Traverse City State Hospital Oral History Project

Join us in exploring the stories and first-hand accounts of the people who were directly involved with the Traverse City State Hospital when it was operational. 

The Traverse City State Hospital Oral History Project is funded by the Minervini Group and Mission Point Press with book royalties paid from the sales of Man Against Insanity, a publication of Mission Point Press.

Thanks to Stewart McFerran, who conducted and edited these fascinating interviews.


Sylvester “Sy” Day

Navy medic who cared for patients at the T.C. State Hospital was born and raised in Alden. He was a supervisor of TC State Hospital wards. He said a patient once bled to death at the door of the building that is now home to Stella’s restaurant.

Horace G. Storrs

A WW II US Navy Veteran who served on an amphibious fleet that supplied the Marines at Tinian Island in the Pacific. Mr. Storrs grew up on a dairy farm near Mesick and was impressed with the milking machines he used at the TC State Hospital. He worked on the TB ward for seven years.

Art Nickerson

Graduated from Buckley High School, Worked with Dr Ferguson, Mr. Nickerson said of Dr. Ferguson (the subject of the book The Man Against Insanity) was “the jolly old St Nick type. Patients met him at the door when he came to the ward.” He indicated “the transition to Community Mental Health was kinda rough”.

Robert Maddox

Served on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific in 1955 Toured Australia and other Pacific location before starting at the Traverse City State Hospital in 1961. He worked at the TC State Hospital for 30 years and was ward chief of the State Employee Association. Mr. Maddox reveled that there was a barrel of 100-year-old whiskey in the pharmacy at the State Hospital for medicinal purposes.

Peg Wagner

First started at Traverse City State Hospital in 1947. She organized “peeling parties” and assisted Traverse City State Hospital patients in the processing of vegetables from the hospital farm. Peg chaperoned dances at the TC State Hospital.

Jim Morse

Started at the Traverse State Hospital in 1956 worked until 1984. He worked with youth at the hospital and saw the construction of the Arnell Angstrom building.

Leo Gabier

Served in the Korean War as a senior petty officer. Promoted to nursing supervisor A-1 at the Traverse City State hospital in 1965. Worked on Hall Six for many years with the help of “martyrs”. These patients assisted staff in the many tasks associated with caring of the patients.

Support the TCSH Oral History Project 

How Thin the Veil and A Man Against Insanity are published by Mission Point Press which is donating $1 per copy to help support this important oral history project and a new historical display. The books are available at B50 The Village Store, Horizon Books in Traverse City and on

Recollection by Bonnie Witkop Hajek, former nurse attendant, Traverse City State Hospital, 1965-89. Excerpt recited by Alta Somsel Frears. 

Recollection of Margaret Sheets Wolf, daughter of former Traverse City State Hospital superintendent R. P. Sheets. Excerpt recited by Jeanne Lee. 



If you are interested in telling a story about your personal experience with the Traverse City State Hospital please contact Krystal.