Grace's Complicated Life

Grace McNair was indisputably brilliant and adventurous, but her vibrant mind was not without the burden of mental illness.

In researching records to piece together the lives of the McNairs, I discovered two records of Grace being committed.

It appears that Grace suffered from "Manic Depression," which presented itself through becoming cataleptic.

The modern definition of "catalepsy" is: "a physical condition usually associated with catatonic schizophrenia, characterized by suspension of sensation, muscular rigidity, fixity of posture, and often by loss of contact with environment." 

As I mentioned in Grace Goes West, Grace spent some years after Miles passed in California teaching at Miss Orton's Classical School for Girls. On December 5th 1916 until January 3rd, 1917, Grace spent time in a California hospital. She was admitted by Mary Tobin. 

She was also in an Institution in Milwaukee during the 1930 census.

Today I am sharing initial information as there is much to unpack, so please see the following for Grace's epic highs and challenges following Miles' death in 1913 ...

1916 Record from Mendocino State Hospital

Name: Grace McNair
Gender: Female
Race: White
Age: 39
Birth Date: abt 1877
Birth Place: Wisconsin
Record Date: 5 Dec 1916
Hospital: Mendocino State Hospital
Hospital Place: Mendocino, Mendocino, California, USA

Admitted-Date:  December 5th 7:45PM by M.J. Rowe M.D.
Mental defects, peculiarities, and disposition previous to insanity  Good disposition and temperament
Epileptic  Cataleptic
Physical defects, injuries, or sickness previous to insanity  Good condition
Habits as to liquor, tobacco and drugs, or other vices  Neg.
Date and history of previous attacks. (If in a hospital for insane state when and where).  Unknown. Has been in Rest House, Suisun
Present Attack began  About ten tears ago.
History of onset and development  Gradual
Supposed cause: Predisposing  Unknown
Violent  Yes
Destructive  Yes. Noisy, Restless
Homicidal  No
Suicidal  No. Excited, Depressed
Incendiary  No
Habits  Cleanly
Special Delusions and hallucinations  Neg.
Facts indicating insanity. Refuses to talk or to eat. Threatened to assault - Miss E. S. Greet without cause. Imagines others are persecuting her. Talks incoherently. Sings. Cannot answer questions. Lacks concentration.
Diagnosis Commitment Manic Depression
Post office address of friend or relative  Mrs. Jennie Matthews (cousin)
Telegraph address of friend or relative  Ukiah, Calif.
Financial statement. Court leaves the question an open one
Discharged  January 5, 1917
Why?  Recovered
Mental condition when discharged or died  Normal

1930 Census

Event Type: Census
Name: Grace E Mcnair
Sex: Female
Age: 52
Event Date: 1930
Event Place: Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Birth Year (Estimated): 1878
Birthplace: Wisconsin
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Relationship to Head of Household: Patient
Father's Birthplace: United States
Mother's Birthplace: United States
Sheet Letter: A
Sheet Number: 18


1934 Passenger List Arriving from Plymouth, England 

Name: Grace McNair
Gender: Female
Marital status: Single
Age: 57
Birth Date: 22 Jun 1877
Birth Place: Wisconsin
Other Birth Place: Brodhead
Departure Port: Plymouth, England
Arrival Date: 11 Oct 1934
Arrival Port: New York, New York, USA
Ship Name: Lafayette


1940 Census 

Event Type Census
Name Grace E McNair
Sex Female
Age 62
Event Date 1940
Event Place Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Event Place (Original) Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wauwatosa City, Wauwatosa, Ward 3
Marital Status Single
Race White
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Last Place of Residence Same Place
Birth Year (Estimated) 1878
Birthplace Wisconsin



  • 1940 census via familysearch.og "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 January 2021), Grace E McNair, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 40-66, sheet 2A, line 1, family 21, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 4502.
  • 1930 census via "United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 May 2021), Grace E Mcnair, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 385, sheet 18A, line 40, family , NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2600; FHL microfilm 2,342,334. 
  • 1934 passanger list via  "Year: 1934; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 10; Page Number: 88"
  • Hospital record from Mendocino State Hospital via "California State Archives; Sacramento, California; Mendocino State Hospital Commitment Registers, Books 11-13, Pages 4790-6289; Roll Number: 5; Film Location: MF8:11"
  • Lafayette image via Cruise Line History
  • Mendocino State Hospital image via Asylum Projects