Creating a Community: The State Epileptic Colony in Abilene
In 1904, the State Epileptic Colony in Abilene was founded to help individuals with epilepsy through research, care, and isolation. More importantly, it offered a place for these individuals to work, live, and thrive. The institution, hospital, and complex was a state-of-the-art facility and consisted of an administration building, a power plant, a women’s and men’s hospital, four cottages, and a home for the superintendent. By the fall of 1904, the colony housed over 200 patients and by 1914, the daily average of patients was over 400 individuals. Inhabitants helped support the colony by farming goods such as corn, beef, and peanuts, by gardening foodstuffs such as onions, beans, and peaches, and by tailoring garments and textiles such as aprons, clothing, and bedding.
Epilepsy was still highly stigmatized and misunderstood in the early 1900s; many people viewed it as a mental condition versus a physical health issue. However, the few epileptic colonies that existed throughout the United States (Abilene was the 5th) gave those who suffered from the disorder a place to feel at home and helped them to gain a sense of community they were often denied at home with their own families.
Creating a Community: The State Epileptic Colony in Abilene exhibition highlights over 50 original photographs from The Grace Museum’s permanent collection, along with supporting documents and photos from the Abilene State Supported Living Center and other local entities. The exhibition shares the early history of the State Epileptic Colony, along with the evolution of the complex into the Abilene State Hospital, Abilene State School, and the current Abilene State Supported Living Center (AbSSLC). Today, the AbSSLC is dedicated to the treatment, rehabilitation, independence of individuals with disabilities, and helping them feel safe and healthy.