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Obituaries of Noted Stamfordites

July 8, 1919
Stamford Advocate

photo of Dr. Givens from the obituaryObituary, Dr. Amos J. Givens
(transcript, the copy is too poor to be scanned)
The Stamford Advocate, Tuesday, July 8, 1919

Institution Started in 1892, Notably Successful
—President of the Fidelity Title and Trust Company Since 1916.

Dr. Amos J. Givens, founder of the Givens Sanitarium, died lat night. His illness, a disease of the heart, became serious two or three weeks ago, and for the last week the symptoms were such as to give little encouragement that he would recover. He had never fully recovered his strength after an attack of pneumonia a year or more ago. A corporation was founded last month for the purpose of relieving Dr. Givens of some of the responsibility he had assumed in the management of the sanitarium and of his extensive real estate holdings. This step had long been in contemplation, and it was taken at a time when, although there was hope that the doctor would recover, it was evident that, in such event, he would have to be free from business cares. The corporation will be able to continue the work of the institution, and will also have charge of the extensive real estate holdings of Dr. Givens.

Story of a Busy Life.

He was born in Cortland, N. Y. about 57 years ago, and soon after being graduated from a medical college, entered upon what was to be his life work, the treatment of nervous diseases. He was a member of the staff of the Minnesota State Hospital for the Insane, and held a similar position in the Massachusetts State Hospital in Westboro and the New York State Hospital in Middletown, N. Y. Seeing a demand for a private sanitarium in the vicinity of New York, he came to Stamford in 1892 and rented a building in Summer Street, which he equipped for a small number of patients. It was not long before the need became apparent for larger quarters. He acquired a large tract of property on the Long Ridge road, north of Bull's Head, and there he erected several large buildings and a number of cottages. Additions were made from time to time, according to plans that were carefully thought out, and soon the sanitarium became a village itself, with every facility for the work carried on. A power plant, laundry, water supply and other equipment were provided. The spacious grounds were laid out in a tasteful way, and a considerable amount of land was cultivated. Dr. Givens found that, while it was desirable to have a sanitarium in easy reach of New York, and not too far from the business center of Stamford, it was also important that it would be in a quiet locality, and that the surroundings should be attractive as well as healthy.

Treated Thousands of Patients.

The thousands of patients treated in the Givens Sanitarium and most of them cured or distinctly benefited—included people from every walk of life, from every State in the Union and from foreign countries. Some of the most distinguished statesmen, lawyers, judges, clergy, writers and bankers in America have been patients here. Were the list made public, it would cause astonishment, for often when the public assumed that certain well known people were traveling abroad, or spending vacations in some out-of-the-way resort, they were under treatment here. The most prized possessions of Dr. Givens were testimonials of appreciation from patients who had come to him suffering from mental diseases, and who had been sent away cured.

The records of such an institution are not public, but they contain many life stories of absorbing interest. It was a rule of Dr. Givens to keep a complete record of every patient, and this was done under his personal supervision. Hundreds of thousands of cards, filled with memoranda, contain intimate facts about his patients, and these were kept in cabinets for reference. Dr. Givens naturally had a wide acquaintance with members of the medical profession throughout the country. Confidence of physicians in his skill and judgment was evidenced not only in the large number of patients committed to his care, but in frequent and numerous calls for consultation in his capacity as a recognized expert in diagnosis of nervous diseases.

A Tireless Worker.

To those who enjoyed the pleasure and an intimate acquaintance with Dr. Givens, it was a constant source of surprise that he was able to accomplish as much work as he did in the quarter century and more since he came to Stamford. He had a sense of personal responsibility for every patient. Although assisted by a capable staff, he examined every patient admitted to the sanitarium, and in the case of commitments, was careful to see that the law was fully complied with. During the entire history of the institution, Dr. Givens was cited in only two habeas corpus proceedings, and in each instance it was shown that the patient was properly committed and should be kept under restraint and observation. A very large proportion of the patients came voluntarily and went away restored in mind and body.

Not only through his skill as physician, but as the active head and manager of the sanitarium, Dr. Givens showed wonderful ability. To see that patients had proper treatment and care was his constant thought, but in addition he gave personal attention to all the business of the institution, and this, among other things, included the directing and all of the work that has to be done in the management and government of several hundred people, in a place where rules and discipline must be enforced, and where the best sanitary conditions must prevail. He kept in close touch with everything pertaining to the establishment. He took few vacations, and, even when away from Stamford, he received several reports from the sanitarium every day. A few years ago, on one of his brief holidays, he made a trip to Cuba. Even while he was at sea, he was in communication with the institution, and, it is said, gave the Marconi operator more work than any passenger who went to Cuba before or since.

A Bank President.

On May 8, 1916, he was elected president of the Fidelity Title and Trust Company, of which he had been vice president. Some people wondered that he should be willing to take the office. He explained he found his best recreation in a change of work. The other officers and directors found that he soon mastered every detail connected with the operations of the bank, and was one of the most competent bankers in the country. His business judgment was of the highest value in dealing with financial problems, and his general knowledge was an increasing source of surprise to those with whom he came in contact.

Wrote for Recreation.

Dr. Givens never aspired to be known as a writer and yet he prepared a large number of scientific essays pertaining to his special work, these covering a wide range, descriptive of symptoms and treatment of various kinds of diseases. To a friend, who, one day, glanced over a few of the many pamphlets published by Dr. Givens, he remarked that these were part of his recreation; he wrote them at odd times, and hoped that they might be of some use. Aside from their scientific value, they revealed literary ability of a superior kind—and that is something that the doctor would modestly disclaim.

About six years ago, he was given the degree of Doctor of Law by Wesleyan University, and he also served for some years as one of the directors of that institution. It is said the honor which came to him from Wesleyan was due to the fact that his achievements were brought to the attention of the faculty of the institution by one of the most distinguished clergymen in the Methodist denomination, who came here suffering from a mental illness supposed to be incurable, and who was fully restored in health. Anyway, the writer recalls an interview with this clergyman, who attributed his recovery to the skill of Dr. Givens and his staff, and expressed his deepest gratitude. But this was only one among the talented men who were cured here. Not very long ago, one—a New York newspaperman—wrote a poem about Dr. Givens, in which he expressed, in a humorous way, his appreciation of his cure. He published the poem at his own expense and surprised the doctor by sending him one of the first copies. It would be possible to relate hundreds of incidents of a similar kind.

Had Faith in Stamford.

Dr. Givens had the utmost confidence in Stamford. He had seen the population more than doubled during his residence here, and often spoke of the great future in store for it. When his institution became profitable and he had money to invest, he acquired real estate here. A number of years ago he developed what is known the Givens Park section of the West Side. Later he invested in several buildings in Atlantic Street, being among the first to perceive that Atlantic Street was to become what it now is, an important commercial thoroughfare. As in everything else in which he interested himself, he showed remarkable shrewdness in his real estate transactions, and contrived to find time to devote them a considerable part of his time.

He owned the property which was leased to the Government as a branch of the Edgewood Arsenal, having purchased it when a prior owner failed, in order that he might help to start a new industry. He was made a director of the reorganized Stollwerck company. The demands made on his time and energies often brought from his friends a remonstrance and advice that he seek relief from constant strain. He liked work for its own sake. Methodical in his habits, he accomplished as much as several ordinary men. He did not permit himself to become excited. His friends and associates never found him confused, but always calm, always busy, and well informed about what was going on in the big world outside, although immersed in the concern of the spheres of activity of which he was a center. The success he achieved—and it was great—must be attributed to his remarkable ability, his persistence, and his untiring industry.

Dr. Givens was twice married. He is survived by his wife and by three adopted children—Webster, Cecil and Marie. The latter is married. His home life was very happy, and it was in his home that he found the relaxation that was welcome to a man whose life was so full of serious work.

Photo Selection of the Month, Dr. Givens’ Sanitarium, Stamford Hall