Terrell State Hospital admitted its first patient July 14, 1885. Initially
called the North Texas Lunatic Asylum, TSH’s mission was to provide long-term
treatment and care for “chronic incurable insane” residents of the northern part
of the state. Its park-like setting on more than 670 acres reflected the
original definition of the word asylum, a place of refuge and retreat that was
often the only service a 19th century mental health facility could provide.
In its first year of operation, TSH admitted 330 patients from 46 counties.
The campus and population grew steadily, and by 1920 it was the largest hospital
of its kind west of the Mississippi River. Renamed the North Texas Hospital for
the Insane in 1888, it finally came to be known as Terrell State Hospital in
TSH continued growing through 1948, when its average population reached more
than 2,800. As the nature of psychiatric care changed through the latter half of
the 20th century, so did TSH’s role. Advances in psychiatry and medications
meant that more patients were able to stay at home and receive treatment in
their own communities. Now, mental health hospitals generally provide short- to
medium-term treatment. The current average stay at TSH is about one month.
Over the last 125 years, TSH has become a vital part of the Kaufman County
community and has impacted the lives of thousands of Texans who have passed
through its grounds as employees, patients and volunteers. More than 100,000
patients have spent time at TSH since 1885, nearly half of them staying at the
hospital more than once. TSH has also employed more than 10,000 people since it
opened and remains the largest employer in Terrell.