the community in which he lived.  As a philanthropist, his spmpathies [sic] were as broad as humanity, and no sufferer ever applied to him without enlisting them - his charities were only limited by his means, and he was a friend to all men.

In the death of Dr. Wilkins, this Association has lost a loyal member, who though prevented by long distance from taking part in its deliberations and proceedings as often as he otherwise would have done, yet he entered with hearty sympathy and deep interest into the work before it, and for those constituting its membership and engaged in this great specialty, he entertained the highest regard and most kindly feelings.  In his death the State in which he lived and labored has lost a valuable citizen and a faithful steward of the great and important trust so long reposed in him.  His immediate associates, who alone can correctly estimate the real worth and many virtues of the man, have lost a genial, courteous and kind friend; while to the thousands of helpless ones who have been committed to his care, he was as devoted as a kind father to his helpless children.  L.F.D.

 

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