Notes: Dr. W.B. Fletcher’s Sanatorium

Dr. W.B. Fletcher’s Sanatorium, 1140 E. Market St., incorporated from June 17, 1901 to 1943; “to organize an association for the purpose of carrying on health resorts and the erection and maintenance of sanitariums and gymnasiums in connection therewith…[where] shall be employed and kept skilled skilled physicians and surgeons and competent nurses…[to tend to] persons afflicted with suffering from mental, nervous, and physical disorders and diseases who will be administered to by said physicians and surgeons and nurses furnished by said association.” The name of this institution was “Neuronhurst”. The original incorporators were Dr. William B. Fletcher, Dr. Mary A. Spink, Stoughton J. Fletcher, Dr. Urbana Spink, and WilliamB. Fletcher, Jr. In 1908 also included were Dr. E.V. Green, Mary L. Green, and Mrs. Mary Witte. In 1922 the directors were Dr. Mary A. Spink, Elizabeth B. O’Brien, Dr. Urbana Spink, Arthur F. Hall,and Agnes Fletcher Brown. In 1932 the directors were Dr. Mary A. Spink – President & Treasurer, Dr. Urbana Spink – Secretary, Bernard Cunniff, and Bonneventura Cunniff.

Dr. William B. Fletcher – b. 1837 in Indianapolis, IN. His parents were Indianapolis pioneers Calvin and Sarah Hill Fletcher, and he was the seventh of ten children. In 1859 he graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City. During the Civil War he joined the 6th Regiment of Indiana, briefly served as a hospital surgeon at Camp Morton in Indianapolis, and then served as a scout for the Union Army in West Virginia where he was captured by the Confederates on July 30, 1861. He was kept in Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, where he medically tended prisoners until he was released about three months later. After he returned to Indianapolis in February 1862, he practiced medicine and taught at the Indiana Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons. From 1882 to 1887 he served as superintendent of the Indiana Hospital for the Insane where he initiated modern methods such as the abolishment of the use of physical restraints on the patients.

In 1888 Dr. Fletcher opened a sanatarium for the treatment of women’s nervous disorders in a mansion at 228 N. Alabama St, and in 1902 built a new sanatarium, named Neuronhurst, at the corner of Market St. and Highland Avenue. According to the 1900 Federal Census all of his fifteen employees at the Sanatarium were female, except for the porter. His associate physician was Dr. Mary A. Spink. She was born in 1863 in Washington, IN. She first worked as a nurse at the Indiana Hospital for the Insane with Dr. Fletcher who persuaded her to attend medical school. After she graduated from the Medical College of Indiana in 1887 she joined Dr. Fletcher at his sanatarium as a neurologist. Her younger sister, Dr. Urbana Spink, a graduate of the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia as a neuro-psychiatrist, joined her at the sanatarium.Following Dr. Fletcher’s death in 1907 Dr. Mary Spink took over as the chief administrator of Neuronhurst. She continued at that position until she died in 1937.

Two other investors in Neuronhurst on E. Market Street in 1901 were Stoughton J. Fletcher and William B. Fletcher, Jr. Stoughton, the president of Fletcher National Bank in Indianapolis, was sixty years old when he signed the incorporation papers; he and Dr. Fletcher were first cousins. He died at his country home in Tennessee in 1909. William B. Fletcher, Jr., the Doctor’s son, was twenty-six years of age at this time and was a clerk at the Fletcher National Bank. He seems to have disappeared from the records after this.

Joining as directors in 1908 were Dr. Elijah V. Green, a Martinsville, IN physician who had graduated from the Indiana Medical College in 1876; Mary L. Green, Elijah’s wife, and Mrs. Mary Witte. In 1922 the directors of the sanitarium were the Spink sisters, Elizabeth B. O’Brien – secretary and treasurer, Arthur F. Hall – a businessman married to Dr. Fletcher’s daughter Una, and Agnes Fletcher Brown – another daughter of Dr. Fletcher’s and the widow of Dr. Randolph Brown. In the 1930s  Bernard and Bonaventura  Spink Cunniff, managers of the hotel company owned by the Spink family, were also directors.

During the 1930s the number of patients living at the sanitarium dropped, and it closed after Dr. Mary Spink died in 1937.

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer





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