CPS Unit Number 137-01

CPS Unit Number 137-01

Camp: 137

Unit ID: 1

Title: Independence State Hospital

Operating agency: EARC

Opened: 12 1944

Closed: 9 1946


CPS Unit No. 137, a Mental Hospital unit at Independence State Hospital in Independence, Iowa operated by the Commission on Christian Social Action of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, opened in December 1944 and closed in September 1946. The men served as ward attendants.

Independence, Iowa, United States
Location Description:

Independence State Hospital, located in Independence in northeastern Iowa, served the eastern part of the state. 


Built in 1837 to relieve crowding at the Mount Pleasant hospital in the southeast part of the state, the hospital planned to care for alcoholics, geriatrics, drugs addicts, mentally ill and criminally insane patients.  Claude Shotts of the Special Projects Division of NSBRO, prepared a report on the unit. “Located on an 1800 acre tract of land two miles west of Independence, Iowa, with 1100 acres under cultivation, it had a population of 1,738 patients on May 20, 1944.” (Shotts and Walters)


From 1937 to 1947, nearly eighteen hundred patients resided at the hospital, with an average yearly admission of seven hundred.  Because of overcrowding and short staffing during WWII, patients received minimal care, essentially warehoused.  (Buchanan County Historical Society)


“There was a labor shortage of 40-50%-- of 170 attendant positions, only 73 were filled, often by people not very good.  The shortage of female employees was as great as with male employees.  The hospital was therefore anxious to recruit married CPS assignees, so that their wives could be hired as female attendants, or as cooks or nurses (if so trained.”  (Shotts and Walters)

Camp staff:

Directors: Loren Walters*, Richard Koening, Kenneth Saeger*

The people:

The camp was authorized for fifteen men. 

The work:

CPS men, and also some of the wives worked as ward attendants.  The work week consisted of 12 hour days, six days a week.

Camp life:

“Single male assignees were to live on the 4th floor of the main building in dormitory rooms, or in the nurses’ home with private rooms.  Married assignees, whose wives worked at the hospital, were alto to live in the nurses’ home.”  (Shotts and Walters)


Each week, CPS men and patients played softball.


The men published Mental Hygiene Program of CPS, a partial unnumbered issue from February 1945 housed in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.


Buchanan County Historical Society web page Mental Health Institute at Independence, Iowa accessed November 10, 2010 at http://www.buchanancountyhistory.com/mhi.php


 Claude C. Shotts Report of June 5, 1944 & Loren Walters Report of November 1945 in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Center on Conscience and War Records (DG025) Section 1, Series D, Box 16.


Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.


For more in depth treatment on mental health and training school units, see Steven J. Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009.


*Camp director Loren Walter changed to Loren Walters and camp director Kenneth Saegen changed to Kenneth Saeger to reflect personnel listings in '47 and '96 directories (Stephanie Cabezas, 06/14/13).