Then and Now: Willow Bark Institute


By Sheryl Virts - Champaign County Historical Society



This Sept. 20, 1901, photo shows the first reunion of graduates of The Willow Bark Institute, 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris.


Submitted photos

This 2016 photo shows the current home at 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris.


Submitted photos

ST. PARIS – The “Then” photo was Sept. 20, 1901, in St. Paris. The occasion was the first reunion of the graduates of The Willow Bark Institute, 246 W. Elm St. The affair was attended by about 800, according to The Daily Time Citizen, published by Urbana Publishing Company. They gathered to celebrate the 110 graduates, 75 of whom were present for the occasion, along with their families and friends and other people of the county. This was not the educational graduation one might first think about, but a graduation from the Institute for the treatment of insobriety and drug addiction. They claimed that only four of their graduates out of 110 graduates have returned to their drug of choice. This is the largest percentage of successful cures of any like institution which certainly “speaks well of St. Paris’s pride and the work of Dr. Caleb Jones.” This photograph comes from Dale Thornton’s collection of historic St. Paris pictures by way of a friend Eric Putnam. Don Jones, of St. Paris, is related to Dr. Jones.

Further research in Middleton’s History of Champaign County (1918) revealed that in 1899 Doctor Jones established at his home in St. Paris this institute for the treatment of insobriety and drug addiction. After careful study of the problem, he “hit upon a formula for the treatment of these distressing scourges of mankind (using Dr. F. J. Parkhurst’s already successful treatment plan used since 1892 in Danvers, Ill.) From the very start he was also successful in the operation of the same treatment plan. With more than two thousand persons having been treated in that institution, the Doctor Jones gave that feature of his practice special attention. Doctor Jones is the author of two valuable treatises bearing upon the subject to which for years he has given such careful thought, one on the theme “Opisthophorus,” the name of a disease caused by the use of alcohol, and the other, “Modern Ideas on Drunkenness,” both of which have attracted much attention. After the success of that first year of operation, a branch was opened in nearby Springfield and two other branches were being planned. By June 1905, it was decided to consolidate with the Champaign Sanitarium in Urbana, Ohio, which also treated Alcoholism and Drug Abuse along with mental illness and other chronic diseases. Is is unfortunate that bigger is not always better because this larger more diverse facility closed by 1914 because it was not financially successful. It is doubtful that was ever the intention of Dr. Jones’s Willow Bark Institution. Oh, for a success rate like theirs in 2016 for our community’s multiple drug problems.

The “Now” photo taken in 2016 shows the current home at 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris, which appears to be a well kept vintage home. The photo was taken by a friend Eric Putnam who used to live at 238 West Elm Street. As a young man, he mowed the grass at this home and never knew until more recent years the homes history. Eric also provided the copy of the old photo and a news article. It is hard to see the home for all the tall old trees. It is still a beautifully location for a home, with trees all around creating nice shade, with an inviting front porch to sit and recuperate from the day’s battles. But it is no longer a home to help people get well and recuperate from the bondage of alcohol or drug addiction. Those valuable services are no longer available here. The need is still present but these days if something is not financially profitable, it is hard to justify it’s existence (just as in days gone by). Another difference between then and now is that society now accepts drunkenness as acceptable behavior as long as you don’t drink and drive. Then in 1899, the Temperance League was fighting the good fight to reduce or eliminate the consumption of alcohol because of the problems it causes, but again financial concerns won out and the country decided it could not or did not want to survive without it. That story is in all our history books. I wonder what history will say about our way of life, looking back 100 years from now.

This Sept. 20, 1901, photo shows the first reunion of graduates of The Willow Bark Institute, 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris.
http://urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_old.jpgThis Sept. 20, 1901, photo shows the first reunion of graduates of The Willow Bark Institute, 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris. Submitted photos

This 2016 photo shows the current home at 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris.
http://urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_new.jpgThis 2016 photo shows the current home at 246 W. Elm St., St. Paris. Submitted photos

By Sheryl Virts

Champaign County Historical Society

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

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