CPS Unit Number 058-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Delaware State Hospital
Operating agency: MCC
Opened: 11 1942
Closed: 10 1946
CPS Unit No. 58, a Mental Hospital unit at Delaware State Hospital in Farnhurst, Delaware operated by the Mennonite Central Committee, opened in November 1942 and closed in October 1946. Men served as ward attendants as well as in other departments of the hospital.
As was the case in mental hospitals, the superintendent at Delaware State Hospital retained authority of policy, schedule and benefits. An assistant director appointed by the religious agency served as an important advocate for unit men with the superintendent and also with, in this case, Mennonite Central Committee.
The first twenty-five men came from CPS Camp No. 20 Sideling Hill in Pennsylvania and CPS Camp No. 40 in Howard, Pennsylvania. That number grew to forty men in service at the hospital.
The men performed service in hospital wards, the laboratory, the dietary department, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, the farm and gardens, laundry, garage and the business office.
According to the July 1946 report of hospital superintendent, M. A. Tarumianz, the men “established very good rapport with the patients and with few exceptions demonstrated a keenness of observation and an ability to understand the patient as an individual and a human being with an illness. Their attitude and manner of handling patients aided in rendering a curative mental health service for the patients of the hospital.” (in Gingerich p. 219)
Wayne R. Yoder worked in the laboratory and X-Ray departments. “I was there for the duration, three years and nine months.” Nearly fifty years later he recalled his time in the unit.
Because I was interested in music and singing, my camp activities were mainly involved with singing in a quartet which gave many programs in churches around and in the Wilmington, DE area. We also gave some programs in the hospital and once went on a tour of Mennonite churches. Others in the quartet were D. Paul Miller, Dennis Miller and Gail Yoder. (“Detour . . . Main Highway”: Our CPS Stories p. 76)
Maurine Bauer Sawatzky, along with two other teachers, went to Wilmington, Delaware to find summer jobs, but when they arrived at Farnhurst, “the hospital management begged us to work on their staff because of the acute shortage of help.”
At 6:45 the next morning we were each given a ring of keys and directed to the wards without any training and only a minimum of instructions. My job was that of a relief attendant, and so I worked on all the women’s wards at various times. Many times I was the sole attendant on a large ward without personal information about any of the patients.
One time when I was making the rounds with the doctor for the first time I worked with the Black ward, the doctor became very upset that one of the patients was out of her restraints. He scolded, “Get her into her restraints. Don’t you know she killed someone?”
With that he left the ward as quickly as he could leaving me trembling with the thought of putting the patient in restraints. To my relief and amazement the patient seemed very docile as she cooperated with me in helping her put her into her straight jacket.
. . . As we learned to know the patients the work became very interesting. I was surprised how much the patients would help us and many were good friends by the end of the summer.
I learned so much and ever since I have had a special interest in mental health. It was a special experience to be part of a unit of young people who were demonstrating love and concern instead of using force and violence. (Detour . . . Main Highway”: Our CPS Stories p. 101)
During March 2012, Camper and Director D. Paul Miller contacted us to report that the COs and their wives from the Delaware State Hospital formed a closely knit group. In fact, they held reunions “every two years from 1947-to about 2007”. The group also wrote “a circle newsletter” to update one another. The men and women visited Farnhurst for one reunion and received a metal plaque from the hospital. “The wives of the inductees made a beautiful bed-size quilt and auctioned it off at one of our reunions.”
For materials reporting on reunions of this group, including score books of softball games in a local league and other publications and memorabilia, see D. Paul Miller Civilian Public Service Camp No. 58 (Farnhurst, Delaware) Collection, 1942-2009. HM1-955. Mennonite Church USA Archives - Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.
For more information on mental hospitals and training schools see Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949, Chapter XVI, pp. 213-251.
See D. Paul Miller Civilian Public Service Camp No. 58 (Farnhurst, Delaware) Collection, 1942-2009. HM1-955. Mennonite Church USA Archives - Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.
See also Alex Sareyan, The Turning Point: How Persons of Conscience Brought About Major Change in the Care of America’s Mentally Ill. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.
For personal stories of CPS men, see Peace Committee and Seniors for Peace Coordinating Committee of the College Mennonite Church of Goshen, Indiana, “Detour . . . Main Highway”: Our CPS Stories. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1995, 2000.
For more in depth treatment of mental hospital 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.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp publications database.