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Cemetery Restoration


One of the chief differences between human beings and lower animal species has been seen in the respect and the attentions human beings lavish on their own dead. People who died in institutional environments were often been treated very differently in death than those people who died within their home communities. Often little more than a number on a cement slab, post, or knob was left to commemorate the life that once resided in this facility or that. At a few institutions canisters of ash are all that remain of the residents who died within their auspices. There is now a movement afoot to return the identity and the facts that accompanied the lives of people behind the walls of asylums to the world. As a part of this cemetery restoration movement, that includes an effort to make the cemetery at St Elizabeth’s Hospital in our nation’s capitol a national memorial site, I hope to post articles about preservation efforts going on throughout various parts of this country on this page as they arise. Stayed connected, and return often, if you want more news in what is transpiring in this area of endeavor.



Long, lost grave of ‘the unfortunates’ discovered in Norman cemetery

A mass grave for 39 of 40 mental patients who died in a hospital fire in 1918 has been located in the IOOF Cemetery in Norman.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Modified: May 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: May 11, 2014
In newspaper accounts of the time, they were called simply “the unfortunates,” the 40 patients of the Oklahoma State Hospital for the Insane who died on April 13, 1918, in a grisly, pre-dawn fire.

While their names were known, their bodies for the most part were unrecognizable. And with the exception of one man who was identified and claimed by his family, they were buried together in a single, unmarked grave.

Other graves were dug to the right and left of them, and tombstones lovingly planted to record for posterity who was buried there. Yet, the 39 unclaimed bodies remained with no marker, no message to posterity that they once had lived — and violently died — at the state hospital for the mentally ill. Soon, the very site where they were laid to rest was forgotten.

Now, almost a century later, the grave of “the unfortunates” has been located, and hospital officials say they want to rectify what was a grievous oversight.

“The patients deserve to be named, to have their gravesite noted,” said Larry Gross, executive director of what is now known as Griffin Memorial Hospital.

Early-morning fire sweeps through men’s wards

The worst fire in the state’s history, measured by the number of lives lost, erupted about 3:45 a.m. in or near a linen closet in a residential ward. A steam whistle at the hospital’s power plant was used to sound a general alarm, summoning all employees to help with evacuation of two men’s wards where the fire had quickly spread.

Early accounts say hand-held chemical extinguishers were used until the city fire department arrived. Norman Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey says the department may only have had one pumper truck at the time.

“If a fire like that broke out now, there’d be smoke alarms and a sprinkler system, and the building would be constructed out of fire-resistant material,” he said.

Back then, the wooden structures ignited like matchsticks and firefighters had to rely on bucket brigades to augment what was probably a single hose stream from a pumper truck.

Two wards and a cafeteria burned before the fire was extinguished. Some 80 patients on the wards’ upper floors were safely evacuated, but 40 died, most of them housed on the first floor, and many of them still in their beds, dead of smoke inhalation, Bailey said.

“It was a terrible tragedy that could have been even worse if the fire had not been contained to those two buildings,” Bailey said, noting that the hospital housed up to 1,000 patients at that time.

Curiosity in 1980s spurs search for unmarked grave

As a rookie fireman in the 1980s, Bailey was intrigued by accounts of the fire and the fact that a mass grave existed in the International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery in east Norman, although no one seemed to know exactly where.

“It seemed to me that a grave for that many people should be marked. It seemed a sad testament to how the mentally ill were treated back then that it was not,” he said.

In the early 1900s, mental illness was loosely defined to include mental retardation and epilepsy, as well as psychiatric disorders. Little treatment was available, and the unfortunate victims of these types of illnesses often were confined for life to hospitals that served mainly as human warehouses.

“Peoples’ rights weren’t protected back then like they are today, and it was relatively easy to get someone hospitalized,” Gross said.

Once having heard of the fire, Bailey never lost his curiosity about the mass grave, prompting him in the early 2000s to contact both hospital officials and the Oklahoma Archeological Survey at the University of Oklahoma to see if there was a way to search for the burial site.

“When he first called us, we didn’t have the equipment to do anything about it,” said Scott Hammerstedt, a member of the survey’s research faculty. “But when he contacted us again earlier this year, we believed we could help.”

OU had acquired a ground penetrating radar, a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. Hperbolic reflections can indicate the presence of reflectors buried beneath the surface, showing up on radar as anamolies that could be associated with human burials, Hammerstedt said.

In early January, Hammerstedt and two assistants spent the better part of two days at the IOOF Cemetery, marking off grids and using the radar to search open spaces where it appeared likely bodies could be buried.

On the second day, their search paid off.

Grave located with aid of radar

“Lo and behold, there it was,” Gross said, in the northwest corner of the cemetery near the intersection of Porter Avenue and Rock Creek Road.

Without digging below the surface, Hammerstedt said, “you can never be 100 percent sure, but I’m as confident as anyone can be without excavating that we’ve found where the bodies are buried,” Hammerstedt said.

In a 1918 newspaper account of the burial, the bodies were placed in individual coffins and put into one large, 13- by 16-foot grave.

“Every kindly consideration” was given to them, according to an April 15, 1918, story in the Norman Transcript. Although, one consideration was noticeably lacking: a notation in cemetery records of where the grave is located.

Cemetery manager Tim Bowling said records indicate numerous people were buried on the same day on April 14, 1918, but no block and lot number are listed beside the names, something that is standard information for other burials.

“Unfortunately, I think that’s how the mentally ill were treated back then,” Bowling said.

Memorial planned

Having located the grave, Gross and his staff have undertaken the task of verifying names of the dead and attempting to track down their descendants.

“I feel like we owe them this,” Gross said. “These people were in our care at the time they died. It seemed to me not right that we didn’t know where they were buried or that their burial site should go unmarked.”

One patient whose remains were identifiable was not buried in the mass grave. Ona Havill was claimed by relatives and buried in Independence Cemetery in rural Cleveland County.

Another patient’s remains were identified by relatives but his body was included in the mass burial.

“The names of those who died were known, but most were burnt beyond recognition. Each was placed in a separate coffin for the burial that took place within a day of the fire,” Gross said.

Because of hospital privacy laws, Gross says he is not free to release the names of the dead, although he is working with legal staff to see if at some point they can be made public.

What he and Bailey envision is a headstone or memorial at the gravesite with the names carved on it.

“If we’re successful in tracking down descendants, we would like at some point to have a service, to have a dedication of a memorial,” Gross said.

To that end, the hospital and firefighters are seeking donations to pay for a permanent marker.

Anyone wishing to contribute to a memorial may send donations to Griffin Memorial Hospital, P.O. Box 151, Norman, OK 73070. Checks should carry a notation that the money is for a fire memorial.

Until money is raised, the only reminder of both an historic event and a tragic loss of life is a small grouping of red flags fluttering at the gravesite.



Back to Bedlam

Cemetery of London’s infamous asylum discovered

by Archaeology Newsroom – Thursday, 3 October 2013

They were the tortured souls incarcerated in the world’s first mental asylum.

The uproar, chaos and barbarism that surrounded them gave the place its famous nickname, which has resonated for centuries as a byword for madness – Bedlam.

Now the ‘lost souls of Bedlam’ are giving up their dark secrets, yards from one of London’s busiest railway stations.

Hundreds of skeletons, including the remains of patients from what was officially called Bethlem – or Bethlehem – Hospital, have been discovered in an old graveyard a few feet beneath the ground at Liverpool Street station on what is now part of Europe’s biggest building site.

It is thought the works, for the £15billion Crossrail project, will eventually yield up to 4,000 bodies, some dating back 450 years.

The graveyard, built on the Bethlem Hospital’s vegetable patch in the 1560s after churchyards around the city started to overflow, was used to bury London’s poor and religious non-conformists as well as inmates from the asylum.

Bethlem, whose name quickly became pronounced ‘Bedlam’ by Londoners, was founded in 1247 by Simon FitzMary, a wealthy former Sheriff of London, as a priory dedicated to St Mary of Bethlem.

By 1403, the majority of its patients were lunatics. Others suffered from epilepsy, learning disabilities and dementia.

Inside the squalid single-storey building that housed 12 cells, a kitchen, staff accommodation and an exercise yard, inmates were manacled and chained – and treated as a tourist attraction by Londoners who paid a penny to stare at them. Patients, usually poor, were given treatments including restraint, dousing with water, beatings and isolation.

Conditions inside Bedlam were depicted by William Hogarth in his 18th century drawings “A Rake’s Progress”, charting the decline of a merchant’s son from wealthy heir to asylum inmate, via debtor’s jail.

In 1676, the asylum moved to nearby Moorfields, then in 1815 to Southwark. Now called “The Bethlem Royal Hospital”, it has been in Beckenham, Kent, since 1930 and is part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

At the Crossrail site, it will not be possible to distinguish Bedlam patients from other dead, as mental illness will not have left any physical scars on the skeletons.

In most cases, identification will be difficult, if not impossible, because although some were buried in coffins, any name plates recovered have been too rusty to read.

The dig’s manager, Nick Elsden from the Museum of London Archaeology, is part of a team of more than 100 archaeologists who are examining each of the 40 sites being dug up for Crossrail, the 73-mile rail line that will link the City, Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow to commuter areas east and west of London.

Mr Elsden said: ‘This site is a rare, perhaps unprecedented, opportunity. This is a major roadway outside one of London’s busiest railway stations. You don’t get to dig that up normally. Everyone’s been running around Liverpool Street for years not thinking they are walking around on bodies from one of the densest burial grounds in London.’

The bones, some from children, will be examined for clues as to how their owners lived and died.

There is already evidence that some suffered from rickets. It is thought other bones will bear the scars of late-stage syphilis.

Other finds at Liverpool Street include the project’s first piece of gold – a 16th century Venetian coin. It had been pierced, so it is likely to have been worn as a pendant.

The site also holds earlier secrets. Some 11ft below the skeletons lie the remains of a Roman road studded with 2,000-year-old horseshoes – hoof-shaped ‘sandals’ made of metal and secured by leather strapping. Roman coins have also been found, one from around AD130 depicting the Emperor Hadrian.

Matthew Symonds, editor of Current Archaeology magazine, said: ‘What’s wonderful about this graveyard is that you are looking at a cross-section of society.

‘Historical records will be from the more educated and better off sections, but this is something that tells us how everyday people lived their lives. That kind of glimpse into the past is invaluable.’


Crossrail digging unearths diverse and ancient London burial ground

Tunnelling project’s chief archaeologist says up to 4,000 bodies of plague victims and inmates of Bedlam may be discovered
Maev Kennedy
The Guardian, Wednesday 7 August 2013

Every day hordes of London commuters have passed unknowingly over the bodies of thousands of their predecessors, buried a few metres under the roaring traffic and rumbling trains at Liverpool Street, and which are now being exposed for the first time by the huge Crossrail construction project.

The bodies include those of mentally ill patients from Bethlem, the ancient and notorious asylum from which the word Bedlam entered the English language. Bodies that were never claimed by their families – often those of beaten, starved and exploited inmates – would have ended up in the burial ground alongside rich and poor, old and young, victims of plague and war, from across London.

Jay Carver, lead archaeologist on the Crossrail sites – the largest archaeology project in the UK on the largest infrastructure project in Europe – described the site as exceptionally interesting. “Because of its history, we know that this is one of the most diverse burial grounds in London, a real cross section of its people across two centuries. Bone preservation is excellent in the finds we have already made, and we are expecting many important discoveries when we get into the main phase of the excavation.”

The trial trenches have already yielded the first treasure from the 40 archaeology sites along the route of Crossrail’s tunnelling: a thumbnail-sized golden coin from Venice, pierced so it could be stitched on as expensive decoration on some costly garment – and likely a bad loss when the thread broke and it fell into the gutter some 400 years ago.

The archaeologists have also found a stretch of a superbly engineered Roman road that probably led to a bridge across the river Walbrook. Builders laid logs and brushwood on the boggy ground before building it up in layers, finishing with gravel and rammed clay still so solid and sound it looks modern. Embedded in the road surface was a human bone, possibly washed out of earlier burials nearby, and another loss that must have caused some cursing: a horse shoe. More Roman finds are confidently expected.

The walled, two-acre burial ground was opened in the mid-17th century by order of the mayor of London. It was the first built away from the city’s parish churches and their bursting, grossly overfilled graveyards and was usually known as Bedlam because it was on land formerly occupied by the mental hospital, which had recently moved to Moorfields. It would move again to the present site of the Imperial War Museum, and finally to Bromley in Kent, where it survives today as the Bethlem Royal hospital.

From the start, because it had a preaching pulpit but no church, it was associated with dissenters — as Bunhill Fields later became. Carver hopes to find evidence of two particularly interesting characters known to have been buried there: ‘Freeborn John’ – John Lilburne – a radical campaigner and pamphleteer for the rights of the common man who greatly influenced the Levellers, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, exiled twice and eventually died while on parole from his final jail term.

Robert Lockyer, a soldier in Cromwell’s New Model Army who was executed for his involvement in the Bishopsgate Mutiny – when the army defied orders to leave London – was also buried there after a funeral that terrified the authorities, attended by thousands of mourners wearing the Levellers’ green ribbons.

The victims of several outbreaks of plague were also buried there; as it filled, there were appeals for more top soil to keep the bodies decently covered, and by the time it closed in 1714 it held a 2m layer solid with corpses. Because the bodies came from all over London, those buried there are unusually diverse socially. This poses a problem for Carver; there are no surviving burial records for the cemetery, and instead names are scattered through thousands of records in the parishes where they lived or died. He hopes to ask the public for help in tracking them down.

Part of the cemetery was excavated in the 1980s by the Museum of London, when the Broadgate Centre was built But while towering office blocks gradually replaced the Victorian townhouses, factories and warehouses – which in turn displaced the warren of poor Georgian buildings – an extensive stretch of the burial ground survived under Liverpool Street itself. The busy road, following the route taken by the Romans almost 2,000 years earlier, kept the site as open ground and preserved the remains from being destroyed by pile driving and foundations.

The remains of several hundred individuals have already been found in the trial pits and the trenches dug to relocate utilities. Carver believes he will find up to 4,000 more when the main excavation starts next year.

• This article was amended on 8 August 2013. An earlier version wrongly referred to the Leveller Robert Lockyer as John Lockyer.



1,000 bodies in unmarked graves: One may be great-grandmother of this writer!

Gerry Glenn Jones

Memphis Travel Examiner

When you dig, you never know what you might find, or who you might find. That is the case at the University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson, Mississippi, where construction workers were recently digging to prepare for the building of a parking garage and dental school on an unimproved tract of their property.

According to reports in the Clarion-Ledger, the University has been sidelined in their construction of the parking garage and dental school by ghosts from the past. Not actual chain dragging, white sheet wearing ghosts, but a ghostly period in Mississippi’s history, where certain bodies were not ceremoniously buried and did not receive markers. Many, according to Dr. James Keeton, Dean of the medical school, were believed to be patients of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, which was previously located at this site until 1935. He believes the bodies were buried there over a century ago. He said none have names.

This breaking discovery has brought shock to this writer, whose great-grandmother, Jane (Holloway) Mathis, apparently died at the Mississippi State Asylum. According to family accounts, she became so obsessed with the Holy Bible, she tried following it perfectly, and lost her mind. Other causes of her mental breakdown may have been brought about by her husband, Quinney Powell Mathis, this writer’s great-grandfather, whom she married in 1873. They lived near Houlka, Mississippi in Skuna River bottom. Family accounts, passed down through generations, say that he ran a moonshine still, and kept a concubine in a cabin near his still, close to the river. This may have helped Jane lose her mind.

Another factor that points to the possibility that this writer’s ancestor is one of the skeletons found in the recent discovery, is the fact that the writer’s brother was attempting a genealogical search of Jane (Holloway) Mathis’ grave in the 1980s, and he went to Whitfield, which is the present Mississippi State Hospital (MSH) , and is a psychiatric facility operated by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. He was denied entry without a court order, so he did not pursue it. It seems he would have been looking in the wrong place anyway. Whitfield became the State Hospital in 1935, and even though the family does have a date of death, or even a death certificate, it is common reason that Jane died before the facility at Whitfield opened, and died at the original facility where all the unknown bodies were found.

It is also very reasonable for this writer to suspect that one of the unknown bodies at the medical school, is his great-grandmother, and even though DNA tests would either confirm or reject this assumption, the medical center is not prepared to go any further with reburial of the corpses. Dean Keeton reported to the Clarion-Ledger that reburial would cost the university about $3,000 apiece, with an expenditure of three million dollars total, which he says the university cannot afford. He says they will build elsewhere.

At this point, more investigations will be made by this writer and other family members in hopes of getting an answer to the question, “Is Jane (Holloway) Mathis buried in a mass grave of the unknown?”



Discovered Bodies From 80 Year-Old Mental Institution Cause Construction Dilemmas For University Of Mississippi Medical School

Feb 11, 2014 03:14 PM EST

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, a medical school, has a dead body issue, and its delaying future construction projects. When the school surveyed a site intended to be a parking lot for their dental school, they found 1,000 bodies, graves from the old mental institution that last stood in the area around 80 years ago, USA Today reported.

“None have names,” said Dr. James Keeton, dean of the medical school.

It actually wasn’t much of a surprise; the shock of finding bodies around the grounds of UMMC has been somewhat diminished since the first discovery in 1990, and subsequent findings thereon after.

It was, however, the largest find, which poses a problem for Keeton and his plans for expansion. Previously, the school was able to relocate graves when the body counts were less than 100. But a thousand graves translate to about $3 million in extra expenses if they choose to dig them up and re-bury them, according to USA Today.

“We can’t afford that,” Keeton said.

Further complicating the situation is the likelihood of more bodies in other areas of the school’s grounds deemed as possible construction sites and those bodies’ historical significance in the eyes of archivists.

“There are probably thousands more bodies that we’ve never seen,” said Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the state Board of Health and a historian of the old asylum.

Lampton’s not only referring to bodies belonging to patients’, but to those from a battle during the civil war, which took place within literal bullet shots of the mental hospital (one patient was shot but not killed). UMMC still has some old relics/monuments commemorating the fight, of which Lampton remaked:  “They identified them as Confederate trenches. They are actually Union trenches. They also put cannons there that are actually Spanish-American War guns, and they’re pointed the wrong way. Other than that, they got everything right.”

In light of all the recent findings, school officials are seeking other options. They have a good idea of where the asylum graves are located, but they don’t know where all the war graves are, according to USA Today.



Graves’ discovery affects Miss. medical school’s plans

1,000 bodies may have been asylum patients; more might be revealed on campus.

JACKSON, Miss. — Future progress for the state’s longtime medical school has collided with the ghosts of Mississippi’s past — the discovery of a 1,000 bodies buried on its campus and the likelihood of more.

Officials of the fast-growing University of Mississippi Medical Center had planned to build a parking garage east of the dental school, where a grove of trees now sits.

But testing in the area revealed 1,000 bodies, believed to have been patients at the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum a century ago.

“None have names,” said Dr. James Keeton, dean of the medical school.

Paying for reburials elsewhere would cost about $3,000 a piece, or $3 million total, he said. “We can’t afford that.”

New plans include building the parking garage next to the dental school, he said.

Others plans may have to change, too. Medical center officials had hoped to use the property west of the dental school for future expansion, but Keeton said they might have to rethink that approach, because other bodies may lie beneath the earth — former slaves, TB victims and possibly even Civil War dead.

The UMMC ground on which Keeton and Gov. Phil Bryant recently stood to announce construction of the $11 million American Cancer Society Hope Lodge is believed to contain yet more bodies.

For that reason, UMMC officials said both the lodge and a new Children’s Justice Center would likely have to be relocated on the 164-acre campus, where both space and parking seem to be growing scarce.

The State Lunatic Asylum opened on the site in 1855, housing 150 patients.

Eight years later, the Union’s 46th Indiana Infantry Regiment arrived at the asylum. One soldier wrote that the patients “were terribly excited and were seen at the windows shouting to  the soldiers.”

Readying for the siege of Jackson, the soldiers set up camp, built fortifications and grew vegetables to sustain themselves, said Jim Woodrick, director of the Historic Preservation Division of the state Department of Archives and History.

During the ensuing battle, Confederate soldiers fired back and hit the asylum, injuring at least one patient, he said.

By the time the Union Army left, one soldier penned that Jackson is a “ruined town,” he said.

After the Civil War ended, the mental facility expanded to house 300 patients, and the area became known as “Asylum Hill,” a neighborhood that included houses, a school and a church for former slaves, Cade Chapel M.B. Church.

The area eventually saw construction of a fertilizer factory, a Baptist orphanage and a sanatorium for those suffering from tuberculosis.

The hill had several cemeteries: one for asylum patients, one for M.B. church members and one for paupers. Some have suggested there may be Civil War graves there, too.

In 1935, Mississippi moved the asylum to its present location at Whitfield.

Two decades later, construction started on the University Medical Center, and officials dubbed the area “Education Hill.”

It didn’t stick.

Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the state Board of Health, said his father, who taught at UMMC for four decades, told him every time the institution broke ground, they found more caskets.

“There are probably thousands more bodies that we’ve never seen,” said Lampton, who has researched and written about the days of the asylum.

By 1926, the patient population had swelled to 2,000, and the patients grew their own crops, Lampton said.

In 1990, The Clarion-Ledger reported about 20 tombstones had been discarded in a gully behind UMC.

After the article appeared, archives officials warned UMC that hundreds of bodies might be buried there, saying, “This site is a potential Mississippi Landmark and may be adversely affected by any development on it.”

A UMMC official responded: “Should any development occur in the future in that area, I know the information you sent will be helpful.”

A few years later, workers found 44 unmarked graves while putting in a steam line for a new laundry.

During 2012 construction on the crossing of East University Drive and University Drive on campus, workers discovered the first of 66 pine coffins that held bodies, leading UMMC to contact state archives and Mississippi State University.

Medical center officials announced plans to rebury those in a small cemetery there.

But that option isn’t possible with the discovery of 1,000 bodies, Keeton said.

Biological anthropologist Nicholas Herrmann, an associate professor at MSU, said through recent testing, they’ve been able to get a good idea of the location of the asylum graves.

What is less certain, he said, is where other cemeteries might have been.

In most cases, anthropologists have been able to determine gender and approximate age.

Mable Daniels is hoping such information might help to confirm her great-grandmother, Epsie Seals, was indeed buried there. “It would be closer than what we know right now,” said Daniels, whose great-grandmother died at the asylum on Valentine’s Day in 1916 after “14 days of paralysis.”

Woodrick said the crescent-shaped earthworks on the UMMC campus are part of the only two military fortifications left from the 1863 siege The other is in Battlefield Park, marked by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, he said. “They identified them as Confederate trenches. They are actually Union trenches. They also put cannons there that are actually Spanish-American War guns, and they’re pointed the wrong way. Other than that, they got everything right.”

If a bulldozer ever tries to disturb the earthworks on old Asylum Hill, Woodrick vows to do all he can to halt it. “I’ll go down,” he said, “and lay in the road.”


Menston, West Yorkshire, England

Chance to see completion of High Royds work

4th July 2013
Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer

High Royds Memorial Garden and Chapel open day will be held on Saturday, between 10am and 1pm, to celebrate the completion of phases one and two of the redevelopment of the former derelict paupers’ graveyard on Buckle Lane, Menston.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available and free car parking is available at the Hare & Hounds.

In 2010 the trustees, of what is now the Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden, took over the ownership and responsibility, on behalf of the local community, for the three acres of graveyard, chapel and surrounding woodland belonging to the former High Royds psychiatric hospital.

With the help of volunteers and Heritage Lottery funding the derelict graveyard has been transformed into a memorial chapel and garden which has been highly commended by Yorkshire in Bloom Judges.

Phase one was completed in 2011 and the chapel re-building renovation was completed in September 2012. Since then the chapel has been fully fitted out with furniture and brasswork donated by churches in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Volunteers have also worked on the gardens with funding and advice from North of England Royal Horticultural Society, based in Harrogate.

Social historian, photographer and author Mark Davis, who has carried out extensive research into the High Royds Psychiatric Hospital, and other West Riding asylums, will be present for a signing of his new book West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum Through Time. There will also be a film giving further details of High Royds in the latter part of 19th and the whole of the 20th century.



Menston, West Yorkshire, England

Refitted High Royds Memorial Chapel opens

Monday, 17th June, 2013
Ilkley Express.

The fully refitted High Royds Memorial Chapel opened its doors to Mothers’ Union members as it gets ready for its big open day next month.

Members of St John’s Mother’s Union, from Ben Rhydding, had a chance to see inside the Menston chapel, on Buckle Lane, which has been refurbished to commemorate almost 3,000 former patients of High Royds psychiatric hospital who were buried in the graveyard.

An open day on July 6 will give more people the opportunity to see the further work which has been carried out in the memorial garden, and the improvements to the interior of the chapel.

Last year, chairs, a lectern and candlesticks had to be borrowed, but the generosity of churches in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire now means the chapel has 40 chairs, a lectern and an oak offertory table.

The fitting out of the interior was completed thanks to gifts from Ilkley Parish Church and St Hugh’s, Scunthorpe.

Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden chairman Ron Sweeney said: “These, together with previous gifts of an altar from St. John’s, Thorpe Edge and pews from St. Wilfrid’s, Calverley, provide a fitting tribute to the 2,961 former patients of High Royds Hospital who were forgotten.”

The Friends say it also shows a sense of pride by the community which has made the project possible.

The garden has also been freshly planted with the help of the North England Horticultural Society ready for the open day.

The Hospital, built in 1888, closed in 2003. Work to restore the memorial garden began in 2011.


St Albans, Hertfordshire, England

Memorial rose at St Albans mental hospital cemetery

Debbie White
Monday, June 24, 2013
6:26 PM

ONE of the more than 1,000 people laid to rest unceremoniously at the burial ground for two former mental hospitals in St Albans has had a rose planted in commemoration of her death over 50 years ago.

David Davies, of Tuddenhan St Martin, north of Ipswich, visited the Hill End Garden of Rest, Highfield Park, to plant a rose in memory of his great-grandfather’s brother’s daughter, Flora May Winter.

His relative was a patient at the Hill End Asylum from 1906 until her death in 1962. Flora and her mother had previously been residents in the Barnet Workhouse.

The garden is managed by the Highfield Park Trust, which has transformed the once-forgotten site into a more dignified setting for the 1,019 people buried there.

It was the burial ground for patients and staff of the former Hill End and Cell Barnes hospitals, both of which closed in the 1990s.

Patients were only entitled to a pauper’s burial and were laid to rest in communal graves, atop or beneath other corpses, without a headstone after a hurried 10-minute ceremony.

A spokesman for the trust said members had “worked hard to restore the Garden of Rest and preserve it as a peaceful haven for wildlife, in memory of those staff and patients buried there”.

Recently joining David at the garden were Catherine Newley, curator at the Museum of St Albans, and Gary Moyle, archivist of heritage services at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, Hertford.

Catherine and Gary helped park trustees Sarah Graham and Sue Gaylard with research for new information boards recently installed at Hill End.


In Vt., long-dead mental patients inspire crusade

By WILSON RING Associated Press

WATERBURY, Vt. (AP) — An all-but-forgotten cemetery and its dozens of long-dead patients of the forerunner of the Vermont State Hospital are reaching from beyond their hillside graves to help modernize state law regulating what happens when someone dies and no one claims the remains.

The issue emerged from the shadows of history because of Tropical Storm Irene, which more than a year ago inundated the hospital complex, destroyed many old patient records and rendered the complex unusable. As plans were made for a new hospital, some feared the cemetery was in danger of being forgotten again.

“Somehow it felt incredibly important to give those people back the dignity of their identity,” said state Rep. Anne Donahue, a Republican from Northfield and longtime advocate for the mentally ill. “I wanted to find out who was here.”

The patients in the Waterbury cemetery came from points all over the state, from Holland on the Canadian border to Bennington, in southern Vermont. One was born in Prussia, most of which is now Poland. Another was from Ireland. The youngest was a child who died at birth along with his mother. The oldest was 82. Their demises resulted from a variety of causes, but many list variations of insanity as an underlying condition; in one case, it was brought on by “domestic affliction.”

What they all had in common was dying between 1891 and 1913 while in state custody as patients at the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane. At the time they were buried, the cemetery, up a steep hill just above the Winooski River, looked out over a farm field now covered by Interstate 89.

“They were all individuals who had no one willing to claim their bodies, and so they ended up here,” Donahue said.

Many of the original records of their lives — and deaths — were lost when Irene’s floods inundated the nearby hospital complex. The state hospital itself was moved from Waterbury, and its permanent replacement is under construction in the town of Berlin.

Donahue said she first heard of the hillside cemetery last fall during a ceremony marking the permanent closure of the last remnant of the hospital, abandoned during the August 2011 storm with the remaining patients spread across the state while officials figured out how to replace it.Over the decades, people have acknowledged the presence of the cemetery. A historian who wrote about the state hospital noted that in the 1970s, the indentations of the original graves were still visible. And it was marked in 1991 with a granite headstone remembering the people buried there: “May their spirits soar. You are remembered.”

Donahue spent months going through death and census records, as well as leftover information about the cemetery and the people buried there. Her list isn’t definitive, but it offers a glimpse into a time when people with mental illness were hidden away.

Sally Town was 30 when she died in childbirth along with her baby. Her pregnancy had been discovered two weeks before her death. Her death certificate said she died after her brain was destroyed by syphilis.

Amelia Platka died at age 63 in 1898. The native of Germany died of liver disease. The cause of her insanity was listed as “domestic affliction.”

After hearing their stories and others, Donahue wanted to use her position as a lawmaker to pass a law guaranteeing the cemetery would be taken care of forever. But in researching the case, she found that that site, on state land, was already protected.

Instead, she was shocked to learn the reason why no more people were buried at the cemetery after about 1912: State law began allowing the bodies of people who died unclaimed to be used for medical research, a practice that eventually fell into disuse.

After she started working on a bill to repeal that law, she heard from Vermont’s health commissioner, Dr. Harry Chen. He told her the state had no clear mechanism for the ultimate disposal of unclaimed remains.

Right now, there is one body being held by the medical examiner that has no next of kin. A couple of others, in which the next of kin wants nothing to do with the ultimate disposition, are being held, Chen said.

“At any given time, there are a couple corpses that are kind of waiting for people to claim them or figure out how to dispose of the remains in a respectful way,” Chen said. “It’s sad.”

The Vermont Medical Examiner checked with other states and determined that the procedures for dealing with unclaimed remains varies widely across the country, Health Department spokesman Robert Stirewalt said.

Donahue’s proposal outlines how unclaimed remains should be cremated and then held by the medical examiner’s office for three years while a search is conducted for someone willing to keep them. After that, they could be buried or disposed of through other methods.

The bill has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

St Albans, Herfordshire, England


Preserving St Albans’ forgotten cemetery

Debbie White

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
12:57 PM

THE first group of corpses was buried in a pit near a St Albans asylum in 1899, the year that then reporter Winston Churchill travelled to South Africa to write about the second Boer War.

By 1948, nearly 50 years later – when Britain’s National Health System was created – the bodies of more than 1,000 people had been laid to rest alongside, atop or beneath other corpses in what had become a paupers’ grave at Highfield.

Back then, randomly spiking the earth above the remains of people buried seven-deep, one above the other, were plain bubble-shaped metal grave markers.

But they did not carry the names, ages or the date of death of loved ones, as we would expect in this day and age.

They simply bore numbers which signalled the presence of the buried remains of daughters, sons, mothers and fathers in the unconsecrated cemetery, located alongside the Alban Way, in a corner of Highfield Park on Hill End Lane within sight of Longacres open space.

And if it was not for the dedication of a group of caring locals, this forgotten cemetery would still be a neglected, weed-riven, over-grown part of the city.

This poignant area, the Hill End Garden of Rest, managed by the Highfield Park Trust, has gradually been transformed into a more dignified setting for the 1,019 people buried there.

It was the burial ground for patients and staff of the former Hill End and Cell Barnes mental hospitals, both of which closed in the 1990s.

Highfield Park was established from the parkland grounds of both hospitals as part of the residential redevelopment of those sites.

According to park trustees Sarah Graham and Sue Gaylard and park manager Richard Bull, “there are still a lot of unanswered questions” about the cemetery.

Patients were only entitled to a pauper’s burial and were laid to rest in communal graves without a headstone after a hurried ten-minute ceremony.

Hill End Hospital was founded in 1899 adjacent to the burial site as the “Hertfordshire County Asylym”, and was also referred to as Hill End Asylum. Cell Barnes Hospital opened in 1933 and closed three years after Hill End’s closure, in 1998.

Richard explained that as the graveyard was located on the edge of Hill End hospital residents would have, “been able to look at this and know that this is where they would end up”.

Sue added: “If your relative was in a mental institution, they were cut off because of the social stigma. They were seen as an embarrassment to the family.”

In 2007 a woman researching her family history was upset to find there was no grave to lay flowers for her grandmother at the overgrown site.

Enquiries by the trust revealed a burial register at the county archives in Hertford, which showed there were 1,019 burials in 179 graves over a period of nearly 50 years.

In 2008 some soil was removed, revealing the location of those communal graves, courtesy of some remaining markers.

The Register of Burials states each grave number and lists those laid to rest in the same place at certain times.

Details for grave marker number 24 show that six people were buried in 1909 in the same place, including a shoemaker, labourer and charwoman.

Eight years later, a seventh person was also buried at that plot.

Since the discovery of the markers, the trust has placed a stone monument at the cemetery’s entrance, carved in memory of those laid to rest.

Further inside, extensive ground works have been carried out, roses planted, and an archway and a memorial made with burial markers have been installed.

Sarah, Richard and Sue said that while the origins of the Hill End Garden of Rest were a “fascinating and sad topic” the trust was ensuring those buried are not forgotten and that visitors had, at long last, somewhere pleasant and peaceful to reflect upon those who have passed away.

All enquiries about burial records should be directed to Hertfordshire Archives at Hertford. Once a plot number is identified, a sketch plan on an information board opposite the cemetery can be used to locate where relatives are buried.



$180,000 raised for memorial garden at former Bryce Hospital’s cemetery

By Sara Milledge
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Published: Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.

TUSCALOOSA | You won’t find most of the graves at Bryce Hospital unless you go looking for them. A handful of stones rise from the ground below a wrought iron sign that reads “Old Cemetery,” but the markers that fill the three other Bryce cemeteries are all but invisible. And almost all are engraved with a number.

Steve Davis, historian for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, surveys the grounds. He points to a small plot in the right corner of Cemetery No. 2, where nine stillborn babies, one from Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility and eight from Bryce Hospital, were originally remembered with a pair of praying hands. The statue was stolen several years ago.

“It kind of broke my heart,” he said.

One grave in Cemetery No. 2 is decorated by family members once a month and has been throughout Davis’ 38-year tenure at Bryce. The grave is at least 60 years old, making its decoration a tradition spanning two generations.

Davis estimates that 5,500 graves fill Bryce’s four cemeteries, the oldest of which is dated 1862. Many of the markers are covered with soil and weeds. Some are not there at all. The majority of the markers that remain are simple concrete blocks the size of bricks stamped with a number. Very few are identified with a name.

“I think it’s really important that people have their name on their grave. It just personalizes the grave,” Davis said. “I’ve had tremendous experiences where people have come and located their great-grandmother, their grandmother’s grave.”

Family members are allowed to purchase personalized markers for their loved ones. That policy may change, however, because of new restrictions concerning privacy.

Last year, Davis was able to show a woman from Texas the marker she had purchased for a relative.

“After I started counting she thanked me 11 times for being able to show her the grave,” he said.

Three thousand of the original markers have not survived and an unknown number of graves were moved in 1967 for the construction of River Road, now Jack Warner Parkway, making it difficult to know the exact location of each grave. Some of the unmarked graves have been identified using equipment from Moundville Archaeological Park. The park, a 20-minute drive south of Tuscaloosa, is dedicated to the excavation of artifacts and study of the Mississippian Indian culture along the Black Warrior River.

Most of Bryce’s visible burials lie under markers with no name and no words. Only a number distinguishes them.

“Peter Bryce was a man way ahead of his time,” Davis said. “(The use of numbers) wasn’t to make people less of a person, but he thought people would be stigmatized by family members being here. He put patient numbers on the graves.”

Bryce, the hospital’s first superintendent and its namesake psychiatrist, was a pioneer in the field of mental health when the Alabama Insane Hospital, now Bryce Hospital, first opened in 1861.

“Dr. Bryce was a leading psychiatrist in the country,” said Camille Elebash, a member of the Bryce Historic Preservation Committee and a lifelong Tuscaloosan. “Once upon a time, mental patients were not treated any better than animals.”

She added, “(Bryce) was one of the early ones for humane treatment; he followed Dr. Kirkbride. Dr. Kirkbride was the first person who really did something about building good hospitals. They called it the Kirkbride imprint out here. This hospital was one of the first ones in the whole country that Dr. Kirkbride designed. The building was literally part of the treatment.”

Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, a Philadelphia psychiatrist, founded the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane in 1844. The association evolved into the American Psychiatric Association. His Kirkbride model for designing mental health institutions was revolutionary at the time of Bryce’s construction. The building’s design was intended to provide comfort and privacy for patients, and the architecture was meant to help cure mental illness.

Today, a group of Tuscaloosa volunteers aims to memorialize the thousands of nameless patients buried on the Bryce campus.

While the use of numbers as burial identification remained constant for 120 years, the markers themselves changed, Davis said. Originally, the numbers were carved into wooden blocks, which were replaced by iron crosses. The crosses are now a rare find in any of the cemeteries.

“Those have been stolen, vandalized and are simply not there,” Davis said. “When I started work, both the cemetery right at the back of the grounds and the one on the north side of Jack Warner Parkway still were covered with crosses, so it’s been during my employment lifetime that they’ve been stolen. We see them on eBay. University Police brought a pickup truck with a bed full of iron crosses they’d found in a fraternity house. That’s been about seven or eight years ago.”

Today, only the concrete markers designate graves. The use of patient numbers ceased in 1922, and burial numbers were used for the next 60 years. In 1982, Bryce began engraving the markers with patients’ names.

Davis said stricter privacy laws, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act might force the hospital to revert back to the use of numbers. Laws like HIPPA regulate the disclosure of personal health care information, which can make accessing patients’ medical records difficult.

“A lot of what we’ve tried to do with the historical efforts of this hospital is fight stigma. So I hate to see that, but I also understand from a legal standpoint,” Davis said.

In 1902, 86 percent of those who died at Bryce were buried there. By 1922, that number had dwindled to less than 50 percent.

Davis said that after patients died their families were notified but that many did not have the transportation or the means to bury their loved ones elsewhere.

The hospital keeps records of corresponding patient/burial numbers and names, which until recently were open to patients’ next of kin. With the implementation of more restrictive privacy policies, however, only a court-appointed executive of estate is allowed to handle patient records.

The cemetery ledger recording the burials between 1862 and 1922 has been missing since at least 1967.

Although many of the graves are shrouded in anonymity, they have not been forgotten. Members of the Tuscaloosa community are working with the Alabama Department of Mental Health to memorialize the people who, for more than a century, have been known only by a number.

“We decided that the best way was to do a memorial garden and to have it for everybody,” Elebash said.

The Bryce Historic Preservation Committee has been working since 2008 toward the establishment of a memorial garden on the Bryce campus. Its members are diverse. Representatives from the Alabama Department of Mental Health, preservation advocates, architectural historians, descendants of former Bryce superintendents and past Bryce Hospital residents are on the committee.

The garden will honor those buried on hospital grounds, especially those in the unmarked graves.

“(We’re) trying to pay tribute to the people that lived and died the Bryce Hospital experience,” said Dr. Tom Hobbs, chairman of the committee.

Part of that tribute was a memorial service held in April 2010 at Bryant-Jordan Chapel on the Bryce campus, the first ceremony of its kind at the facility. Hosted by the committee, it was an effort to honor those who had died at the hospital. About 300 family members of former Bryce residents attended the service.

“It was more like a funeral — closure for families,” Davis said. “One of the best things we’ve ever done.”

Davis also said he was surprised at the community’s generosity during a time of economic hardship.

To date, the committee has raised more than $180,000 in private donations for the memorial. Businesses and individuals gave a considerable amount to the project, and members of the community purchased memorial bricks to be included in the garden in honor of loved ones. Tuscaloosa architect Evans Fitts designed the memorial, donating his service and time.

Originally, memorials were proposed for all four cemeteries. However, the committee has decided to build a single, larger garden that will be located on the hill in front of Cemetery 1A at the back of the Bryce campus. Each of the cemeteries now has a historic marker and is listed in the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.

“There are thousands of people buried in these cemeteries, and a lot of them are unknown,” said Rosemarie Childress, the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society’s representative to the committee. “We decided that one memorial, for all of these thousands of people, would be in order.”

Fitts said a contract has been signed for construction of the memorial. He added that the committee plans to break ground on the memorial in spring.

Davis, Elebash and Childress agree that the community has been receptive to the idea of a memorial honoring those buried at Bryce.

“I think we’ve gotten great support from everybody,” Childress said. “How could you object to that?”

The committee also hopes that the memorial will work to clear the stigma that surrounds Bryce and mental illness as a whole.

“There has always been stigma associated with Bryce Hospital,” Hobbs said. “The stigma is endorsed, I think, most vigorously by those who least understand the role of Bryce Hospital. It has been the quintessential symbol of Alabama’s dedication to its citizenry who have suffered from mental illness. Its checkered history certainly has to be noted. It has been the site of some really good things; it has been the site of some things that could have been better.”

Bryce, once the frontrunner for mental health care and patients’ rights, was criticized heavily for inhumane treatment of patients during the landmark Wyatt v. Stickney case filed in 1970. The case lasted 33 years and led to a nationwide revolution of standards in the medical care of mental illness.

Childress agreed. “Of course there’s always been — for years and years and years — a stigma as far as mental health is concerned,” she said. “But this project, I think, is a welcome project. I think people are glad that we’re doing it to kind of help bring the mental health problem to the forefront and let people see that folks with mental illness aren’t any different from the rest of us,” she said.

“I would like to think that these kinds of efforts, in some way, reduce the kind of stigma associated with Bryce Hospital,” Hobbs said. “Hopefully it will. But I think one of the main things that will help do that is the University of Alabama’s current interest in including some of the hospital’s most historical structures in their current master plan.”

The University of Alabama purchased the Bryce campus, and has agreed to preserve the hospital’s main Kirkbride building. An effort to save the building’s wings is under way. The cemeteries, however, remain the property of the Alabama Department of Mental Health.


Marker sought for Topeka State Hospital cemetery

1,157 patients were buried there from 1879 to 1954

Posted: September 30, 2012 – 3:56pm
By Phil Anderson

Former employees of Topeka State Hospital are seeking funds to install a granite marker that identifies the location of a cemetery on the northeast side of the now-defunct facility where 1,157 patients were buried from 1879 to 1954.

Barbara Hauschild, 75, and Marlene Shelton, 76, said this week that efforts are under way to place a new marker in front of two granite monuments that each stand about 6 feet tall.

The names of each of the patients buried on the grounds — most in unmarked graves — are inscribed on the monuments, which were erected in 2006, thanks largely to the efforts of the late Bryce Miller, a local mental health advocate.

The cost of the new marker, which stand 4 feet tall and will be placed facing south on the concrete apron where the twin monuments are located, will be $3,326.

“Hopefully, some ex-employees who don’t attend our yearly reunion will hear about this and send some money,” said Hauschild, who retired from Topeka State Hospital as secretary to the director in 1983. “Of course, anyone is welcome to donate.”

Hauschild said some funds were generated at a reunion of former state hospital employees last weekend in Topeka.

She said she first learned about the cemetery on her first day of work in 1964.

She said she was “devastated” to know that so many former patients had been buried in the cemetery, with only about 20 receiving headstones to mark their graves.

Shelton, who retired as a social worker after 13 years of service when the facility closed in 1997, said it was important to put another marker at the site, located just west of S.W. 1st and MacVicar.

“All these people need to be remembered,” Shelton said. “They had no family, no money, to be buried in their hometown, so they were buried here on the hospital grounds.”

A couple of smaller signs were placed several years ago by the state to mark the cemetery. One of the signs still is in place on the southwest side of the cemetery.

But the other, on the east side of the cemetery, disappeared a few years ago during a street widening project along S.W. MacVicar.

The new marker will read “Topeka State Hospital Cemetery, 1879-1954.”

The state hospital was in existence from 1879 to 1997.

Anyone wishing to make a donation may send a check to Topeka State Hospital Cemetery Fund, Box 4953, Topeka, KS 66604-4953.



Family, friends, remember those who died at Patton State Hospital

By Melissa Pinion-Whitt, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 09/17/2012 02:03:27 PM PDT

PATTON – Bear Rivera looked across the rocky dirt cemetery behind Patton State Hospital, saying weeds and shrubs had been mowed down by a tractor just days earlier.

The chaplain for the hospital says the lack of regular upkeep and improvements for the cemetery are a reflection of the way the world views the mentally ill.

“Out here, you can see what society has thought of them,” he said.

On Monday, American flags flapped in the wind and flowers were placed in a ring for a Serrano Indian chief buried in the field.

A 6-foot-high monument dedicated to patients who died while institutionalized at Patton is a start to what officials hope will be many more improvements to the cemetery.

But for the roughly 30 people who attended the state’s annual Remembrance Day at Patton on Monday, the barren field is enough for now.

“This is a very important place,” said Denise Byrd, a secretary for Pathways to Recovery. “The people who work here are very important, too.”

About a dozen people from Pathways and Team House – day programs for the mentally ill under the county’s Department of Behavioral Health – attended the ceremony.

Byrd said she came to honor her uncle, Kenneth Schwobelle, who worked as a registered nurse at Patton and died about 33 years ago.

Don Charboneau, a mental health specialist with the Department of Behavioral Health, called the ceremony an opportunity to remember those who weren’t remembered.

The stigma attached to the mentally ill has lessened since the days that patients were buried in the field, but it’s still present, he said.

“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a ways to go,” Charboneau said.

An estimated 2,022 mentally ill patients were buried behind Patton between the late 1890s and early 1930s.

Officials with the California Memorial Project say more than 45,000 people have been buried in unmarked graves and sometimes mass graves at institutions across the state.

The organization hopes to eventually have grave markers for those people.


Researchers dig to find what became of Morningside Hospital patients, Alaska’s mentally ill

Published: Saturday, August 04, 2012, 10:00 AM Updated: Saturday, August 04, 2012, 10:36 PM
By Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian

Among the more than 11,000 dearly departed inhabitants of Southeast Portland’s Multnomah Park Cemetery, friends Eric Cordingley and David Anderson have their favorites: a reputed French madam, a young Norwegian institutionalized for being gay, and Louis Napoleon Lepley — or, as they call him, “Louis the cannibal.”

Intriguing as their individual stories may be, together they help tell a bigger, darker tale. It spans two centuries and two states, and it illustrates the evolution in mental-health care since the early 20th century, when Morningside Hospital, kitty-corner from the cemetery, brimmed with every Alaskan deemed insane.

At least 3,500 and perhaps as many as 5,000 patients landed there from 1904 through the 1960s, when the federal government paid the now-defunct asylum to house the mentally ill from Alaska, where such care didn’t exist.

In an archaic system — mental illness was considered criminal — patients were arrested and escorted out of their northerly cities, towns and villages by federal marshals. Their so-called crimes included everything from suffering schizophrenia or depression to having tuberculosis, epilepsy, Down Syndrome, syphilis, alcoholism — even, as the Norwegian, Hans Eive, discovered, being homosexual. Often, their families never learned where their loved ones were taken or what became of them.

Now, some are discovering.

Thousands rest in Portland’s historic cemeteries, some in unmarked plots, others with stones obscured or neglected.

Thanks to Cordingley, Anderson and the rest of their band of volunteer researchers digging not only through cemeteries for grave markers but also through court, hospital and death records, Morningside’s story and that of the patients known as the Lost Alaskans is emerging at last.


Their narrative begins with a couple of big names, frontier physician Henry Waldo Coe and his old friend, President Theodore Roosevelt. The two met when Coe was doctoring in the Dakota Territory, where Roosevelt went to restore his health.

Coe — also a bank president, state senator and the fellow who commissioned a handful of Portland statues, including downtown’s Roosevelt and Laurelhurst’s Joan of Arc — moved to Portland in 1890. Nine years later, he founded a psychiatric hospital located, for most of its existence, on a 47-acre compound between Southeast Stark and Main streets and Southeast 96th and 102nd avenues, where Mall 205 stands today.

In those decades before Alaska’s statehood, the U.S. Department of Interior was charged with caring for the territory’s mentally ill and impaired. It first sent patients to the state asylum at Steilacoom, Wash., then, from 1900 to 1903, to the Oregon State Insane Asylum in Salem. In 1904, the care contract shifted to Coe’s Sanitarium Co., which operated Morningside. The government paid $30 a month per patient.

They didn’t check in voluntarily — far from it.

In Alaska, juries of six men tried and frequently convicted men, women and children, committing them to Morningside, typically without the luxury of physical or psychiatric exams. Patients ranged from fishermen and railroad workers, to housewives, prostitutes and prospectors who’d traveled to Alaska from all over the globe seeking gold. Others were indigenous Alaskans whose “crime” might have been deafness, dementia or simply the inability to speak English.

They often were jailed until the spring thaw, then transported by dogsled, train, ship or plane, landing more than 1,000 miles away in a climate and culture vastly different from what they knew.

Yet, Morningside apparently was comfortable enough — at least as Coe described it in “The Insane of Alaska,” a booklet he published in 1917. His hospital, he wrote, was in a fine location “free from exposure, irritating noises, noxious odors and public curiosity.”

Coe noted that the “beds are clean and sweet with white sheets. … Not one person in ten now with us,” he added, “had as good a bed in Alaska.”

Plus, he explained of Portland: “In no city in the world are the people more noted for their kindliness to the unfortunate. …”


Old friends Cordingley, 53, and Anderson, 60, didn’t set out to delve into the hospital’s history. They’d never heard of Morningside.

They were fascinated, though, by their neighborhood pioneer cemetery, Multnomah Park — a peaceful respite from the roar of traffic blasting through the intersection of S.E. 82nd Avenue and Holgate Street. Behind its wrought-iron fence, trees shade everything from lichen-encrusted stone tablets remembering Civil War veterans to gold-trimmed monoliths bearing laser-etched images of the recently departed.

The men decided about 2 1/2 years ago to contribute photos of every Multnomah Park headstone to findagrave.com, an online database of cemetery records from around the world.

They sought permission from Rachel Fox, who manages the 14 pioneer cemeteries for Metro, the regional government. She told them they weren’t the only ones interested in Multnomah Park. A group asked for Fox’s help in locating graves belonging to former Alaska mental patients. They call their effort The Lost Alaskans: The Morningside Hospital History Project.

Cordingley’s studying anthropology at Portland Community College. Anderson’s working toward being a certified genealogist. Each had relatives who spent time in asylums. The project fit them to a T.

Online, they learned more about the effort, aided by a grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust. From Alaska to Washington, D.C., volunteers mine territorial court records, national and state archives, vital statistics, genealogical and burial records for details on everything from former Morningside patients’ conditions and convictions to their deaths.

Ellen Ganley of Fairbanks, chief project volunteer, says the group aims not only to help families discover what happened to former Morningside patients, but also to “have this accepted as an important part of Alaska history.

“Nobody,” she says, “really knows about it.”

Using a steel rod to probe the earth, Cordingley and Anderson started hunting for Morningside patients’ graves, which also rest in Portland’s Lone Fir, Rose City, Riverview and Greenwood Hills cemeteries.

Many of the brick-sized grave markers rest beneath inches of dirt and grass, obscured by time, nature and neglect. When they find them, they catalog locations, names and dates and email photos of the markers to Ganley, who is building a database expected to go online within a few months.

About twice a month they head to Salem, where they mine the State Archives for Multnomah County death certificates. Carrying their own scanner, they copy 300 to 350 Morningside patients’ death certificates a day and figure it will take them about three more years to gather them all. The documents will be included in the Lost Alaskans database.

While it may sound tedious, the men say they feel like they’re fitting together pieces of a great, mysterious puzzle important to Alaska’s and Oregon’s history, and to the thousands of families left wondering.

“Everyone,” Cordingley says, “deserves to be remembered.”


Photos from inside Morningside — once the nation’s largest private mental hospital — depict a spotlessly clean, glaringly institutional setting. Narrow beds pushed close together meant scant privacy. Yet, sprawling grounds provided room to roam.

A story in The Oregonian, published March 7, 1912, documented allegations of poor care and an inspection that followed; no trouble was found.

Days were regimented, with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and lights-out at 8 p.m.

Male inmates, as patients were known, farmed the hospital’s acreage, milked its cows and tended its pigs. Women wove baskets and did needlework. Recreation included pingpong and horseshoes.

Those who smoked were provided tobacco and during Prohibition Coe went to great lengths to secure whiskey for patients. As he explained in a letter to the U.S. attorney, “a few ounces of spirits for some of these old Alaskans at times is really a life-saving substance.”

Morningside employed doctors and nurses, but records indicate its emphasis was on housing patients more than treating illnesses. Records and oral histories indicate that hydrotherapy, hypnosis, insulin therapy and electric shock therapy may have been used.

Sometimes patients were declared healthy and discharged. Others, such as James Ebana, lived out their years hospitalized.

He and his siblings were sent to a mission children’s home in Anvik, Alaska, after their mother died. But when he was around 17, Ebana was committed to Morningside, apparently because he had epilepsy. His family, including his last remaining sister, who died in 2005, never knew what became of him.

He died March 21, 1942. His death certificate listed cause of death as “Tuberculosis of the Lungs” and “Psychosis due to Epileptic Deterioration.” Ebana was 27.

He was Robin Renfroe’s husband’s uncle, and she’s been looking for information about him for years. She visited Portland a couple years ago, hoping to find his grave and erect a headstone. Metro put her in touch with Cordingley and Anderson.

Though they continue to search, they haven’t found him.


As respectful as they are of Morningside’s history, its patients, their grave markers, death records and the effort to accurately reflect the past, Cordingley and Anderson are happy to tell visitors about some of the patients whose colorful stories grab them most.

Blanche Marnell, for instance, made her way from France to Alaska during the Gold rush to, as Anderson puts it, “mine the miners.” Records show the reputed madam died of tertiary syphilis, and though Cordingley and Anderson have found the spot records say holds her gravesite, they haven’t found a stone with her name.

A stepping-stone sized marker remembers Eive, the young Norwegian. He worked in a Nome restaurant when he was arrested on indecency charges and committed to Morningside for being, as records call it, “homeosexual.” Eive died there about five years later, in 1935, from tuberculosis.

As they head off across the cemetery, Cordingley and Anderson stop, too, at the grave of Lepley, a gold miner who traveled to Nome in 1902 and worked a claim until 1910, the year a ferocious winter snowbound him and two mining partners in a cabin. Cordingley and Anderson say that according to family and oral history, when the partners died of starvation that winter, Lepley ate their flesh to survive.

When he emerged in the spring of 1911, he’d lost his mind. He was convicted of being an “insane person at large,” records show, and was committed to Morningside, where he died in 1919.

“We love learning their stories,” Cordingley says. “Until we learn their stories, they’re just names in the dirt.”


Coe died in 1927 and his son, Wayne, who was not a physician, took over Morningside.

Since the government paid the bills, the hospital was subject to routine inspections. Complaints about treatment of patients popped up periodically.

According to “The East Portland Historical Overview and Historic Preservation Study” published in 2009 by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the hospital was under fire in 1955, for instance, after U.S. Rep. Edith Green, D-OR, introduced a bill to transfer Alaskan patients’ care to the territory.

The U.S. General Accounting office investigated questions of financial impropriety the following year, after the Coe family was accused of using hospital funds for personal expenses, including trips to South Africa and Mexico, and on a beach property in Gearhart and a ranch in Stanfield. The Coes were also accused of using patient labor for home and hospital maintenance, while calling the work occupational therapy.

The historic preservation study noted that the family denied the charges, defended the hospital practices and called the investigation “rude, uncivil and insulting.”

They never were charged and Morningside was reaccredited in 1957. Yet, its days were numbered.

Congress passed the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956, transferring responsibility for the mentally ill to the territory and eventually the state by creating the Alaska Mental Health Trust.

Morningside, which had about 350 beds, discharged its last three patients in 1968 and the property was sold to Mall 205’s developers.

Along with it, went thousands of stories of the men, women and children warehoused there for the better part of the 20th century — stories surfacing now, with every vital record and grave marker unearthed.

“We won’t connect all the dots,” Cordingley says, “but we’ll connect some.”

– Katy Muldoon; twitter.com/katymuldoon


Forgotten deceased mental health patients memorialized at newly named Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery

Megan O’Toole | Jul 29, 2012 11:49 AM ET

‘Dear Mother,” begins the letter, dated November 1894, “I would like to come home on Monday, Mother. Will you come for me Monday morning and leave the washing and I will help you when I come… The doctors said that as soon as you come, I can go home.”

Grace Jeffrey, 19 when she penned those words, never went home. Sixty years after writing that note — unmailed, for reasons unknown — she succumbed to pneumonia inside Etobicoke’s Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, one of three asylums among which she divided her adult life. A year shy of her 80th birthday and having outlived most of her immediate family, she died alone.

Ms. Jeffrey’s body lies in a rolling green field of graves, most of them unmarked, about two kilometres north of the former asylum, now a Humber College campus. For decades, passersby could barely recognize the provincially owned cemetery as anything other than an overgrown field, teeming with waist-high grasses and fallen trees.

But this spring, after years of gentle pressure from local residents who attend twice a year to pick up garbage and place flowers, the government finally memorialized the 1,511 patients buried at the newly named Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery, tucked between the Gardiner Expressway and a strip of suburban businesses.

“May they Rest in Peace and not be forgotten,” reads a new cast-bronze historical plaque affixed to the graveyard’s dignified new black steel fence. Later this year, the province will survey the land to determine the location of each coffin, and establish a process to install more headstones.

Flat stones currently mark fewer than 200 graves, while generic row markers and plastic flowers in pink, orange, purple and white merely hint at the presence of more than 1,000 others. Silver maple, catalpa and spruce trees tower above the burial plots, divided with Protestants on the east side and Catholics on the west. The dead range in age from stillborn babies to centenarians.

“You really need the mapping to know where your relative is located,” explains former Lakeshore vocational instructor Ed Janiszewski, clad in shorts and a fishing hat, as he digs through his black knapsack for a thick file folder stuffed with related charts and maps.

The first patient was buried at the cemetery in 1890 and the last in 1974, the same year Mr. Janiszewski began working at the nearby asylum. But because the graveyard had fallen into disuse by that point, he did not know it existed until 2004, when he discovered old burial records during a subsequent job at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (since rebranded as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).

Mr. Janiszewski holds his hand halfway up his chest: “The grasses were up to here when I first came,” he laments. “There was a tree that had fallen over onto unmarked graves.”

Teaming up with local residents and the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto, Mr. Janiszewski began cemetery clean-ups each spring and fall, while pressing the province to install a memorial.

“When it was brought to our attention, [we acted],” Infrastructure Ontario spokeswoman Julia Sakas says, noting the province’s first move was to send a landscaping company to cut back the overgrowth.

“The maintenance of this property is important to preserving the honour and paying tribute to those who have been laid to rest there. It’s definitely a priority for us.”

The Lakeshore hospital, once known as the Mimico Insane Asylum, perpetuated many of the institutional horrors of the day, with “treatments” reportedly ranging from electroshock and insulin shock therapy to lobotomies. The stigma around mental illness persisted inside the asylum walls and out: While some families could not afford to bring their relatives home for burial, others simply abandoned them.

Among the unmarked graves is Pearl Vaughan’s grandmother, Susan McCourt French, who spent more than a decade in the asylum until her death in 1911. Doctors diagnosed Ms. French — who bore six children to a husband three times her age — with “puerperal insanity,” now known as postpartum depression.

“She was put in a rubber room and screamed for hours,” Ms. Vaughan says, noting her knowledge of Ms. French, who died of pneumonia in her 40s, comes entirely through asylum records.

“I never knew her; my mother never knew her,” she says. “But it was so important to us that I find her. [The cemetery restoration] has closed the book for me. I now feel at peace.”

What remains unclear is why the cemetery was forgotten for so long. Infrastructure Ontario pointed out that in the three decades separating the graveyard’s closure and Mr. Janiszewski’s initial inquiries, the province oversaw a “vast and diverse portfolio” of properties, representing tens of thousands of acres.

In the late ’90s, the province declared the cemetery surplus land, and a private bidder announced plans to build a crematorium — a project local residents vehemently opposed. The deal fell apart in 2006, and the government opted to keep ownership.

Since 2004, the province has paid for landscaping work, but the long-desired memorial, including the plaque and entrance archway, only arrived this past May.

“In life they were probably forgotten or ignored, and it was just shameful that even in death they were ignored for so long a period,” Mr. Janiszewski says.

He wants to believe that the graves were not always unmarked. He wants to believe that asylum staff placed simple wooden crosses, which deteriorated over the years to the point that there is no longer any trace.

Today, Grace Jeffrey’s grandniece has come to pay her respects. Marg Tumilty finds the small, square stone marker that delineates Row 18, and measures a few steps north. She kneels and presses a small bouquet of plastic roses, daisies and daffodils into the sun-scorched grass, where Mr. Janiszewski’s map says Ms. Jeffrey lies.

The records from the old Lakeshore asylum describe how Ms. Jeffrey bit her siblings, hid in cupboards and disappeared for days at a time before doctors declared her insane. It was likely schizophrenia, Ms. Tumilty says, but she cannot be certain, for her great-aunt spent many years as a forgotten limb on the family tree. Until Ms. Tumilty began a genealogical quest several years ago, she had no idea Ms. Jeffrey even existed.

“Through this,” she said, “I found Grace. Nobody might have ever known.”

National Post

Patient buried in anonymity at mental hospital finally gets respect

By Martha Stoddard

LINCOLN — John “Jack” McCandless spent his last days in obscurity, locked behind the walls of the state mental hospital in Lincoln.

Years of alcoholism had taken their toll by then, and he had long since lost touch with his wife and children.

After he died, on March 13, 1926, he was buried in an anonymous grave in a hospital cemetery.

Only a number marked the spot. Even that disappeared with the years.

But McCandless is anonymous no longer.

A headstone now marks his grave, at the edge of a grassy, peaceful field southwest of the Lincoln Regional Center.

And after more than a century, he is back in the embrace of his family.

Four family members came from Salt Lake City this week to place the headstone and take part in a Friday ceremony celebrating McCandless’ life.

The ceremony represented closure for the family, said Scott Patterson, McCandless’ great-grandson.

“He’d been missing for over 100 years,” he said. “No one talked about him, so we knew almost nothing about him.”

But for the people with mental illnesses, regional center staff and state behavioral health officials who gathered with the family, it represented an affirmation that all lives deserve dignity and respect.

“You have breathed life into the lives of the God-created individuals who are buried here today,” Pastor Rachel Johnson told the family.

“This ceremony says that the age of unnamed, unclaimed remains has been put into the past,” she said.

McCandless is among 467 patients buried here. An additional 252 are in a second cemetery.

Those buried in the 1880s and at the start of the 20th century died at what was then called the Nebraska Hospital for the Insane.

By the 1950s, when burials ended, it had been renamed the Lincoln State Hospital.

Most of the graves are anonymous. Only a handful have headstones and names.

It wasn’t until a 2009 Nebraska Supreme Court decision that state officials made public the names of people buried in the cemeteries. The case was part of a national movement to recognize people buried at state mental hospitals.

Now Scot Adams, state behavioral health director, is encouraging other families to search for the burial sites of loved ones.

Friday’s ceremony also included the dedication of a memorial garden at the regional center cemetery.

It was Patterson’s persistence that led him to McCandless’ grave and helped him solve an old family mystery.

Through his research he found that McCandless was born in 1868 in Illinois to a Civil War veteran and his wife. He eventually married and had two children, a boy and a girl. The girl, Lucille, was Patterson’s grandmother.

In 1900, records show the family lived in Omaha and he worked as a railway switchman.

But by 1904 he had disappeared and his wife had put the two children in an orphanage, saying she had no means of support for them.

McCandless apparently spent the next several years working on the railroad and struggling with alcoholism, Patterson said.

In 1920 he was living on a farm in Dodge County. Three years later he was at the Dodge County poor farm, where he was not allowed to drink.

He left the poor farm in May 1924 and relapsed into addiction. He wound up at the mental hospital in February 1926 and died a month later.

His wife, meanwhile, reclaimed the children after marrying again. The family moved to Utah, where succeeding generations flourished.

McCandless’ descendants included 10 great-grandchildren, more than 30 great-great-grandchildren and more than 30 great-great-great-grandchildren.

Among them was Patterson’s father, Charles, who at one time was director of a state mental hospital in Utah. Patterson’s mother, Kathryn, worked as a clinical social worker.

She attended the Nebraska ceremony with Scott and his sisters Annabel Bodell and Jeanette Vazquez.

“We understand mental illness, and we understand problems,” Kathryn Patterson said. John McCandless “wasn’t bad, but he had some problems.”

Contact the writer:

402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com


Epsom, Surrey, England

Ministry of Defence enlisted for Horton Cemetery research

By Hardeep Matharu
7:10am Thursday 5th July 2012

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is being enlisted to help shed fresh light on the dead abandoned at Horton Cemetery.

The Epsom Guardian has been charting the research of ex mayor Councillor Sheila Carlson into the cemetery, off Hook Road in Epsom, since human remains surfaced in March and were discovered by teenagers who had entered the site.

The cemetery, which contains 8,000 bodies of those who died at Horton Hospital – part of the Epsom Cluster of mental hospitals in the 1900s and a war hospital during the World Wars, is privately-owned by Marques Securities – which bought it for a nominal sum from the NHS and has left it to degenerate

In contacting the MoD, Coun Carlson is hunting for the names of soldiers buried at the cemetery, in a bid to have them officially commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and to impress upon the owners a sense of moral responsibility.

She said: “I have written a report on the cemetery which Chris Grayling MP has passed on to the MoD.

“The death records for Horton Hospital in the Metropolitan Archives seem to show nobody died at the hospital during WW2 which can’t be true so anybody who died there during that period has to be recorded elsewhere.

“Surrey’s burial records at Woking for Horton Cemetery also only show the two soldiers who are already commemorated at Epsom Cemetery by the CWGC.

“It is weird that those two in particular were recorded and picked out for commemoration – coincidentally one from each war.

“There must be other soldiers and I am hoping that the MOD records might have something.”

Coun Carlson said: “We don’t yet have a great deal to pressurise the owners with – we want to hit them with a lot more strength.

“The diocese of Guildford is also fairly adamant the ground is not consecrated which would give them extra weight if they wanted to sell the land or do something else with it.

“But publicising the situation has already jogged memories and I’m still looking to hear from anybody who remembers anything.”

If you have any information about Horton Cemetery email Coun Carlson on scarlson@epsom-ewell.gov.uk or call her on 01372 723093.


A life lived in institutions, forgotten by almost all

By Barbara O’Brien
News Staff Reporter
Buffalo News
Published: July 1, 2012, 12:00 AM
Updated: July 3, 2012, 3:40 PM

No one knows for sure what caused Jennie R. Ford’s spiral into mental illness, a decline that left the Buffalo woman spending 50 years in psychiatric hospitals, apparently incapable of talking or taking care of herself.

Few members of her family even knew she existed, and it wasn’t until last month, nearly 54 years after she died, that they found her grave.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to think that somebody’s life was just totally ignored and wasted because of ignorance,” said Rita Deschamps, of Buffalo, whose grandmother was Ford’s sister. “A woman who was denied the right to be a person, to be loved, to be cherished, to be wanted. She was denied that. She had no say so in what happened to her. Nobody did. It’s too bad. It’s a shame. It’s an affront to human dignity.”

Ford was 24 when she entered the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. She was 74 when she died at the former Gowanda Psychiatric Center. She is one of the 1,200 forgotten patients laid to rest in what once were hospital grounds near Clear Brook in the Town of Collins. The graves are marked not with names, but with numbers, in four unmarked sections off Wheater Road.”It’s really a beautiful area. It’s so off the beaten path, though, you wouldn’t know it was here,” said Geraldine Thompson, of Elma, Deschamps’ sister. “It’s a lonely feeling, coming through. She must have been a very lonely person to begin with; then to be in a secluded place like this.”

The cemetery was overgrown and discarded – like many of its inhabitants – before volunteers led by People Inc. uncovered the graves, raised the headstones and restored the cemetery. The Mental Health Association in Cattaraugus County and others helped with that effort.

Burials started in the cemetery shortly after the Gowanda Homeopathic Hospital opened in southern Erie County in 1898, and they continued until about 1961. The oldest person buried there is 103 and the youngest is 4 days old, according to Tammy Querns, adult services director for the Mental Health Association in Cattaraugus County.

The property is owned by New York State and maintained by the state Department of Corrections, which operates Collins and Gowanda correctional facilities on the site of the former hospital. Visitors must have permission from the prison before going to the cemetery.

“It was just a field. It just looked like a field,” Querns said before the stones were uncovered. “One of the inmates looked around and said, this is criminal to treat people like this.”

Jeannette R. “Jennie” Ford was born in 1884 during Buffalo’s golden age. The oldest of seven children, she apparently never married, but she took care of her younger brothers and sisters.

Thompson and Deschamps, of Buffalo, said the family story is that one of the boys, Albert, was “slow,” and Ford looked out for him. Her mother, the former Mary Ann Kavanaugh, died in 1907, and her father remarried a year later.

The stepmother apparently had little patience and mistreated Albert.

“That’s what Uncle Jim said. That sent Jennie into her melancholy state, because of the brother being mistreated,” Thompson recalled.

Deschamps believes Albert eventually drowned in an accident at the Delaware Park lake.

The family tried to obtain Ford’s medical records 25 years ago. A letter from the state Office of Mental Health to the family in 1987 confirms that Ford was admitted to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center on July 14, 1908, “upon a petition signed by her father, Joseph, examined by two physicians and subsequently signed by the county judge.”

The letter says that she apparently became ill after her mother died. Depressed, she was unable to care for herself. The letter also said she is buried in the hospital cemetery.

“Throughout her many years of hospitalization, she continued to be mute and inaccessible to therapy, needing much assistance for her needs in daily living,” the letter states. “She at no time expressed nor showed in her behavior any interest in any of the therapeutic programming offered.”

Her brother, Jim, worked at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Thompson believes he may have been trying to keep an eye on his sister.

She was transferred to the Gowanda Psychiatric Center on July 21, 1943, and died Sept. 20, 1958. But not much was said about her, and some of her siblings’ spouses did not know of her existence.

“You didn’t dare mention if there was mental illness in your family,” said Deschamps.

The family found out by accident that Ford had died, Deschamps recalled. Her uncle Jim wanted her father to drive him to Gowanda to see his sister in September 1958. It was on a weekend, and Deschamps called to find out the visiting hours while her father was shaving. She was told that Ford had died. Her death certificate says death was caused by coronary thrombosis due to arteriosclerosis, a condition she had had for 10 years. Dementia praecox and catatonia are listed as other significant conditions.

Dementia praecox is the diagnosis for what now is known as schizophrenia, said David Herzberg, associate professor of history at the University at Buffalo.

“You hear so many horror stories about psychiatric centers,” said Thompson. “You wonder what kind of treatment she was in.”

It’s difficult to say what Ford’s treatment was without seeing the records, but the years she was in the hospital spanned a broad range of 20th century psychiatric treatments. It was difficult to judge the efficacy of some, but if the patient’s behavior improved, the institution might label the treatment effective, Herzberg said.

“How well someone behaved became the clearest indicator on how well someone was doing,” Herzberg said, adding, “A lot of these treatments had the effect of making people better patients.”

Among treatments used in the first half of the 20th century were forcing an insulin coma in the 1930s, electroshock therapy, lobotomy and anti-psychotic drugs, which came into use in the 1950s. “These drugs were dramatically good at making better behavior,” Herzberg said.

Though they have tried to obtain them, Ford’s family hasn’t seen her medical records. They picture a lonely woman whose life could have been better, had they known she was alive and visited her.

The restoration of the cemetery and the identification of her grave have given Ford’s great-nieces some peace.

“I feel like she’s been liberated a little bit,” Deschamps said. “At least now when you say a prayer, you know that her soul’s out there and hearing it and free to accept that prayer. Somebody knows about her. She wasn’t a forgotten soul. She’s still remembered.”



Lexington, Kentucky

Artist group fashions apologies to patients buried at Eastern State Hospital

Published: June 22, 2012 Updated 8 hours ago

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears — vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com

At ceremonies held in Lexington on Friday to remember an estimated 4,400 patients at Eastern State Hospital who were buried on the mental hospital’s grounds years ago, 4,400 small cards fashioned into a necklace represented 4,400 apologies for what some people say was a disregard for the bodies.

“It’s recognizing an injustice that was done to those who were buried in the cemetery, and that is specifically the fact that many people there have been reburied at least three times, ashes are mixed and it is essentially a mass grave,” said Bruce Burris, co-owner of Latitude Artist Community, which led the events.

“We’re not blaming anyone for that. We are just acknowledging it,” Burris said.

According to its blog, Latitude Artist Community serves all people, but especially “those thought by some to have a disability,” by creating inclusive community interactions.

A cemetery remains at Eastern State. The hospital housed more than 2,000 patients at its peak in the 1940.

Eastern State, at West Fourth Street and Newtown Pike, began admitting patients in 1824, and about 4,400 residents are thought to have been buried on the grounds. The burials occurred over more than 100 years.

Over the past few weeks, Latitude artists worked to create 4,400 small cards, each bearing an artist’s thumbprint. The cards were strung to resemble a necklace, Burris said.

At Eastern State Hospital Cemetery and the Lexington Public Library courtyard downtown Friday, Erin Fitzgerald silently counted and acknowledged each card on the necklace.

Burris estimated that a total of 50 people attended the two events.

Fitzgerald said she wasn’t expecting a big audience.

“The important thing is that the ritual be done, and that it be reverent and meaningful,” she said.

Eastern State agreed in 2008 to move from Newtown Pike to a new complex at the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research campus. Under the agreement, BCTC will move from UK’s campus on Cooper Drive to Eastern State’s location. The hospital has not yet moved to its new home.


Published: 5/28/2012 – Updated: 1 week ago

Volunteers honor forgotten veterans

Project aims to restore respect
The Toledo Blade

Jane Weber has seen the notations “worry over the war,” “gassed during the war” on patient records from the former Toledo State Hospital.

She knows some returning soldiers likely suffered from what is known today as post-traumatic stress disorder, but she also knows many veterans who were admitted to the psychiatric hospital in the late 1800s and early 1900s were undoubtedly brought there for physical ailments or age-related conditions like dementia.

Some veterans lived — and died — at the hospital. At least 16 were buried in one of the hospital’s two cemeteries. They are in many ways unknown soldiers.

While the veterans buried in the cemeteries all had names and families and histories, they lie among the forgotten — nearly 2,000 people who died at the state hospital between 1888 and 1973 and went unclaimed by family or friends.

The Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project is working to change that situation.

“Our primary goal is to honor everybody,” said Mrs. Weber, a retired employee of the hospital and volunteer with the cemetery project. “With the veterans, we would love to find out as much as we can about them like we want to find out as much as we can about everyone, but it’s especially important with the veterans.”

Specifically, the group hopes to one day erect federal burial markers at each of the veterans’ graves. The bronze markers would be flat to the ground and located next to the original numbered stones — some of which have been located, some of which are still beneath the surface of the ground.

The committee wants to keep the cemeteries looking much as they did originally, although they are slowly adding appropriate touches — a monument and flagpole at the old cemetery on Arlington Avenue, historical markers from the Ohio Historical Society there and at the “new” cemetery on what is now the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, the former Medical College of Ohio. Eventually they hope to have panels listing all 1,994 names of those buried in the humble cemeteries.

Gary Wirzylo, a member of the cemetery committee who works as a nurse supervisor at what is now the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital, said it’s important to make sure the veterans are remembered and respected.

“They fought for the country. They served our country. That’s the reason we’re still able to maintain our freedom,” he said.

While the index card-sized stones that mark each grave are etched only with a number, Mr. Wirzylo said that behind each number is a name and a person and a story.

“In the case of the veterans, here’s somebody who lived [at the state hospital] for whatever reason who obviously was capable enough to serve his country and serve the people of the nation,” he said. “He should be recognized.”

Ted Spear of Flint, Mich., agrees.

He was researching his family tree when he came across his great-great-great grandfather, Sherman Hinds, who served in the Civil War and was buried in a Kalkaska, Mich., cemetery. Mr. Spear also found the name of Sherman Hinds’ brother, Pvt. Orange Linzie Hinds, who served in Company F, 14th Regiment, of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He didn’t know had happened to him, though.

“I knew he was a veteran. I wanted to know where he was buried, if he had a marker,” Mr. Spear said. “I wanted a marker from the [Veterans Administration] installed in honor of his service.”

Through conversations with a distant cousin who also does genealogical research, he learned that Mr. Hinds was admitted to the Toledo State Hospital not long after the death of his mother in 1872. Another brother, Alanson A. Hinds, signed an affidavit stating that Orange Hinds was a danger to himself and the community.

Mr. Spear suspects Mr. Hinds may have suffered from PTSD from his wartime service between 1861 and 1862, but he has no way of knowing for sure. He said he learned about the cemetery reclamation project on the Internet and contacted the committee, which was unaware Mr. Hinds was a Civil War veteran.

“They just had a name and a grave number,” Mr. Spear said.

His great-great-great uncle is buried in grave No. 248 at the old cemetery, and like everyone buried there, he has a story too.

“Orange Linzie Hinds was born in 1839 in Hiram Township in Portage County, Ohio, and died in May, 1901, at the Toledo State Hospital, age 62,” Mr. Spear wrote in an email. “He was the son of Robert and Roxana (Canada) Hinds of Richfield Township in Lucas County, Ohio. He was the eldest of nine children. He married Harriet Alexander, July 20, 1863, in Lenawee County, Michigan. They never had children. He left behind only nieces and a nephew to honor his memory and his service during the Civil War.”

Since the cemetery reclamation project began in 2005, volunteers have unearthed approximately 250 of the 900 gravestones at the old cemetery and more than 900 of the 1,100 stones at the new cemetery.

For years the simple grave markers had been covered by dirt and grass, making the cemeteries virtually unnoticeable by passers-by.

Mrs. Weber said she has not been able to find out why the stones were inscribed with numbers rather than names, though she and other committee members suspect it’s because of the stigma attached with being a patient in a facility once known as the Toledo Asylum for the Insane.

It’s ironic, Mr. Wirzylo said, because many of the patients were not hospitalized for severe mental illness. Some were infants and children. Some were simply suffering the ravages of old age.

“There are many people that, by today’s standards, wouldn’t be there,” he said. “They had a physical disability perhaps or another type of illness. Everybody that society couldn’t deal with on the outside was here.”

Tracking down information about the patients buried in the two cemeteries is difficult. Getting information about patients who served their country in the armed forces has been challenging as well.

While the hospital’s burial log noted 12 of the men were veterans of World War I or World War II, four Civil War veterans — including Mr. Hinds — have been identified through family connections.

“Our list of family that has found us is increasing all of the time. We have so many people out there who are doing genealogical studies,” Mrs. Weber said. “We have documents from families who have said, ‘We’ve been looking 25 years.’ One family said, ‘We’ve been looking 50 years.’?”

Larry Wanucha, housing support specialist for Neighborhood Properties, Inc., and the founding member of the cemetery reclamation project, said people hear about the effort “and start thinking, well maybe that’s where Uncle Bill went.”

The names of those interred at the two cemeteries now can be found on the project’s Web site, toledostatehospitalcemetery.org, by clicking on the “genealogy” tab.

Mr. Wanucha said the cemetery project, which is supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo, is about more than cemeteries.

“Our goal is to advocate for equal access to treatment for everybody who needs it as well as to encourage and support the people who are in treatment so that we can all work together to have a quality of life that the treatments can provide and do provide,” he said.

Lifting the veil from the cemeteries is an important part of that.

“It seems to me as long as we allow the cemeteries to be lost and anonymous, hidden, then we continue to hide disabilities,” Mrs. Weber said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.


Blackfoot, Idaho

30 New Headstones Placed at State Hospital South Cemetery

Reported by: Phil Campbell
Email: pcampbell@kpvi.com
Published: 6/06 5:30 pm
Updated: 6/06 6:25 pm

Hundreds of deceased, most of which were mental patients, lying beneath an unmaintained field, it sounds a little like the beginning of a horror movie but it was the reality in an area town for far too long. Wednesday, they celebrated a major milestone on the path to restoring dignity to the grave sites.

It was a day of celebration as State Hospital South officially dedicated their largest contribution of headstones to date.

“Before last year, the cemetery was pretty well rundown and we just decided to renovate the entire place,” said Diane Yarnnington, Assistant Hospital Administrator. “We had a lot of community folks come in and they donated a sign and they donated the cement and the benches here and so we have a nice little sitting area for families when they come to visit. They cut down a number of overgrown trees and we just did a major cleanup and that was our start of the campaign and so the community is now aware that there’s a cemetery here. I think before that there were lots of community members that were not aware that we had a cemetery back here.”

With the placement of the 30 new headstones, the total number of marked graves is now 48. It’s a noticeable start but they still have a long ways to go. In fact there are 969 graves that are in need of a headstone. To reach their goal, the hospital will need the support from the community as they look to remember those who came before us.

“This hospital was established in 1886 and many of the people that came to our hospital had a mental illness but others that came had tuberculosis and other diseases, “said Tracey Sessions, Administrative Director for State Hospital South. “Back in the early 1800s, they were often times kind of left by their families not to be reconnected again and so what we are trying to do is help reconnect people to the community.”

Among the hundreds of people still waiting for a proper memorial are a number of soldiers who fought to protect our freedom overseas but struggled when they returned home.

“Back in those days we wouldn’t have known about PTSD and they might have been sent here for care and treatment,” said Sessions. “We currently have three known Civil War veterans buried in our cemetery. Two have headstones, one we are still working on with the veterans association but we anticipate that there may be even more.”

This day would not have been possible if not for the countless volunteer hours from people throughout eastern Idaho. Students at Blackfoot High School built benches, several pine trees have been planted and a cement slab and signage were also donated.

If you would like to help with the cause, you can either call the hospital or send a tax deductible donation to P.O Box 400 Blackfoot, Idaho 83221.

The hospital has a record of those who are buried in the cemetery and they encourage you to call (208) 785-8402 if you have any questions.


Town of Westborough in Massachusetts

Local group will not let Westborough State Hospital’s patients be forgotten

By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor

Westborough – For 125 years, until it was shut down by the state in 2010, the Westborough State Hospital was “home” to hundreds of patients. Mental health issues were treated differently in the early days of the hospital’s existence; its first name, the Westborough Insane Hospital is one that modern day society would never accept. Many of the hospital’s patients were admitted because their families could not or would not deal with the patients’ issues; they often left the patient there and dropped all contact. The staff in essence then became the patients’ de facto families.

For over 500 of those patients, their deaths were treated in a pragmatic way. There was no wake, service, or other memorial – the body was simply put in a cardboard box and transported to the town’s Pine Grove Cemetery for a burial. And in a final indignity, there was also no grave stone indicating who the person was, just a small stone with a number on it.

A newly formed group, the Westborough State Hospital Cemetery Project, is hoping to rectify what they feel is a terrible wrong. The group’s members, some of who currently work as patient advocates, are now in the beginning stages of conceptualizing a memorial that they hope to have built at the cemetery. (They are also closely working with the state’s Department of Mental Health, under whose auspices the hospital fell.)

Glen Malloy, who previously worked at the Westborough State Hospital, is one of the leaders of the group.

“These people were recipients of real injustice over the past 100 years,” he said. “They deserve to be recognized as human beings, not just numbers. It’s about returning dignity to them. Hopefully this will also bring awareness to mental health issues and show how far we have come in 100 years.”

It was also important, he noted, to remember that there were many people who worked at the hospital, who were “altruistic and kind-hearted.”

The area the patients were buried in is at the far end of the cemetery, near what are known as “the paupers’ and babies” sections. (Cemetery groundskeeper Don Gale explained that many families in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, especially young parents starting out, didn’t yet have burial plots. So when babies died at birth, as was common at that time, they were buried in a common plot.)

Except for one veteran’s grave marked with a flag (left there by VFW members), the area where the state hospital patients are buried looks like just an ordinary, well-kept lawn. There are only a few of the small, numbered stone markers present; Gale said that is because they have all deteriorated over time.

The project to build the monument is still in the very early stages, Malloy said. But a Holliston architect, Ed Clinton, has agreed to help them with an initial design concept. Those plans would feature a granite rotunda with a statue and panels that would illustrate the history of the hospital. Possibly the panels would also list the names of the patients, although that may not be allowed because of privacy concerns, Malloy said. And in some cases, names have been lost forever, he added, because the early hand-written records have either faded or were not updated at the time.

Although the project is just getting started, the group is hopeful that once others learn of their mission, they will join them in ensuring that the 500 plus patients finally get the justice they deserve, he added.

On May 29, several members of the Employment Options Clubhouse of Marlborough paid tribute to the former patients as they laid flowers on the graves.

Ossie Rambarran, a site director with the state’s Department of Mental Health, said it was appropriate that the group did so on that day as May is Mental Health Month.

“Hopefully this will be a tradition we can hold every year,” he said.

For more information on the initiative to build the new memorial, contact Malloy at 508-877-2104.


1:00 AM

Maine’s forgotten dead

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — A disturbing memory has haunted Karen Evans since she was a patient at the Augusta Mental Health Institute in the early 1960s.

Evans was 17 when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized for about a year. During her stay, a girl she knew only as Margaret confided that she was contemplating suicide.

Evans warned the hospital staff. The next day, she discovered Margaret in her room, her head forced between the bars on the window. The window was shattered. Blood was everywhere.

“They took her away and I never found out what happened to her,” said Evans, now 65. “It happened more than once while I was there, but she affected me the most. It felt to me that people disappeared overnight. That life could be dismissed so easily.”

Nearly 50 years later, the tragic memory of Margaret fuels Evans’ desire to establish a permanent memorial to the 11,647 people who died at AMHI during its 165-year history. The hospital, which closed in 2004, kept no apparent records of where deceased patients were buried, other than a hand-scrawled map of a few graves in a nearby cemetery.

Evans and other participants in the Maine Cemetery Project, which culled the names of the dead from dusty ledgers and boxes of files, believe that some of the lost souls of AMHI were buried in unmarked graves somewhere on the hospital’s 800-acre campus on the Kennebec River.

There are more than 300,000 of these forgotten dead at active and former state psychiatric hospitals across the country, reflecting a time not so long ago when people with mental illness were viewed as society’s castoffs.

The Maine Cemetery Project has launched a campaign to raise at least $50,000 to design and install a memorial on the AMHI campus. The group’s effort is part of a national movement to restore dignity to those who died without recognition in the past and foster compassion for the one in five American adults who have some form of mental illness today.

In March, the memorial project received a $10,000 lead donation from the Elsie and William Viles Foundation, headed by 97-year-old philanthropist Elsie Viles of Augusta.

Viles said she was moved to make a contribution after learning about the disregard that was shown to fellow human beings just down the road from her home.

“It’s one of those things that strikes you,” Viles said recently. “It’s so sad that it happened, even though it was a long time ago. I think it’s wonderful that this group has organized an effort to remember people the way they should be remembered.”

‘Passed away in the night’

The Maine Cemetery Project started 12 years ago, prompted by Evans and led by Amistad, an agency in Portland that serves people with mental illness.

Evans had attended a mental health conference in Texas, where she learned about the prevalence of unmarked graves at U.S. psychiatric hospitals and ongoing efforts to recognize the forgotten dead in other states.

When an initial search of AMHI’s records found no burial record, the group got special permission from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to search hospital records dating back to 1840, when AMHI was founded as the Maine Insane Hospital. As the hospital campus expanded, buildings were added and common language evolved, the name was changed to Maine State Hospital and later, AMHI.

Researchers found 11,647 names of patients who died on the premises. In the early days, hospital staff would simply note in a daily journal that a certain patient had “passed away in the night.” Of the estimated 45,000 people who were admitted to AMHI from 1840 to 2004, nearly one-quarter died at the hospital, according to a Maine Cemetery Project report.

The disregard that psychiatric patients were shown in death reflected the way many were treated when they were alive. Until relatively recently, mental illness was misunderstood and feared by many. It was a shameful condition, viewed as the work of the devil or God’s punishment for sinful acts. Patients often were committed with little expectation that they would ever be released.

When the Maine Insane Hospital opened in 1840, one of the first eight patients was a 24-year-old Augusta man who had been kept in handcuffs at the local poor house for several weeks, according to a 1965 history of the hospital. Another of the first patients was a 49-year-old Kittery woman who had expressed “erroneous views on religion” and who, it was thought, contracted her illness while caring for her mentally ill father and brother.

Early diagnoses often focused on socially unacceptable behavior, according to the cemetery project’s report. Well into the 20th century, people were admitted to AMHI for conditions ranging from epilepsy to Alzheimer’s disease.

As a result, the list of 11,647 patients who died at AMHI includes people who didn’t have mental illness, according to the cemetery project’s report.

Early treatments at the hospital included medieval measures such as bleeding, restraining patients in a “tranquilizer chair” and cupping — the placement of heated cups on the body, causing skin blisters that were thought to draw out poisons. Through the years, medical treatments evolved from opium to thorazine to lithium and included controversial insulin and electro-shock therapies.

The Maine Cemetery Project has requested access to additional hospital records that were transferred recently to the Maine State Archives. Researchers still hope to find a comprehensive burial record, though there’s no evidence that such a record ever existed.

A national issue

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors issued a position statement in 2001 calling for states to find, restore and memorialize lost grave sites near psychiatric hospitals.

The Maine Cemetery Project is one of several groups across the country that have responded, including an alliance of mental health advocacy groups that’s developing a National Memorial of Recovered Dignity at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

In case after case, disregard for the dead is stunning.

The cremated remains of 668 patients who died at Hawaii State Hospital between 1930 and 1960 were found in the basement, stored in crumbling cardboard boxes. About 3,500 canisters of unclaimed ashes were found on storage shelves at Oregon State Hospital.

More than 400 patients were buried in unmarked graves at the former Northampton State Hospital in Massachusetts; and 1,994 patients at Toledo State Hospital in Ohio were buried beneath small, numbered markers that eventually were lost.

Perhaps the most disturbing case occurred at the former Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Ga., where about 25,000 people lay in unmarked graves, according to Larry Fricks, chairman of the national memorial project.

“The metal markers were pulled up at some point to make it easier to mow the grass,” Fricks said. “It’s difficult to believe, but that’s what happened.”

Fricks estimates there are more than 300,000 of these forgotten dead across the country, but he said the number could be much higher.

Elsewhere in Maine, patients who died at the former Bangor Mental Health Institute, which opened in 1901, were buried at nearby Mount Hope Cemetery, according to John Martins, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Martins said records show the state purchased plots at the cemetery for patients who died at the hospital, now called the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center. However, the hospital kept no comprehensive record of burials, so its unknown how many patients died there, where individual patients were buried or whether the graves are marked, he said.

Gathering that information would require a search of hospital and cemetery records, as the Maine Cemetery Project did for AMHI, Martins said. At its peak population in 1970, the Bangor hospital had 1,200 patients. Today, it has 100 beds.

AMHI’s lost souls

Some of the 11,647 patients who died at AMHI were returned to their families and buried in hometown cemetery plots. However, the lack of records leaves open the possibility that some were buried in unmarked graves on the hospital campus or in paupers’ graves across Maine.

Some unclaimed patients also may have been used as cadavers for laboratory experiments at the Medical School of Maine that operated at Bowdoin College in the 1800s and early 1900s — a practice that was legal here and in several other states in the past.

Researchers do know where a few AMHI patients were buried. An undated, hand-drawn map found in the hospital’s archives shows about 40 graves in the paupers’ section of the Cony Cemetery, on the other side of Hospital Street.

All of the wooden markers are gone. Seven patient headstones remain.

There’s William Rae, who was born in Scotland in 1829 and died at the hospital in 1860. Angie Jackson was 18 years old when she died at the hospital in 1888. Elmer Bradbury, who died at the hospital in 1889, is buried next to his wife, Mary, who died in 1877.

Peter Driscoll has spent hours walking in Cony Cemetery, trying to reconcile the graves noted on the small map with what’s left of the burial ground. Driscoll is executive director of Amistad, the primary sponsor of the Maine Cemetery Project.

Standing in damp grass, pointing out the few headstones that can be identified, Driscoll is obviously frustrated and bewildered by the search for unmarked graves.

“They are absolutely lost souls,” he said. “It boggles my mind that we just threw people away. Having a permanent memorial will help put to rest the shame and stigma associated with mental illness.”

Changing attitudes

Nearly all 11,647 names of patients who died at AMHI were read aloud during an emotional, daylong, rain-soaked ceremony on the hospital grounds in 2005. Several names were removed from the list at the request of family members.

With permission from the Legislature, the remembrance list is published in a book displayed in the lobby of Riverview Psychiatric Center, which opened on the hospital grounds in 2004. The list also is part of a hospital history posted on the DHHS website.

Patient care and deaths at Riverview are handled much differently in the wake of a 1990 consent decree that addressed crowding and care problems at AMHI, according to Mary Louise McEwen, superintendent of Riverview for more than three years.

Today, Riverview keeps detailed records of all patients, but few have died at the center since it opened, McEwen said. There are several reasons for that.

Riverview has few long-term patients because of an increased emphasis on community mental health care, McEwen said. A typical stay is 45 to 60 days. Riverview also has fewer patients in general — fewer than 100 today compared to more than 1,800 in the 1960s.

Also, unlike AMHI, Riverview has no nursing home for dementia patients and no infirmary for seriously ill patients.

McEwen said Riverview patients who become seriously ill are discharged and transferred to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, which has a psyciatric unit, as most hospitals today do. If a former patient dies at MaineGeneral, Riverview helps notify family members and arrange the burial, she said.

Riverview directly oversees only burials of patients who die at the center. Three people have died at Riverview since it opened in 2004 — in 2006, 2010 and 2011, McEwen said. Two were claimed by family members and funeral arrangements were made elsewhere. The third was laid to rest in Augusta, and the state paid $3,400 for the burial site, grave marker and funeral home services.

“We’re very sensitive to the whole situation,” McEwen said. “We deal with the whole person, but we focus on mental health. When a patient arrives, we get a complete medical and social history, but sometimes people give us false information. Some people don’t want family members to know they’re here. We do what we can.”

While modern attitudes and practices have changed, that still leaves the deaths of 11,647 former patients largely unrecognized.

For those involved in the Maine Cemetery Project, it’s clear that raising a permanent memorial to the lost souls of AMHI is as much about the present and the future as it is about rectifying the past.

For Karen Evans, it’s also about offering hope to others who struggle with mental illness. She has managed to put decades of abuse behind her and today works as a mental health advocate and trainer. With good care and community support, she has been in recovery for a decade. She’s resigned to the fact that she may never know what happened to Margaret, despite her efforts.

“Today, we have hope,” Karen Evans said. “It used to be, there was no hope. They told my parents I’d be in an institution my whole life. I have hard times still, but I haven’t been in a hospital in 10 years. Everybody has value. Each life needs to be honored, even in death.”

Even Margaret.


History of the Augusta Mental Health Institute

1830: Ten years after Maine becomes a state, Gov. Jonathan Hunton calls for care of “numerous cases of lunacy”; survey by Dr. Tobias Purinton of Danville finds 562 mentally ill people in Maine, or about one in every 300 citizens.

1834: Legislature appropriates $20,000 to establish state’s first insane hospital; Reuel Williams of Augusta, a future U.S. senator, and Benjamin Brown Jr., of Vassalboro, each donate $10,000 to the effort; both have mentally ill family members.

1835: State buys 35-acre site for hospital on Kennebec River in Augusta, directly across from the State House; it’s modeled after State Lunatic Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and built of Hallowell granite; famed Mainer Dorothea Dix, an early mental health advocate, consults on the project.

1840: Maine Insane Hospital opens in Augusta to serve 120 patients; they come from across Maine, brought by family members and overseers of poor houses, where some were kept in chains or cages; symptoms include mania, melancholy, masturbation and “faked voices.”

1850: Fire guts half of hospital, killing 27 patients and one staff member; new wings, buildings and parcels of land are added through the 1980s, growing the campus to more than 800 acres, including 600 acres of farmland that produced tons of food and employed hundreds of patients.

1901: Eastern Maine Insane Hospital — today’s Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center — opens in Bangor, immediately taking 145 patients from Maine Insane Hospital; in 1913, both are renamed, becoming Augusta State Hospital and Bangor State Hospital.

1930s: Hydro and radiant-heat therapies are introduced, followed by electric- and insulin-shock treatments in the 1940s, thorazine therapy in the 1950s and lithium therapy in the 1960s.

1950s: Patient population peaks at 1,840 and stays 30 percent beyond capacity despite construction of several new buildings; staff introduces group therapy; hospital opens first community mental health center in Lewiston.

1960s: Hospital begins treating substance abuse and addiction; patients become eligible for Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

1970s: Consent decree eliminates unpaid patient labor at what is now Augusta Mental Health Institute; adolescent unit opens; growing emphasis on “deinstitutionalization” and community mental health services; average daily population drops from 1,500 to 350.

1988: Five patients at AMHI die during summer heat wave; mental health advocates bring class-action lawsuit against hospital and state.

1990: Consent decree orders state to address crowding and care problems at AMHI and improve community mental health programs by 1995; lack of funding and controversy lead to continued delays and repeated contempt orders through 2001.

2000: Legislature appropriates $33 million to build new hospital; four years later, 92-bed Riverview Psychiatric Center opens on hospital grounds, and AMHI closes; court lifts active supervision of Riverview in 2011.


Vienna buries remains of Nazi victims

May 09, 2012 3:19 pm • Associated Press

They were starved, tortured, and killed because they were considered inferior to the Aryan ideal set by Adolf Hitler. Then their organs were put in jars and displayed for research by the doctors accused of causing their deaths under the Nazis.

Shutting the books on one of Vienna’s darkest chapters, black-clad workers on Wednesday placed a small metal urn into the ground at the city’s Central Cemetery. It contained what municipal officials say were the last known unburied remains of victims “treated to death” on the Austrian capital’s psychiatric wards during the Hitler era.

The Nazis called them “unworthy lives” _ those deemed too sick, weak or handicapped to fit the Fuehrer’s image of the master race.

More than 70,000 were killed, gassed to death or otherwise murdered between 1939 and 1941. Public protests stopped the wholesale massacres then, but thousands more of those deemed inferior lost their lives at the hands of sadistic doctors and nurses until the end of the war.

Of those, about 3,500 died in Vienna institutions, among them nearly 800 children and juveniles. Thousands of brains, uteruses with fetuses and other organs and parts were then preserved in jars and used for medical research until 1978, when they were put under lock and key amid growing Austrian sensitivity to the crimes committed while the country was Hitler’s ally.

Hundreds of the children’s remains were already buried 10 years ago, but many adult specimens were kept available until recently for experts trying to trace their histories and identify them. They were successful in linking remains to names in 61 cases. Sixty sets of identified victims were buried along with unidentified ones in a nonpublic ceremony late last month.

Under a clear blue sky, the 61st was put to rest Wednesday, accompanied by the mournful music of a string quartet, speeches by dignitaries and the cawing of a lone crow perched on a beech tree near the grave.

“They were neglected, undernourished, exposed to infectious disease and killed at the very place that they should have been treated, healed and taken care of,” declared Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

Because Austria was slow to recognize that it was more a Nazi ally than a victim, some of the doctors suspected of complicity in the killings worked as renowned researchers into the 1970s based in part on their activities during the Hitler era.

Typical was Dr. Hans Bertha, the head of Am Steinhof, Vienna’s main wartime psychiatric hospital. Although most of the 3,500 adults and children were found “worthless” and killed by the Nazis under his tenure, he went on to become a professor of medicine in the southern Austrian city of Graz after the war, dying in a 1961 car accident without ever being brought to justice.

While some medical personnel were subsequently implicated, few were prosecuted _ formally because of age-related health reasons.

Among those escaping legal action was Heinrich Gross. Basing his research on the preserved brains of the children killed at the hospital, he published nearly a dozen articles, received a high state award and served as an expert witness in hundreds of court cases up to the mid-1980s.

Accused in the deaths of some of those children, Gross’ trial was broken off in 2000 after an expert witness said he suffered from dementia _ a finding called into question a few weeks later when he lucidly answered questions put to him by journalists. He died five years later.

Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl said he was angered that many perpetrators escaped punishment.

“It makes me furious to know that these criminals could work, practice and conduct research after the end of the war,” he told the graveside gathering of about 100 _ a mixture of Austrian and German officials and elderly survivors of the psychiatric wards with a story to tell.

The son of an alcoholic father, Friedrich Zawrel, 83, said he was ordered ostracized at school by the Nazis because of his “asocial origins.” Kicked out of the Hitler Youth, he was brought to Am Steinhof in 1940 at age 11 after being accused of homosexuality.

Zawrel now walks slowly with the aid of a cane. But the years have not dimmed his memory of his ordeal: torture, humiliation, and bouts of solitary confinement for four years.

He spoke of vomit-inducing injections, of orderlies forcing his head under water until he blacked out and the “Wrap Treatment” _ being bound in two sheets dripping with cold water and then two dry sheets, after which he was left until his body warmth dried the sheets.

“Sometimes that took up to two days without food or water,” he said.


Special Assignment

Buried Secrets

By Courtny Gerrish
620 WTMJ News Radio

CREATED May. 2, 2012

It’s an eerie mystery in Milwaukee. A place overgrown with weeds, forgotten until now. That all changed when one man’s quest to learn about his past collided with our county’s history.

We’re talking about a graveyard for thousands, in the heart of Milwaukee County. Most people don’t even know it’s there. These long lost souls with nothing to mark their graves, but now there’s an effort to unearth their stories.

Some seven thousand stories. These unknown dead buried with their mysteries. A Milwaukee County graveyard for the poor, mentally ill and orphaned. In most cases with nothing marking their final resting place.

Some, like James Lombardo, call it a dark spot in the county’s history. He still visits Potter’s Field from time to time. Lombardo believes divine intervention first led him here in 1976. “I really think that brought me here for a reason.”

In the search for his biological mother Lombardo was picking up adoption papers on the Milwaukee County grounds when he stumbled across it. The grass was waist high, and the only way to tell it was a cemetery was an old, rusty sign.

Lombardo quickly learned it was a forgotten cemetery in Wauwatosa hidden between Watertown Plank Road and the Menomonee River. Four thousand adults and children buried here. Some of those children lived in the orphanage, where Lombardo spent the first three years of his life. He told us, “it was like a sacred ground to me.”

As a supervisor for Milwaukee County Lombardo made it his mission to turn Potter’s Field into something beautiful. “Why not have the same respect for this cemetery as you would for any other?”

A sign now pays respect to those buried in Potter’s Field and shares some of the history. From 1852 to 1974 Milwaukee County buried the mentally insane, the poor and the unknown at little cost. They were laid to rest in three plots of land and forgotten. Some estimate there are 7500 people in unmarked graves.

The only record is a burial log which is now at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

In 1991 one of the lost pauper cemeteries made headlines. It was discovered during construction at Froedtert Hospital. Crews turned up the bones of 1600 people.

Those remains are now being studied by archaeology students at UW-Milwaukee. But the bigger goal is to identify as many as possible. So far, they’ve had success with 190 people. Like Ernst Gutszhke. He was an inmate at the County Insane Asylum.

Brooke Drew is working on her Ph.D. She spends countless hours pulling coroner’s reports. In this case the trauma that killed Gutszhke helped identify his remains. Drew says, “to me the personal story about what he was doing when he died…it adds a very kind of personal humanizing aspect to my research.”

Dr. Michael McBride, a psychiatrist at Milwaukee’s V.A. Medical Center, walks us through a small piece of land just up from Potter’s Field. Cast iron crosses used to mark the 200 graves here. All of those buried were former patients at the insane asylum.

This graveyard now has a cemetery marker, but up until five years ago it was a dumping ground for garbage. “The common denominator for all the people buried out here were poor,” Dr. McBride tells us, “and that’s essentially why we have these cycles of cemeteries that are forgotten.”

Now Dr. McBride wants the county to spend some money and turn this into a park setting. “As a community, remember these people in a dignified way. That is what I feel is the right thing to do.”

For Lombardo, he finds solace in knowing several families have found loved ones in this Potter’s Field but wishes he could do more for the many others who are still forgotten.

There have been at least two civil war veterans found in these pauper cemeteries. Another reason some people want more done to memorialize the lives of those buried in these plots.

As for the collection of remains being studied at U-W Milwaukee it stays with the University. Each person is individually preserved and remembered. If family comes forward those remains will be handed over to relatives.


History project tells stories of life at the old Hastings State Hospital

By Nick Ferraro
Posted: 01/31/2012 12:01:00 AM CST
Updated: 1/31 11:08:57 PM

An unmarked cemetery overlooking a state wildlife management area is a poignant reminder of the old Hastings State Hospital and how some of its patients were treated.

Sometimes referred to as the “Hastings Asylum Cemetery,” the small plat of state-owned land is the final resting place for the nearly 700 former patients who lived out their lives at the hospital.

They were buried anonymously, without headstones.

“Oftentimes, families weren’t involved with these patients anymore…and hospital staff would have to get them ready for burial,” said Heidi Langenfeld, an educator with the Dakota County Historical Society. “Hospital workers have told me that was incredibly tough. They were buried as a number with no marker.”

Langenfeld is leading the historical society’s effort to collect memories and stories from the hospital, which closed in 1978, for an oral history project titled “Our Voices: Hastings State Hospital.”

On-camera interviews with former hospital staff and patients began this week at Hastings Community Television, which is partnering with the historical society on the project. In all, 25 people will be interviewed.

Over the years, patients at the hospital, which opened in 1900 as the Hastings Asylum for the Insane, included those with mental illnesses, physical and mental disabilities and chemical dependency.

According to the historical society, the project aims to preserve, and ultimately present, personal stories “so that the experiences of the past can help families and lawmakers make better choices for the future.”

On Monday, Lew Linde, a hospital psychiatric social worker during the mid- to late-1950s, spoke on camera about the use of electric shock treatments as a way to treat depression.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant experience to watch someone get electric shock treatment,” the 83-year-old Hastings resident said.

And yet Linde also recalled better times, including how he met his future wife, who worked as a nursing instructor.

A year ago, Linde approached Langenfeld and suggested that someone preserve the stories of the hospital. A state grant distributed through the Minnesota Historical Society set the wheels in motion.

“People are dying off,” Linde said. “As a matter of fact, a lot of the medical staff…they’re all dead and gone. I thought it is an important part of Hastings history to tell.”

In the bigger picture, the project will highlight how the public’s view of those with mental illness and physical and mental disabilities has changed, as well as their medical treatment, said Chad Roberts, the Dakota County Historical Society’s executive director.

Minnesota’s first institutions were developed in the 1860s as places to put people who were seen as “defective” or “insane,” reads a 1985 report presented by the state planning agency.

“The intent was to isolate people and protect society from them,” the report reads. “There were hopes that such actions would also result in treatment and cure.”

In 1900, the Hastings Asylum for the Insane opened with 112 patients who were transferred from the Rochester State Hospital.

“Their assumption was that these people just needed a place to live and to be taken care of, and there wasn’t any point in doing anything else with them,” Langenfeld said.

Eventually, parallel developments in social policy, treatment practices and court decisions had a major impact in reducing patient numbers across Minnesota.

“People could go back and return to their lives and not stay institutionalized the whole rest of their life,” Langenfeld said.

With an increasing focus on community-based facilities, the total state hospital population dropped from 16,355 in 1960 to 4,006 in 1984, a decline of 75 percent.

The number of patients with mental illness dropped from 10,093 in 1960 to 1,230 in 1984. Meanwhile, those classified with “mental retardation” dropped 64 percent during that time, according to the report.

Hastings State Hospital was shuttered in 1978, and the facility was transferred to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The buildings now house the Hastings Veterans Home.


Earl Karsikas uncovered his family’s secret by chance.

Growing up, he knew nothing about his grandfather. An online search a few years ago revealed a death certificate that listed his dad’s father as being buried at the Hastings Asylum Cemetery.

“Apparently my grandmother kept this a secret and didn’t tell anybody,” said Karsikas of Cottage Grove.

He discovered through more research that his grandfather was originally committed to the state hospital in Fergus Falls in 1910 after trying to get inside the White House to right something of which he “felt he was unjustly accused of,” Karsikas said.

After a 2005 visit to the cemetery, he discovered the unmarked graves.

“I think it’s too bad that people were forgotten like that,” he said.

For Rick Cardenas, co-director of Advocating Change Together, that anonymity speaks of the shame once linked to developmental disability, of how families were urged to leave family members in institutions, and of a progression in how the public treats such people today.

Since the mid-1990s, Cardenas’ St. Paul-based nonprofit has been working with other disability-rights organizations to mark the nearly 13,000 anonymous graves at state institution cemeteries across Minnesota.

So far, more than 6,500 graves have been identified and marked with granite stones, including all of those at the Hastings cemetery. The grave of Karsikas’ grandfather, who died in 1921, was the first to be marked in Hastings.

Funding from the Minnesota Legislature for the “Remembering With Dignity” project has been hit or miss, Cardenas said.

But his group had reason to cheer at the Capitol in the final days of the 2010 session, when lawmakers passed Resolution 4, House File 1680, also known as the Apology Bill.

The resolution, first introduced in 1997, apologizes to the tens of thousands of Minnesotans with mental illnesses and developmental and other disabilities who were “wrongly committed to state institutions and subjected to “shock treatments, frontal lobotomies, aversive treatments and isolation.”

“WHEREAS, many Minnesotans once viewed this institutional treatment as acceptable,” it reads, “… but now recognize how wrong this treatment was.”


Oral-history projects are a renewed focus for the Dakota County Historical Society, Roberts said.

Last year, the historical society created a 10-year strategic plan that included a goal of making better use of its existing oral history collection and adding to it.

“People connect with oral histories in a very positive way,” Roberts said. “It’s very personal, and a lot of the information you can get you can’t get any other way.”

When Langenfeld approached Roberts last year with the idea of doing the hospital project, he asked a research librarian to pull the historical society’s file on the hospital. It was thin.

“I got excited and wanted to know more,” Roberts said.

The taped interviews will be shown on Hastings Community TV starting as early as next week, and copies will be available at the historical society’s Lawshe Memorial Museum in South St. Paul.

“History is history, and there are good parts and bad parts,” Roberts said. “The whole point is you learn from all of it. And our job is to make sure whatever that is – good, bad or otherwise – that it is preserved and is accessible to the people of Dakota County.”


ISU students unearth secrets of poor farm’s graves

Associated Press

10:15 a.m. CST, January 27, 2012

TERRE HAUTE, Ind.— A group of Indiana college students who excavated graves at a former county “poor farm” unearthed several Victorian-era caskets, some of them six-sided and one with a glass window that allowed a glimpse of the deceased.

The Indiana State University archaeology students began the excavation after workers digging a trench for a water line exposed 12 graves last summer on the grounds of the former Vigo County Home.

“This was a very painstaking, meticulous process,” said ISU forensic anthropologist Shawn Phillips.

Phillips, who presented the findings Wednesday during a presentation at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, said all of the dirt from the trench had to be carefully screened for artifacts. The students uncovered bone fragments, buttons, coffin nails, thumbscrews, fabrics, wood fragments and glass.

Phillips said the students discovered more than 100 graves.

ISU graduate student Tiffany Grossman, who worked on the project, used “ground penetrating radar” to locate the boundaries of the graveyard, which she said could include 200 graves.

She told the Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/ySvIKS ) that considering the site was a pauper cemetery, she was surprised that one casket had a glass viewing window that extended the length of the casket’s top.

Phillips said that casket and others uncovered by the students reflect a late 1800s, Victorian interest in “the beautification of death.”

In those days, six-sided caskets were still in use before giving way to modern four-sided versions.

Based on the style of the caskets discovered on the grounds, Phillips believes the burials took place in the last decade of the 1800s or very early 1900s.

He said the Vigo County Home, which locals called the “poor farm,” was apparently a “catch-all” institution for the poor, disabled, elderly and mentally ill.

Over many decades, some of the people who died at the home near Terre Haute North Vigo High School were also buried on the property.

But compared with other county home cemetery projects he’s worked on, Phillips said there is a surprising lack of documentation about the Terre Haute facility.

One unusual feature is the orientation of the graves. Phillips said that traditionally in Christian societies, caskets are placed in the ground in an east-west orientation but that the site’s caskets were placed north to south.

He said the students also discovered the remains of an adult less than 4 1/2 feet tall.

Phillips said his team will present their findings to Terre Haute officials, who must decide whether to continue with development of the property, which is part of the city’s Emergency Responder Training Academy, or declare the area off limits as a cemetery.

In the meantime, the 12 graves disturbed last summer must be relocated to Highland Lawn Cemetery, Phillips said. He said those remains were being documented and stored at the Terre Haute campus until that work is ready to begin.


Advocates seek dignity for Rockland Psychiatric Center patients buried in anonymity

12:43 AM, Sep. 30, 2011

ORANGEBURG — Behind the undulating greens of the Orangetown municipal golf course lies an undisturbed one-acre lot surrounded by tall trees. Accessible only by a narrow gravel path, the lot could easily merge into the landscape if it were not for a statue of Jesus flanked by two angels standing in the center.

Unknown to many, the lot is the burial site for 1,634 mentally ill patients who were institutionalized at Rockland Psychiatric Center in the early 20th century, abandoned by their families or society because of the shame and stigma attached to mental illness at the time.

The cemetery is barely recognizable as one. It has no name and is unmarked. The gravestones are invisible. The small gray bricks that serve as markers are buried level with the ground and obscured by the roughly mown grass.

At one time the markers bore a flat metal number, corresponding to a list of the buried residents. Over time, however, most numbers have fallen off, rendering the dead as invisible in death as they were in life

But now, advocates for the mentally ill in Rockland are coming together to give the deceased some dignity. An effort is afoot to restore the cemetery by cleaning it and putting names and lifespans on headstones.

“We are doing this because we don’t want this location to become a dustbin of history,” said John Murphy, president of Rockland Psychiatric Center Board of Visitors and a Rockland County legislator. “This is anonymity. We seek normalcy.”

Another cemetery at Rockland Psychiatric Center has 794 graves of people buried from 1965 to the present. Reflecting the changing attitudes toward the mentally ill, the graveyard has larger flat stone headstones carved with the names and lifespans of the buried, as well their religious affiliation denoted with a cross or a Star of David.

Both gravesites are in line for refurbishment, part of a growing movement across the country to restore cemeteries at psychiatric hospitals as a way to honor the dead and destigmatize mental illness.

In Rockland, some work has already started. Last year, staffers and patients at Rockland Psychiatric Center cleaned the cemetery and planted annuals.

The group working to restore the cemeteries includes Murphy, Rena Finkelstein, president of NAMI-FAMILYA, which is affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness; Dr. Mary Barber, clinical director of Rockland Psychiatric Center, some Town of Orangetown officials, historians and archivists, and other advocates for the mentally ill.

The state psychiatric facility was built in 1927 to house patients with mental illness at a time when the stigma attached to the disease frequently led to social exclusion. Often families with mentally ill members would drop them off to a psychiatric center, never to see them again.

The patients lived at these facilities, excluded from the world and the communities they lived in. When they died, they were buried in pine coffins built by unpaid patients who also dug the graves they were buried in.

There are an estimated 50,000 such unmarked graves at cemeteries across New York, some of which are now being refurbished.

At its height in 1959, Rockland Psychiatric Center had 9,000 patients and more than 2,000 workers on its 600-acre site. But as attitudes toward mental illness changed, with better information and treatment , many patients were deinstitutionalized.
Now, about 450 patients are housed there.

Going forward, the cemetery committee plans to give the unmarked graveyards names. The old cemetery, where residents were buried from 1928 to 1965, will be called the Broad Acres cemetery, and the newer one will be named Blaisdell cemetery.

Three other cemeteries run by Rockland Psychiatric Center may be refurbished at a later date.

The effort will not be without challenges.

A major hurdle is the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which protects personal health information. While a record exists of the patients buried at the cemeteries the state Office of Mental Health has informed the group it can put names on headstones only if family members of the deceased permit it.

With the earliest graves dating from 1928, it may be difficult.

“I don’t expect this will be easy,” said Finkelstein. “What we want to do is to have it understood that these were people who deserve respect and dignity … We want people to know that mental illness is a neurological disorder, it’s a illness like heart disease or diabetes.”

Then there is the matter of resources.

Last year, New York state gave Rockland Psychiatric Center $10,000 to improve the cemeteries. The committee is now reaching out to organizations in Rockland for help in kind.

It plans to ask local colleges to encourage school projects where students will use the Internet to trace the families of the buried patients.

It has reached out to the master gardener program of Cornell Cooperative Extension to plan landscaping for the cemeteries, and to Keep Rockland Beautiful to help with the planting. It has also asked local artists to donate statues.

At some point the committee might seek donations from the public.

The group’s goal is to start work on the cemeteries in the spring. In the meantime, members will contact families of the deceased and line up resources to start the project.

Murphy said the nationwide effort to clean the cemeteries was reflective in the changing social attitudes toward mental illness.

“The story of the cemeteries is the story of growing enlightenment in the treatment of the mentally ill,” Murphy said.


Campaigners furious after war memorial for Cane Hill asylum soldiers is taken

9:20am Wednesday 12th October 2011

Thieves have stolen a bronze plaque remembering the heroes who fought in both World Wars and died at Cane Hill asylum.

The monument, in the garden of remembrance at Croydon Cemetery, Mitcham Road, is a tribute to the estimated 3,000 patients who died at the mental health hospital in Coulsdon, between 1884 and 1950 including 26 war veterans.

The bodies of inmates unable to afford a full burial at the Cane Hill site were cremated and re-interred at the cemetery in 1981.

Adrian Falks, who led the campaign to have the Cane Hill residents recognised, said: “That plaque took 29 years to erect.

“The person who stole it hasn’t simply insulted the memory of the poor, he has insulted the monarch, and the memories of people who fought and died for this country.

“It is an unspeakable desecration.”

Through work from Mr Falks in a campaign supported by the Croydon Guardian, men interred at Mitcham Road were recognised as veterans by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in August.

Peter Taylor, who was also involved in securing recognition for the soldiers, visited the cemetery on October 2 and was appalled to see it gone.

He said: “Now soldiers’ names are on the Debt of Honour on-line register, this is a war grave, and theft is tantamount to an act of desecration.”

Metropolitan police are investigating after 66 bronze plaques, including the Cane Hill memorial, were stolen on September 27.

The plaque was installed in February 2009, with companies Phoenix Foundries and JB Shakespeare providing the granite base and Croydon Council providing the ground work.

Since then, Mr Falks has laid a wreath at the site on Remembrance Day, now less than a month away, in honour of the soldiers.

A spokesman for the council confirmed they were concerned about the recent plaque thefts, with a further 150 plaques taken in June, and were investigating replacing the Cane Hill memorial.

He said: “We are in the process of looking at options for replacement and the possibilities for any additional security.

“In the meantime we are obviously keen to hear from anyone who has any information regarding these exceptionally upsetting and callous thefts.”


State recognition of mentally ill is long overdue

Monday, October 10, 2011

McCook Daily Gazette

Bureaucracies move slowly, but it’s heartening when they do the right thing.

In this case, it’s too bad it took two years of legal battles to bring the agency around, but the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is doing the right thing today.

The agency called for a moment of silence to honor people buried in cemeteries at the state’s three psychiatric hospitals.

The observance was set for 10:10 a.m. today, coinciding with World Mental Health Day.

Nebraska Historical Society records show there are 1,150 people buried at the Hastings Regional Center, 523 at the Norfolk Regional Center and 776 at two cemeteries at the Lincoln Regional Center.

HHS officials note that mental illness was once treated as “something shameful: and many burial sites were marked only with numbers or unmarked stones, and today’s observance honored the humanity of those buried at the regional centers.

That was just the point of a request by the Adams County Historical Society for a list of names of those buried in the former psychiatric hospital cemetery in Hastings.

The state refused, saying that federal medical privacy law prohibited the release of the names.

We argued against the stance, noting that federal HIPAA laws — Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act –were often cited improperly to keep the public in the dark.

Nearly two years later, the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed and ordered the names released.

The Adams County Historical Society has posted the names of 957 people on its website — http://bit.ly/ouyzcz — but just the names and dates of death, no other identifying information.

The Adams County group made the effort because of repeated calls from those whose relatives were buried in unmarked graves at the Hastings facility between 1889 and 1957.

Answers to their questions, and today’s acknowledgement that mental illness is just that, an illness, were long overdue.


Published Tuesday October 11, 2011

Names read at institution graveyard

By Michael Bamesberger

LINCOLN — In a quiet neighborhood in southwest Lincoln, an unmarked graveyard lies hidden behind a row of homes.

Passing by, you’d hardly notice it was there. Only a “No Trespassing” sign guards the cemetery’s entrance.

Inside, stones mark the graves of 252 patients who died at the Lincoln Regional Center from 1872 to the early 1950s.

The stones bear no names — just four-digit numbers.

On Monday, employees of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Lincoln Regional Center gathered at the Haines Branch Cemetery to observe a moment of silence and to read aloud the names of those buried here.

“I say your name to remember you,” said Carol Coussons de Reyes, an administrator in the Office of Consumer Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services, before reading the names.

The cemetery illustrates how state mental institutions chose to bury their dead in an era when a strong stigma was attached to mental illness, said Rachel Johnson, religious coordinator at the Lincoln Regional Center.

“These people were just disregarded,” Johnson said. “This was how people in mental hospitals were treated.”

Monday’s ceremony commemorated World Mental Health Day, as did observances at two other regional center cemeteries. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services sponsored the events.

According to the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1,150 people are buried in Hastings, 523 in Norfolk and a total of 776 at two Lincoln Regional Center cemeteries.

Those in attendance at the Haines Branch Cemetery took turns reading the list of names.

Coussons de Reyes and co-worker Dan Powers had pushed to organize the event. Powers, who has bipolar disorder, has been an advocate for mental health patients for decades.

“I’ve lived the experience of a mental hospital,” Powers said. “That’s my connection with these people.”

In 2004, Powers came up with the idea for a national unmarked grave memorial while visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., to pay tribute to his father.

After he and others met with various national mental health boards they made plans for a Memorial of Recovered Dignity at the Gardens at St. Elizabeths in Washington, D.C. The memorial was dedicated in June 2009.

Coussons de Reyes and others would like to see more done at the Haines Branch Cemetery, such as a statue or a posted list of the names.

“Hopefully, we can get a beautification project started here,” Coussons de Reyes said. “Maybe it doesn’t seem all that important with budgetary issues we’ve got going on, but it’s about protecting humanity.”

Contact the writer: michael.bamesberger@owh.com


Unmarked graves receive new life in Collins

September 30, 2011

COLLINS – Most people do not know where the Wheater Road Cemetery in the town of Collins is located unless they have been there before. Nestled at the bottom of a hill curving and twisting through woods, the Wheater Hill Cemetery is home to more than 1,200 individuals who are buried in unmarked graves.

People Inc., along with other volunteers, took on the project to help unearth buried grave markers and help bring new life to the cemetery that housed unmarked graves of patients of the former Gowanda Psychiatric Hospital.

Those who are buried in the cemetery were patients of the former hospital located where the current Gowanda and Collins Correctional Facilities currently located along Route 62.

The program was welcomed by Dave Mack Hardiman, director of training for People Inc. He welcomed individuals to the ceremony and introduced Chaplain Joel Terragnoli from Collins Correctional Facility offered prayer.

Associate Vice President Karen Lazik gave a brief history on the program which started more than five years ago.

“Our involvement began approximately five plus years ago and we were looking at various cemeteries … where individuals were buried with no name (with) a number, sometimes you can’t even see the head stones,” Lazik said.

The Wheater Road Cemetery was the third cemetery that volunteers worked on. When they came in to the cemetery few years ago there were hardly no grave stones visible. All the grave stones in the cemetery are marked with a number and either a cross of a Star of David. Many markers do not have numbers or names and are left blank.

“This particular (cemetery), we saw three head stones … it looked just like a field,” Lazik said.

Hardiman agreed with Lazik saying a lot of progress has been made the past three summers volunteers worked at the cemetery.

“When we first walked through the gates more than three years ago you could see three stones, you can now see more than 500. Those stones were discovered and uncovered, washed, brushed, repositioned, reconditioned renovated (and) rejuvenated. Each grave marker treated as all people should be treated with the upmost care, honor, respect and reverence,” Hardiman said.

Volunteers from various organizations have helped out with the cemetery restoration including volunteers from People Inc., Collins Correctional Facility, the Office of Mental Health, the Cattaraugus County Mental Health Association, Randolph Academy, Siena College and St. Bonaventure University.

The Collins Correctional Facility donated equipment for the project. The correctional facility have also donated their time to maintain the grounds.

“I think it is a remarkable project that People Inc. have undertaken the last three years to restore this cemetery to the condition that it is currently in. It has been a great pleasure, on behalf of the Department of Correctional Services, to provide assistance … I want to thank People Inc. and all the volunteers for restoring this cemetery,” Malcolm Cully, superintendent of Collins Correctional Facility said.

During the ceremony the names of those who are buried at the cemetery were read by Hardiman and Assistant Director of Training David Squires. Gowanda and Collins Historian Phil Palen helped gather the names of 40 of those buried in the cemetery. After the names were read, doves were released in honor of those who have passed away and are buried at the cemetery. The dates of death of the names read ranged from 1899 to 1961.

A heart shaped garden was also resurrected but the dedication was held off due to weather.

People Inc. started out the project by renovating the Jolls Road Cemetery in the town of Perrysburg. Four hundred individuals associated with three institutions, Gowanda Psychiatric, J.N. Adam Memorial Hospital and Western New York Developmental Hospital, were buried in this cemetery. People Inc. obtained permission to place a monument in the cemetery in honor of those who are buried and complied all of the names of the 400 individuals which were buried in that cemetery.

A ceremony was held in October 2006 to dedicate the monument. Lazik remembered that it was the October the freak snow storm had hit the region. Lazik received feedback after the ceremony which she read at Thursday’s ceremony.

“Standing in a remote cemetery on a cold day seeing the unmarked field where so many lie interred and virtually unnoticed and to hear the stories and the names, it became clear that what we accomplished was the right thing and a very good thing,” said the statement Lazik read.

The second cemetery which volunteers worked on was the Gowanda Psychiatric Cemetery, located on Route 62 in the town of Collins, where 550 individuals are buried. Volunteers worked on the cemetery during the summer of 2007 and a ceremony was held after the completion of restoration in summer 2007.

People Inc. will work on a cemetery located on Gothic Hill Road in Lockport. Restoration work will start in the spring.


Numbered graves in institution’s cemeteries to receive identities

Sharon K. Grossman, American History Examiner
September 15, 2011

Anonymous graves of patients who died at The Ridges in Athens, Ohio, when it was operated as a psychiatric hospital, will soon have additional new gravestones marking their names, birth dates, and dates of death. These graves hold the bodies of patients who were left unclaimed at the institution for various reasons by relatives in the years prior to 1945. The bodies were hastily buried without being embalmed and the graves marked with a stone bearing only a number.

This type of burial was practiced all over the United States in institutional cemeteries of state hospitals, children’s homes, and lunatic asylums. Row upon row of gravestones bear only numbers marking the graves–no names, no birth dates, and no death dates. Identities are known only through matching the numbers on the gravestones with names in directories preserved by various historical societies or state archives. Unless an accurate map is kept, finding a particular grave can be difficult as in the case of The Ridges’ cemeteries, where a duplicate sequence of numbers was assigned to both men and women.

The hundreds of numbered graves at The Ridges of Athens, Ohio

The Ridges was built in 1868 and first known as The Athens Lunatic Asylum. The institution’s name morphed over the years into different forms in an attempt to eliminate the label of “lunatic” or “insane.” Now known as The Ridges and owned by Ohio University, the building is named Lin Hall and also used as an art museum called the Kennedy Museum of Art. The rest of the building is closed to the public, but the three cemeteries are open. The property has 1,932 persons buried in its cemeteries, the majority of which have only a number on each of their stones.

Doug McCabe, Curator of Manuscripts, Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections at the Vernon R. Alden Library at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, has done extensive research on the existing records of all of these patients, and missing birth dates and other biographical information were found for most with the exception of those buried as John or Jane Doe. McCabe traveled to Washington, D.C., to conduct research at the Veterans Administration and has identified 84 veterans. Forty-three new grave markers for veterans have been approved so far.

Non-profit group works to restore dignity to the dead

A non-profit group called the Friends of Athens Asylum Cemeteries has now stepped forward to give respect and dignity to those buried there by providing identification of the graves with additional new gravestones.

The FAAC, spearheaded by Doug and Berta Lockhart of Logan, Ohio, consists of many volunteers and they conduct fundraisers to purchase gravestones. The mission of the group is to place a gravestone on every grave at The Ridges with the name of the person, birth date, and date of death (if available) engraved upon it. This additional stone would not replace the original numbered headstone but be placed in front of the old stone, flat upon the ground, so the historical integrity of the cemetery will be protected. Fundraising is ongoing to pay for the full or partial cost of the stones when families are unable to pay for them.

Placing new stones is surprisingly difficult

Berta Lockhart describes how surprised they were when the Friends of Athens Asylum Cemeteries ran into heavy opposition to their project by previous Ohio Administrations. The Ohio Department of Mental Health who owns the cemeteries expressed its concern about protecting the cemeteries’ historical integrity as well as the privacy of the families of persons in the numbered graves. The FAAC has only received permission from the department to place stones when relatives of the dead can be found, the relatives can prove they are related, and they grant written permission to do so. The new markers must also conform to ODMH specifications. To date, an increasing number of new stones have been placed, with 43 stones for veterans currently on order, and the group has high hopes of locating many more relatives.

Finding information on the dead is a collective effort

Along with the research done by McCabe, the FAAC also works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Athens, Ohio Chapter and the Ohio Department of Mental Health to get information out to the public about those buried in the cemeteries. During the FAAC’s fundraisers at local events, a master list of names of the dead buried at The Ridges is displayed for the public to search for relatives or other known persons.

Stories unfold about the people of the asylum

Doug and Berta Lockhart report that people are “beside themselves” when they find that a relative is buried in a grave marked only by a number. They tell the story of a woman trumpet player who played Taps at the cemetery for their Veterans Day ceremony who discovered she is related to three people buried in the cemeteries. Her Taps rendition is much more special now. A Missouri family discovered that they had five family members who were patients at the asylum, three of which are buried in the cemeteries. Those three graves now have new markers.

Berta relates various reasons why patients may have been admitted to this treatment facility. Merely having trouble sleeping could have gotten someone treated there. Women could be confined after childbirth, indicating that they may have suffered from postpartum depression. Severity of the problems treated at the asylum ranged from mild cases on the upper floors to the criminally insane in the basement.

Veterans buried in the cemeteries are from the Spanish American War, Civil War, and World War I. Veterans from later wars of World War II and the Korean War have already been recognized in cemetery no. 3. The group organized a Veterans Day ceremony in 2010 which included historical military reenactments, a memorial service, and decoration of the veterans’ graves. A second Veterans Day ceremony is planned for 2011.

Berta provides the best reason for caring about these persons and providing them with their names on new gravestones.

“Would you want your child or family member to be buried with just a number marking their grave?” she asks.

Help is needed to accomplish the goal

The Lockharts encourage everyone to help by writing to their elected officials and in particular the Governor, asking them to lend their support to this project. Veterans groups may also want to get involved and learn of the information found about veterans buried in these cemeteries.

After their work is accomplished at The Ridges, the FAAC is eager to work with other interested organizations throughout Ohio and the nation who wish to identify and install grave markers in institutional cemeteries.

To donate, search for a family member, or request additional information, email the Friends of the Athens Asylum Cemeteries at info@friendsofathensasylumcemeteries.com. Visit their website at friendsofathensasylumcemeteries.com


Central State patient gets new grave marker

Updated: Aug 11, 2011 6:46 PM EDT
By Mary Milz

INDIANAPOLIS – He was locked up and forgotten at Central State Hospital in 1929, which was then known as an insane asylum. Eighty-one years after John Cathcart died, one of his descendants is trying to make amends.

Roy Johnson, who just turned 81, visited the old Central State Hospital Cemetery Thursday morning to honor the man he never met at a place he didn’t know existed until last year.

Using crutches to get across the sometimes uneven and rocky cemetery, Johnson said, “I don’t like to see someone buried and not have a stone.”

Johnson’s grandfather was buried at the cemetery in 1930. The obituary reads, “in Section 3, Col. 3, Row 3, Grave 50.”

Up until Monday, his gravesite was like all the others, a plastic red number on a concrete slab.

Seeing them, many covered in grass Johnson asked, “Them there are the markers? How many are there, 50?”

Actually, records indicate that roughly 500 people are buried there.

Johnson’s friend Wilson Adams replaced the concrete marker with an engraved tombstone.

Seeing it for the first time Johnson said, “looks nice, real nice. I’m glad we have something here for him, to remember him, I just wish the rest had something.”

Johnson found the gravesite after seeing several stories Eyewitness News did last summer on the blighted and forgotten cemetery. They prompted a volunteer clean-up and drive to replace a brick and plastic registry, which lists the names and gravesite numbers of those buried at the cemetery.

Johnson said he doesn’t know much about his grandfather. It was something his family rarely talked about.

“My stepdad never talked much about it. He was kind of down on his mother for putting him in there because there was nothing wrong with him except he was sick and they had six kids and she couldn’t take care of them and him, so she put him over there,” he said.

All Johnson has is the obituary, which was likely pulled from a patient report or update. It reads in part, “He was pale and rather emaciated, but knew that Herbert Hoover was president and was very good at arithmetic. The patient gives a clear and intelligent account of his life. He feels bad about being kept in an insane asylum when he could be out enjoying himself.”

Looking at the names of all the others buried there, Johnson said, “There were probably some people mentally off, but I bet a lot wasn’t, just like my grandfather. He had no business being in there.”

Seeing a downed tree and how weeds and grass had begun to eclipse the gravestones, Johnson said, “I just wish there was some way I could fix up the cemetery so people would know it was here instead of deserted.”

Republican Councilor Marilyn Pfisterer, like Johnson, wants to make sure those buried at Central State aren’t forgotten. Pfisterer has been working with the Buchanan Group to replace the deteriorating registry with a new monument. The Buchanan Group has pledged to cover half of the $2,500 cost. Pfisterer said, they’re just $650 shy of raising the remaining amount.

“The history here is so precious and often times it’s not cared for. I heard many stories from my husband about the people who were at Central State and buried here and seemed to be forgotten,” said Pfisterer.

But 81 years after John Cathcart died, he is being remembered thanks to the persistence of a grandson he never knew.

Johnson said it was a way to honor both his grandfather and his father, also deceased.

He said, “My stepdad and I got along real good, but deep down in my heart I never gave him much to show what I really thought about him and this is the only way I can do that. So maybe in a way he’ll see it.”

Pfisterer said anyone wanting to donate toward the memorial should make their checks payable to the Buchanan Group in care of Floral Park Cemetery, 425 N. Holt Road, Indianapolis, IN 46222 – Attention: Cinnamon. She also plans to help organize another volunteer clean-up this fall.


Historical society posts names of those buried in unmarked graves at former Nebraska hospital

First Posted: August 13, 2011 – 12:29 pm
Last Updated: August 13, 2011 – 12:29 pm

HASTINGS, Neb. — The Adams County Historical Society has posted on its website the names of 957 people buried in a former psychiatric hospital cemetery in Hastings that it obtained through a court battle with the state.

The society’s executive director, Catherine Renschler, told the Hastings Tribune (http://bit.ly/p3i3Jp) that she’s gotten a number of calls from people asking whether their relatives are buried in unmarked graves at the Hastings Regional Center. Bodies were buried there between 1889 and 1957.

“Sometimes people are just hunting for people who disappeared from their family,” Renschler said. “They don’t know what became of them, so they maybe don’t even know about the regional center.”

The list of names can be found at http://bit.ly/ouyzcz. The information also has been shared with the state historical society.

The list includes names and dates of death but no other identifying information about the person, she explained. So, a family searching for a relative will likely have to do more research to confirm a person on the list is a relative. She suggested census records or the last-known county of residence could be resources for confirmation

“Those records really do not identify people,” Renschler said. “… If it’s a common name, you are going to have to determine that your relative with that name was at the regional center.”

The historical society fought for almost two years to make the names available to the public. It sued the state Department of Health and Human Services, which had argued federal medical privacy law prohibited the release of the names. The Nebraska Supreme Court disagreed and, in 2009, ordered the names released.


110 years after his death, a forgotten Union soldier honored at Camp Nelson

By Janet Patton — jpatton1@herald-leader.com

Posted: 12:00am on Aug 1, 2011; Modified: 7:49am on Aug 1, 2011

When Pvt. Houston Clouse died at Eastern State Hospital on July 29, 1901, he was all but forgotten. The Civil War veteran was placed in an unmarked grave, and the hospital has no records of his burial.

On Sunday, 110 years later, his descendants gathered to honor Clouse with a monument at the National Cemetery at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County.

Clouse’s great-great-granddaughter, Sharlene Brady of Lexington, spearheaded efforts to recognize the Knox County veteran.

Clouse and his brother, Christopher, joined the Union Army, serving in the 49th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry on Sept. 19, 1863, at Camp Nelson. His regiment spent the war guarding railroads, and both Clouse brothers went back to Knox County after the regiment was mustered out on Dec. 25, 1864.

Some time later, Houston Clouse apparently began suffering severe headaches, and he sought treatment at Eastern State Hospital in the 1880s, Brady said. He was eventually admitted and died there, she said.

Brady said she discovered him while researching her genealogy.

“The more I learned of him, the more I was drawn to the unfortunate circumstances of his life and death,” she said.

On Sunday, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War delivered military honors during a ceremony for Houston Clouse.

John “Jack” Mills, coordinator of the Sgt. Elijah P. Marrs, Camp 5, of the Sons of Union Veterans, called their efforts a mission.

“Since we’re the heir apparent of the Grand Army of the Republic, it’s our job to keep the memory of the Boys in Blue alive,” Mills said after the ceremony.


Putting a Name to Hundreds of Graves in Rochester

(ABC 6 NEWS) — The next time you’re at Quarry Hill Park in Rochester you may stumble upon the old state hospital cemetery. There’s a group marking over 2,000 graves that were left nameless.

“The patients were initially given at the state hospital a can of cement with numbers imprinted on the top that corresponded to a patient list and it indicates their location out here on the cemetery,” said Beth Thompson, of the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery Recognition Group.

The over 2,000 people buried at the former site of the Rochester State Hospital were marked by numbers.

It opened in 1879 to house the mentally ill and disabled, something frowned upon in society and one explanation why patients were buried without their names.

“Families wanted to maintain that privacy that their loved one was admitted to the hospital,” said Thompson.

The group uses books at the History Center of Olmsted County and Minnesota Historical Society to identify whose buried at the cemetery. Since 2004 the group has marked over 1,000 graves.

“They are deserving of dignity just as you and I are,” said Thompson.

Its a project costing hundreds of thousands. Much of the money comes from the state. Money the group isn’t counting on this year with the current budget crisis.

“Its going to be very low priority for them to allocate funds for this sort of project. The likelihood would be less than it has been in years,” said Jim Behrends, another member of the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery Recognition Group.

Funding or not, their mission will continue one gravestone at a time.

“There’s about 200 that will be marked and so hopefully the legislature keeps making it a priority,” said Diana Evans, of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southeast Minnesota.

The Rochester State Hospital closed in 1982 due to financial reasons. The site is now home to places like the Federal Medical Center and county offices.


Group wants to show respect for thousands of patients buried in Willard State Hospital cemetery

Currently, the cemetery is overgrown and is not maintained. At many grave sites, are markers with numbers, not names of former patients buried in the cemetery. That all may change soon, thanks to a group of volunteers.

Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011, 6:00 AM

By Dick Case / Post-Standard columnist

Colleen Kelly Spellecy and I are in a big meadow next to Seneca Lake, in Seneca County, south of Waterloo. She’s yanking tuffs of turf and grass out of the undergrowth.

“This is sacred ground,” she says.

Colleen heads a group of folks from the area called the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project. They aim to do something about this meadow, which Colleen says has been neglected for years. It’s a cemetery, actually.

This is where 5,776 patients of Willard State Hospital are buried. They either died at the large psychiatric hospital or were returned here after they died. Willard was closed by the state in 1995, (it’s now home to a state corrections drug rehab center) although Colleen says there was a burial as recently as 2000. At one time, I could have looked out at hundreds of metal tomb stones sticking out of the ground. Now the place has gone back to nature; only a few of the old markers are visible.

Most of the patients were buried under just a number.

Colleen tries to find one of the lost numbers. She does.

Back in 2004, I wrote about another Willard memorial project, this one initiated by Darby Penney and her colleagues at the state Office of Mental Health. It was of some of the artifacts found in some 400 suitcases, left behind in an attic at the hospital when the patients died. The exhibit opened at the State Museum in Albany that year. In 2007, the show was at the Everson Museum.

Later, curators Penney and Peter Stastny, a psychiatrist, wrote a book, “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic.” It contains a chapter on the abandoned cemetery.

Colleen Spellecy, a retired elementary teacher who lives in Waterloo, says she knew little about Willard until she read Darby’s book. It was a call to arms.

“I felt it was something that needed to be done,” she explained.

Last spring, she checked out the meadow, recruited the help of the Romulus Historical Society on the grounds and put together a committee of seven that includes the society’s president.

Their goal: to find a burial register for the cemetery, get the meadow cleaned up and put up four granite markers in the lot with the names of all of the dead buried there.

“I know we can do something about this; nobody should be in an unmarked grave,” according to Colleen.

It’s a big challenge.

The Office of Mental Health has been cooperative, to a point. Under state and federal law, they say they can’t give Colleen the names of those buried in the cemetery. Freedom of Information requests have been denied, so far. She carries a fat notebook of her work. She’s recruited the help of local, state and federal officials, including Rep. Mike Nozzolio, R- Fayette.

She has a project wristband – “a ‘grave’ injustice”– and a large button: “Where is Number 143?” She’s lined up speaking engagements.

We park at the lake and walk into the cemetery, which has a chain across the entrance near the hamlet of Willard. Colleen points out the remains of a dock where a steamboat arrived in 1869 with Willard’s first patient, a woman named Mary Rote, in chains. The campus originally was intended for a state agricultural college (in 1860) that eventually relocated to Cornell University.

The pathway into the cemetery is rutty. The grass is up to our calves. Colleen says the state is obligated to mow twice a year. She thinks it was cut, in advance of Memorial Day. Most of the monuments were taken out some time ago to make it easier to mow.

Colleen shows me a map of the cemetery which is sectioned off for veterans and burials of different religious faiths.

One of the small plots is marked stones, for war veterans, particularly of the Civil War, who died at Willard. The graves have small American flags. One sits by itself, close to the woods. It’s John Cunningham’s grave: “U.S. Soldier.” Another section has a large wooden arch marking it as a Jewish cemetery.

One of the original wooden markers rests against a stone in the veterans section. Colleen shows me a neat row of about 10 metal markers, each with only a number. They’ve survived because they’ve in the woods. Others we find were put in later; a pipe filled with concrete, topped by a number. Some of the numbers were concreted onto cement blocks. There’s a pile in one corner.

“Where are you, Lawrence?” Colleen calls.

She’s calling for Lawrence Marek, a patient who tended to the cemetery all by himself for almost 30 years; he made the coffins and dug the graves, six feet down. He built a little shack in the cemetery, where he lived in good weather, and kept the place looking good. He died in 1968 at 90. The cemetery started a slow decline.

Lawrence is buried somewhere out there.

We come across a single flag, stuck in next to a grave, Number 12. There’s a wreath on Patrick Walsh’s marker in the veterans section. The 1st Class Seaman died in 1917.

Colleen’s got lots of lines out. Other Willard patients are in Ovid’s Union Cemetery and in Romulus. Officers of that cemetery have offered to annex the Willard cemetery. But where is the death register? With the Romulus town clerk? At Binghamton psychiatric center? Still at Willard? The state says it’s a matter of confidentiality. Colleen says it’s a matter of respect for the dead.

Colleen is consumed by her quest. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” she explains. “I’m in this for the long haul.”

If you go…

Craig Williams of the New York State Museum, will give a presentation on Willard State Hospital at Hadley Hall, on the grounds of the hospital from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. on July 23, He will show items from the Willard suitcase exhibit. Colleen Kelly Spellecy is scheduled to talk about her memorial project at noon, Aug. 30, before the Seneca Falls Rotary Club, at Waterloo Holiday Inn.

Dick Case writes Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at 470-2254 or by e-mail, dcase@syracuse.com.


Memorial at Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden will remember former patients

10:12am Tuesday 28th June 2011

By Amanda Greaves

The head of mental health charity Mind will officially open a memorial garden at a Menston cemetery where almost 3,000 psychiatric patients were buried in unmarked graves.

Chief executive officer of Mind, Paul Farmer, is to perform the opening ceremony at Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden, Buckle Lane, on Saturday.

The garden was created by the community group to restore dignity to the place where 2,861 former patients of High Royds were buried in unmarked paupers’ graves. Its opening is the culmination of three years of work, including lengthy legal debate.

The Friends became legal owners of the land last year and are continuing to work on the restoration of the cemetery chapel.

The group gained Lottery funding for the project, but has also raised much of the money through a shareholder scheme involving local people and families of former patients, as well as holding fundraising events.

The hospital closed in 2003. The main building has been converted to apartments and a housing development has been built in the grounds.

Mind lobbies the Government and local authorities on mental health issues and works to raise public awareness and understanding. It also offers information and advice to people with mental health problems, and linked local Mind associations provide a variety of services.

Mr Farmer will jointly open the garden with the Reverend Ruth Yeoman, vicar of St John’s Parish Church in Menston and chairman of Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale’s Churches Together, who will bless the gardens at the ceremony.

The following opinion piece concerns a hospital cemetery in Medfield Massachusetts, a community about 17 miles SW of Boston.


Remember Those Buried at Medfield’s State Hospital for They Too ‘Have Lived, Loved and Laughed’

There is a special sense of quiet at the Medfield State Hospital cemetery and a reminder to remember those who were so forgotten and so often cut off from society.

By Richard DeSorgher, May 13, 2011

It is tucked behind a thicket of brush and fencing that shields it from Route 27. Until six years ago, only small stones protruded above the ground, each with only a number on it, some of them were unseen; covered over in dirt. The area was overgrown with grass. Tree limbs and brush covered the 2.5 acre area.

This forgotten piece of Medfield is where 841 human beings who lived at Medfield State Hospital were laid to rest, often because there was no family to take them “home.” It is officially called the Medfield State Hospital Cemetery and it is located on state land off Route 27 just before the Sherborn town line and the Charles River. A neatly painted white sign with black letters marks its location.

When Medfield State Hospital opened in May of 1896, those residents who died at the hospital and who did not have another burial location were buried in Medfield’s Vine Lake Cemetery on the knoll across from Cemetery Pond. Today, that knoll is the resting place for 520 hospital residents who died between the years 1896-1918.

Hospital burials generally stopped in Vine Lake Cemetery in 1918 when Medfield and the rest of the world were hit with the Influenza Epidemic. Influenza swept around the world in several waves, killing at least 20 million people. According to historians, it made one-quarter to one-half of the world’s population ill. It killed more people in less time than any other disease. In Medfield, 17 residents died during the period from the end of September, 1918 to the end of October, 1918.

At the state hospital, the influenza had devastating effects; 73 employees were ill on one particular day. The superintendent and two assistants also contracted the disease. The disease spread to a total of 308 patients, with 55 dying in that one-month period. Suddenly, the Town of Medfield was faced with mass burials. The town pressured the state to build their own cemetery and during the height of the Influenza Epidemic, the current state hospital cemetery, overlooking the Charles River, was laid out with the first patients burials breaking ground in that north end of town location.

Over the years, their identities were forgotten and their memories shrouded in stigma. No names were placed on their graves. Their only remembrance, their only tie to this life here on earth, was a faded number on a small stone marker.

In 2005, the Medfield State Hospital Cemetery Restoration Committee was formed. Boy Scouts undertook Eagle Scout projects to clean out the brush and debris. The Restoration Committee brought awareness of the cemetery’s shameful condition to the community and to the state. With appropriated monies, granite stone markers were placed on each of the 841 hospital grave sites. Research was done and the people’s names, along with their birth and death dates, were placed on the granite markers.

A contest was held to come up with an appropriate quote to be used on a stone marker to be placed at the cemetery’s entrance. The political science students at Medfield High School took part and came up with a variety of quotes. The one selected read: “Remember us for we too have lived, loved and laughed.” That is now located on the impressive granite stone at he entrance to the cemetery.

When the movie “Shutter Island” was being filmed, the memorial stone with that quote and the entrance into the cemetery featured prominently in one of the movie scenes; sending the quote and the cemetery out to a world-wide audience.

Today, you can pull off Route 27 and walk into the Medfield State Hospital Cemetery. It is uniquely Medfield. The buried have now been given the dignity long overdue to them. A dignified entrance leads one into row after row of granite markers, each with its own identity and each presenting a life now remembered.

You can continue into the cemetery and wind your way through the rows of markers, crunching pine needles underfoot in the tree-shaded upper corners of the cemetery or walk in the sun drenched green grass in the center area that is cut and trimmed. There is a special sense of quiet here and a reminder to remember those who were so forgotten and so often cut off from society. You can hear it in the gentle breezes that come off the bordering Charles River: “Remember us for we too have lived, loved and laughed.”


Nearly 100 Sets Of Human Remains Found On Eastern State Hospital Grounds

Posted: Apr 14, 2011 11:24 AM
Updated: Apr 14, 2011 1:17 PM

A team of archaeologists from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey have removed nearly 100 sets of human remains found in an unmarked cemetery on the grounds of Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, about double the amount they expected to find when the project began.

The graves are located where crews are preparing for the scheduled construction of a new Bluegrass Community Technical College (BCTC). The remains are believed to be those of patients at ESH buried between 1840 and 1860.

The remains were discovered back in February by crews clearing the grounds for construction of the BCTC campus.

The process of unearthing the remains was expected to be completed by April 1, but continues because of delays caused by periods of inclement weather. The remains are being sent to the University of Kentucky’s Laboratory of Archaeological Research to be processed and examined then reinterred within the defined cemetery on the hospital grounds.

The Finance Cabinet has improved the previously overgrown and dilapidated cemetery by adding new fencing, a new gated, arched entry with a sign, landscaping and a designated area to consolidate existing memorial plaques.

The Finance Cabinet architects and engineers and the team of archaeologists have also been working closely with BCTC, the Kentucky Heritage Council, Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Club and other preservation organizations in an effort to be sensitive to the historical value of the property and to protect the dignity of the remains.

Eastern State Hospital first admitted patients in 1824 and still houses approximately 150 patients. In 2008, it was agreed that the hospital would relocate to a site off of Newtown Pike and a new BCTC campus would be constructed on the existing grounds. The construction of both facilities and full relocation will occur in 2013.

In 2005, graves were encountered on the Eastern State Hospital property during the construction of a new waterline. At that time, the Kentucky Archaeological Survey recovered the remains of 11 individuals, who subsequently were reinterred in the marked cemetery.

The Finance and Administration Cabinet, Division of Engineering and Contract Administration, provides professional architectural and engineering assistance to state agencies on new construction projects and major renovation or maintenance projects.


Oregon State Hospital tries to reunite families with cremated remains of past patients, but errors on list may make it difficult

Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011, 10:18 PM Updated: Friday, April 01, 2011, 9:55 AM.

SALEM — The intent was to reunite families with the remains of their relatives, patients who died and were cremated at the Oregon State Hospital decades ago. But the list of names compiled by the state is so riddled with errors that it may be impossible for relatives to make a match.

The errors appear on lists posted online in January featuring the names, birth and death dates of approximately 3,500 people who died inside the state mental hospital and other state institutions between 1914 and the 1970s.

Using the Oregon Death Index on the genealogical research site, ancestry.com, The Oregonian spot-checked 177 names on the hospital’s list and found 44 — nearly 25 percent — did not match other state death records.

The newspaper then visited the Oregon State Archives in Salem, where original paper death certificates are located. Of the 10 names checked, nine matched the death index records but not the hospital’s list. One name could not be located.

“Albert Akob” on the hospital’s list is likely “Albert Jakob,” a Swiss immigrant, who died on the same day at the Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital.

The hospital’s list also includes “Rita Zozdinski,” who died on Dec. 21, 1952. There is no “Zozdinski” in the Marion County death certificates stored at the archives. But there is a death certificate for a Rita Mae Jazdinski, who died the same day. She was 6 years old and had been at the Oregon Fairview home for three years. No one claimed her body.

The little girl was among thousands who lived and died in state institutions, were cremated at the state hospital and then stashed away until 2004, when corroding canisters containing their ashes were discovered in what Senate President Peter Courtney calls the “Room of Forgotten Souls.”

At the time, Courtney and other state leaders promised to find the patients’ families or, at least, to ensure a dignified final resting place on the grounds of the new hospital.

Courtney sponsored a bill endorsed by the Legislature allowing hospital officials to make public the names and birth dates of former patients who were cremated and whose remains are stored there.

Told this week of apparent inaccuracies on the hospital’s list, Courtney said he was deeply disturbed.

“There are no more sacred relics in Oregon than the cremains,” he said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to do right by these individuals. We want to be absolutely sure.”

Since 2005, family members have claimed the remains of 120 patients.

Hospital officials spent more than two years creating the lists by assembling names and information from old medical records, cremation logs and labels on the canisters, said Rebeka Gipson-King,, a spokeswoman for the Oregon State Hospital.

The hospital took on the job without additional financial resources. Medical records staff and one part-time temporary worker typed the names into a computer, Gipson-King said.

They spot-checked the names for typographical errors, she said, but did not cross-reference their lists with state death certificates or other public health records.

Eight families have claimed the remains of a former patient since the list went online in late January and eight to 10 more are in the pipeline, Gipson-King said.

At the same time, she said, “we’ve had people call us up and say ‘I’m pretty sure my relative was there and you guys are housing their remains, but the name doesn’t seem right.'”

Wednesday, after they were alerted to problems by The Oregonian, hospital officials added a note on the state website advising: “Many of these records are handwritten, and the hospital has more than one spelling for some patients. If the date of death matches, and the name is similar to your relative’s, please contact Medical Record Services so further verification can be done.”

Anastasia Harman, lead family historian at Ancestry.com, applauded the hospital’s effort to help family members in their search for lost relatives. Ancestry.com relies on death certificates to build its Oregon Death Index. It sells access to the index to paid subscribers, though researchers can also view the index at the Oregon State Library and other public libraries.

“It’s pretty common to find little discrepancies because of human error,” she said.

“At the same time,” she added, “records are only as good as people who gave the information, so that’s why you want to find as much original documentation and triangulate where things match.”

Jennifer Woodward, state registrar for vital records at Oregon Public Health, said she was contacted by hospital officials this week about verifying names on the list in response to The Oregonian’s questions.

“We will be working with them to do that,” Woodward said. “It’s quite a few records and it would be time-consuming. But we will be collaborating to help get that done.”

–Michelle Cole


Bodies found from London’s Bedlam hospital


Last Updated: April 8, 2011 7:53am

LONDON – Archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of skeletons at a 16th Century burial ground in the heart of the city that once served London’s most notorious psychiatric hospital, the original “Bedlam.”

The bones are expected to yield valuable information about mortality, diet and disease in the period.

They were discovered while experts surveyed a site that is destined to become a new ticket hall for the capital’s huge Crossrail project at Liverpool Street Station.

Opened in 1247, the Bethlehem Royal Hospital began admitting the mentally ill in the 14th Century, eventually becoming known by its middle-English abbreviation Bedlam.

The name became synonymous with disorder and confusion and struck fear into the heart of Londoners. The horror of its conditions, were immortalized in a painting by William Hogarth in 1735.

The picture is the last in a series of eight depicting “A Rake’s Progress” — a moral tale of a spendthrift young heir who squanders his money on drink, prostitutes and gambling.

He is eventually thrown into the old Fleet Prison close to the River Thames and ends up in Bedlam.

The burial ground was used from 1569 to the mid 19th century for Bedlam’s patients and local residents when other cemeteries became overcrowded.

Jay Carver, lead archaeologist for the huge Crossrail project which bisects the old city of London, said the well-preserved bodies were discovered after trial pits were dug.

“We’ve identified at least 100 individual burials within our small trial pit and, extrapolating that, it is very likely there will be several hundred if not a thousand plus..,” he told Reuters.

The corpses, many found just 1.5 metres (5 ft) below street level, will be studied by experts at the museum of London, before being reburied.

“It’s interesting on the archaeological side because the 16th century is a time of immense poverty really in the outer areas of the city of London. Sites of this type haven’t always been fully investigated,” Carver said.

The team also uncovered pottery fragments, clay pipes, animal bone artifacts, including knife handles, and, as yet, unidentified implements in association with the burials.

Towards the end of the 17th Century, the hospital moved to Moorfields in north London, now the site of Finsbury Circus.

Despite the new buildings with their well-kept gardens, the treatment of the mentally ill did not greatly improve — in the 18th Century, the public could visit Bedlam to stare at the patients for the price of one penny.

That practice died out long ago but the institution, now called the Bethlem Royal Hospital, still exists, in Bromley, southeast of London.


State must aid in finding records of those who died at hospital

By Bruce Burris
Posted: 12:00am on Apr 4, 2011; Modified: 6:17am on Apr 4, 2011

At issue | Feb. 23 Herald-Leader article, “About 50 bodies to be exhumed at Eastern State; they were probably buried before 1860”

In February, 50 sets of unmarked human remains were found during excavations in preparation for a new building on the Eastern State Hospital grounds on Newtown Pike.

Development here is the result of a complicated land swap in which Eastern State Hospital will switch from this location to the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Campus, thus enabling Bluegrass Community and Technical College to move to the hospital grounds.

This is regarded as a positive development for both the hospital and the college, but relatives of those who were treated at the hospital and who wish to access records of a family member’s mental-health odyssey will not find the going easy.

And for those who wish to find records pertaining to the deaths of relatives on state hospital grounds, the task is nearly impossible.

The Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Preservation Project has sought to restore an abandoned cemetery site at the hospital containing the mass graves of close to 7,000 and to aid in helping to identify the many thousands more who died while in treatment at the hospital over the past 200 years.

If the hospital is anything at all like other state hospitals of similar size and age, it is quite likely thousands of unmarked graves remain on the original 200-acre site.

For years, relatives and advocates have been asking both the hospital and state for records pertaining to deaths on hospital grounds, and their invariable response (often delivered quite rudely) was that, to their knowledge, no such records exist.

However, in February after questioning by the Herald-Leader, state spokeswoman Gwenda Bond announced the state had done a search and no records were found.

Left unanswered was when this search was conducted or how. It seems very unlikely that no records exist. Yet the cemetery project’s genealogist, Mary Hatton, has doggedly recovered thousands of burial records for relatives (from various scattered state and public archives) on her own.

The state hospital operated at its peak in the 1940s, a mere yesterday in terms of a medical bureaucracy that, as a rule, has a penchant for record keeping.

Why then the resistance to relatives and others who simply want access to these records? It’s hard to say, but what can be said is that in many states, state hospital burial records are made available.

Given the generally abhorrent treatment many mental institution patients received in the past, a number of states have begun to issue official apologies to living relatives. Encouraging families to reunite with deceased relatives through available records is an essential step in reclaiming family history and dignity. And an official apology would allow families to heal and might also lead to beginning an open and more public dialogue concerning the present-day treatment of mental-health patients.

The Kentucky Department for Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services currently contracts with the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board to manage the hospital, which it has done since 1995.

It should be troubling to both the state and its contractor to know their current policies and attitudes regarding access to information are very much in keeping with practices from the mostly tragic 200-year history of the hospital.

It is our own responsibility to do our best to reconcile our past. Other states have recognized the need to work with relatives and advocates to restore family histories and to effectively make government more transparent and responsive. A mandate requiring the state to aid relatives and advocates in locating records is an important first step.

Bruce Burris of Lexington is a founding member of the Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Project.


Grave Concerns Gets an Italian Boost

Takeover of Tacoma restaurant raises money for organization’s project to install new grave markers in Western State Hospital’s historical cemetery

By Jennifer Chancellor
March 22, 2011

They’re bringing dignity to those long gone.

The Grave Concerns Association took over Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante in Tacoma on Monday night to raise money for its grave-marker project at Western State Hospital. If there were 100 patrons ordering food, they would receive 20 percent of the profits between 4-8 p.m.

A cheer went up after 103 was announced as the final tally.

Grave Concerns was founded in 2000 to honor the historic cemetery in Fort Steilacoom Park. The organization worked with the state Legislature in 2004 to change state law to make public the names of those buried in the cemetery from 1876-1953 for the purpose of memorialization.

Laurel Lemke, the group’s chair, said that when they first started the project in 2000, most of the 3,200 numbered grave markers had settled into the ground.

“We were very fortunate that they kept good records, that they had graph paper,” said Lemke, who has worked at Western State for 20 years, most recently as an ombudsman. “We were actually able to show the city of Lakewood and do GIS mapping to know exactly where they were, so we are able to replace the names exactly where they were.”

Work groups of patients spent the next few years helping to dig up the old markers. Their granite replacements, each bearing a name and dates of birth and death, cost $45 each. To pay for them, 10 at a time, the group initially sold dahlia bulbs and calendars.

There are more than 2,000 markers left to replace, and Lemke said they hope to complete the project in the next 10 years. Thanks to a $12,000 grant received in 2009 from OptumHealth, they are about four years ahead of schedule.

And Monday night, they got even more assistance. Modern Woodmen, a fraternal life-insurance society with a regional office in Puyallup, hosted the restaurant takeover, silent auction and raffle.

Representative Chris Wolpert, who lives in Steilacoom and has been working with Grave Concerns for more than a year, spearheaded a matching-funds project for up to $2,500 raised at Monday’s event.

“Any kind of non-profit or any kind of charity that needs help in the community … it really has to be something that the local reps support,” he said.

Wolpert said he has a lot of admiration for what Grave Concerns does.

“There are a lot of groups out there that talk about doing things,” he said, “but three or four times a year, (Grave Concerns) actually goes out and physically does the labor.”

Joe Stortini said that for the last two and a half years, his restaurant has held “takeovers” for charitable causes every week. The Monday program was so popular that Joeseppi’s began to offer Tuesdays, too. By 2010, every Monday and Tuesday of the year was booked – so they added Wednesday, and now are booked through June.

“We have a motto here: Community service is a way of life,” said Stortini, who estimated that between $2,000 and $3,000 would be raised for Grave Concerns during the takeover. “This was certainly in line with that.”

When Stortini heard about Grave Concerns from Wolpert, his nephew, “I thought ‘What a great thing they’re doing for the community on a national level.’ I just found out about it a month ago – it’s something that’s quiet, but a lot of people are involved.”

Becky Huber, president of the Lakewood Historical Society, said that for her, helping is more than just a civic duty.

“I had a brother who had mental illness,” she said, her voice breaking. “I’m giving back, for the care he got. It’s a hard issue – it still is a stigma in most places, but it’s something that needs to be shared, and this is the perfect way to do that.”

Geoff Piper, director of Bereavement Services at Mountain View Funeral Home, where the grave markers are delivered before installation, said that the project is a matter of human dignity. He participated in a work party at the cemetery on Sept. 11 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the national tragedy.

“There are more than 3,500 people buried out there … Can you imagine what life was like in the late 1800s in an insane asylum, as they were called then?” he asked. “It just really struck my heart. It’s the right thing to do, and I’m really glad to be involved with it.”

Lemke said she gets calls from people asking if their great-grandfather or uncle is buried in the cemetery. The names date back to the 1800s, and among them are a few Civil War veterans.

“I don’t have children, so I’m the end of the line,” she said. “I feel particularly touched when we can help with somebody who had no family.”

Among the items in the silent auction were memorabilia and four seats to a Tacoma Rainiers game, a crystal salt lamp, five personal training sessions at Leanbody Lifestyles Studio of Tacoma and handmade baby items, bags and jewelry.

While totals had not been finalized by Tuesday afternoon, Lemke said that the raffle, silent auction and donations brought in about $900 – and will be matched by Modern Woodmen for a total of $1,800.

A work party April 16 will complete the installation of grave markers on the perimeter of the cemetery. All ages and abilities are welcome to lend a hand from 9 a.m. to noon.


Hidden Oklahoma: Norman hospital once a ‘mythical city’

Hidden Oklahoma: With its own dairy, cannery, fish pond and farms, Norman mental hospital was once a “mythical city.”

BY DAVID ZIZZO dzizzo@opubco.com Oklahoman
Published: March 13, 2011

NORMAN — Follow Main Street east out of town, and it would end at the gates. Beyond the gates were a bakery, a cannery and a dairy farm.

And chicken houses, a hog farm, a laundry, an ice plant, a power plant and, according to a 1937 state Planning Board property map, even orchards and a vineyard. Pretty much everything the thousands of people who lived here needed.

“It was a mini-city,” said Durand Crosby, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Today, much of the sprawling complex a reporter once described as a “mythical city” has disappeared or been absorbed or blended into the city that grew up around it. Still, the remaining cluster of buildings now known as Griffin Memorial Hospital remains a hub of services provided by the Mental Health Department.

South of the hospital’s main campus acres of vegetables once grew. “The patients actually worked on the farm,” Crosby said. “It was considered part of their treatment.”

Today, those fields are slowly being filled in with modern outpatient facilities for counseling and therapy.

Numerous structures, landscape features and remnants remain from the long history of the mental facility, however, including a large abandoned chapel and a superintendent’s residence. One of the largest structures is Hope Hall, a now mostly-empty 100,000-square-foot brick building built around 1930. Ornate rusting bars enclose balconies suspended by tall white columns where secure wards once were.

To the north, where soccer fields and baseball diamonds now occupy original hospital land, stands a complex of silos. “That was part of this farming complex,” Crosby said.

Beyond that, also on state-owned hospital land now leased to the city of Norman for $1 a year, is a wilderness area, the centerpiece of which is a pond still bearing catfish first introduced there as a food source for the hospital.

“People go there and fish,” Jeff Dismukes, Mental Health Department spokesman, said.

At the northeast corner of the property is Central State Hospital Rock Creek Road Cemetery, with rows of small concrete pads marking graves of many patients. In another nearby cemetery is a communal grave containing remains of 36 of the 37 people who died in a fire at the hospital in 1918, according to news reports of the time, but the grave has yet to be located.

The first structure on the hospital site actually was a school for women opened in the late 1800s. High Gate Academy couldn’t compete with the nearby University of Oklahoma, and in 1895 it was sold to the Oklahoma Sanitarium Co. Mental patients who until that time had been sent by train to a facility in Illinois could now be treated at the Norman institution “for violent insane,” as a description on the facility’s front gate stated.

In 1899, sanitarium officials hired David W. Griffin, a psychiatrist from North Carolina. “He saw that the word ‘insane’ was on the gates, and he personally chiseled that word off,” Crosby said.

Griffin would become superintendent in 1902, a position he would hold until 1950. The sanitarium was sold to the fledgling state of Oklahoma, and in 1915, the legislative “Lunacy Bill” created several state asylums, including facilities at Fort Supply, Vinita and Norman. The Norman site became known as Central State Hospital, although numerous accounts still referred to it as “Central State Hospital for the insane.”

Patient populations at the Norman hospital grew, reaching 3,000 in the 1950s. At times, conditions reported there, as at many similar institutions of the era, were grim, with overcrowding, inadequate heating and cooling and use of electric and insulin shock therapy, sterilizations, lobotomies and other approaches now considered inhumane. Patients might remain there for months or years.

Beginning in the 1960s, medical approaches to treating the mentally ill evolved, and laws and standards of care with them. “Deinstitutionalization” began to wind down the era of huge residential mental facilities, taking much of the expansive Central State Griffin Memorial Hospital, as it was renamed in 1953, with it.

By 1990, only 245 patients remained at Griffin Memorial, which no longer needed the comprehensive and self-sustaining infrastructure it once had. Today, Griffin’s patient capacity is only 120, and stays are measured in weeks or days.


Memorial ceremony helps mark rededication of historic Sparks cemetery

Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services Cemetery

By Lenita Powers • lpowers@rgj.com • January 21, 2011

They were committed to an insane asylum and then, at the end of their lives, to unmarked graves in a dilapidated Sparks cemetery.

Among the more than 760 souls known to be buried there between 1882 and 1949 are miners, Civil War veterans, a druggist, a butcher, a harness maker and a seamstress.

On Friday, three years of work to provide them with a proper final resting place culminated in a memorial ceremony and a rededication of the historic Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services Cemetery.

“Getting people to understand the importance of this all-but-forgotten cemetery was one of our challenges,” said Caroline Mirich, who led the group that worked to improve the grounds with grass, fencing and a monument bearing the names of those known to be buried there.

“For many buried in the cemetery, my own relative included, this may be the first time words were said over their graves by hospital authorities or by the clergy,” Mirich told the more than 75 people who gathered at the site off 21st Street, less than a mile northeast of the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

Many members of the local community did not even know the cemetery existed, she said.

“What became clear to us from the beginning was that the remains of mental patients within this cemetery were treated differently than those of our other ancestors who are buried elsewhere.”

Some of the patients had been committed by jealous spouses or because of poverty, symptoms of old age or menopause, Mirch said.

In some cases, there were no death certificates, no obituaries or grave markers, and the cemetery has no burial location map, she said. In many instances, families were never notified their relatives had died.

More than 767 people are known to be buried in the cemetery, but the exact location of their graves is unknown.

Another 400 people are believed to have been buried at the site, according to the monument erected there. Some of those graves could hold former hospital workers and others provided paupers’ graves for the community’s poor.

Long lost letter

It was a letter Mirich discovered three years ago that set her on her campaign to provide a proper resting place for all these nearly forgotten souls and resulted in the 2009 Nevada Legislature passing a bill to do so.

While tracing her genealogy to relatives in Carson City, she discovered a letter dropped off at the office of the Lone Mountain Cemetery 35 years ago by Russell Borchert, who died not long afterward he left it.

Mirich, who lives in Missoula, Mont., learned she was a distant cousin of Borchert’s sons, Scott and Bruce Borchert, both from Utah. Their grandfather had left the letter in the hope that someone would be able to tell him what had happened to his mother, Cora Wilcox Clark, who had been committed to the Sparks hospital by her third husband for being “hard to handle.”

Mirich found that Cora Clark was buried with others in the tattered cemetery, and she “led the charge,” said Scott Borchert, who had come to Friday’s memorial with his brother.

“What we found,” Mirich told the crowd at the rededication of the cemetery, “was that there were hundreds, possibly over a thousand of others like Cora, and that something about this cemetery was haunting, intriguing and terribly wrong.”

She thanked state officials and lawmakers who helped pass SB 256 in 2009, which designated the site as a historic cemetery, provided for reburial of bones from the cemetery dug up near the site during development and required the Office of Historic Preservation of the Department of Cultural Affairs to oversee its maintenance and improvements.

The ceremony included prayers led by a Catholic priest and a rabbi as well as the playing of “Taps” with an honor guard provided by the 1st Nevada Cavalry and Battle Born Civil War Re-enactors.

As the ceremony came to a close, Harold Cook, administrator for the Nevada Division of Mental Health and Development Services, said there still is more left to do.

“We need to continue to preserve this site, and we in the mental health services need to continue to do what we can to provide the best services to the citizens of Nevada who have mental illnesses.”


Asylum Patients Finally R.I.P

The Nevada State Hospital Cemetery is more than 100 years old and contains more than 700 graves. Friday, a monument listing the names of 767 were unveiled to family and friends of the deceased.
Posted: 5:42 PM Jan 21, 2011
Reporter: Terri Russell
Email Address: terri.russell@kolotv.com

SPARKS, NV – The cemetery closed in 1946 and went into disrepair over years, there was also no extensive documentation of where their graves were.

“This is Memorial Day for me,” says Scott Borchert, a family member.

Borchert came all the way from Utah for today’s ceremony. It was a chance he said to see the final resting place of this great, great grandmother Cora Wilcox Clark.

It was actually his cousin Caroline Mirich who was able to put the pieces together and locate Cora here at the Nevada State Insane Asylum. Sent here by her husband who couldn’t control her in 19-17, Cora was buried somewhere on the grounds after living at the asylum more than 20-years.

“Immediately contacted me and said, so you know what they did to that cemetery?” says Borchert when Caroline called him with more information.

“Her crime was her husband didn’t get along with her. She was too hard to handle. Everything that happened to the cemetery and the hospital itself can be tied to the budget. it’s a lesson of how people shouldn’t be treated,” says Caroline.

But as Caroline and others found out not much has changed in these modern times.

Just last summer street crews in the area, who knew about the graveyard, inadvertently dug up bones, and left them in a bag by the side of the road.

The city of Sparks instituted a new policy and those remains are now buried here along with remains moved or found elsewhere in a cemetery that encompassed an area where [noone] knows the exact boundaries or acreage.

The city of Sparks once turned this area into a children’s playground. Called Pinion Park it had a swing set, and slide. There was even a basketball court.. Mirich says she wants children to come back here, only this time with their parents where instead of a playground, it could be a learning ground.

The Friends of Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services Cemetery made today’s event possible. The group researched for years– records, books and documents to help identify patients and the hospital’s history.

In 2009 a senate bill establishing an historic cemetery passed trough the legislature. it was signed by Governor Jim Gibbons.


Remains of 20 to 30 people found on Eastern State grounds

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears at 8:15am on Jan 20, 2011 — vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com
Modified at 10:33am on Jan 20, 2011

The remains of 20 to 30 people thought to be Eastern State Hospital residents in the 1800s have been found on the hospital grounds where the new Bluegrass Community and Technical College will be built, officials said Wednesday.

Similar remains in unmarked graves were found on the state mental hospital’s grounds in 2005.

The remains most recently found are believed to be patients of the hospital from 1840 to 1860, said David Pollack, the director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

“Some of them could be mass graves, but we really don’t know much about them,” Pollack said.

No exhumation of the remains will take place before March, said Cindy Lanham, a spokeswoman for the Finance and Administration Cabinet.

Eastern State, one of the nation’s oldest mental hospitals, agreed in 2008 to move from Newtown Pike to a new facility at the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research campus. Under the agreement, BCTC will move from UK’s campus on Cooper Drive to Eastern State’s location.

Although construction has already begun on the first BCTC classroom building, the hospital will not move to its new location until 2013, Lanham said. That also is when BCTC will occupy the new space.

Given the 2005 discovery, state officials hired Pollack to survey for additional remains, Lanham said.

Before the remains can be moved, a permit is needed from Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn, who said Wednesday he is preparing paperwork for the permit and will meet with anthropologists and others working at the site.

Pollack said his examination of the unearthed remains should be able to show the resident’s age, sex, the clothing they wore and perhaps if they were suffering from specific diseases.

After undergoing study at UK, the remains will be reburied in a cemetery on the hospital’s grounds, Lanham said.

As part of the BCTC project, the state has restored an existing hospital cemetery, adding benches, a fence and a wrought iron entrance gate, Lanham said.

Bruce Burris, founder of a group called the Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Preservation Project, said Wednesday there are at least 4,000 residents buried in one cemetery on the grounds.

Burris said state officials could have done a better job of informing the public about the remains of residents.

“They failed to include the community and family members in the process of creating a dignified way of handling the remains,” he said.

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3409.


Human Remains Found At Community College Construction Site

Posted: Jan 19, 2011 11:56 AM
Updated: Jan 19, 2011 12:49 PM

Human remains have been found at the Eastern State Hospital site in Lexington where the new Bluegrass Community and Technical College will be built, and officials say they may have been there for 100 years.

Construction hasn’t officially begun for the community college yet, but during the prep work officials say about 20 to 30 human remains were found at the site.

This isn’t the first time human remains have been found at the hospital, as remains were also found back in the 1980’s and again in 2005. Those remains were dug up and given a proper burial at the Eastern Hospital Cemetery. Now, [say] officials these latest remains will also be properly laid to rest.

The land is owned now by the state Finance Cabinet, and they are waiting on a permit from the coroner before they can move the bodies. They are also bringing in archaeologists from UK to examine the bodies, and hopefully then they can be laid to rest.


Officials: Exhumation of Nazi victims in March

By Associated Press

January 07, 2011

VIENNA (AP) — A disused hospital cemetery will be dug up in March in the search for victims methodically killed by the Nazis because of physical or mental disabilities, officials said Tuesday.

The cemetery in the western Austrian town of Hall contains the remains of 220 people. Officials at the hospital told reporters that, while not all were believed to have been victims of a Nazi euthanasia campaign, evidence indicated that at least some could have been targets of the organized killings.

The Nazis described those killed — some physically or mentally handicapped, others homosexuals, Gypsies or others who did not fit Hitler’s ideals — as “worthless lives.”

Across Europe, 75,000 people, including 5,000 children, were killed for real or imagined mental, physical or social disabilities that did not fit Nazi pseudo–Aryan ideals. Hundreds of them were sent from psychiatric institute of the Hall hospital complex to the main killing site — a castle in the western Austrian town of Hartheim — where nearly 30,000 people were gassed to death or given fatal injections.

Although the organized euthanasia campaign was formally declared ended in 1941, individual hospitals in Austria and Germany continued killing people deemed deficient by starvation, medication and other methods, resulting in hundreds of victims.

Historian Oliver Seifert told reporters that investigations will focus on whether the Hall psychiatric institute in Hall was involved in such killings.

Deputy hospital director Christian Haring said in comments cited by the Austria Press Agency that suspicions were aroused in part by the fact that there was “a noticeable increase in deaths at the Hall institute.” He said 30 people died in March 1945 alone, in the final stages of World War II.

He said that, while the existence of the cemetery had long been known, it was not considered to be connected to the Nazi killing campaign until the discovery of a list of those buried there while hospital archives were being moved.

The start of the investigations coincided with the planning for a construction project on the cemetery site. That has been suspended pending the end of investigations and the exhumation of the graves to establish the identities of the dead, how they were killed and attempts to contact relatives — a task that officials said would likely last two years.


Austria to exhume bodies in Nazi euthanasia probe

Tue Jan 4, 2011 10:10am EST

HALL, Austria (Reuters) – Hundreds of graves found at an Austrian state hospital will be exhumed once the ground thaws to see if any are victims of a Nazi-era purge of patients deemed unworthy to live, authorities said on Tuesday.

The discovery of about 220 bodies in a hospital cemetery during a construction project in Hall, near the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck, aroused suspicions that some of those buried there between 1942 and 1945 were victims of a euthanasia campaign.

“But one should not speak of 220 murder victims,” historian Oliver Seifert told Reuters Television, noting that some of the patients buried there may have died of undernourishment or natural causes.

Officials told a news conference a panel of experts would oversee the two-year project to identify the dead from hospital records and genetic samples.

Nazi Germany, which annexed Austria in 1938, introduced mass killings of the physically and mentally handicapped in an effort to eradicate people deemed inferior.

Thousands in Austria died in gas chambers at the Hartheim Castle euthanasia center near Linz.

At least 360 patients from the hospital in Hall were sent to their deaths before the so-called T4 euthanasia program officially ended in August 1941, ushering in a new phase in which victims died from neglect, hunger or drug overdoses.

“This phase of ‘wild euthanasia’ between 1942 and 1945 has really been examined in just a cursory way,” Seifert said.

“This is certainly a first step and a good opportunity to see what happened here and how to view it. We know that active killing went on at other institutions in Austria … but there are no indications of this at the moment in Hall.”

The hospital cemetery in Hall might have been opened in 1942 as part of plans — never realized — to set up its own euthanasia station, deputy medical director Christian Haring said.

“This dark chapter of history must now be carefully examined and cleared up,” provincial Governor Guenther Platter told the Austria Press Agency, saying he was deeply shaken by the discovery.

(Reporting by Marcus Nagle and Michael Shields; editing by Andrew Dobbie )


Nazi-Era Graves Found Near Austrian Psych Ward

Jan 4, 2011 – 9:15 AM

Lauren Frayer

A mass grave believed to hold the remains of 220 victims of Nazi euthanasia has been uncovered outside a psychiatric hospital in western Austria.

The grisly discovery was made by construction workers digging the foundation for an extension to the Hall Hospital, in Tyrol province. Work has been halted while investigators study the remains.

DNA tests still have to be done on the human remains, but the company that runs the hospital, Tilak, issued a statement Monday saying the graves are believed to be from between 1942 and 1945. It cited “suspicions that the dead [were] at least partially victims” of the Nazis’ euthanasia program, the BBC reported.

During World War II, tens of thousands of mentally and physically disabled people were put to death by the Nazis, who deemed them unworthy to live. Some 30,000 victims were killed at a single psychiatric hospital in northern Austria. Handicapped people were among several groups targeted by Nazis as part of their “racial purification program,” including Jews, Catholics, Gypsies and religious minorities.

Historians and archaeologists are being brought in to supervise more excavations at the Hall grave site, slated to begin in March, the German press agency DPA reported. Between 100 and 360 psychiatric patients from the Hall Hospital are believed to have been killed in the Nazi euthanasia program, the agency reported. It’s unclear how many of their bodies were ever accounted for.

“The dead shall be identified, the cause of their deaths shall be established and the graveyard shall be salvaged in a scientifically correct way,” Tilak spokesman Johannes Schwamberger told DPA.

The large number of previously unknown graves at the Hall Hospital suggests that the Nazis may have killed more patients than previously thought, Horst Schreiber, a history professor at the University of Innsbruck, told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

He called the number of bodies “exorbitantly large” and said the find may confirm suspicions that the Nazis locked in mental patients at the Hall facility and let them starve. His ORF interview was excerpted in English by the website lifesitenews.com.


Luciano: Old Book has a new marker and admirers

By PHIL LUCIANO (pluciano@pjstar.com)
Journal Star
Posted Oct 30, 2010 @ 11:04 PM
Last update Oct 31, 2010 @ 12:10 PM

BARTONVILLE — Turns out, some folks remember Old Book better than others.

This space on Thursday detailed the 100-year-old ghost story of Old Book, who was buried under bizarre circumstances at the old Peoria State Hospital. For decades, he was said to have vanished along with his grave site: many local historians had called his final resting place as mysterious as his earthly departure.

But as we now have learned, he not only has a headstone, but something of a fan club.

“He’s getting a cult following,” says Bill Turner.

Turner, who used to work at the asylum, developed a fondness for the legend of Old Book. Someone else did, too: that’s probably why the original marker got swiped 40 years ago. But Turner, 72, wanted to make things right for Old Book. So, quietly four years ago, he put a new marker on the grave.

“Everyone in their death needs to be recognized in the end,” Turner says.

If you’d like to see the entire story on Old Book, go to pjstar.com and check out Thursday’s column. Otherwise, the tale in brief:

Sometime around the time when the 19th Century tumbled into the next, an employee at an unspecified printing shop suddenly lost his ability to speak coherently. Deemed insane – who knows if he truly was, as people with various disabilities were routinely institutionalized back then – he was sent to Peoria State Hospital.

He couldn’t write, so no one knew his name. So, from his former job, he was given the name A. Bookbinder. Apparently, according to new research revealed by the new marker, he was also known as Manual Bookbinder, and he had been born in 1878.

Handy with a shovel, he was assigned to the funeral corps. At the 2,000-bed asylum, many inmates were indigent and anonymous; thus, many got buried on-site, under tiny concrete markers bearing only numbers.

At each funeral, Bookbinder would wail, shaking with grief. Weakened by sobbing, he would seek support by leaning on a cemetery tree, which became known as The Graveyard Elm. Because of his sincere suffering, employees took to affectionately calling him Old Book.

In June 1910, Book himself passed on. The head of the asylum, mental-health reformer George Zeller, officiated Book’s funeral, attended by 300 asylum employees. At the end, he suddenly appeared at The Graveyard Elm, moaning and crying as always. Many mourners fled in terror; others rushed the coffin.

Workers pulled off the lid. Book was inside, hands folded across his chest peacefully, dead as the day before. He then was lowered into his grave.

Weeks later, The Graveyard Elm suddenly began to die. A worker tried to cut it down, but ran off when his one and only axe blow sparked a painful scream from the tree. Later, workers tried to burn it, but gave up when they heard moaning and saw the smoke curl into the shape of Book’s face.

Six years later, Zeller wrote his recollection of that funeral. Did he pen the greatest hoax in Peoria history? That would seem out of character for Zeller. Whatever the case, Old Book endures as one of our greatest local mysteries.

Periodically after Book’s death, the Journal Star would recount his tale, particularly around Halloween. As I learned only two days ago, after a 1974 newspaper story, his crumbling headstone vanished, probably in the hands of a new Book fan.

After that, every account of Old Book would describe his grave site as lost to time. And that’s what local historians have told me.

Not so. And no one knows better than Bill Turner.

He worked at the hospital (which closed in 1983) from 1962 to 1973. He was an activity therapist, working hands-on with patients. During that time, he heard the asylum’s greatest ghost story.

“Old Book is part of the hospital’s history,” Turner says. “And I have fond memories of the hospital.”

Years after he left the hospital, he wanted to seek out whatever he could find about Old Book. He tried to find the grave site, but couldn’t find any records to help.

But about 10 years ago, a group of genealogists found old records. That intrigued Turner, a West Bluff resident and member of The Mental Health Care Historic Preservation Society, which researches the asylum.

Turner looked at the information and discovered something he (and, until this week, I) didn’t know. There are three cemeteries on the hospital grounds.

He found the number for Old Book’s grave. But when he went to the boneyard, he discovered the marker had vanished.

Further, with a dozen other patients, either the numbers had worn off their markers or the stones had disappeared completely. So, out of his own pocket, Turner added numbers and replaced memorials.

For Book, though, he wanted to do something special. So he created a simple yet elegant marker. On it, a plaque reads: “In each death he found great sorrow. He wept at each, passing tears for the unloved and forgotten. Now, ‘Old Book,’ we weep for you.”

Turner won’t say how much he spent. He says simply, “I think it was right to give Book a stone.”

So do others. The site sees a steady march of visitors, especially this time of year. Many leave trinkets. A mainstay has been a peace necklace. Other times, Turner has seen a ceramic duck and 27 cents in coins. Friday, a crocheted cross leaned against the stone, while wooden chips lay atop it. Flowers cheerfully stood on either side of the marker.

Turner doesn’t know if any of the items hold any meaning. He doesn’t care. Whoever visits – the cemeteries are open publicly during daylight hours – has been respectful of the grounds and marker. With that in mind, Turner is glad to see Book and the hospital get attention.

As for the legend of Old Book’s funeral, Turner can’t imagine that someone as respected as Zeller would fabricate a ruse.

“I don’t know (100 percent) if it was true,” he says. “But I believe it was.”

Yet if you go to see Book, don’t bother with the elm. It vanished long ago. What asylum workers couldn’t handle, Mother Nature took care of. At least, that’s how Turner understands it.

“Lightening, I guess, struck it, and it burned,” he says.

PHIL LUCIANO is a columnist with the Journal Star. He can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com, 686-3155 or (800) 225-5757, Ext. 3155. Luciano co-hosts “The Markley & Luciano Show” from 5:30 to 9 a.m. weekdays on 102.3 Max-FM.


Effort begun to mark graves of the forgotten

By David Riley/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Oct 04, 2010 @ 09:15 AM

WESTBOROUGH — Nothing on the manicured expanse of lawn in the northeast corner of Pine Grove Cemetery suggests it is the final resting place for 245 patients of Westborough State Hospital.

From 1921 to 1990, the psychiatric facility sent patients who died in its care, and whose families made no other provisions for their burial, to be iterred at the town-owned cemetery off Rte. 135. Their graves are mostly unmarked and anonymous.

“It’s really dehumanizing,” said Glenn Malloy, who served on the board of trustees at Westborough State Hospital for more than 12 years after the last burial at Pine Grove. “Why didn’t they give them a name, a date of birth, a date of death, just a flat marker? It’s insulting.”

Malloy wants to see that the mentally ill buried at the cemetery off Rte. 135 gain some overdue respect.

He hopes to launch a community effort to plan, raise money and build a memorial to the patients buried at Pine Grove, listing their names. Don Gale, who is in charge of Westborough’s three town-owned cemeteries, said he is willing to help.

The state Department of Mental Health will work with the town and any volunteers to see that the graves are properly memorialized, spokeswoman Anna Chinappi said last week. Some funds from the recent closure of Westborough State Hospital will be available for that purpose, she said.

“People with mental illnesses are often on the margins of society and forgotten in life, but they can’t be forgotten in death,” Chinappi said.

The anonymous graves are not unique to Westborough – psychiatric institutions across the nation buried patients in a similar manner through the last century.

The practice dates to a time when mental illness carried a heavier stigma for clients and their families, and philosophies about treatment were quite different, Chinappi said.

“People with mental illnesses were sent away to the country and largely forgotten by their families,” Chinappi said. “The hospital became their home. They stayed there until they died.”

Volunteers successfully led efforts to improve cemeteries on the grounds at closed state hospitals in Danvers, Medfield and elsewhere, but it took years to collect information on the people buried there, raise enough money and carry out the work.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but you just don’t give up,” said Bertha Pruitt of Walpole, who served on a committee that revamped patient graves at Medfield State Hospital and a town cemetery.

Pruitt said it took five or six years to improve and rededicate the overgrown cemetery at Medfield State Hospital, where graves were marked only by blocks etched with numbers. The group based its work on a similar project in Danvers, she said.

Today, each grave is marked by a plaque with the name of the deceased and their dates of birth and death. A black iron fence lines the entrance to the well-maintained cemetery, and a memorial in front reads, “Remember us, for we too have lived, loved and laughed.”

“You just have to get a group of people who are absolutely dedicated,” said Medfield Selectman Ann Thompson, who served on the town’s restoration committee.

Malloy attended the rededication of the Medfield cemetery in 2005 and said it rekindled memories of hearing about the cemetery in Westborough when he served as a hospital trustee.

“When I saw what a beautiful job they did, I said, ‘Why shouldn’t we do something like this in Westborough?’ ” Malloy said.

But restoring the graves in Westborough could be more challenging. Malloy initially hoped to place memorial plaques on each grave, but he and Gale acknowledged that may prove too difficult.

The burial sites are not marked by number, as they were in Medfield. At Pine Grove, they were marked only by small brick discs etched with an “X,” and even these red markers are gone.

“The little markers, they deteriorate and they sink, and you never see them again,” Gale said.

That makes it difficult to determine where exactly graves are, much less who is buried in them.

Westborough town records include the names of everyone buried in that section of the cemetery, but they do not make clear which were state hospital patients, Gale said. There are likely nearly 500 graves in that area altogether, including those for people who were poor or had no family, he said.

Chinappi said the Department of Mental Health will research its records, which will take time, especially as some are more than 100 years old. Accuracy, as well as maintaining dignity, respect and balancing patient confidentiality, are critical, she said.

The agency is grateful to Malloy and people like him for highlighting the issue, Chinappi said.

Malloy has a Bible passage in mind for a monument. It suggests gentleness toward the vulnerable: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”

Anyone interested in working on a memorial can contact Don Gale at 508-366-3070, Glenn Malloy at 508-877-2104, or Rabbi Michoel Green of the Chabad Center in Westborough at 508-366-0499.

(David Riley can be reached at 508-626-3919 or driley@cnc.com.)


Memorial slated at ex-state hospital

Event at CSUCI to honor deceased

By Kathleen Wilson
Ventura County Star
Posted September 17, 2010 at 11:29 a.m., updated September 17, 2010 at 11:08 p.m

A public memorial service honoring thousands of disabled people who died in California state hospitals without recognition will be held for the first time Monday in Ventura County.

Supporters of the California Memorial Project have been holding the observances for seven years around the state but say this marks the first time they’ve been able to conduct one on the grounds of the former Camarillo State Hospital.

Once considered the largest mental institution west of the Mississippi River, the hospital closed in 1997 after 60 years of operation. California State University acquired the property afterward and opened its Channel Islands campus there in 2002.

School officials approved a contract Friday that allows the ceremony to take place.

Advocates for the project say this should end a two-year effort to conduct a Remembrance Day at the former hospital. They blame the delay on university officials’ disinterest, while CSU staff said the group failed to go through the proper channels until recently.

The hourlong event is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. in a courtyard adjacent to the Carden Preschool on the campus, 1 University Drive, off Lewis Road outside Camarillo.

Two former Camarillo State Hospital patients are scheduled to speak as well as parents of disabled children and representatives of the California Memorial Project.

The ceremonies are held around the state on the third Monday of September. This year, they are set at CSU Channel Islands, Patton State Hospital, Sonoma Developmental Center, Metropolitan State Hospital, Napa State Hospital and several cemeteries where patients were buried.

No one is believed to be buried on the grounds of the university, but records show that 260 former Camarillo State Hospital patients lie in unmarked graves at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park in Ventura.

So far, state officials have identified 1,049 mentally and developmentally disabled people who died at Camarillo State Hospital over its last 30 years of operation. The full total who died there from the time the hospital opened in 1936 is unknown.


Suitcases of mental patients tell history

Wednesday, September 01, 2010
By Tina Calabro

Up until the 1970s, it wasn’t unusual to know someone — or know of someone — who had been “committed” to a state mental hospital.

Mental hospitals, which had evolved from 19th-century “insane asylums,” were remote and typically dreary institutions where patients were sent for psychiatric treatment. In tens of thousands of instances across the nation over more than a century, these hospitals became custodians of patients who lived out their lives there.

By the early 1970s, advocates for the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities were fighting for a end to “putting people away.” They campaigned for changes in law and policy that would stop the warehousing of patients and ensure appropriate treatment and services within communities.

These advocates were successful. Paradigm, policy and practice changed. Large-scale institutions across the nation began to close.

In 1998, Darby Penney, an advocate for the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, came face to face with this history.

Ms. Penney, who worked as director of recipient affairs for the New York State Office of Mental Health, was sitting in a routine work meeting when she heard about the discovery of 400 suitcases filled with the belongings of former patients at Willard Psychiatric Center, which had closed three years earlier. The institution, built in 1869 in Seneca County in the Finger Lakes region, had been one of the largest in the state. In its 126 years of operation, Willard had housed 120,000 patients.

Ms. Penney was fascinated by this “piece of hidden history.” She went to the place where the suitcases were stored and started looking. “I was amazed at the depth and extent of what was there. Whole lives were in those suitcases.”

Although not trained as an exhibit curator, Ms. Darby — together with Peter Stastny, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, and Lisa Rinzler, a photographer — spent the next six years researching and documenting the people connected to the suitcases. They studied their personal belongings and conducted interviews with people who had known them, including former Willard employees.

The result was a museum exhibit, “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic,” which drew 600,000 visitors during its nine-month run at the New York State Museum in 2004. A book with the same title was published in 2008.

The traveling version of the exhibit will be shown tomorrow through Sept. 24 at the Frick Fine Arts Gallery on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

The exhibit, say its organizers, honors the memory of forgotten people who “disappeared for decades behind the institution’s walls.”

Many of the stories tell of people who led rather ordinary lives before their commitment — they were educated, raised families, had skills and held jobs. In most cases, hardship, poverty, ill health, peculiar beliefs, or lack of family ties led to long-term institutionalization.

The suitcases revealed that some of the patients longed to leave the institution until the day they died. Others did not want to leave; the institution had become their home.

The owners of the suitcases had diagnoses such as schizophrenia, epilepsy and depression, yet records show that their care was more custodial than treatment-oriented. As Willard’s population grew to an all-time high in 1950, the institution relied heavily on the labor of its patients to maintain its farm, buildings and grounds. One of the patients profiled in the exhibit was the hospital’s main handyman.

Reaction to the inaugural exhibit was intense. “People were riveted,” Ms. Penney said. “They expressed a lot of strong emotions. They would even start conversations with strangers standing beside them about what they were seeing.”

“Of all the things I’ve done in my career, [this exhibit] has the most meaning for me,” said Ms. Penney. “In a tangible way, it helped me focus on what is really important in the mental health field — seeing mental health patients as people. Too often they are seen as just their label. It highlighted their humanity and how they are not that different from anyone else.”

Bringing the exhibit to Pittsburgh was a unique collaboration between local mental health organizations and the art community, said Rachel Freund of Mental Health America/Allegheny County, the lead sponsor. Early in the process, Drew Armstrong and Kirk Savage, faculty members of Pitt’s School of Art and Architecture, expressed interest in hosting the exhibit and added programs of special interest to their constituency.

Other collaborators are Staunton Farm Foundation, Community Care Behavioral Health, Community Human Services, The Peer Support and Advocacy Network, the Allegheny County Coalition for Recovery, the Allegheny County Office of Behavioral Health, the Duquesne University School of Nursing, and more than a dozen funders.

Complementing the suitcases exhibit is photography by Matthew Murray titled “Abandoned in America.” A four-part lecture series will focus on mental health treatment and the structures where it has traditionally been provided. Two classic feature films about institutionalization — “King of Hearts” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — will also be shown.

The Willard suitcases provide a rare glimpse into an unsettling piece of American social history and also raise difficult questions, say its organizers. What can we learn from this? Are circumstances any better now than they were then?

Pennsylvania, which reached a high of 41,000 patients in 20 facilities in 1955, is well along in implementing the goal of community-based living and treatment, says Ms. Freund. Twelve mental hospitals have closed since 1979, including Mayview State Hospital near Bridgeville in 2008. Allentown State Hospital will close by the end of this year. Seven hospitals remain open, including Torrance in Westmoreland County. Current population in these facilities is 1,960.

Institution closings have been done “in a responsible way,” Ms. Freund said. The state transferred funds that were previously used to operate the facilities to community-based mental health services and “has made a concerted effort” to follow patients to ensure their health and safety. .

“They have been very planful,” Ms. Freund said. “If people [from Mayview] were not ready [for community life], they were moved to Torrance.”

Tina Calabro: tina.calabro@verizon.net.


Bryce committee retains history

Sep 14 2010
By Amanda Sands

What if you were exiled, forgotten and abandoned by society and your legacy lasted only as long as there were still people alive to remember you?

The depiction is certainly disheartening and ,according to Tom Hobbs, chairman of the Bryce Hospital Historic Preservation Committee, this was a reality many former patients at Bryce Hospital experienced.

“If you go to the Bryce cemetery at dusk, you will see a barren landscape surrounded by a few scattered remnants of grave markers that are nameless reminders of our collective disrespect,” Hobbs said. “You get the feeling these people didn’t exist at all.”

The patients at Bryce were more than just numbers on a clipboard or bodies filling beds. They were real people, who once had accomplishments, hopes and dreams, said Steve Davis, historian for the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Davis said one of the graves from Bryce’s early history contains a patient who used to lead cheers at football games and talk to cadets on the Quad when the University was a military university.

“When the man passed away, there were more than 100 cadets at his funeral,” Davis said. “He was more than just a patient. He was well-known and beloved by the students at the University.”

There are also many veterans buried at Bryce from the American Civil War, Spanish American War and World War I.

“It is important to realize that everyone has a history,” Davis said. “These people were very much loved. They were each someone’s son or daughter.”

“We have people buried in the cemeteries all the way back to the early 1800’s when there was virtually no treatment for mental illness,” said John Ziegler, director of the Office of Information for the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

Bryce was built during the American Moral Treatment Movement on the same theory as Victorian resort hotels – a person could go to a quiet place and be restored, Ziegler said.

He said the building itself was built for comfort, with a window in every room, and the grounds contained beautiful peach orchards and flower gardens. Peter Bryce eliminated strait jackets and physical restraints on the basis that people who had a nice place to live, something meaningful to do and were treated kindly, would improve inherently, said Hobbs.

Hobbs recognized that Bryce Hospital has a checkered history. It was at Bryce Hospital where things changed and authors have written that it was a ‘Revolution in Psychiatry’ in terms of standards of care, he said.

“It stands as a quintessential symbol of Alabama’s dedication to individuals who have experienced mental history in the past century,” Hobbs said. “It became the architectural prototype for asylums across the nation and helped to create federal standards of care for those who were involuntarily admitted.”

When the American Moral Treatment Movement gave way to the Custodial Period, however, things at Bryce Hospital changed significantly.

“During the custodial period there were approximately 5,000 patients to three doctors,” Ziegler said. “People with mental illnesses had no rights and the way these people are being treated in respect to the cemeteries is the way they were treated every day during the custodial period.”

The Bryce Hospital Historic Preservation Committee is attempting to make amends for the neglect the cemeteries have endured over the years by raising money to build a memorial in tribute to the lives and legacies of former patients.

“Next year Bryce will celebrate its 150th anniversary and we would like to pay tribute to all of those who are buried there by establishing this long-overdue memorial,” Hobbs said. “Our goal is to raise $100,000, and we are only about one-third of the way there right now.”

If you would like to make a donation to this cause please send cash or checks to:

The Bryce Hospital Cemetery Memorial Fund

Community Foundation of West Alabama
P.O. Box 3033
Tuscaloosa, AL 35403


Campaign raising funds to honor past Bryce patients

By Mark Hughes Cobb Staff Writer
Published: Monday, August 23, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | Nameless and invisible: Many preferred Bryce Hospital patients remain that way.

Grave markers for the more than 5,000 buried there, wooden stakes and small iron markers shaped like cloverleafs frequently have been stolen or vandalized. Other markers have become almost hidden under weeds or dirt.

But the disregard is being addressed by markers for the four graveyards on the grounds, dedicated back in April, and by plans for a memorial garden undertaken by the Bryce Hospital Historic Preservation Committee.

Some seem to believe these sad stories are best kept buried, said committee member Camille Elebash.

“A lot of people are just not interested in having any observance for these poor souls,” she said.

A fundraising campaign seeks to raise $100,000 to complete the garden, designed by architect Evans Fitts. Since April they’ve brought in $23,000. Corporate and foundation donors are being sought, as are individual donors, because the plan is to dedicate the garden in April 2011, the hospital’s 150th anniversary.

“When you’re out there, they only seem to exist as nameless reminders of our collective disrespect for these people,” said Dr. Tom Hobbs, executive director of Western Mental Health Center, in Birmingham, and chair of the committee.

“You get the feeling these people didn’t matter, and even worse, that they didn’t exist. But they did, and by their existence, they paved the way to a better understanding of mental illness for all of us.”

When the Alabama State Hospital for the Insane was built 150 years ago — it opened in April 1861 — it provided the finest care of its time. The first superintendent, Peter Bryce, instituted rigorous discipline, and insisted on courtesy, kindness and respect, values missing in other mental health facilities.

“Before Bryce, people were being brutalized,” Hobbs said.

Generations of Bryce patients “paved the way for us to understand mental illness,” Elebash said. “But the hospital went kind of downhill through the years, and the people who died there were given short shrift.”

More than a century after its founding, Bryce birthed another leap forward in mental health care, though in less noble fashion.

By 1970, the patient population had exploded to 5,200, while funding had dried up. Many employees got laid off, and standards left with them. A Montgomery Advertiser editorial compared conditions at Bryce to a concentration camp.

Then in October of that year, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ricky Wyatt, a 15-year-old labeled as a juvenile delinquent and housed at Bryce despite not being diagnosed mentally ill.

His aunt, W.C. Rawlins, was one of the laid-off employees.

Together they testified about poor conditions and inhumane treatments; court rulings led to federal criteria for mental health care, known as the Wyatt Standards.

“And it all started right there at Bryce Hospital,” Hobbs said.

Still, the fear and ridicule attached to mental illness led to widespread neglect and disrespect of the site. Elebash has heard horror stories.

“The university police went to a frat house to break up a loud party and found just a stack of those markers there,” she said. “It’s just been a terrible situation.

“It’s because of the stigma of mental illness, which is just ridiculous, but there it is.”

The numbers on the grave markers refer to a master list kept at the hospital, but because some of them were moved when River Road (now Jack Warner Parkway) was built in the 1970s, splitting the largest of the four cemeteries in half, exactly who’s where became a mystery. But the memorial garden will be planted at what is believed to be the site of infant burials, on a knoll overlooking Jack Warner Parkway.

“There’s a checkerboard-looking place for babies that were born and died at Bryce,” Hobbs said. “It’s overgrown, it looks like a dirt pile. There’s an old rusted, corrugated piece of tin that acts like a kind of border. The whole place looks terrible.”

Fitts, who donated his work, built on concepts created by Bryce consumers.

“It’s really kind of two memorials there,” he said, referring to the cleanup planned for the infant graveyard, and the main project in the foreground, centered by a triangular-shaped monolith.

To either side of the monolith are planned 10-foot columns and a shorter pedestal, each topped by reproductions of the cloverleaf grave markers. Surrounding that would be a paved plaza with seating areas.

Patrons can be part of that plaza, Hobbs said, by donating an inscribed memorial brick, or an honorary brick, paying tribute to a living individual. Donations are coming in now in amounts from $15 to $5,000, and they all are crucial, he said.

“If you can’t donate, just spread the word,” he said.

Checks can be made payable to The Community Foundation of West Alabama, designated for the Byrce Hospital Cemetery Memorial Fund on the memo line, and mailed to The Community Foundation of West Alabama, P.O. Box 3033, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403. More information is available by contacting Steve Davis, historian at the Alabama Department of Mental Health, at 205-759-0711, or by e-mail at steve.davis@bryce.mh.alabama.gov.


Central State cemetery in poor condition

Updated: Aug 12, 2010 6:26 PM EDT

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis – There’s concern the city isn’t doing enough to maintain a small cemetery it owns on the west side. The cemetery, which doesn’t have a name, is the final resting place for roughly 500 people, former patients of Central State Hospital, an insane asylum that opened in 1848 and closed in 1994.

The three-acre parcel is overgrown with grass and weeds and has several downed trees, a broken fence and trash lining the border along Tibbs.

Melissa Romer is a caretaker for Mount Jackson, the adjacent cemetery, which is mowed, trimmed and maintained.

Romer said of the city cemetery, “It’s a sad state of affairs but a forgotten thing. If you don’t see it, it’s swept under the carpet.”

The city became responsible for the cemetery when it took control of the Central State site from the state in 2003.

A registry lists the last names and first initials of those buried, along with a number identifying their grave site. But the vast majority of markers – a simple concrete slab with a red number attached – are hidden beneath grass and dirt.

Romer said the former patients “were mistreated over there [at Central State Hospital]. People didn’t know that at the time and a lot has changed, but it’s a matter of preservation if not self-preservation. You shouldn’t desecrate the dead.”

Dr. Robert McDougal, a genealogist, has compiled a list of those buried at the cemetery. He said the first burial took place around 1900 and the last around 1945. The cemetery includes a handful of soldiers who served in the Union Army.

McDougal also notes that there’s a second cemetery in the northwest corner of the former hospital site. It has no names or identifiers.

He said he still gets at least a call or two every year from people “trying to find their great grandfather’s or mother’s resting place.”

John Bartholomew, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development, saw the cemetery for the first time Thursday afternoon.

He said the grass is mowed every three weeks “and we do three weeks this time of year because normally we’re in a dry cycle and we don’t worry so much.”

He said the trash and tree limbs should be removed and would. As for the overgrown markers and registry? Bartholomew said the city would do more if it could afford to.

“It’s a rough balance because it’s very emotional when you’re talking about a cemetery,” he said, “but there’s a balance out there too with taxpayer dollars.”

“Cemeteries are an important link to our past. It’s part of who we are,” said Mark Dollase with Indiana Landmarks.

Dollase said city could and should do a better job maintaining the property, especially given how the people buried there were [“the downtrodden of society”] were treated when they were alive.

“For us to not maintain this final resting place and not respect the folks buried here is troubling,” he said.

Dollase suggested the city get creative about sprucing up the cemetery.

“Perhaps partner with a not-for-profit, a veteran’s group or other group interested in helping out,” he said.

Bartholomew said the city would welcome any and all ideas, encouraging those wanting to help to contact Metropolitan Development.


Archaeologist to monitor digging at old graveyard

By Frank X. Mullen Jr. • fmullen@rgj.com • August 9, 2010

Construction on 21st Street in Sparks is scheduled to resume today with an archaeologist on duty in case more human bones are discovered at the site of an old potter’s field.

Adam Mayberry, city of Sparks spokesman, said if more remains are found, the archeologist will document them and then properly care for them with the help of the Washoe County medical examiner’s office. Two projects — a water main installation and street resurfacing — were halted about two weeks ago when construction crews found a skull and bones, put them in a bag and continued to dig.

The bag was found by residents. A local cemetery preservation group complained that a more respectful method should be used to deal with the bones.

“We have worked very hard for three weeks to put a plan in place that most can live with, while treating the remains in a dignified matter,” Mayberry said. “We have a funeral home that has offered their assistance at no charge to reinter the remains. We also have access to forensic sniffing dogs that we are working to use next week as we complete the digging to connect the water mains at Hymer, Frazier, and an alley between the two streets.”

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority and the Regional Transportation Commission are doing projects along 21st Street.

The area where the remains were discovered is property of the city of Sparks, but for many years, it was part of the Nevada State Hospital. From 1882 to 1949, hundreds of patients at the hospital, which is now Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, were buried there. The land also was used as a potter’s field, a graveyard for indigent people, records show.

Some people were interred in cardboard boxes, records show. Just 11 graves are marked.

Remains have been found at various times over the years during construction in the area, including earlier this month at the north end of 21st Street when Sparks crews were doing repaving at the city maintenance yard. Remains also were found when Pinion Park and 21st Street were originally built.

Last year, Pinion Park was decommissioned and is now designated as a state historic cemetery. This month, 30 sets of remains from a lower cemetery will be relocated to the main cemetery, and bones found at the construction site also will be interred there.

Under the new procedures, construction will be halted when bones are found; an archaeologist and medical examiner will oversee removal of the remains, and the site will be mapped. The bones will be sent to the coroner’s office for study, and they ultimately will be reburied.

The utility or excavator that disturbed the remains will bear all costs, according to the agreement.


Road Work Takes a Break When Bones are Found

Posted: Aug 09, 2010 4:22 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 09, 2010 4:22 PM EDT

Channel 2 News

From here on out, work crews will be working with an archaeologist when more bones are discovered on 21st Street between Glendale and I-80 in sparks, specifically along 21st between Frazier and North Streets. Underneath the street resurfacing and water main installation project, is evidence of a sad, dark past….upwards of 800 bodies are buried there. This area was the graveyard for the old Nevada State Hospital, but it really was more of a mass grave. Mental patients who died without much money were buried there. There’s no evidence of old wood caskets…cardboard was used instead. The burial ground long forgotten, 21st Street was built right over the graves.

Bones have been found outside of the defined perimeters of the cemetery…all up and down 21st Street, most of them on the west side of the road. Bones were even found at the Sparks Maintenance Service Center. The hospital at the time didn’t keep many records…out of 600 to 800, only 11 of the graves were found marked. But so many bones were found over the years, that what was Pinion Park became a state historic cemetery….sandboxes were removed, the basketball courts and play equipment dismantled. As City of Sparks spokesman Adam Mayberry told us, “It was the right thing for the city to do in terms of decommissioning the park and providing that area as an historical cemetery….the remains of individuals certainly weren’t respected as they are today. And that’s what we’re trying to do is protect the integrity of those that have been forgotten, and those that have been put to rest.”

To that end, when any bones are found during work on 21st Street, construction will stop for the archaeologist and medical examiner to map the spot and move them. Road work was already halted 2 weeks ago when crews discovered a skull and bones. The bones they uncover over the next few weeks will be sent to the coroner’s office to be studied before they’re re-buried. When work is finished, a plaque will go up at the former Pinion Park, listing the names of the former patients who remain buried there


Respecting the Dead, New Policy Guards Historic Graves

Last month a bag containing the remains of patients of the state Mental Health Institute was left by the roadside in a Sparks [Nevada] neighborhood. The city is about to announce a policy to keep it from happening again.

Posted: 9:51 PM Aug 5, 2010
Reporter: Ed Pearce

Last month a bag containing the remains of patients of the state Mental Health Institute was left by the roadside in a Sparks neighborhood. The city is about to announce a policy to keep it from happening again.

The remains were unearthed by crews digging a trench for a new water main underneath a sidewalk along 21st Street in the Conductor Heights neighborhood. They had been gathered up and left in the sack for at least a day until discovered by neighbors who called KOLO 8 News Now.

It was a final indignity for two former patients of the state’s mental health institute, patients that often received little respect in life and virtually none in death.

Beginning in 1882 and continuing into the [year] 1949 patients who died in the institute were buried with little ceremony, their names recorded on a ledger, their resting spot marked only with a stake that soon weathered and disappeared,

The state knew of the cemetery when it leased a portion to the city of Sparks for a park, but since the exact location of the graves and the cemetery’s boundaries were never accurately recorded. The state says they encountered no graves when they built a new Agriculture Department building just to the west, but it is known there are some under the Sparks Public Works yard to the north and there may be more underneath 21st Street.

So, the city is drafting a policy requiring an archaeologist be on site whenever the ground is disturbed here and only that expert or a medical examiner will be able to handle any remains found.

It’s been a difficult, delicate issue for the city concerning a problem it didn’t create.

“We want to do the right thing,” says city spokesman Adam Mayberry. “but we have a street project and a water line that has been held up for three weeks and we need to move on.”

He also points out the city has had to surrender a park that it’s been unable to replace and notes though the conversations in recent weeks have involved several agencies, no one but the city has been accepting much of the responsibility.

Advocates for the cemetery are generally applauding the city’s efforts, though they want wording that ensures any remains found in the 21st street area be presumed to have been a state patient and subject to the policy.

The city is balking citing the possibility of an unrelated pauper’s graveyard may have also been in the area. Local historians we’ve talked with say they’ve never heard of such a cemetery there.

Monday, work on the water main resumes with an archaeologist on hand. If all goes well, a monument listing all the patients names will be installed this fall and the memorial dedicated.

And the next time remains are found here, city policy will dictate they be handled with respect.


Grave by grave, group restores Minnesotans’ forgotten lives

Ceremony at the old Hastings State Hospital cemetary

By Cynthia Boyd
Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007

In death as in life, a name symbolizes a human being. Yet at least 8,700 persons who lived and died in Minnesota state hospitals still lie in unnamed graves.

In life, their days were marked by mental illness, developmental disabilities, tuberculosis, alcoholism, epilepsy. In death, their graves are marked by numbers scratched on metal tags or chiseled on tops of concrete cylinders about the size of a coffee can.

“It almost inhumanizes them. Every human being deserves to be recognized. We’re all children of God,” said 22-year-old Heather Karsikas, who came to the cemetery at the old Hastings state hospital on a recent autumn day to honor the dead. Her great-grandfather, Jacob Karsikas, was one of those unknowns for way too long, buried there in 1921 with a valley view but no gravestone.

But attitudes have changed since 1866 — when the first state hospital opened — and into the 20th century, when the seriously disabled or ill were quietly sent away to state institutions and saddened families were urged to go on with their lives. When they died, those who were stigmatized and hidden in life became anonymous in death, buried in nameless graves at 19 cemeteries across the state. Only recently are their stories coming to light.

Since 1994, Remembering With Dignity — a project of the St. Paul-based Advocating Change Together (ACT) and other disability rights and advocacy groups — has been working to place granite stones with name, birth and death dates on every grave in state institution cemeteries from Hastings to Willmar, from St. Peter to Rochester.

A labor of love

It’s a laborious process. Staff and volunteers page through old state ledgers and records, matching grave site numbers to names and then names to death records, doing their best to decipher faded ink and illegible handwriting and catch errors in spelling and dates. Initially, there were more than 12,700 graves without names.

In Minnesota, Remembering With Dignity lobbied the Legislature to add public funds to private donations. Since 1997, $750,000 in state funds have been spent on the campaign. The Legislature appropriated $200,000 more this year. About 4,000 graves have been marked so far.

“It’s a travesty — what happened in the past,” Republican Rep. Denny McNamara, of Hastings, told a crowd of about 60 gathered at the Hastings burial grounds last month to celebrate the placing of 525 grave stones. “That’s the kind of thing the state should do,” he said “The state did a very wrong thing decades ago, but we’re trying to fix it.”

Additionally, the project has had a ripple effect. It has been “used to start a conversation about the state hospitals as institutions and about the horrors of these settings,” said Jim Fassett-Carman, project manager for Remembering With Dignity. Those times are a chapter in history the group does not want forgotten or repeated, he said.

Generations ago, “The state system was to tell people institutionalization was the best option,” Fassett-Carman said.

Gudrun’s story

Take the story of little Gudrun Rafnson. She was a sickly child, third in her family, and born with serious disabilities in 1904 to a farm family barely making ends meet, says Lorna Rafness a retired postmaster, who searched out her great-aunt’s story while doing a family history.

“She was never able to walk or talk. She was like a helpless infant. They used the word imbecile then, though not in a mean way,” said Rafness, who lives in Mankato.

Years passed with the family of Icelandic descent eking out a living, she said, until the sixth child came along. That’s when the local doctor came to the family’s Minneota farm to urge the parents to send Gudrun to the School for the Feeble Minded in Faribault.

“The daughter has to go, or you’re going to lose the mother,” the doctor told the father, or so family memory plays out, Rafness said. Physical demands of farm work, child care, housekeeping and caring for a disabled child would be too great for the child’s mother, he said.

Rafness said her grandmother let authorities take her daughter to the institution, but the decision took its toll: For 20 years, whether because of grief or shame, she wouldn’t go to town.

Gudrun died in 1916 at nearly 12 years old after a lifetime of chronic ear infections and a condition where her body could not absorb food.

Rafness says it comforts her that in death, at least, her great-aunt is remembered. Remembering With Dignity placed a stone on her grave in the West Cemetery of the old Faribault facility.

It doesn’t even matter, she said, that Gudrun’s last name is etched in stone as “Rafuson” instead of Rafnson, because of a medical records error. “Gudrun’s life wasn’t perfect either,” she said.

“It was out of compassion” that Minnesota created the state hospital system, intending to provide quality care, said Michael Tessneer, head of the State Operated Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In those times, providing home care for the seriously ill or disabled was untenable and unaffordable for most families.

The old names reflect the attitudes of the times: St. Peter Asylum for the Insane, Faribault School for Imbeciles, Cambridge State School and Hospital for Feeble-Minded and Epileptics.

“We look at those (names) today and we’re shocked anybody would talk that way, but it was accepted” then, said Tessneer. Later they would be renamed state hospitals and regional treatment centers.

Over the decades, conditions changed in the state hospitals. There were legal challenges to the institutional system because of overcrowding, lack of treatment and under-staffing. In 1974, the U.S. District Court decision in Welsch vs. Likins was a catalyst in moving residents from state facilities located on multi-acre campuses to smaller, community-based housing and care, a transition called “de-institutionalizing.”

Cemetery ceremonies

Three ceremonies have been held this summer and fall to mark the naming of graves at cemeteries in St. Peter, Rochester and Hastings.

In Hastings last month, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” at an event celebrating 526 lives and the grave stones laid there this year.

“This is a very special event to honor our sisters and brothers,” said Melvin Haagenson, a member of Advocating Change Together and Remembering With Dignity.

Earl Karsikas, a carpenter from Cottage Grove, was there to memorialize his grandfather and thank the project for placing a memorial stone for Jacob Karsikas under a nearby oak tree last year.

“Nobody should be forgotten,” Karsikas said.

Karsikas learned accidentally about his grandfather’s life at the state hospital when a friend was showing him computer search engine capabilities for family research. His grandfather’s death certificate surfaced, listing “asylum” as his place of burial. His commitment at what was then the Hastings Asylum for the Insane had been a family secret.

More digging showed Jacob had “been arrested trying to get into the White House” in 1910 to protest what he thought was an earlier, unjust arrest near his Duluth home. Commitment papers called the man “deranged.”

“When I first learned about it, I didn’t think I wanted anybody to know,” Karsikas said, but he realized he wanted to honor the life of the Norwegian man as husband, father and church trustee.

Earl Vraa came to the cemetery from Durand, Wis., to honor his great-great-uncle, Jorgen Endre Wraa, the youngest son of Norwegian immigrants.

Jorgen, who also spelled his name as “Vraa,” apparently suffered a stroke at age 20 that left him partially paralyzed, Vraa discovered in searching state records. As Jorgen’s physical health declined, he became emotionally ill, sometimes laughing uncontrollably or shouting at himself. He was committed in 1891 and died at Hastings in 1923.

“That made me think about the life he went through and gave me some sleepless nights,” Vraa said.

He thanked Remembering With Dignity for the stone placed this fall on his great-great-uncle’s grave. Then he walked along a row of sunlit monuments to place a fall bouquet on one special grave.

“In memory of Jorgen,” he said.

Cynthia Boyd, a former reporter and columnist for the Pioneer Press, writes on education, health, social issues and other topics. She can be reached at cboyd [at] minnpost [dot] com.


Ceremony honors former patients buried in numbered graves

By the Associated Press

Posted: May 24, 2010 – 12:00 pm ET

The narrow concrete headstones marking the graves of former Connecticut Valley Hospital patients contain no names, no dates of birth or death and no comforting epitaphs such as “gone but not forgotten.”

They just have numbers, each one hiding the identity of the person buried beneath.

During a time when mental illness was considered shameful, 1,686 people were anonymously interred on the grounds of the state hospital in Middletown for mental health and addiction services. For the 12th year in a row last Wednesday, 100 of those people were named, along with their date of death and the age at which they died.

“Their lives, like all lives, were beautiful and miraculous,” said the Rev. John C. Hall, pastor of First Church of Christ Congregational, who led the ceremony.

The first name read Wednesday was that of the man buried in grave number 1,100: Maurice Scanlon, who died Feb. 20, 1931, at the age of 70. The last man honored was Cornelius Brennan, buried in grave 1,199, who died Jan. 15, 1935, at the age of 63.

The ceremony will continue until 2015, with 100 names read a year, until all have been said aloud.

“Just to bring these people back to identity is really what it’s about,” said Hall, who helped to start the observance.

About 50 people participated in the ceremony, including current CVH patients and staff.

Some of the names of those buried were discovered in a book at Russell Library that catalogued their identities as part of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration project. A legal opinion from the state attorney general’s office allowed the hospital to release the rest of the names, and they are listed on a marker at the cemetery along with their corresponding grave number.

A cemetery committee decided not to replace the headstones with ones listing names, although about 100 headstones that are crumbling or unreadable are replaced annually with new ones.

Deceased patients were buried on CVH grounds between 1878 and 1955. CVH CEO Helene Vartelas, who also participated in the ceremony, said that, at that time, the patients were listed by number for confidentiality reasons. Although some families of patients buried their kin, she said, some patients were “without families and some without means.”

She said that, starting in the 1950s, there was more of a push for families to bury deceased relatives or bury the patient in their town of origin, and now there is a national movement for hospitals such as CVH to put names on graves of their deceased former patients.

“We still have a ways to go, but we’re making many strides,” Vartelas said about erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Among those buried in the CVH cemetery is Elizabeth Langzettel, the great-grandmother of Anne Goodenough of Los Angeles. When she was tracing her genealogy, Goodenough found that her relative, who died in 1942, was buried there and not with her husband.

Her great-grandmother’s name is written on her husband’s headstone at a local Catholic cemetery, but no date of death is listed, Goodenough said, and the church overseeing the cemetery didn’t have a record of her burial there.

Goodenough, who grew up in Winsted and remembers kids from her childhood making jokes about the state mental hospital, knows her great-grandmother spent a decade at CVH but doesn’t know why, since hospital records have since been destroyed.

“It’s strange in our society that people were put here with numbers and it wasn’t given a second thought,” she said.


Names of anonymous dead read in ceremony at CVH cemetery

Published: Thursday, May 20, 2010

By HANNAH VAHL, Press Staff

MIDDLETOWN — The narrow concrete headstones marking the graves of former Connecticut Valley Hospital patients contain no names, no dates of birth or death and no comforting epitaphs such as “gone but not forgotten.”

They just have numbers, each one hiding the identity of the person buried beneath.

During a time when mental illness was considered shameful, 1,686 people were anonymously interred on the grounds of the state hospital for mental health and addiction services. For the 12th year in a row Wednesday, 100 of those people were named, along with their date of death and the age at which they died.

“Their lives, like all lives, were beautiful and miraculous,” said the Rev. John C. Hall, pastor of First Church of Christ Congregational, who led the ceremony.

The first name read Wednesday was that of the man buried in grave number 1,100: Maurice Scanlon, who died Feb. 20, 1931, at the age of 70. The last man honored was Cornelius Brennan, buried in grave 1,199, who died Jan. 15, 1935, at the age of 63.

The ceremony will continue until 2015, with 100 names read a year, until all have been said aloud.

“Just to bring these people back to identity is really what it’s about,” said Hall, who helped to start the observance.

About 50 people participated in the ceremony Wednesday, including current CVH patients and staff.

Some of the names of those buried were discovered in a book at Russell Library that catalogued their identities as part of a Depression-era Works Progress Administration project. A legal opinion from the state attorney general’s office allowed the hospital to release the rest of the names, and they are listed on a marker at the cemetery along with their corresponding grave number.

A cemetery committee decided not to replace the headstones with ones listing names, although about 100 headstones that are crumbling or unreadable are replaced annually with new ones.

Deceased patients were buried on CVH grounds between 1878 and 1955. CVH CEO Helene Vartelas, who also participated in the ceremony, said that, at that time, the patients were listed by number for confidentiality reasons. Although some families of patients buried their kin, she said, some patients were “without families and some without means.”

She said that, starting in the 1950s, there was more of a push for families to bury deceased relatives or bury the patient in their town of origin, and now there is a national movement for hospitals such as CVH to put names on graves of their deceased former patients.

“We still have a ways to go, but we’re making many strides,” Vartelas said about erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Among those buried in the CVH cemetery is Elizabeth Langzettel, the great-grandmother of Anne Goodenough of Los Angeles. When she was tracing her geneology, Goodenough found that her relative, who died in 1942, was buried there and not with her husband.

Her great-grandmother’s name is written on her husband’s headstone at a local Catholic cemetery, but no date of death is listed, Goodenough said, and the church overseeing the cemetery didn’t have a record of her burial there.

Goodenough, who grew up in Winsted and remembers kids from her childhood making jokes about the state mental hospital, knows her great-grandmother spent a decade at CVH but doesn’t know why, since hospital records have since been destroyed.

“It’s strange in our society that people were put here with numbers and it wasn’t given a second thought,” she said.

Hannah Vahl can be reached by e-mail at hvahl@middletownpress.com.


Article published May 16, 2010


2 Toledo burial grounds finally receive markers


Two unmarked South Toledo cemeteries where nearly 2,000 almost-forgotten psychiatric patients were buried received long-delayed historical markers yesterday, more than 120 years after the first body was laid to rest.

“I feel a sense of finality. We’re doing here today what should have been done a long time ago,” said Steven Bloir of Mansfield, Ohio, a relative of two Toledo State Hospital patients buried in the cemeteries a century ago.

More than 140 people attended the afternoon dedication of a granite memorial and Ohio Historical Society markers that now announce the entrance to the Toledo State Hospital cemeteries, where 1,994 people were buried in grassy, tree-shaded fields between 1888 and 1973.

Ceremony speakers included Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, who presented a proclamation honoring the deceased and those members of the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Committee who worked to provide them proper recognition.

“We did not treat folks with respect and dignity at the time of their death. I’m very sorry for that,” said Terry Smith, chief executive officer of Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital, the descendant of Toledo State Hospital that opened in 1888 as the Toledo Asylum for the Insane.

Patients buried at the sites were typically those whose bodies went unclaimed by relatives after their deaths.

Not only were the hospital’s two cemeteries left unmarked, but graves lacked headstones with names and dates. Each burial was instead marked with a small, numbered concrete slab pushed into the ground.

Many of those markers sank well below the surface during the years. The recognition campaign included recent volunteer projects to locate and restore them.

The older of the two cemeteries is off Arlington Avenue near South Detroit Avenue, behind the new Bowsher High School. About 900 were buried there between 1888 and 1922.

When that site filled up, the dead were buried on a second plot on the present-day campus of the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly known as the Medical College of Ohio, in a field off the East Medical Loop. Those burials date from 1922 to 1973.

Mr. Smith summed up the patients’ former predicaments with a quotation taken from a recent local exhibit: “From Institutions to Independence: A History of People with Disabilities in Northwest Ohio.”

“While it is fitting that these individuals remain at rest on former state hospital grounds, the fact that their graves are not marked and their burial places are not memorialized is also a commentary on the lives that society forgot,” he read.

Mr. Bloir, a middle-school principal, said he recently learned through genealogy research that two of his relatives were buried in the older cemetery.

One was a cousin of his grandmother’s from Bryan, who died in 1912; the other was his wife’s great-great-grandmother, who died in 1897 and was buried under stone number 130.

“Better late than never to remember our loved ones, family members, who are buried here,” Mr. Bloir said.

Troy Meiers of Waterloo, Ind., came to pay tribute to his great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Arthur Lantz, also of Bryan, who died in the hospital in 1899.

Mr. Meiers said that after some research he learned in the fall that his ancestor lies beneath stone number 214.

“It is very emotional,” Mr. Meiers said. “He is finally at rest and he is no longer missing, because for over 100 years he had been missing.”

A nurse at the hospital during the early 1950s, Jean Brenner, 82, recalled yesterday how she always wondered what had happened to the patients who died and didn’t have family close by.

“I used to walk by here and I never knew there were cemeteries,” Mrs. Brenner of South Toledo said.

The dedication ceremony included the playing of Taps by Paul Seabold, a Bowsher High School student, in honor of veterans – some from as far back as the Civil War – buried at the hospital.

And Naki Akrobettoe, a University of Toledo student, read an original poem about the cemeteries and their numeric grave markers.

“I do not believe that a number can read one’s favorite color/ or the kind of music that quiets their spirits in distress. And a stone marker covered by leaves/ is equivalent to a blind man that can’t foresee the future,” her poem said.

Contact JC Reindl at:
or 419-724-6065.


Article published May 05, 2010

Graves project seeks dignity for the forgotten

Volunteers toil at old cemeteries on Toledo State Hospital grounds


Her name was Elsie.

She lived at the Toledo State Hospital for a month before she died of tuberculosis in the early 1900s. She was 13 years old at the time.

For decades, her grave and hundreds of others were forgotten, but an ongoing project is bringing recognition to those who lived and died at the state hospital.

On May 15, the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Committee’s annual memorial program will include dedication of two Ohio Historical Society historical markers and a memorial monument to honor the nearly 2,000 forgotten souls in the two Toledo State Hospital cemeteries off Arlington Avenue near South Detroit Avenue in South Toledo.

The dedication will acknowledge the historical significance of the cemeteries, which date back to 1888, when Toledo State Hospital first opened as Toledo Asylum for the Insane. It’s an important step in acknowledging the history of the treatment of those who were often hospitalized for a lifetime due to mental and physical disorders, committee members said.

The 1 p.m. ceremony will be held at the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery on Arlington, west of South Detroit Avenue, with parking available in the Bowsher High School lot.

Near Elsie’s grave on this sunny spring morning, a group whoop sounded when a long metal probe connected with a stone marker several inches below bright green grass.

Abigail Dudek, a St. Ursula Academy freshman from Holland, excitedly announced “we found one,” and after some digging, SUA sophomore Lindsey Gilbert of Toledo pulled the marker to the surface. Several St. Ursula Academy students worked for several hours last week in one of the state hospital’s cemeteries to find markers as part of a United Way Day of Caring volunteer effort.

Freshman Allie Rudolph of Perrysburg squirted the top of the stone with water but decades of dirt didn’t budge. Students scratched with sticks to reveal “1430,” the burial number.

Nearby, sophomore Marissa Sehmann of Bowling Green tried to find another marker. Based on the spacing in the row, “it shows one is missing here,” and shortly a shovel scraped against stone. Another forgotten soul had been reclaimed.

She’s pleased signs will be erected to let people know that this is a cemetery, not just a pretty wooded area adjacent to a University of Toledo Medical Center parking lot. The cemetery land is owned by UT.

People will know, she said, that “family members are buried here.”

Miss Rudolph said each marker found, and each one still buried, brings a sense of sadness. “Thousands of people are buried here. So many people and no recognition for them until now.”

For the first time, as volunteers worked, mock medical record cards (details tweaked to protect patient privacy) were posted on several graves in an effort to link people today with those buried many yesterdays ago.

George, burial number 1004, was admitted at age 18 to the Toledo State Hospital. He was born in 1881, and he died in 1925. He was a farmer from Wood County, and lived at the hospital for 26 years. Jane Weber, a project volunteer and committee member, walked along shaded rows of markers, carrying cards to match with numbers.

“There she is, Ella,” Ms. Weber said, leaning over to put the card onto the grave. Ella, a housewife, was admitted at age 40 to the state hospital. She lived there 19 years. She died in 1928 from epilepsy.

In another section of the cemetery, Henry Hartford of East Toledo gave pointers to St. Ursula students on how to find markers with probes. A project committee member, he has found 700 markers – most of which were several inches below the earth’s surface – in the last couple of years.

“I do this because it is a good cause. These people were forgotten in life. They deserve better than to be forgotten in death,” he said. “Nobody should be known as a number. The people here should be recognized for what they went through in the early days of mental health treatment. It was a shame.”

Nearby, SUA senior Jenniefer Stearns of Toledo wiggled a marker loose while senior Tiffany Carnicom of Sylvania stood ready with a shovel.

Elizabeth Smith, an SUA junior from Maumee, described the volunteer work as a way to give back to the community. “We are giving respect to people who deserve respect but didn’t receive it,” she said. “It is rewarding to bring people together. It might not happen initially, but you know you are helping.”

Patients were admitted for several reasons, including age-related dementia, developmental disabilities, drug or alcohol addiction, and brain injuries, Ms. Weber said. When they died, patients received a numbered marker, placed flat to the ground. “There were no names, no dates, no identity,” Ms. Weber said.

Patient privacy laws require confidentiality, but relatives are finding details about lost family members as a result of the project, Ms. Weber said.

Some of those families will attend the May 15 event and share details about relatives buried in the cemeteries.

One family wrote and told the a story of their relative, a mother of three. A tragic flash fire in the kitchen of the woman’s home killed her youngest daughter, and the mother never quite recuperated. She was hospitalized at the Toledo State Hospital for some 20 years before she died.

Buried in the cemeteries are a lot of tragic stories, Ms. Weber said. “These were real people,” she said. The youngest patient was Elsie at age 13; the oldest was a 108-year-old woman who was admitted in her 60s. Admission lengths for the patients varied from hours to 66 years.

Since the project began, 260 of the 900 markers in the older cemetery have been located and more than 800 out of 1,000 have been found in the other cemetery. Volunteers would like to see other improvements here, such as a pathway paved with memorial bricks, to turn the cemetery from a place of lost souls to a place of honor for anyone with relatives buried there and for anyone dealing with mental illness, Ms. Weber said.


Paul Davis: Let’s honor the dead from all walks of life

Paul Davis
Published: April 26, 2010

“Rows upon rows of numbered, small, rusted markers as far as the eye can see. No names, just numbers. It must be the most gruesome sight…Unknown humans, shunned when living, deprived of their very names in death – and known only to God.”
— Joe Ingram

There was the erie wail of the bagpipes; later a solemn brass tone from a bugle playing taps.

A minister prayed with fervor to begin and end the service. It was a proper funeral for the more than 5,000 dead who did not receive the respect which a proper funeral service affords.

It sent shivers down my spine. How could it be that the remains of 5,000 people could have gone to their graves without remembrance and respect? Was it just God who had time and respect and love for these precious souls?

These souls were housed in bodies of those we labeled as mentally ill, or, in the early days, the insane and the imbeciles — words which are today as offensive as the “N” word. We now are trying to make things right in the way we view those with mental illness, the retarded, the homeless, those who are less fortunate than us. Making that transition is an interesting journey.

The chapel at Bryce Hospital was filled last Sunday, standing room only. The relatively new structure is named the Bryant-Jordan Chapel. We had to get our two most famous football coaches to lend their name to the fundraising effort to build the chapel. It was a surreal afternoon. For a century and a half, tens of thousands of people had been shipped to Alabama’s State Hospital for the Insane, now named Bryce to honor its first superintendent, Peter Bryce.

The place drips with irony. In its first years, it was a model for the nation, designed by a great architect and operated in a pastoral setting by Dr. Bryce. He didn’t allow abuse, neglect, chains or straitjackets. Early on, the rooms looked like those in a hotel. Rockers, dressers and beds with clean, crisp sheets. All able-bodied patients worked. There were gardens, and fields of corn, hundreds of cattle, horses, a piggery and a giant laundry. Women gathered each day in large sewing rooms that looked like modern factories of the time. The women made the uniforms, sheets and blankets. Others prepared, cooked and served the food in pretty dining rooms.

The hospital was almost self-supporting. Dr. Bryce gave his life to the institution. Too many others just gave their lives. They came in the front door and left by the back into one of several cemeteries. I have walked those halls with several governors. George Wallace was indifferent. Mental patients didn’t vote. Gov. Lurleen Wallace wept. Gov. Bob Riley proclaimed “enough is enough. We’re going to build a new world class hospital.”

Too many families never acknowledged they had a “crazy” member. Even in death, they chose to look in another direction as their dead were buried. At first, wooden stakes marked the burial places. The stakes had numbers, not names. Then there were small iron markers shaped much like a clover leaf.

I walked through these graveyards many times and tried to mentally place names and faces on those gravesites where men and women, black and white, military men from all branches of services, even a section for the babies born of female patients were buried — all without names.

People often call Steve Davis, historian at Bryce, to ask about the gravesite of a family member, acknowledging for the first time that they had a “defective” family member. “They come to the hospital and I take them to the cemetery and they often grow angry when I can’t show them the burial site. We simply don’t know.”

Davis has a huge ledger book, tattered and yellowed with age, with a listing of all the burials with the only designation of some a number. Through cross-referencing, sometime a name can be placed with the number, but with all the markers gone, finding a burial site is impossible.

When I leaf through that ledger and see all the numbers, I’m always reminded of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau where Hitler sought to murder all the world’s Jews. He numbered and labeled them and hauled them to death camps in cattle cars. Such an analogy with the Bryce situation is not fair. Our state was not guilty of mass murder, just mass indifference and mass neglect.

I sat in the auditorium behind Ricky Wyatt and his caretaker aunt. Wyatt is the former Bryce patient in whose name the federal lawsuit against the state of Alabama was filed. He’s a tall, heavy man. He walks with a cane. When he was acknowledged at the memorial, he struggled to get to his feet, and extended his hand to help his elderly aunt to hers. He slowly turned back toward the audience to look into the eyes of those giving him a standing ovation.

He was one of the lucky ones. He made it out of Bryce alive. I was with him in Federal Judge Frank Johnson’s courtroom when the suit was filed. I was there with him more than 30 years later when federal oversight of Alabama’s mental facilities was removed. We’re making progress, slow progress. The Bryce property has been sold to the University of Alabama for its expansion. But its most historic buildings will be saved and its cemeteries will be preserved — forever.

Let’s remember and revere the dead. People must never again become disposable “things.” We must never ever again bury both body and soul wrapped in a sheet, no coffin, no name, and no respect with their last contact with the state of Alabama being a shovel of dirt thrown in their face.

Paul Davis writes a Sunday column for the Opelika-Auburn News. You may contact him at Paul_Davis@charter.net


Chesbro honored for promoting dignity for those suffering from mental disabilities

Written by Office of Assemblyman Wes Chesbro
Tuesday, 27 April 2010

SACRAMENTO – The California Mental Health Advocacy Conference has awarded Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) a “California Champions of Change Award.”

In addition to the award, Chesbro received special recognition at the conference earlier this month in Los Angeles for his work with mental health clients and family members to effect change as a member of the State Assembly, State Senate and the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC).

Chesbro also was recognized for his pioneering efforts to reduce seclusion and restraints, and to promote dignity through the establishment of the California Memorial Project.

“Assemblymember Chesbro was chosen to receive this award based on his leadership in advancing human dignity, for his enduring support for mental health services in California and for championing the California Memorial Project,” said Eduardo Vega, program director of Empowerment and Advocacy for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, member of MHSOAC and director of the conference. “Chesbro has been instrumental in making California a better place to live for individuals and families affected by disabilities.”

Chesbro created the California Memorial Project with legislation as a state senator in 2002.

Between 1852 and the 1960s an estimated 45,000 people who had been living in state institutions died and were buried in unmarked or un-numbered mass graves on state lands.

The mission of the California Memorial Project is to identify the locations of remains, find and restore lost graves and honor those who were buried in them.

“It is an honor to receive this award,” Chesbro said. “In 2002 I was lucky enough to partner with the California Network of Mental Health Clients, Disability Rights California’s Peer Self-Advocacy Units and People First of California in authoring legislation to create the California Memorial Project. This important piece of legislation was the product of hard work between all the stakeholders working towards the common goal of recapturing the dignity of those who died and were buried in institutions throughout the state.”

In the current legislative session, Chesbro is the author of ACR 123, which would establish the third Monday of September to memorialize these Californians.


Walk in St Albans park to raise cash for memorial

2:52pm Wednesday 28th April 2010

By Manisha Mistry »

RESIDENTS in St Albans will be walking through Highfield Park in memory of mental health patients who were housed at hospitals formerly located on the land.

On Sunday, May 9, Mayor of St Albans Chris Oxley will officially start the walk in aid of patients of Hill End and Cell Barnes mental health hospitals and Mind Mid Herts.

Before Highfield Park was created 13 years ago, the area was used by the two large mental health hospitals.

More than 1,000 patients were buried in the hospital cemetery, which is now part of the park. These patients were buried in pauper’s graves, which means their graves are without headstones and the money raised will be used to install a memorial commemorating those buried there. The one-mile walk is open to families, who are asked to donate £5 or collect sponsorship money, as the route is pushchair friendly.

Anna Cohen, the park’s manager, said: “It is very sad to think that more than 1,000 people were laid to rest here and yet there is nothing commemorating their lives; the trust realises this must be very distressing for relatives”.

More information is available at http://www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk


Bryce Hospital commemorates patients in lost burial sites

By Jason Morton Staff writer
Published: Monday, April 19, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 10:53 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | Somewhere on the campus of Bryce Hospital is the final resting place of Sara Elizabeth Foster.

Foster died about seven years after being committed to Alabama’s largest mental health facility on Sept. 28, 1910, at the age of 45.

Exactly where Foster is buried remains a mystery, despite the best efforts of her great-granddaughters, Nancy Hicks and Diane Lovelady of New Hope, and Steve Davis, an historian for the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

But her lost burial site does not mean she is forgotten. In fact, Foster was one of the thousands buried in unmarked graves on Bryce’s campus honored Sunday by the Bryce Hospital Preservation Committee and the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

“It brings some closure,” said Hicks, 58, of the ceremony. “And, to me, it just honors her and her memory.

“I wish that I could only do more.”

Hicks and Lovelady, 62, were among the close to 250 people who attended the ceremony to unveil historic markers for each of Bryce’s four cemeteries of unmarked graves. The four markers will go at the entrance of each cemetery and detail the years each site was used as a burial ground. The markers will also show that each cemetery is registered with the Alabama Historical Commission.

Also unveiled at the Bryant-Jemison Chapel on the Bryce campus were plans for a memorial garden to further honor the dead.

“We will not forget what the past has given to the present,” said Tom Hobbs, chairman of the Bryce Hospital Historic Preservation Committee. “And while we do not know the names of those forgotten, we know that they did exist.

“And we are all the better for it.”

Plans for the memorial garden include a large, stone marker to explain the garden’s purpose.

Hobbs also said the committee hopes to sell as a fund-raising tool individual bricks that can be etched with the names of dead or living Bryce patients, now called “consumers.”

The 90-minute ceremony also featured a performance by songwriter Ben Mitchell Arthur, a former consumer of the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s services, whose song “Heavy Burden” is a dark, melancholy account of his battle with mental illness.

Alabama’s poet laureate, Sue B. Walker, penned an original poem at the request of the hospital’s Historic Preservation Committee.

The poem, titled “In Remembered Lives We Live Anew,” is filled with references to Southern life, but also honors the efforts of Peter Bryce, who came to Tuscaloosa as a 27-year-old psychiatrist personally recommended by mental health pioneer Dorothea Dix and revolutionized the way patients were treated.

It also sums up the reason behind Sunday’s ceremony and the efforts of the Bryce Hospital historic committee.

“[T]he grace of long remembering redeems lost lives,” the poem said, “commemorates the detritus of unmarked graves, gives silenced tongues a chance to say that time past is never past, but is ever always new … .”


Former Bryce residents finally get honored

Published: Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 10:28 p.m.

It is fitting that the 5,000 or so former Bryce Hospital residents buried in four cemeteries near the mental health hospital will be honored today when the Bryce Hospital Preservation Committee and the Alabama Department of Mental Health unveil five markers at the cemetery site.

The markers will indicate that each cemetery is registered with the Alabama Historical Commission and will commemorate the years in which people were buried there, most of them under simple, unmarked headstones.

A larger memorial is carved in the shape of a triangle and features a transcription written by a Bryce patient carved into the stone facing Jack Warner Parkway to the south.

Bryce opened in 1861, and its main buildings are among the oldest mental health facilities still in use in the United States. The three-story domed main building was one of the first “moral architecture” projects in the nation and was inspired by the ideas of Dorethea Dix, the great 18th century crusader for the humane care of the mentally ill.

First called the Alabama Hospital for the Insane and later the Alabama Insane Hospital, the facility was renamed for its first superintendent, Peter Bryce, who came to Tuscaloosa as a 27-year-old psychiatric pioneer personally recommended by Dix.

During his long tenure, Bryce, who died in 1892 and is himself buried with his wife on the hospital grounds, demanded that the unfortunate patients at the hospital always be treated with kindness, courtesy and respect — just as one should treat all fellow human beings.

The markers will indicate that each cemetery is registered with the Alabama Historical Commission and will commemorate the years in which people were buried there, most of them under simple, unmarked headstones.

A larger memorial is carved in the shape of a triangle and features a transcription written by a Bryce patient carved into the stone facing Jack Warner Parkway to the south.

Bryce opened in 1861, and its main buildings are among the oldest mental health facilities still in use in the United States. The three-story domed main building was one of the first “moral architecture” projects in the nation and was inspired by the ideas of Dorethea Dix, the great 18th century crusader for the humane care of the mentally ill.

First called the Alabama Hospital for the Insane and later the Alabama Insane Hospital, the facility was renamed for its first superintendent, Peter Bryce, who came to Tuscaloosa as a 27-year-old psychiatric pioneer personally recommended by Dix.

During his long tenure, Bryce, who died in 1892 and is himself buried with his wife on the hospital grounds, demanded that the unfortunate patients at the hospital always be treated with kindness, courtesy and respect — just as one should treat all fellow human beings.

The use of inhumane shackles, straightjackets and other restraints were discouraged and abandoned altogether in 1882, and Bryce got the patients involved in such constructive pursuits as farming and even journalism — between 1872 and the early 1880s patients wrote and edited their newspaper, The Meteor, which provided an unprecedented look inside a mental institution.

Bryce’s enlightened stewardship was recognized around the country as a model to be emulated.

During the 20th century, Bryce suffered a long period of decline. By 1970, it was ranked last in state funding in the country. Later, as the movement to keep mental health patients in their hometowns took hold, the population fell from more than 5,000 patients to only a few hundred today. Now the grounds are about to be sold to the University of Alabama and a new, state-of-the-art facility is planned on the nearby campus of the Partlow Developmental Center.

But the people below those simple grave stones aren’t going anywhere and deserve the recognition they are getting today at the 2 p.m. ceremony at the Bryant-Jemison Chapel on the Bryce campus.

“We want to appropriately honor the lives of those patients whose final resting place has not received the respect they deserve,” commissioner of the Department of Mental Health John Houston said.

Peter Bryce would be proud.


Martin Personeus, Veteran of the 7th Calvalry, died December 24, 1899, Jacksonville State Hospital

The first mental hospital in the state of Illinois, it began as the Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane, established in 1847, opened in 1851. The husband of Elizabeth Packard, founder of the Anti-Insane Asylum Society, had her forcibly committed to the institution in 1860. It was renamed Illinois Central Hospital for the Insane in 1869. It must have been so named when Martin Personeus died there in 1899. Presumably he is buried somewhere on the grounds. In 1910 the institution became Jacksonville State Hospital. Today, after expanding service to include treatment of the developmentally disabled in 1974, and phasing out in-patient treatment of mental illness, it is called The Jacksonville Developmental Center.


Bakke: Scouts find mystery in Carlinville cemetery

By DAVE BAKKE (dave.bakke@sj-r.com)
Posted Apr 13, 2010 @ 11:30 PM
Last update Apr 14, 2010 @ 06:29 AM

It had been nagging at me since Dr. John Lapp, a Carlinville optometrist, called to tell me about the strange grave marker he found in Mayfield Cemetery in Carlinville.

Lapp and some Boy Scouts were putting flags on graves at Mayfield when he saw this particular grave. He wasn’t sure that he believed his own eyes, so he called a few Scouts over. They saw the same thing.

“It’s a woman’s grave,” John said. “And below her name and dates of birth and death, it says ‘Survivor, Custer’s Last Stand.’”

How is that possible? History holds that the sole survivor of the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Big Horn was a horse named Comanche. Disney made a movie about it. An Indian scout named Curly is said to have left Custer’s forces before the battle and can’t technically be called a survivor of the battle. Everyone else was killed.

I asked a few other people what they thought. The only plausible explanation was that the woman buried in Carlinville was a member of the Sioux tribe. But she wasn’t.

She was Mary Personeus. She was born in 1845 in France. She died in 1931 in Carlinville. The exact wording on her gravestone is “Survivor, Gen. Custer’s Massacre.”

The Battle of The Little Big Horn was in 1876. She would have been 31.

I called Josephine Remling, longtime Macoupin County historian. She had never heard of this, even though the county historical society had previously indexed every grave in Mayfield Cemetery. She, like John and like me, was intrigued and baffled.

“Here I am an old lady,” Josephine said, “but I’m almost tempted to be out there walking and looking. I would like to see that stone.”

Josephine referred me to Dorothy Etter. Dorothy and her sister Mary do genealogy work for the historical society. I talked to Dorothy and promptly added one more name to the “intrigued and baffled” list. We started researching independently.

The best thing I discovered was entered in the Congressional Record. Mary had petitioned Congress for a federal pension. The record of the U.S. Senate for May 13, 1890, details that her first husband, William B. Crisfield, was in the Seventh Cavalry and was killed with Custer. (Lists of the dead verify that Crisfield was there.)

But her second husband, Martin Personeus, was also in the Seventh Cavalry and in the same outfit (Company L) as Crisfield. They were married a few months after Custer’s battle.

Military records Dorothy found show that Personeus enlisted in 1861 (he fought at Gettysburg) and joined the Seventh Cavalry in 1866. In 1872, four years before Custer died, Personeus was in South Carolina. He was discharged from the Army in 1877, less than a year after The Battle of Little Big Horn.

By 1886, according to the Congressional Record, Personeus was in the state mental facility in Jacksonville. “Personeus is now incurably insane,” reads the Senate record. Before his mental condition deteriorated too far, however, he had instituted paperwork for a federal pension, claiming his military service caused his decline. He died on Christmas Eve, 1889.

The House and Senate both agreed and voted to award a pension to Mary Personeus and her children, or as the official record has it, “the fruit of said marriage.”

But Dorothy Etter did much better than I did. This is where the story gets very, very intriguing.

Dorothy found Mary’s obituary from the Macoupin County Enquirer of February 1931. Mary was 86 at the time of her death. She had lived in Macoupin County for 47 years dating back to 1884. And then there is this:

“During the Civil War,” says her obituary, “she was a cook for Gen. Custer. Her first husband, William Crisfield, also a member of Gen. Custer’s force, was killed in the Custer massacre. She married a second time, to Martin Personeus, who was also a member of Gen. Custer’s forces but “escaped at the time of the massacre.” The italics are mine.

If Martin Personeus escaped from the Little Big Horn slaughter, we would have a scoop of major historical proportions. But where does that information come from? Historians believe none of Custer’s soldiers survived.

The Web Site littlebighorninfo.com, which is maintained by the Little Bighorn History Alliance, confirms that Personeus served in ill-fated Company L, but says of his role during the battle: “Not present, detached service.” No further explanation is given.

Was Personeus’ mental state perhaps responsible for his claim, if he ever really said it at all?

Quite a few people subsequently claimed to have survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn for one reason or another. There have been books written about some of those people, but their stories are dismissed as either being the beer talking or idle boasting.

As for Mary Personeus, she definitely knew Custer and probably met both of her husbands while cooking for the Seventh Cavalry. Her obituary, however, says only that she served as Custer’s cook in the Civil War, which was 12-15 years before the Little Big Horn. Why she is memorialized on her grave as a survivor of the massacre is unknown.

Members of the family have scattered — there is no Personeus living in Illinois, according to my Internet search. But, as often happens, there is probably a family member living here or elsewhere in the country who might be able to shed some more light on what is an interesting mystery.

If someone surfaces and has some good information, I’ll follow up on the strange case of The Custer Massacre Survivor.

Everybody has a story. The problem is that some of them are boring. If yours is not, contact Dave Bakke at 788-1541 or dave.bakke@sj-r.com. His column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. To read more, visit http://www.sj-r.com/bakke.

Copyright 2010 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved



Bryce honors patients buried in neglected cemeteries

By Wayne Grayson
Staff Writer
Published: Friday, April 16, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 11:12 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | In its nearly 150-year history Bryce Hospital has buried an estimated 5,000 patients in the four cemeteries bordering its campus.

All four cemeteries sit just inside the treeline along Jack Warner Parkway and inside, many of those patients lie beneath ever-shrinking soil, nameless, out of sight and mind.

On Sunday, the Bryce Hospital Historic Preservation Committee along with the Alabama Department of Mental Health will hold an event to honor the lives and memories of those patients whose final resting place has fallen victim to years of neglect and vandalism.

On a tour of the cemeteries Thursday, Department of Mental Health historian Steve Davis paused to consider how the cemeteries came to their current state of disrepair.

“You know a former director of this hospital once told me an analogy for the situation that I’ll never forget. He said, ‘If you were forced to spend your money putting flowers on your grandmother’s grave or feeding your children, what would you do? Well, that’s what I’m going to do is feed these people under my care,’ ” Davis said. “Also a lot of it has to do with the fact that the cemeteries are out of sight and they’re not a part of the main campus. You know, if they were in sight, they may have kept them up a little better.”

During the event, the committee will unveil four markers to be placed at the entrance of each cemetery. The markers will indicate that each cemetery is registered with the Alabama Historical Commission and will detail the years each site was used as a burial ground.

A larger memorial marker will also be unveiled that will sit between two of the cemeteries. The memorial will be carved in the shape of a triangle and will feature a transcription written by a Bryce patient carved on the side of the marker that will face Jack Warner Parkway.

“We want to appropriately honor the lives of those patients whose final resting place has not received the respect they deserve,” commissioner of the Department of Mental Health John Houston said in a prepared statement.

The event will be held at the Bryant-Jemison Chapel directly across from the hospital’s main building and will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Davis, who also serves on the hospital’s preservation committee, said the project was first conceived in 2001, but fell to the wayside.

He said the project was given new life recently and he credited Tom Hobbs, a fellow committee member and the executive director of Western Mental Health Center Inc.

“We’re just trying to make the public aware… that the people that lived here and are buried here are the same as those who lived and were buried elsewhere,” Davis said.

Bryce’s first cemetery, used between 1861 and 1969, sits atop a hill looking down over Jack Warner Parkway. An iron sign bears its name, The Old Bryce Cemetery.

Davis said that the hospital ceased burying white patients at the old cemetery, known as Cemetery 1 to Bryce staff, in 1922 but continued burying black patients there until 1969.

In 1967, the construction of Jack Warner Parkway cut through the middle of Cemetery 1, forcing the hospital to clear out farm land bordering the cemetery and move thousands of graves, Davis said. Since the construction cut the cemetery in two, the land the graves were moved to is considered a separate site known as Cemetery 1-A.

Davis estimates that Cemetery 1 contains about 1,700 patient graves while Cemetery 1-A has between 1,200 and 1,300.

Since Cemetery 1 saw little use after 1922 and Cemetery 1-A was only used for the transfer of graves, both cemeteries became overgrown in areas and were vandalized quite a bit.

“Right now, we’re walking on top of graves,” Davis said while walking through Cemetery 1-A which looks much like a vacant grass lot with a handful of grave markers. “But when I came to work here in 1975, there were many more iron crosses to mark them.”

The iron crosses were clover-shaped and marked with the letters A.I.H. for Alabama Insane Hospital, Bryce’s original name. Davis said most of the crosses have been knocked over and stolen from the cemetery and a few have even turned up on eBay.

Many of the grave markers were damaged when a disgruntled employee entered the cemetery and ran over the graves with a vehicle.

In 1922, the hospital cleared out a new site for a cemetery known as Cemetery 2 which was full by 1954. Cemetery 2 was bordered by a creek that workers simply went around and continued clearing land to create Cemetery 3, which is still in use today.

Cemeteries 2 and 3 are estimated to contain more than 2,000 patient graves. Like Cemeteries 1 and 1-A, many graves are completely unmarked or contain markers with only a burial number. Many of those markers have been displaced by weathering and some of them can faintly be seen beneath a layer of grass and leaves.

Today, the hospital only buries three or four patients a year, Davis said. Typically, they are people who have outlived their siblings, have no children and have no one to claim their body, he said. Their graves are marked with headstones provided by the state, marked with their name and the years they lived.

However, like the three cemeteries before it, Cemetery 3 is nearing its capacity and in the next 10 years, Davis said the hospital will have to decide whether to build a new cemetery or explore other options.

On Sunday, Davis said he hopes that the people laid to rest in these cemeteries will be honored in some way.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here is make people understand that these graves are valuable,” he said.


Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital opened in 1931 to relieve crowding in existing state and psychiatric facilities. Unlike Trenton State and Greystone Park with their imposing central buildings, Marlboro was built on the cottage plan, with smaller, freestanding dormitories and treatment buildings.

The patient cemetery opened in 1931. A 12-foot by 20-foot pavilion lists the names of almost a thousand patients buried in this cemetery between 1931 and 1960.
The pavilion was put in place in 1991, when the hospital celebrated its 60th anniversary. The names of the buried are listed on bronze plaques, so that they can be matched to the numbered graves. In 1997 Monmouth County bought the land on the south side of Route 520 from the State of New Jersey for $4 million, but the cemetery was excluded from this transaction.

Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital closed on June 30, 1998. Its patient records are maintained by Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.

The forgotten: Veteran works to restore Marlboro cemetery

Staff Writer

MARLBORO — Martino Zambetto was No. 1 in 1931. Peter H. Bey was last, No. 924, in 1960.

Grave-markers — some metal and rusting, others stone — simply are numbered. Nearby, bronze plaques sit in a small pavilion, listing the numbers with corresponding names.

In this wealthy suburb sits this potter’s field, containing the remains of patients — and apparently their babies — from now-defunct Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, whose main entrance is across Route 520. The approximately 3-acre cemetery — hidden from Route 520, about 500 feet away, by a rise in the ground — is overrun with Indian grass and burs, and its small pavilion with a broken sundial sits in the middle, dead arbor vitae trees outside it.

All but forgotten? Not to township resident Ron Johnson.

“This is pretty pathetic,” said Johnson, 61, during a recent visit to the cemetery. “It tugs at the heart strings. It’s in such disrepair. We’re not showing respect (for the dead).”

Johnson is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 4374, the Freehold Township post that places 1,650 American flags for Memorial Day on veterans graves in 13 cemeteries. Johnson himself, the post commander, puts flags on about 450 graves in six cemeteries.

“I’ve been doing this since 2004,” said Johnson, speaking of decorating the graves at the potter’s field, where five veterans are listed as resting.

Johnson hopes a community group or volunteer could get the cemetery back in shape.

He talked to a Boy Scout leader awhile back, but nothing materialized. But Johnson added it would be a big task, perhaps too big for somebody such as an Eagle Scout candidate working on a community service project.

Johnson said his VFW, for example, has a “full agenda” already and would not take on cleaning the cemetery.

“I think the state should have some responsibilities,” Johnson said. “Maybe the state needs to take responsibility for this”

That is something the state is doing, according to Pam Ronan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, which ran the hospital and owns the cemetery.

“I think we’ve been concerned for some time,” she said.

Human Services is discussing with the state Department of Corrections having inmates clean the property this spring, Ronan said. Also, it is considering inmates or community groups — or even a private contractor, if there was no other option — to keep up the property, Ronan said.

“We’ll consider all options to keep it maintained,” Ronan said.

After the hospital closed in 1998, inmate workers from Corrections’ Camp Marlboro maintained the cemetery. But the prison-camp closed in March 2004, ending the care-taking.

Then, community organizations picked up the task, Ronan said. But that upkeep was “off and on,” Ronan said.

Beside a general tidying of the property, more maintenance could be done — on the eroded, unpaved road and on the approximately 12-foot by 20-foot pavilion listing the names of the buried on bronze plaques, so they can be matched to graves; some of the arbor vitae trees around the pavilion are dead, along with cleaning and righting the grave-markers.

The heavy-duty maintenance, too, is being looked at, Ronan said.

Until the pavilion was put in place in 1991, when the hospital celebrated its 60th anniversary, all but one of the graves were simply numbered — perhaps because it was a potter’s field or maybe because of a stigma associated with mental illness. One grave has a tombstone, apparently put there by the person’s family.

An idea of listing the names, which also includes the person’s date of death, in the pavilion was to remove the mental illness stigma.

No matter, the cemetery still has a potter’s field air about it — the small markers with the numerals and various John Does and “Baby” listings — presumably babies born to patients.

As for the veterans whose graves are at the cemetery, they are, according to Russ Keimig, supervisor of the Monmouth County Office of Veterans’ Interment and Affairs, Joseph Gotschafer, a veteran of the Spanish-American War; Anthony Gowkowski, August Letis (No. 738, who died in 1954) and Frank A. Rose (No. 624, 1951), all of World War I; and Frederick Sword (No. 798, 1956), whose military background was not immediately known.

“When I have to find a veteran, I come here,” said Johnson, standing at the bronze plaques. “(I) find his name, then find his grave-marker number.”

In decorating each grave, Johnson follows the protocol of Arlington National Cemetery — he places a foot to the grave-marker, then plants the flag at his heel.

“Then, I back up and give it a salute,” said Johnson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War.

Gotschafer and Gowkowski are not listed at the pavilion, so Johnson leaves flags for them there. But the two men not being listed leaves open a question unanswered — are there unknown graves there?

Or does the veterans’ office have incorrect listings? Keimig inherited the records when he took over the veterans’ office about five years ago.

“I don’t know where they (the names of Gotschafer and Gowkowski) originated,” Keimig said.

As time went on, the cemetery was no longer used, with patients in need of burial being placed in outside cemeteries.

On this recent day, Johnson picked up a beer bottle littering the pavilion area, perhaps suggesting the cemetery might be a partying spot for young people.

“I don’t know if anyone else comes up here,” said Johnson, a retired manager from the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.

But Brian Thompson, 41, who works next door at the cemetery of St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, said the hospital cemetery gets occasional visitors.

“About every three weeks or so, you see a couple of cars in there,” Thompson said. “People ask where the Marlboro (Psychiatric Hospital) patients are.”

The hospital cemetery has no sign and its access road is unmarked.

“You wouldn’t even know the road is there,” said Thompson, who has known of the cemetery for two decades because he worked at the hospital in the 1980s.

The weather on a recent day — overcast and chilly — seemed to fit a cemetery for the downtrodden with no place to go.

“That bothers me a lot; these people were just forgotten,” Johnson said.

But he had some hopes the state would come through.

“We’re actually getting a response,” Johnson said. “We might have that place taken care of. That was the intent.

The following quote is inscribed on the pavilion:


If the state of old asylums/hospitals is in decay, their cemeteries can’t be in much better condition. Here’s a book review of a book dealing with that disappearing history, and all the more reason to restore an old asylum/hospital cemetery before it has vanished from the record entirely.


Review – Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

by Christopher Payne
MIT Press, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Apr 13th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 15)

The history of the large state mental hospitals is fast disappearing. The buildings are crumbling, records are decaying, and those who lived and worked in them at their height in the 1940s to the 1960s are now getting to the end of their lives. I recently when on a tour of Kings Park Psychiatric Center, which used to be a huge complex of buildings for mental patients mainly from Brooklyn, and it was striking that the guide didn’t know what many of the buildings had been used for, because there was no detailed history, and different people had different memories. It was also striking that for hospitals with a long history, buildings got used for different purposes at different times. Sometimes local historical societies keep records and even publish books, such as Leo Polaski’s excellent volume The Farm Colonies about Long Island mental hospitals, (possibly still available through the Kings Park Heritage Museum), but it can be difficult to find out about such books. Often it is illegal to enter the buildings themselves because they are dangerous, and the people who do enter and take photos may have questionable motives. For example, the Opacity website has many pictures of old New England asylums and the Opacity Forum has discussion and photographs by many other people who break rules to take pictures of old abandoned buildings. From there, you can find links to other sites, such as the hospital section of Urban Travel which has pictures of hospitals from many different countries. These sites have many wonderful pictures, but still one wonders to what extent the photographers want to record this history of an era and to what extent they just want to play on themes of decay and madness. For example, in a thread on pictures from the Hudson River State Hospital at Opacity, there is praise for a picture of a turkey vulture standing on the ruins, and it is a dramatic picture, yet it also seems gratuitously morbid. There’s little money available to keep a record of, let alone preserve, these old hospitals, and so there’s an argument for being grateful to those who are willing to do it for free, even if they break rules and may be doing it because they like spooky old buildings.

That’s the context in which I look at Christopher Payne’s Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals. It is a collection of photographs taken in the last few years of the outsides and insides of old buildings. There is a very useful five page essay by Payne about the history of mental hospitals in the USA that will be essential reading for anyone who knows nothing about that history. Still, looking through these pictures of hospitals from all over the country, I still wish for much more contextualizing. Seeing all these large buildings and decaying rooms and hallways is interesting in itself, but it would mean much more if there was more information about what you were looking at. The only information we are given is in the titles, which are of the form “Christmas decoration, Traverse City State Hospital, Traverse City, Michigan,” or “Typical ward, Fergus Falls State Hospital, Fergus Falls, Minnesota.” It would be difficult to give the history of all the different places in one book, but it would be a feasible project for a website similar to that for The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. Maybe someone will be inspired by Payne’s book to suggest a collaboration with him.

Nevertheless, Asylum has many powerful images that carry meaning even with only a little knowledge of what happened at these hospitals. Payne does not shy away from aesthetics: these images are created to be dramatic. Some are in black and white, apparently to emphasize the gothic nature of some buildings or to highlight the drab institutional feel of the places. The color pictures are warmer, although Payne balances that with some desolate elements. For example, in his picture of Matteawan State Hospital, in Beacon, New York, he foregrounds the razor wire around the fence that is there because the place has been converted to Fishkill Correctional Facility. Payne also finds beauty or some elements to make his pictures interesting: his picture of the doctor’s village at Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island shows some rather dull red brick houses surrounded by overgrown weeds, but he places a tree in the foreground with branches reaching from left to right across the image, giving it some energy.

For the insides of buildings, he uses natural light. The lobby of the Mead Building of Yankton State Hospital in South Dakota would be impressive enough with its marble staircase, but with the sunlight coming in from a window, reflecting off a pool of water on the floor, and illuminating the debris of fallen wall plaster on the stairs and floor, we get a strong sense of how the place has lost so much of its former glory. The images near the end of the book showing artwork, theatres, sports grounds, a bowling lane, a gym, a barbershop, beauty salons, and even a TV studio have their own power, bringing to life the extent to which these hospitals were a world of their own for the patients. The pictures of straightjackets, a morgue, coffins, crematorium urns, and graveyards carry their own obvious heavy significance. The book ends with an Afterword by Payne in which he describes the genesis of his project and some of his own feelings about it, and because of its personal nature, this is the most powerful part of the work.

Asylum is a much less theoretical book than Carla Yanni’s The Architecture of Madness and is contemporary, as opposed to the historical record in America’s Care of the Mentally Ill by William Baxter and David Hathcox. The pictures here are more carefully composed, and are taken under rather different circumstances, than those on Opacity; while I am reluctant to say that Payne’s are much better than those of the more amateur photographers, they provide a different sort of record of these hospitals. This is a valuable collection which should be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in the USA.

Link: Christopher Payne website

It looks like mental hospital cemetery restoration may be reaching as far south as Australia soon. Here’s a news story on the matter from the land down under.


Gladesville’s forgotten – in life and death

March 11, 2010

IN THE north-eastern corner of the Gladesville Hospital grounds, a former mental asylum once notorious for its crowded conditions and neglected inmates, is a nondescript plot where the corpses of more than 1000 former psychiatric patients lie.

Despite a community campaign, the Health Department has refused to erect a memorial for the anonymous patients buried there in unmarked graves over 50 years from the hospital’s creation in 1838.

Inquiries by the Herald have unearthed a register of the burials, held in the archives of the Health Department. It shows the bones of 1228 inmates are buried there with no headstones or markings. The names, dates of admission and dates of death of 923 patients are listed in the register but the identities of those in the first 305 graves are lost, if they were ever recorded.

”It is a dignity issue,” says Tony Humphrey, president of Service Users North Shore and Ryde, a mental health consumer group that advises the Health Department. ”I think the people who have been through Gladesville Hospital need to be recognised in some way, not just forgotten.”

Mr Humphrey has established a committee to draft a proposal for a memorial, but initial signs are that the Health Department, which owns the land, is unreceptive to the idea.

Use of the site is being reviewed by the department, and a master plan is to be made public next year. The official in charge of the plan has told a committee member the memorial proposal will not be considered in the master plan. ”The master plan will not be completed until end of 2011. Once it has been [completed] we will [contact] you to [discuss] the proposal,” the official wrote in an email obtained by the Herald.

The hospital was in effect decommissioned in 1997 when all in-patient services were transferred to Macquarie Hospital, North Ryde.

Its early days were marred by scandal, with observers noting squalid overcrowding and the forceful ”breaking-in” of patients. The stigma of mental illness was such that most families did not claim the bodies of relatives who died in care.

”Putting people into unmarked graves and drowning them out of history is one way of dismissing them and allowing this stigmatisation to continue,” Mr Humphrey says.

In the US campaigners are raising funds for a national memorial to psychiatric patients buried anonymously on the grounds of asylums. The memorial is being built at St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington. Kathryn Power, the director of the centre for mental health services for the US Department of Health, told The Washington Post the memorial ”sanctifies and makes holy the grounds where people were forgotten and buried away silently”.

A Department of Health spokesman said a memorial was ”being considered” at Gladesville.



Eleven Who Care winner: Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center Auxiliary

By Jeff Olsen
Updated: 2 days ago
Posted to L.F.: 03/07/10

ANOKA — Each month, KARE 11 recognizes outstanding volunteers in our community as part of the 11 Who Care program. This month’s honoree is the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center’s Auxiliary, a small group of former employees and community volunteers who have worked for more than 25 years to make life better for people at the treatment center.

Patients past

Beneath a blanket of bright, white snow lies a century-old Anoka cemetery.

“There are 400 gravesites that are people who had been living at the old state hospital,” Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center Auxiliary President Karen Siewert said. “They were buried there from 1899 to 1965. That is when they stopped (burying them there).”

The 400 gravesites were marked for decades only by numbers. Today they have memorials with each patient’s name, birth and death date. The additional grave stones are thanks, in part, to the work of the Auxiliary. The group worked with the state of Minnesota, an organization called Remembering with Dignity and other concerned citizens to get a personal marker for each patient and an improved cemetery for all.

“We were just so happy that we could do this for the people. Everyone deserves a name and a marker on their grave,” Siewert said.

Patients present

The focus of the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center Auxiliary is always on the patients.

“They thank us constantly for doing this,” Dick Guimont said of the snack bar and general store that the Auxiliary runs at the treatment center.

On this day, Guimont, his sister Shirley Lynch and Audrey Douglas are serving up their popular hot dog lunches at the snack bar. Next door, at the general store, Ruby Wilson and Karen Siewert are stocking supplies.

“We have everything from soup to nuts,” Siewert said smiling.

Offering everything from music to munchies, the volunteers hope to create a more comfortable stay for treatment center patients.

“Everybody enjoys coming here. It gives them a break from being on their unit,” Douglas said.

“You get down here and you see how you’ve made somebody’s day just because they can buy a candy bar or just because we have a pair of socks that will fit them,” Wilson said smiling. “It’s just, just a delight in itself to see the patient’s response to what we do.”

They see the response in their eyes and the Auxiliary members say they read about it in homemade thank you cards.

“Thank you for all you do,” Siewert said while reading from a hand-written card.

The Auxiliary has used the funds from the snack bar and general store to buy a variety of things for the patients, including a Wii gaming system, a ping pong table and prizes for bingo nights. Siewert says the group is using the money they get from the 11 Who Care award to bring in new equipment to the facility’s fitness center. “And it’s nice to see them as they recover in their illness. It’s a pleasure.”

“Whatever we do here and whatever we make, we give back to the patients. It’s a good thing. A good volunteer project,” Lynch said.

It’s a good volunteer project that remembers patients past, helps patients present and also looks to the future. The group also has been put in charge of a fund aimed at helping other organizations that serve people with mental illness. The Rose Fund Committee now distributes thousands of dollars annually in grant money to non-profit organizations serving the mentally ill.

“It was like something that you never thought would happen. There it was. And they had their markers and they had their names,” Siewert said while looking over the snow-covered cemetery.

The once anonymous patients now have their names and their dignity. It’s a gift from an Auxiliary that cares.

“It was done with such love,” Siewert concluded.

Welcoming you

The Auxiliary says it would love to welcome new members. For more information about becoming involved call the general store at 651-431-5127.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)



Officials believe there may be an unmarked graveyard behind the former Brown County Mental Health Center

By Patti Zarling • pzarling@greenbaypressgazette.com • February 2, 2010

Buried near the pockets of trees along the gentle slope behind the former Brown County Mental Health Center likely are the remains of residents who died decades ago.

The deceased, lying in unmarked graves, probably were patients at the old Brown County Insane Asylum, built in the 1880s and eventually replaced by the mental health center. Or they were among the county’s poorest of the poor, who lived out their final days in the nearby Brown County poor farm, maybe working at the apple orchard and farm to provide food for the asylum residents.

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin researched the area about two decades ago, when work was done on Wisconsin 54/57, according to county officials. At the time, the goal was to make sure no graves were located in the right-of-way.

The study concluded people were buried in the acreage behind the former mental health center, 2900 St. Anthony Drive, on Green Bay’s far northeast side.

The new Brown County Community Treatment Center opened last year, and the old mental health center is empty. County officials hope to find a developer willing to renovate the old place or perhaps to tear it down and build new.

But before that happens, they want to identify the old cemetery and add markers to honor those buried there.

“The real goal is to show our respects and to honor the deceased,” county Planning Director Chuck Lamine said. “Maybe we’d create some kind of a park area.”

The county is in the early stages of gathering information.

Local historian Mary Jane Herber said the location makes sense for an old cemetery.

Another old cemetery, or “potters field,” sits near the new treatment center, sandwiched between Curry Lane and Wisconsin 54/57. Records show 296 people were buried there between 1926 and 1973.

Most of those buried at that site likely came from the Brown County Hospital, the mental health center or the poor farm.

But because the poor farm was built around 1858, with the county asylum going up around 1881, the county needed a place to bury the dead before the potters field cemetery was opened.

“Obviously there was a cemetery before that,” Herber said.

Those buried in the cemetery behind the mental health center likely were patients of the then asylum or residents of the poor farm, she said.

Officials should be able to locate the graves behind the mental health center, she said. Because graves built decades ago settle, indentations form in the ground, Herber said.

But identifying the buried would be a challenge. Records about patients were sealed for privacy reasons, she said.

The boundaries of the site behind the mental health center were determined through on-site interviews with two center employees, according to a Historical Society letter dated May 17, 1991.

One employee, a farm worker for the center since 1958, said he had experienced the farm tractor sinking into depressions at an old manure pile. At the time, the depressions were recognized as individual graves and were backfilled, according to the Historical Society letter. He was able to identify the area of the old manure pile.

He and a former county management services director also said they remembered a conversation with a former patient who “had been involved with the preparation of the rough wood boxes and the interments,” according to the letter from the Highway Archaeological Program of the State Historical Society. The patient had described the old cemetery as located on the hillside near the old manure pile.

According to the letter, a housekeeper for the mental health center also said she had heard bones were discovered when a path was built across the hillside in the late 1980s. She said a backhoe uncovered “several large fragments of bone,” which at the time were assumed to be from animals raised on the county farm.

A subsurface investigation in the area unearthed several bone and wood fragments. Probes were placed at one-foot intervals and were used to detect hollow spaces, which often indicate the actual coffin enclosure, the letter said.

Both Herber and county officials want the area to be preserved.

“Respect of the deceased is always important,” Herber said. “If we don’t respect the dead, who will respect us — whether it’s 50 years from now or 500 years?”




Dozens gather at cemetery

By LAUREN VOKISH lvokish@timesobserver.com

POSTED: September 27, 2008

“In the faces of men and women; I see God.”

These words written by Walt Whitman more than 100 years ago, still stand true today.

Dr. Ray Feroz, president of the Warren State Hospital, quoted Whitman at the rededication ceremony of the WSH Cemetery Friday morning.

“These words that Whitman wrote express the feeling of what this cemetery means not only to the WSH, but to those in the community whose loved ones have been identified,” said Feroz. “Everyone is valuable, everyone has importance no matter if they are in a mental illness facility or a veteran. These people along with everyone here were made in the image and likeness of God and should have the respect given back to them.”

Feroz said that these men and woman who are buried on the cemetery grounds were buried “lived at the hospital, died there and now are buried here. Most of them, only buried by a number.”

“We want to give them a name and recognize them as part of our community,” said Feroz.

The WSH Cemetery has gone through a complete transformation in the past two years.

“It was actually two years and six days ago today that the initiative for the project was started,” said Chief Executive Officer David Kucherawy of WSH. “It was then we noticed that the grounds were in disarray as well as the fact that documentation was scarce on those that were buried here. Since that day we have dedicated our efforts in restoring it to a place where we can provide the dignity and respect for those laid to rest while under our care.”

It took hundreds of hours and volunteers which included WSH staff, Warren Genealogy Society, Adult Probation inmates, community members and Eagle Scout candidate Nathan Greenawalt to get the entire project completed.

There are 952 buried individuals in the ground, of which all markers were found and documented, “to the best of our knowledge” and are now replaced with new headstones.

“We also wanted to provide new landscaping, installed a new fence, planted new trees on the grounds and created a new sign,” said Kucherawy. “What you see today is the result of many long hours in front of microfilm, old documents and contacting families in and out of state from many volunteers.”

The veterans that were buried on the grounds between the years 1931-1999 are marked with flags, a veteran marker stating their military service and yellow chrysanthemums.

“This restoration project for the cemetery is a long time overdue,” said Kucherawy. “I am very proud of what our maintenance crew has done as well as all the other dedicated individuals that made this dream a reality.”



Silent Witnesses

Rededication set for WSH cemetery

By CHUCK HAYES chayes@timesobserver.com

POSTED: September 17, 2008

There will be 954 silent witnesses.

A rededication ceremony has been scheduled for the 127-year-old Warren State Hospital cemetery which state hospital employees and volunteers have been restoring during the past two years.

The cemetery, with 954 gravesites, is located along the north side of Jackson Run Rd. in North Warren, on a hillside near the state hospital and what is now Lowe’s at the Warren Commons.

The cemetery was overgrown and virtually forgotten until September 2006 when the state hospital established a Cemetery Restoration Committee.

Committee members did a substantial amount of research of state hospital archives to locate and identify each of the gravesites, most of which only had obscured numbered ground-level markers and no names or dates.

Fewer than a dozen of the graves had an appropriate headstone.

Records indicate the first burial at the cemetery took place in 1881.

David Kucherawy, CEO at the hospital, said that in addition to the state hospital employees, approximately 50 volunteers from the public and an Eagle Scout were involved in the restoration project.

Kucherawy said that the hospital also worked with the Warren County Jail and probation department to enlist the help of persons fulfilling community service requirements.

Although the volunteers wanted to restore the cemetery to as close to its original appearance as possible, Kucherawy said that no photographs of the original cemetery could be located.

The volunteers reconstructed pathways, the entrance to the cemetery and landscaping.

A rededication ceremony, which is open the public, will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 26.

Due to limited parking at the cemetery, shuttle service will be available from the Lowe’s parking lot, beginning at 9:45 a.m.

Nameplates are still being engraved, but by the time of the rededication ceremony, said Kucherawy, each of the gravesites will have a headstone with namesplates, which will include the dates of birth and death.

Funding for the headstones and nameplates came from donations from volunteers and the public and the hospital’s operating fund.



Tomb of the Unknown Mental Patients

“This memorial is located at:
Alexander Memorial Park
Mausoleums & Crematory
2200 Mesker Park Drive
Evansville, Indiana

These unmarked graves were discovered during road construction
on the North side of the Evansville State Hospital property in the 1980’s”:







Library of Dust

The urns in an abandoned hospital ward are anonymous, but the ashes shout out in bursts of dazzling color

November / December 2006
Julie Hanus Utne Reader

The hospital is decaying. Crumbled plaster rests as rubble on linoleum floors that have burst at the seams, succumbing to the pressure of a buckling foundation. Yielding paint sloughs from the walls. Evidence of patients once treated here lies scattered-a deck of cards, a sodden book, a rusted razor blade. It seems impossible that the heart of this institution still functions, that somewhere at the end of a long corridor doctors and nurses still practice medicine. In these deserted wings, part of the Oregon State Insane Asylum as it stood in 1883, the only hint of life is a collection of crude copper urns that house the cremated remains of those who died here-thousands of patients treated over a century’s time-stacked three deep on plain wooden shelves.

When photographer and visual artist David Maisel, best known for documenting human impact on natural landscapes (‘Aerial Dreams,’ May/June), first learned of the cremains 20 months ago, he sensed that they would be the centerpiece of his next project. ‘I’ve spent many years obsessively photographing copper mines . . . so there’s something about copper that I gravitate toward,’ he says. ‘But I didn’t have any sense of what these canisters would really look like.’ Compelled, Maisel wrote a letter explaining his work to the institution, located in Salem and now known as the Oregon State Hospital. To his surprise, permission to see the remains was granted.

Abandoned or forgotten by relatives, the canisters house the unclaimed remains of patients treated between 1883 and the 1970s. Left to an institution not well equipped to provide long-term storage, the remains accumulated in a basement room until 1976, when they were interred in an underground vault where moisture went to work on the copper cans, destroying precious labels. A few years ago, upon discovering the damage, the cash-strapped hospital transferred the remains into a storage room in a shut-down wing. In 2005 a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning editorials published by the Portland-based Oregonian drew attention to the struggling hospital, Oregon’s primary public psychiatric institution, and made the displaced remains a symbol of state neglect and pejorative public attitudes toward mental health throughout history.

Maisel saw more than decay or mistreatment. Left to languish over time, the copper cans and their contents have literally erupted with color: marine blues, steely crimsons, salted grays and whites. Mineral crusts and burnished colors bleed gorgeously from the welded seams. ‘I’m not a believer,’ Maisel says soberly. ‘But they have a kind of continuity . . . a sense that the individual is somehow continuing, even if it’s in an inorganic state.’ During Maisel’s first visit to the hospital, as he considered the canisters’ inhabitants, a young man on a cleanup crew sent in from a local penitentiary paused for a moment at the door and peered inside.

‘The library of dust,’ he whispered.

Maisel has since arranged three more trips to the hospital, each time spending several days photographing the canisters in natural light to avoid augmenting or altering the images. He is a careful archivist, cataloging the photos with respect to the numbers stamped into the lids (ranging from 01 to 5,118). The reverence with which he approaches the project has fostered a positive relationship with the hospital, which has mobilized on the heels of the Oregonian coverage to acknowledge its imperfect past as part of crafting a better future. The state is moving along with plans for a new facility, and the hospital has invited citizens to share ideas for a proper memorial for the remains.

In an essay about the project posted on his website, the artist articulates one vision of the library as a ‘microcosm of the hospital itself’: each canister assigned to a numbered shelf, analogous to indistinguishable rooms in partitioned wards-an emblem of the institutionalization of identity, in which names become numbers and personal details slip away. The canisters, however, seem to resist this loss, each eruption of color and crust suggesting an individual identity that’s both ethereal and organic.


Von Lintel Gallery to Show “Library of Dust: Photographs by David Maisel”

NEW YORK, NY.- In its first solo exhibition in New York City, David Maisel’s “Library of Dust” will be on view at Von Lintel Gallery (520 West 23rd Street) from January 21 through February 27, 2010. The photographs in this acclaimed series depict strangely beautiful copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of an individual patient from an Oregon psychiatric hospital. The canisters are blooming with colorful secondary minerals as the copper has oxidized and undergone physical and chemical transformations. Each pattern of corrosion is unique, some resembling otherworldly landscapes that recall Maisel’s renowned aerial photography. Sublimely beautiful yet haunting, these enigmatic photographs can be seen as meditations on issues of matter and spirit.

In “Library of Dust”, Maisel investigates a zone bordered by ethics and aesthetics. The existence of some 3500 canisters of cremains was revealed by the Oregon State Hospital in Salem in 2005. Within the canisters were the remains of the patients who died at the hospital between 1883 – the year the facility opened, when it was called the Oregon State Insane Asylum – and the 1970s. Although the existence of the unclaimed canisters was not divulged for more than a century, they have continued to have a life of their own. “Library of Dust” offers a kind of resurrection of these individuals by giving them visual form once again. The hospital (also the site of the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) is now being rebuilt with funds that were allocated after the Library of Dust project brought the existence of the canisters to a wider audience.

‘Library of Dust’ (Chronicle Books), the monograph that accompanies the exhibition, features essays by Maisel, Geoff Manaugh, Michael Roth, and Terry Toedtemeier. The New York Times called the book “a fevered meditation on memory and loss.” In 2009, the New York Institute for the Humanities organized a symposium inspired by this remarkable photographic excavation of a warehouse of ashes otherwise lost to time.

David Maisel (b. New York, NY, 1961) is a photographer and multimedia artist based in the San Francisco area. He is the recipient of a 2007 Scholar/Artist Residency from the Getty Research Institute and a 2008 Artist Residency from the Headlands Center for the Arts. Maisel has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Opsis Foundation, and was a finalist in 2008 for both the Alpert Award in the Visual Arts and the Prix Pictet in Photography.

His work is represented in major public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Maisel’s photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, and Asia. His first book, The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press), was selected as one of the Top 25 Photography Books of 2004 by the critic Vince Aletti.

Nazraeli also published Maisel’s book ‘Oblivion’, (2006), and ‘Cascade Effect’, (2008).

More about David Maisel: www.davidmaisel.com


Asylum cemetery: Researchers tell their story

Posted: Nov. 24, 2009

Researchers Margaret Berres and Tom Ludka wrote three short articles laying out some of their findings in research into the Melms family and the cemetery on the Milwaukee County Grounds where they believe Albert Melms is buried. Here they are.

Albert Melms, Civil War Veteran and musician

Margaret Berres and Thomas Ludka, 2009

Albert Melms, born in Germany in 1829, was the youngest of four Melms brothers who were a once-prestigious family in Milwaukee. Albert is first found in Milwaukee’s City Directory in 1854. To earn a living, he worked as a clerk for his brother, C.T. Melms who owned the first large-producing brewery in Milwaukee. A short time later, Albert relocated to Chicago. During the period of 1855 to 1861, Albert performed professionally in chamber concerts. The ensemble was comprised of two pianists, a violinist, and Albert as cellist. Most likely he also performed in the great Sangerfests in Chicago and Milwaukee—the Summerfest of its day.

Then, in April 1861, the Civil War erupted. The state of Illinois answered the call by asking for volunteers to step forward in defense of the Union. Albert rallied to the call of his adopted country with the talent he possessed by enlisting in Illinois’s 24th Infantry Regimental band. As a musician 3rd Class, he was paid $17.00 monthly. With the 24th IL, he traveled to Missouri, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The duties of a regimental band included performing in concerts, parades, reviews, and other ceremonies for encamped troops. Although usually comprised of brass instruments and drums, regimental bands are also known to include woodwinds and stringed instruments such as violins and cellos. At one point, the War Department was spending $4 million on 618 bands. This equated to a ratio of one musician for every 41 soldiers. Due to the cost involved, individual army commanders took steps to reduce the size of the bands in an effort to save money. Eventually, Congress would abolish regimental bands altogether; allowing some musicians to serve at the Brigade level. The remaining musicians were mustered out. At least 13 of the original band members of the 24th Illinois, including Albert Melms, were mustered out of service on December 14, 1861.

Albert returned to Milwaukee, taking a position as a bookkeeper for his brother, William, the proprietor of the Badger Iron Works. Apparently, Albert traveled between Milwaukee and Chicago before settling permanently in Milwaukee about 1866. He attempted various careers, including insurance agent for New York Life Insurance Company. Before 1870, he resumed his vocation as a musician and taught music for approximately 19 years in Milwaukee. In addition, he was a renowned classical cellist performing in the city. The Milwaukee Daily Sentinel of February 5, 1870, reports the story of Albert’s sad accident. While walking home after giving a concert, he slipped and fell on the icy Market Square. In the mishap, he fractured his arm badly and damaged his cello beyond repair. However, by June his Chicago friends gifted him with a fine Stradivarius cello. During his recovery and after, Albert lived in Milwaukee’s downtown area. Eventually, he returned to selling insurance with his brother, Leopold, in 1889. It is worthy to note that his influence inspired two nieces, Hertha and Johanna, to become music teachers in Milwaukee.

In 1890, mental health problems forced Albert into residency at the Milwaukee Hospital for the Insane on the County grounds. Reports describe Albert as a melancholy patient. As a Civil War veteran, Albert received a government pension of $12.00 monthly. By 1895, it was readily apparent that Albert could no longer manage his personal affairs. His brother, Leopold with whom he sold insurance earlier, petitioned the courts and was appointed Albert’s guardian in 1896. Albert continued to reside at the Hospital for the Insane until his death due to heart failure on November 13, 1901. He was 72 years old. With no family able to provide him with a proper resting place, Albert was buried at the Hospital’s Cemetery on the County grounds. Today this veteran lies in an unmarked grave among 200 other forgotten souls.


A cemetery for Milwaukee Hospital for the Insane
Margaret Berres and Thomas Ludka, 2007/2008


Our interest began in 2007 while researching Civil War veteran, Albert Melms. After viewing Albert’s death record, we saw that he died at the Milwaukee Hospital for the Insane (formerly known as the Milwaukee Insane Asylum) and was buried in the institution’s cemetery. The Asylum/Hospital stood on the approximate site of the Ronald McDonald House on Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa. In an effort to determine the location for the veteran’s headstone, we investigated the Poor Farm burial book. Albert’s name did not appear on its pages. This mystery lead us back to the Milwaukee County death records where a pattern emerged in the deaths at the Hospital for the Insane. Clearly, there was a difference between burial locations named “County Poor Farm” and “Asylum Plat” or “Hospital Plat.” None of the individuals buried in the “Hospital Plat” were included in the Poor Farm burial book. This is how we discovered that the Asylum/Hospital for the Insane had its own cemetery, separate from the County Poor Farm.

Discussions and further research revealed that the original ledger for the Asylum/Hospital cemetery no longer existed. With assistance from the Milwaukee County Historical Society, we were made aware of a discovery in 2000 of an additional cemetery on the county grounds while MMSD was excavating for retention ponds. They uncovered a burial ground unaware that it was related to the Asylum/Hospital. Professionals from UWM’s anthropology department explored and surveyed the perimeters of the abandoned site. The State designated the site as 47-BMI-174. At that time, UWM was also unaware of the cemetery’s relationship to the Asylum.

Upon our 2007 discovery, we contacted the professors who conducted the 2000 project. They took us to view the unmarked cemetery. When the site was surveyed in 2000, several metal markers were found. The markers documented only a numerical designation of the graves. It was disappointing that the metal markers noted in 2000 could no longer be found. Luckily, UWM had used GPS to map the existing burials (approximately 200) and where the markers had been.

Since it was our intention to provide Albert Melms with a veteran’s headstone for his service to the Union, we endeavored to determine his actual burial location using the GPS information from UWM. With the original ledger missing, the only way to name and sequence the burials was to check every Milwaukee County death record beginning with March 1880 and going forward. The last recorded internment was in November 1914. We verified another 10,000 after that and found no more burials attributed to the Asylum/Hospital Cemetery. Our search took us through volume 383 of the Milwaukee County Death Records (July 1916).

The data documents 125 individuals by name, age and gender buried in the Asylum/Hospital Cemetery from1880-1914. Sadly, the exact resting place of Albert could not be positively identified since no primary source was available to verify the exact locations of burials.

The Milwaukee County Insane Asylum (MIA) opened its doors on March 26, 1880. It was constructed and organized in accordance with an 1878 State Law. Included within the grounds of the institution was a cemetery for the purpose of burying deceased patients who were not claimed by their families or whose families could not afford a burial. State law required that the cemetery be located at least 200 rods from an institution treating the insane. This cemetery is separate from the Milwaukee County Poor Farm cemetery. Persons buried in 47-BMI-174 are not recorded in the Poor Farm burial ledger.

Less than two months after MIA took its first patients, the death record of Alexander Stephan, a 32-year-old sailor, indicated that he died at the Milwaukee Insane Asylum and was buried in the Asylum Cemetery. From May 1880 to November 1914, the death records of 125 individuals who died at this institution have the institution’s cemetery listed as their location of burial. This count, however, is not complete. Our investigation of all death records during this 34-year period raises questions about the total number of people possibly buried in the Asylum (Hospital) Cemetery. We find that there are occasions where the burial location on the death record has been left blank. This practice appears to follow a pattern that coincides with the superintendents responsible for the institution.

Between March 1880 and November 1914, a succession of four superintendents had the duty to oversee the Milwaukee Asylum for the Insane/Milwaukee Hospital for the Insane. Their administrations are as follows:

1. Superintendent James H. McBride, M.D. 1 burial (signed by assistant, Dr. Dodge)
March 26, 1880 to August 1, 1884

2. Superintendent F.B. Scribner, M.D. 7 burials
August 1, 1884 to November 1, 1885

3. Superintendent A.J. Hare. M.D. 0 burials
November 1, 1885 to June 1, 1888

4. Superintendent Moses J. White, M.D. 117 burials
June 1, 1888 through November 1914

We find a pattern of gaps in our burial list that correspond, roughly, with the administrations of Dr. McBride and Dr. Hare. It should be noted that the last 51 records found were after November 1914. All were signed by Dr. A.H. Young and none were buried on County grounds.


C.T. Melms, Milwaukee’s First Beer Baron
Outline of His Life in Milwaukee

Margaret Berres and Thomas Ludka, 2009

  • Born August 18, 1819 in Prussia. Most often his name is recorded as Charles Theodore Frederick Melms. It is possible his first name at birth was “Carl.” We’ve seen C.T. sign his name both ways.
  • May 1843. Immigrated to Milwaukee, WI; first landing in the port of New York.
  • July 1848. Marries Maria Neukirch and partners with Maria’s father, Franz Neukirch to run the Menomonee Brewery.
  • February 1855. Becomes a U.S. citizen.
  • 1857/58. Appointed Fire Warden of the 8th Ward.
  • 1859. In addition to running the brewery, C.T. is the owner of a saloon with G. Siebolt at 223 E. Water St. (later 205 E. Water St.) in the 3rd Ward.
  • 1860. According to the Wisconsin Census, Melms is considered to be Milwaukee’s number one beer producer; followed by Valentin Blatz and then Phillip Best.
  • 1861. First brewer to be elected to Milwaukee’s Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1862. Appointed to a committee of United States brewers to draft amendments to reduce taxes on beer sold as well as reduce license tax on brewers.
  • 1864. Has a mansion built on the brewery grounds in front of the Menomonee Beer Garden.
  • 1865. Opens the Melms and Ehlers saloon (later upgraded to Beer Hall) in the Ludington Block Building. The building was located on the northwest corner of E. Water and Wisconsin in the 7th Ward. By May 1867, The Milwaukee Sentinel carried the story of the Grand Opening of Melms and Ehlers “…elegant beer hall.” A free lunch and “choice buck beer” was served. An 1867 advertisement for the beer hall adds that the proprietors were also importers of wine, champagne, liquors, and Havana cigars.
  • 1865. Contributes $100 to the Soldiers Home Fair. This event raised monies used to build a permanent Soldiers Home in Wisconsin (now the VA grounds).
  • February 19, 1869. C.T. dies at his home, apparently due to tetanus complications. He was buried with an impressive Masonic ceremony. His property was appraised at $174,273 and land at a little over $2,000. C.T. Melms was 49 years old, leaving a widow and seven children: Franz (Frank) age 19; Carl age 18; Johanna age 15; Elise age 12; Richard age 10; Gustav age 7 and Hertha age 4 years.

C.T.’s son Frank Melms became an Arctic explorer and served on the Schwatka Expedition (1878-1880). Their mission was to discover relics of the lost Franklin Expedition (1845-47). One important artifact the team found was the “Resolute”, a ship from a previous, failed search party. Wood from the rescued ship was made into a magnificent desk by order of Queen Victoria and given as a gift to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.

The Schwatka Expedition was considered quite successful and celebrated. Life-sized wax figures of the expedition members, including Frank Melms, were produced for exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Frank died in Milwaukee in 1916 and is buried next to his mother, Maria, in the C.T. Melms plot at Forest Home Cemetery.


At Dix grave, a Confederate soldier’s story is unearthed

BY Michael Biesecker

Posted: Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

RALEIGH The Confederate private’s grave lay in the old cemetery at Dorothea Dix Hospital, anonymous and forgotten for more than a century.

But in a queer twist of history, Aristarchus Lee Jenkins’ service to the Southern cause is now honored with a brilliant white marble headstone bought by his former enemy, the U.S. government.

A foot soldier in the North Carolina Infantry, Jenkins survived some of the most horrific battles of the Civil War. He was twice wounded by Yankee lead and was likely present for the death of his older brother, a soldier in the same unit.

Not long after the guns fell silent, Jenkins was admitted to the state asylum suffering from “mania.” He lived there until his death in 1891, according to the few hospital records still available.

Like hundreds of other patients shunned by their families even in death, the Granville County native was buried in a plot in the Dix cemetery marked with only his hospital case number, 821.

“Aristarchus laid his life on the line to defend his homeland,” said Gracie Jenkins, a great-great-niece and amateur genealogist who uncovered the soldier’s story. “I didn’t think he should be forgotten about. His life, what he went through, was so hard.”

The first body was buried in the asylum cemetery in 1859, about three years after the hospital opened. It is perhaps representative of society’s view of the value of those buried there that by the time the last grave was dug in 1970, the cemetery was abutted on two sides by a City of Raleigh landfill.

“Those were times people just went to Dix and a lot of them were never heard from again,” said Burley Mitchell, a former chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court who has worked to honor those buried on the hospital grounds. “They lived and died there, and were buried as paupers.”

There are thought to be more than 1,000 graves at Dix, some lost under the tall, dirt-covered mounds of rotting refuse in the now-closed landfill. A modest restoration effort began about 20 years ago after hospital workers noticed that garbage trucks had repeatedly run over a corner of the graveyard, exposing shards of decaying wood from some of the simple pine caskets crafted in a hospital workshop.

Combing the grounds

Volunteers used dinner forks to probe the red clay for graves, and the hospital’s maintenance department erected a modest chain fence to delineate what were thought to be the cemetery’s boundaries.

In the 1990s, hospital employees dug through decades-old records in an attempt to identify who was where. About 700 graves are now topped with brick-sized stones cut by a local headstone company from bits and pieces of leftover granite. There is only room on the small stones for a name and a date of death. Most are covered by a layer of grass, only visible if someone goes rooting around for them.

A handful of patients did have larger markers paid for by loved ones, but many had been broken or scattered over the years. With donations, the hospital erected a “Wall of Remembrance,” where some of the broken stones are mounted.

Aristarchus Jenkins, long forgotten by even his own kin, was laid to rest with no such distinctive marker.

Gracie Jenkins, a graphic artist from Raleigh, set out eight years ago to learn more about her ancestors. In researching her family tree, she learned her great-great-grandfather was one of 14 brothers raised on a family farm in Granville County.

“I think it’s fascinating to learn about our ancestors, those who made it possible for us to be here,” she said last week. “The research is time consuming, and it’s sort of addictive. But it keeps me out of trouble, I guess.”

Through a register of Civil War servicemen, she determined that seven Jenkins boys had enlisted in the army of the Confederate States of America.

Infantry units at that time were drawn from local communities, ensuring that soldiers marched to war with brothers, cousins and neighbors. Confederate records show Aristarchus, then 22, enlisted in the 15th Regiment, Company E, of the state’s volunteer militia in May 1861, four days before North Carolina seceded from the Union. A cousin, Elias, enlisted with him. Aristarchus’ brother, Pulaski, followed the next year.

Attached to the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee, the regiment was involved in several major battles. Pulaski drowned in the Rapidan River in August 1862 as the rebel army moved north to invade Maryland.

Two weeks after his brother’s death, Aristarchus fought at Antietam. The battle was the bloodiest single day in American military history, with about 23,000 casualties, or five times the number killed on D-Day during World War II.

Records show Aristarchus was shot in the head at the battle of Bristoe Station in October 1863. He recovered, only to be shot in the shoulder in May 1864.

Unwelcome at home

After being hospitalized in Richmond, Aristarchus returned to his unit in November during the bloody siege at Petersburg, Va. By the winter, the Confederate soldiers were under nearly constant attack, low on ammunition and food.

According to Confederate records, Aristarchus deserted his post and crossed to the Union lines on Feb. 17, 1865.

The 15th Regiment surrendered with the Lee’s army less than two months later. Of the 800 men who had marched to war with Aristarchus four years earlier, just 138 were left by April 1865.

“He left the Army because he was starving,” Gracie Jenkins said. “When he came back to the family farm, his father wouldn’t speak to him because he was a deserter. He was shunned by his family.”

Aristarchus had no children listed in the Jenkins family Bible and no living relative could tell her what had happened to him. His grave was not among those in the family plot in Granville County, where his brothers are buried.

Gracie found him in records of the 1870 Census, listed as a 32-year-old resident of the N.C. State Insane Asylum.

Gracie persuaded a worker at the hospital to dig through records to find out how her ancestor had ended up there. After 140 years, little information was available.

But a register showed that Aristarchus was admitted in April 1868, after suffering for more than one year from mania, a term 19th-century doctors used to describe such psychiatric symptoms as hallucinations, delusions and mood disorders.

There was no mention of the cause of Aristarchus’ illness. There was little knowledge at the time of the impact of repeated exposure to violent events on the mind.

Following the Civil War, alcohol and opiate abuse by returning veterans was so commonplace it was called “Soldier’s Sickness.”

The register from Dix noted that Aristarchus died of consumption, the term often used to describe tuberculosis, in January 1891, nearly 23 years after his admission. He was 51.

The records also gave the location of his grave in the Dix cemetery. Row E, plot No. 30.

Gracie Jenkins crawled through the grass, digging with her fingers to find the small stone markers added by volunteers in the 1990s. She eventually found one with Aristarchus’ name.

Later, she successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a new 400-pound headstone, which was erected in 2006 with the help of a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Charles Purser, a member of the group who lives in Garner, said he plans to research the long list of those buried at Dix for the names of other veterans.

“There has to be some more out there,” Purser said. “We’re willing to put up a headstone for any American soldier we find there, even if they’re Union.”



‘Shares’ scheme aims to replace unmarked graves at former mental hospital

10:37am Tuesday 1st December 2009

By Marc Meneaud

A scheme for supporters to buy “shares” in a memorial garden dedicated to nearly 3,000 former mental patients has passed the century mark in only ten weeks.

The Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden in Menston has sold shares to more than 100 people, generating more than £3,000 in donations to replace the unmarked graves of the former patients with a lasting tribute.

Other donations, including a £1,159 contribution by Bradford-based funding provider Community Network, have meant the group can fully restore a derelict chapel in Buckle Lane where 2,861 former psychiatric patients from High Royds Hospital are buried.

Ron Sweeney, a spokesman for the friends group, said: “The public have responded very, very generously.

“We are delighted that the public has responded to what they see as a need in the community and it is the public that are going to drive this project.”

People who sign up to the share scheme can buy a minimum of ten shares at £1 each.

The money raised will go towards the group’s project to refurbish the former chapel.

Builder Alan Storey, whose great grandmother is one of those buried in Buckle Lane, is restoring the chapel with the help of apprentice carpenters from Leeds College of Building.

The restoration is being funded by donations from groups including the High Royds Sports and Social Club, The Coronation Lodge 7426, the Royal and Antedeluvian Order of Buffaloes, Leeds MIND and West Yorkshire Regimental Association.

Mr Sweeney said the support through donations means the group can bid for more grants from funding bodies. If the bids are successful, the friends group will be able to complete its next major project – a floral garden of remembrance.

Mr Sweeney said: “I have now got to sit down with other members of the management committee to find out how much the memorial garden is going to cost, before submitting applications to funding bodies for what we think will be a substantial sum.

‘‘Once the chapel is restored it will belong to the people of Menston and the shareholders. It is going to be our responsibility to keep it in order and it really helps that local people are behind us.”

e-mail: marc.meneaud@telegraphandargus.co.uk



Mystery shrouds Civil War veterans’ resting places

Sleuths’ efforts to ID graves hampered by privacy laws

By Tom Tolan of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Nov. 29, 2009

In 1901, a man named Albert Melms died of heart failure at the Milwaukee Hospital for Insane in Wauwatosa and was buried in a little cemetery on the hospital grounds.

He had been a cellist, a music teacher, a clerk and an insurance salesman in Milwaukee. One of his brothers was the city’s biggest brewer back in the 1850s and ’60s. And he was a Civil War veteran.

We know all this because of the detective work of two dogged researchers who specialize in identifying the graves of men who fought in the war between the states.

They want to find Melms’ final resting place and put a marker on it, as they’ve done for dozens of other Civil War veterans over the past decade. And they want to see if other veterans were laid to rest there.

But right now they’re stymied by county mental health officials, who cite patient privacy law – even for a man dead for more than 100 years – in denying them access to records the researchers think might show exactly where in a long-abandoned hospital cemetery Melms’ remains lie.

The two have a lawyer looking into this, who says he has hopes that the county will change its position. But the researchers are still incredulous at the roadblock.

“The last known burial was in 1914 – 95 years ago,” said Tom Ludka, one of the researchers. “What is it you’re trying to protect?”

Whatever happens, though, their research has opened windows into the operations of the county’s mental hospital at the turn of the 20th century, and on the little-known Melms family that was prominent in Milwaukee in the middle of the 19th century. And it has solved the mystery surrounding a small burial ground on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, studied by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee archaeologists in 1999 and 2000 but never fully understood until now.

The research

The researchers are Ludka, the veterans’ services director for Waukesha County, and Margaret Berres, a middle school teacher in Greendale who is a history junkie and curator of the Oak Creek Historical Society.

The two have collaborated on research projects for about nine years, since they volunteered to document Civil War vets’ burials in a South Milwaukee cemetery. They say they’ve identified 32 Civil War veterans – two of them Medal of Honor recipients – and one from the War of 1812.

The project that led to Albert Melms started in fall 2006, when a colleague of Berres named Dave Vogt mentioned some genealogy he was trying to figure out. His mother was a Melms, and he wondered if they were descended from the owners of the old Melms Brewery.

Berres recruited Ludka to participate. At first, the search was just for the Melmses. Berres and Ludka combed old newspapers, city directories and history books, and a picture emerged of four brothers who immigrated to Milwaukee from Germany in the 1840s and ’50s, back in the days when Milwaukee was just filling up with German immigrants.

The oldest brother was C.T. Melms, who married the daughter of a Franz Neukirch, one of the city’s pioneer German immigrants and owner of an early brewery. Melms ran the place with his father-in-law from 1848 until 1859, then ran it himself until his death of tetanus at age 49 in 1869.

The brewery, near the south end of the current Sixth St. viaduct, was the biggest brewery in town in the 1850s and ’60s.

In 1870, the Phillip Best Brewing Co., which later became Pabst, bought the brewery.

It turned out, however, that Vogt was descended not from C.T. Melms, but from a brother, Wilhelm, who owned Badger Iron Works, the company that built the State St. bridge over the Milwaukee River about 1870.

There was a third brother, Leopold, an insurance agent or bank employee who died on the county poor farm in 1910.

Albert’s story

And then there was Albert.

He was a cellist who performed in chamber music concerts in Chicago and Milwaukee. Milwaukee directories list him as living over the years with his brothers or in boarding houses. There was an account in the newspaper of him falling on the ice downtown in 1870, breaking an arm and wrecking his cello. And there was a story a few months later about how Chicago musicians had raised money and bought him a new cello, a Stradivarius.

Records also show that he served as a musician third class in Illinois’ 24th Infantry Regiment, organized in Chicago in July 1861 and made up of German and Hungarian immigrants. He and other musicians were mustered out of the regiment in December 1861 – the Army was beginning to cut musicians from payrolls as the war heated up, the researchers say – but that short service was enough to qualify him as a Civil War veteran, and for Berres and Ludka to add him to their list of such veterans whose graves they wanted to mark.

The question, though: Where was he buried?

Many members of his family were interred at Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery. But Albert was clearly not there.

Berres and Ludka found a death certificate indicating that he’d died at the “Hospital for Insane,” where he’d been committed in 1890, and had been buried in Wauwatosa. But they couldn’t find his name in cemetery records either at the Wauwatosa Cemetery near W. North and Wauwatosa Aves., or the old County Poor Farm cemeteries on the County Grounds.

Ludka and Berres undertook a gargantuan research task: reading through all the Milwaukee County death records between 1880 and 1916, an undertaking that lasted 18 months of weekend and vacation days. As they read, they noticed that many of the people whose death certificates showed they died at the mental hospital were listed as being buried at the hospital, or the asylum.

Their conclusion: The mental hospital had its own burial ground.

Their guess: It was the small cemetery studied in 1999 and 2000 by a team led by UWM associate scientist Patricia Richards, included in a larger study of part of the County Grounds where the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District was digging retention ponds for flood control. It made sense: The place was just north of where the hospital once stood.

They got in touch with Richards, and their theory was a perfect match for what she knew about that cemetery.

Privacy roadblock

But the next step was to find a record of exactly where Albert Melms was buried, and that’s where they ran into a roadblock.

The county wouldn’t let them examine the mental hospital’s old records – because of federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rules, Ludka said.

They spoke informally to a judge, who referred them to a Brookfield-based attorney with an interest in history, Rick Falk. Falk says he contacted the county Corporation Counsel’s office and made an informal request for help.

“I’m expecting positive results,” Falk said. “Nothing goes fast.”

He added, referring to county officials: “Nobody is doing anything other than their job.”

Principal Assistant Corporation Counsel John Jorgensen said that after hearing from Falk, he had somebody in the Mental Health Complex check old records. But all that person could find was a directive that Melms should be sent to Forest Home Cemetery when he died.

Jorgensen said he didn’t know of any record of burials at the asylum cemetery, and that state law – not HIPAA – protected the privacy of mental patients even if they’d died a century ago.

Richards said she was sure there was a burial record somewhere – or at least that there once had been.

Still, she called the county’s resistance “an absurd argument.”

“Their particular person has been dead more than 100 years,” she said.

Ludka is positive that Albert Melms never ended up at Forest Home.

And Melms aside, he said, “I’d like to determine if there are other veterans buried in (the asylum) cemetery and get them properly marked.”

Burials there stretched from 1880 to 1914, just when Civil War vets might have been dying, he reasoned.

“We have a historical record that no one can ever see,” he said. “What’s the point?”



HOME: MAY 27, 2005: NEWS

In Memoriam

The Austin State Hospital Cemetery is the long final home for thousands


A motorist barreling east on North Loop is unlikely to notice more than a hint of the lonely vibe that emanates from the earth between the edge of the tiny strip mall called Highland Plaza and the bend in the road where the funky shops start. The chain-link fence of the Austin State Hospital Cemetery – 11 flat acres full of forgotten people – stretches almost the entire span. Little more than the empty space is visible from a car window – a couple-dozen grave stones, and the brown wooden sign on the fence that identifies the graveyard. That’s about it.

Yet the reality of the empty space might make the passerby pause: Over more than a 100-year span, about 3,000 people have been buried there. Few of the graves are marked with a name, and nearly all are occupied by the bones of somebody who died indigent and whose family didn’t claim him or her for burial, for one reason or another. “In many instances the families either ignored the [death] message or said they didn’t want the person’s body,” said Sarah Sitton, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at St. Edward’s University and author of a book about the hospital, Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1957-1997 (Texas A&M University Press, 1999).

Times have changed. Among other things, the moon – luna in Latin – is no longer commonly believed to make a person a “lunatic.” The asylum was politely renamed Austin State Hospital in 1925, relatives of the deceased have been receiving a phone call instead of a letter for many years, and students of the Austin State School, Texas’ original institution for the mentally retarded, are now also laid to rest in the graveyard. Much, however, has remained the same. For years, corpses have been lowered into the ground in a state-issued pine box. The families of the deceased are almost always poor. And sometimes the person has no living relative, or the family simply doesn’t want him, or her, anymore. At times, conceded ASH Maintenance Director Dave Rupe during a tour of the grounds, the family attitude has been, “We’d like to have them buried with the rest of them out there.”

The lack of landscaping – only a few trees mark the otherwise grassy expanse – combined with the many graves distinguished by nothing more than a small, numbered, concrete slab, made a strong impression on Rupe the first time he crossed the cemetery in early 1998. He had been told that overseeing the graveyard was one of his responsibilities, so after a few months on the job he drove over and wandered around. “The more you look, the more you see. … You begin to recognize very, very quickly that what you’ve got is society. The cowboys are there. The doctors are there. The teachers are there,” he said. Mental illness “is not confined to any age group, any sex, any culture. It gets everybody.”


Dallas Pioneer

One of the first people buried in the Austin State Hospital Cemetery was John Neely Bryan, the founder of the city of Dallas. When teachers and parents take Dallas schoolchildren downtown to see a heavily restored version of the cabin in which Bryan lived in the mid-1800s, the children hear a lot about the pioneer who sold parcels of land for $1 to anyone he could get to move to the area that eventually became Dallas. The kids typically don’t learn, however, that Bryan was a longtime alcoholic and spent the last year of his life in the asylum. In 1882, Bryan’s body was one of a roughly estimated 50 moved from the asylum’s small original cemetery on the institution’s sprawling grounds between Asylum Avenue (more familiar now as Guadalupe), Lamar, 38th Street, and North Loop, at that time the far outskirts of town. At one point, the asylum’s grounds sprawled more than 1,000 acres and included a big pond as well as a dairy farm (now occupied by UT’s intramural fields), and a hog farm, which only recently became the Triangle, now sporting a new mixed-use development across Guadalupe from the intramural fields.

The asylum’s administration established the current cemetery when they decided to expand their facilities and build over most of the original graveyard, near what is now the main ASH building on Guadalupe. All of the bodies were supposedly dug up and moved to the new graveyard. Sitton, however, says that when she was researching her book, a hospital employee told her that not every corpse might have been removed. “There’re stories from the grounds crew about digging up human remains when they’re trying to plant a new plant,” she said. Grounds maintenance supervisor Joe Williamson said he isn’t aware of any such incident. “I think it’s just a tale,” he said.

For those bodies that did certainly make the transition, each was said to have been wrapped and buried in a shroud, and their graves marked with a wooden stick inscribed with their patient identification number. If those sticks ever existed, they have long since rotted away – all anybody knows about Bryan’s final place of rest is that he and the other bodies from the old cemetery are probably somewhere in the new one’s southeast quadrant, perhaps idly monitoring the condominiums currently under construction on the other side of the east fence. Bryan is believed to lie in the southeast quadrant because remnants of really old headstones are visible there, Rupe said. Record-keeping was less than stellar at the time of Bryan’s asylum stay, and some that were kept have since been lost. The calligraphy entries of the hospital’s cemetery log begin in 1938. Bryan’s name and the fact that he came from Dallas County are listed in a separate death log.


Giving Something Back

Austinite John Neely Bryan, great-great-grandson of Dallas’ founder, wants to locate his namesake’s corpse with ground-penetrating radar, have it DNA-tested, and rebury it in Downtown Dallas by the cabin. The plan is the end of a quest he embarked on a couple of years ago, after returning from a family reunion in Dallas. Bryan grew up hearing all kinds of stories about his ancestor, including one that he had died at the lunatic asylum and was laid to rest somewhere in Austin. As he was standing in front of Dallas County’s old red courthouse visiting with family members, he learned that some had in years past unsuccessfully attempted reviewing records from the hospital, hoping to discover the burial site. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to look into it and see what I can find,'” Bryan said.

Retired blacksmith Chuck McCarthy made the fancy wrought-iron gates that adorn the front, 51st Street entrance to the Austin State Hospital Cemetery. McCarthy offered his services for free a few years ago after seeing a news story about the graveyard, the resting place of an estimated 3,000 Austin State Hospital patients and Austin State School students. “I said, ‘Y’all have got a crummy gate out there. You want a good one?’ and they said, ‘Yah.'” McCarthy, who also donated the several feet of black iron fence extending from the gates, is a former substance-abuse patient of the hospital, where he stayed for two months in 1974. “I drove in there and said, ‘You guys gotta help me,’ and they did. And I haven’t had a drink since.” The donated gates and fencing are a way to return the favor, McCarthy said. “I’ve been taught when you can do something good for somebody, you do it.” – C.S.

As fate would have it, after he moved to Austin in 1995, Bryan, a financial analyst, had become involved with the Austin State Hospital Volunteer Services Council, and was a council board member by the time of his family reunion. Bryan didn’t tell anyone affiliated with the hospital or the council that his great-great-grandfather was likely buried in the ASH cemetery. He says he was grateful to the hospital for having taken care of his ancestor during his last days, but he didn’t want his ancestry to distract from his volunteer work. “I just thought I’d give something back,” Bryan said. After the reunion, however, Bryan knew he was going to need some inside help to find out more about his great-great-grandfather, so he told Rupe about his personal tie to the hospital: “That’s when I let the cat out of the bag.”

As it turned out, the cat was already on the loose. “People knew but never really talked to him about it,” said Rupe of Bryan’s ancestry. The passing of more than a century, plus the fact that the elder Bryan had been committed to the asylum for alcoholism – widely accepted today as a disease rather than a personal weakness – apparently hadn’t entirely lifted the taboo of having died in a mental institution.


Outside the Box

ASH maintenance technician John Classen has been the cemetery’s cement headstone maker for 18 years. His casting work changed significantly after Rupe came along. All ASH Cemetery headstones made since 1998 have included a name, date of birth, and date of death. For more than 60 years prior, graves had been marked only with a 4-inch-by-12-inch numbered slab – most have long since sunken into the ground and barely peer from under the grass. One day Rupe told Classen that the cemetery needed a new headstone, and then added, “This time we’re going to do it with a name.” Classen was surprised, but recalls replying with a resolute “‘Good.’ The numbers were so small and impersonal,” he said. “I was glad to see the change.”

Local sculptor Gilbert Beall is in the process of making a commemorative bronze sculpture called The Unknown for the Austin State Hospital Cemetery. The sculpture’s title stems from the fact that until 1998 those buried in the cemetery were identified on their headstones by numbers, rather than by their names. The woman in The Unknown symbolizes the state of Texas, Beall said, and the child in her arms represents the mental hospital’s patients. The sculpture, which he is donating to the cemetery and hopes to complete by the end of the year, will be much larger than the model pictured here. Beall has done a lot of sculpture work for the Texas State Cemetery and said he sells miniature versions of The Unknown and gives the proceeds to the hospital. See http://www.gilbertbeallart.com for more information. – C.S.

The change had already been made to the state’s legal code. A 1991 amendment to the Health and Safety Code had made it legal for superintendents of residential care facilities to release to cemetery and funeral home representatives the name, date of birth, and date of death of any person who had lived at the facility, unless the person or the person’s guardian had objected in writing. The amendment also made it legal for cemeteries and funeral homes to inscribe the information on grave markers. “That may be one of those deals [where] I don’t think anybody ever really thought outside of the box,” said Williamson, the ASH grounds supervisor, of the administration’s attitude toward the cemetery. For years, family members of people buried at the cemetery had occasionally been buying regular tombstones and having them placed by the state-issued slab of their relative. These are the markers that rise above the short grass and are visible from the street.

An integral part of the hospital’s culture was, and to a large degree still is, that the world behind the facility’s doors was not acknowledged beyond them. About a mile from the hospital, the cemetery has always been far beyond those doors, and largely out of mind. Take the work experience of Carl Schock, ASH’s superintendent since 2000, as an example. Schock said that as a mental health worker at the hospital in the late Seventies and early Eighties, he was completely unaware of the cemetery’s existence. It wasn’t until he left the hospital for a few years, then came back as director of nursing in 1997, that he heard about the graveyard. He never actually went there until after he became superintendent. The long-overdue walk through the sunken slabs provided him with a perspective unavailable from inside the hospital. “You kind of get a feeling – kind of a mix of the history and all the things the people dealt with,” Schock said. “Even in death, we’ve neglected to deal with the issues of mental health over time.”


Making Plans

There are a couple of myths about the cemetery that Rupe would like to erase. First, no bodies are buried above one another, he says, despite the fact that the practice is legal in Texas. (At least one row of the cemetery, however, is dedicated to random body parts. From the late Fifties until the early Nineties, the hospital included a medical treatment facility for surgeries and autopsies. For lack of an incinerator, body parts were disposed of at the cemetery.)

Secondly, just because someone died at the hospital doesn’t necessarily mean he or she was buried at its cemetery. About a third of the patients who died in the asylum from 1861 to 1925 were buried in the cemetery, Rupe said; the rest were taken elsewhere by their families. The same holds truer for modern times, largely due to the prevalence of pre-death planning. Although students of the Austin State School are also now laid to rest in the cemetery, in recent years there have only been about two or three burials annually. Austin State School Superintendent Ray Wells says that most of his 400-plus students are covered by preplanned burial plans. “It’s good to have available,” said Wells of the cemetery. “But nowadays, that’s what we do – preplanning through our social workers and families.”

The Austin State School began using the cemetery after the Travis State School, another locally based school for mentally retarded citizens, closed in 1996. Travis had a large graveyard shared with the Austin State School. According to ASH cemetery records, more students from the state school are now buried at the cemetery than patients from the state hospital, not surprising since the average stay at the state hospital these days is only a few weeks, compared to several years at the state school. Seth Adam Armstrong, an Austin State School student born in 1973, has the most recent burial date at the cemetery, October of 2004. The last burial before Armstrong, in Febraury of 2004, was that of Reggie Davidson, who was 98 years old and spent 88 years of his life at the state school.


Finding the Missing

Back at the hospital’s maintenance building, Rupe is working on two big cemetery-related projects. A huge map of the cemetery covering part of a wall in the break room records one of them. John Neely Bryan isn’t the only one who wants to use ground-penetrating radar in the graveyard. Rupe estimates there are about 700 bodies that aren’t accounted for in the hospital’s cemetery log, and he wants to find them. He also wants to determine if there was an overall burial plan in the graveyard, or, as he put it, “if there’s rhyme or reason to the plot pattern.”

He already knows one major piece of the puzzle. The cemetery was racially segregated until the 1960s – the north end racially divided by row, and the south end divided in half, one part for whites, the other for blacks. There’s a strip through the middle of the grounds that’s not full of bodies, Rupe says, that can hold about 1,000 more.

Rupe began his other project, creating a patient records database, about three years ago. Thus far, he has 11,400 names on file in the computer on his cluttered desk. The entries of individuals who died in or after 1903 tend to be fatter than the earlier ones, since death certificates weren’t issued in Texas before then. Record keepers listed cause of death prior to 1903, but the causes were usually vague – “heart failure,” or “softening of the brain.”

Genealogy led Rupe to both projects – not his own roots, but those of others. (He hasn’t had any family experience with mental illness and isn’t aware of any in his family tree.) People contact him regularly with inquiries about relatives. “The vast majority of them don’t care why they were buried here,” he said. “They just want to know where their relatives are.”

Thanks in large part to the Internet, genealogy has grown significantly in popularity in recent years. Rupe describes his projects as “an outgrowth of this genealogy.” So is yet another project under way. This one is at the cemetery – a mostly volunteer effort to spruce up the grounds. So far, the project has generated fancy wrought-iron front gates facing 51st Street, a few limestone columns that volunteers would like to see extend from the gate all the way to the east end of the graveyard, and a paved driveway stretching from the entrance. The project is one of several nationwide, as genealogists all over the country have been trying to trace the lives of lost relatives, and in the process, have seen the condition of mental hospital cemeteries across the U.S. There was, and is, nothing unique about the anonymity of Austin State Hospital Cemetery.

In 2002, the graveyard received Historic Texas Cemetery designation, so there are plans for a commemorative plaque. And this Friday, three days before Memorial Day, Rupe, other hospital employees and volunteers will honor the cemetery’s occupants by peppering the grounds at 1pm with 3,000 little American flags. Last year was the first time anything like that had ever been done there.

“When he first came up with that idea, we thought, ‘He’s lost it,'” said Williamson, who has worked for the hospital since the Seventies. “I thought it was kind of strange. After you thought about it, it made sense. Why not?”



He adds names to lost graves of the mentally ill

Thousands lie in unmarked graves nationwide; he found lost cemetery

Bud Merritt discovered a lost cemetery of patients at the largest mental hospital in the United States while hiking in Milledgeville, Ga. The graves are marked only with numbers.

By Amanda Marshall
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 10:41 a.m. ET, Tues., June 9, 2009

Sometimes spring uncovers unexpected stories. Bud Merritt was hiking in Milledgeville, Ga., when he came across a long-forgotten cemetery.

“There almost seemed to be no end to it. You would find areas where there were no markers. And then you walk a few yards and you would find more,” he explains.

Overgrown with shrubs, the tall, thin headstones were nearly lost amongst the oak trees. Upon closer inspection, Bud noticed the graves bore no epitaphs. Not even a name or date could be found. They were simply numbered posts.

It turns out Bud had discovered a lost cemetery of patients at the largest mental hospital in the United States.

City of the dead

Founded by Quakers in 1842, Central State Hospital once housed more than 13,000 people. Beautiful antebellum buildings, now mostly abandoned, haunt the sprawling campus.

During the Civil War, General Sherman’s troops camped here. Today you can still find descendants of the original hospital staff caring for the 800 patients here now. Scattered in the surrounding acres lie an estimated 30,000 dead — more than the current population of Milledgeville.

For years the mentally ill were discarded, not just in Georgia, but all over the country. Families who didn’t claim their relatives left it up to hospitals to choose the patients’ final resting places. Given the stigma attached to mental illness, many were given just numbered markers.

Unfortunately, records were often lost or incomplete. In some cases, even the markers were pulled up and tossed away. It’s estimated there are more than 100,000 of these forgotten graves nationwide.

National correspondent Bob Dotson and I headed to Milledgeville to find out more. Bud Merritt greeted us at the hospital museum. A sprightly man with a mischievous smile, he showed us the records listing — in theory — the name and number of everyone buried on the grounds. The books date back to the 1900s, and with each handwritten entry is an incomplete story — the name of a person who came to the hospital and never left.

“There’s a lot of people that, frankly, have expressed the attitude to me that it’s too late and there’s no need to raise these issues again. It would be best forgotten. But I’ve never felt that way,” says Bud.

Death by heartbreak

Casey McClain grew up in the shadow of her great-grandfather Herbert Martin Williams. Once the backbone of the family, Papa Williams suffered a breakdown after losing his wife in childbirth, his infant son to illness, and his business to a dishonest partner. Overwhelmed, he checked himself into Central State and died of heart disease — literally brokenhearted.

Casey’s grandmother, Mollie, learned of Papa Williams’ death when she was a teenager. Not knowing where her father was buried pained the young woman. For years, she kept photos of Papa Williams hidden in a shed. Later, Casey would tag along as they searched local graveyards for his headstone.

“It was a child loving her father and mourning,” Casey says. “Grandmother told us, ‘There’s a reason why people do what they do. You just have to look for the answer.’ ”

It’s estimated that 100,000 mental patients lie in forgotten graves nationwide. These graves in Milledgeville, Ga., are marked only with numbers.

In 1997, Casey went to work as a counselor at Central State. She had a hunch that Papa Williams was buried somewhere on the 10,000-acre property. Bud, also an employee at the hospital, had been so moved by his cemetery discovery that he made it his personal mission to help interested families identify graves.

Together they combed hospital records. Within six months, they were able to locate the plot where Papa Williams is buried. “I just got a peaceful feeling,” Casey says.

Casey and her family now have a headstone at grave No. 1951. It reads, “Herbert Martin Williams, February 1859-October 9, 1907.”

Visiting the cemetery is still extremely emotional. Casey considered moving Papa Williams to a family plot, but then realized that he belonged where he was; a name in a sea of numbered graves.

This month, a new national memorial dedicated to remembering those unnamed graves of the mentally ill will break ground at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. The memorial is a significant step in acknowledging the plight of those suffering from mental illness.

As Casey puts it, marking these graves is “like our Arlington. It recognizes all of the unknowns and gives them dignity in death that they didn’t have in life.”

A final goodbye, too long in the making.


A little background into the history of state hospital cemetery restoration might help; therefore, the following article.


Caring for Patients’ Graves Helps Hospitals Reconcile With Living

Kate Mulligan
Psychiatric News
August 3, 2001
vol. 36 no. 15 10-11

Cemetery restoration projects bring about healing and an unusual gesture of reconciliation between mental health care consumers and a state mental health official.

In late 1998, when Patricia Deegan, Ph.D., stumbled upon an abandoned cemetery on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, she helped begin a process that has brought about healing for many former patients in state mental hospitals and a dramatic gesture of reconciliation between a state mental health official and consumers.

Deegan, who had been hospitalized in both private and public psychiatric hospitals, was already an activist on behalf of mental health consumers when she discovered the cemetery. She was appalled by the fact that graves were identified only by markers with numbers, not names, and by the failure to treat the primitive graves with dignity.

She said, “If people treat a cemetery like trash, it’s a good indication of how they feel about the people buried there and those who are still receiving services.”

At about the same time Deegan discovered the anonymous graves in Massachusetts, members of the Georgia Consumer Council, an organization that represents consumers of mental health services, toured a cemetery at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville and found an even bleaker situation. Grave markers had been removed to make it easier for hospital crews to mow the grass. Research later revealed that up to 30,000 former patients had been buried on the hospital grounds.

Up to 30,000 people were buried on the grounds of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Ga. Their lives were commemorated only by numbers, not their names.
Organizing around the issue of cemetery restoration at public mental hospitals began almost simultaneously in Massachusetts and Georgia and spread to other parts of the country, when activists in those two states began to get publicity about the neglected cemeteries. USA Today covered the effort, as did numerous local publications like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Deegan said, “Cemetery restoration gave ex-patients and other activists a chance to take the moral high ground. We were seen as people who are able to make a positive contribution. And, as the effort caught on, it became a leadership development tool, as ex-patients learned how to organize and deal with the press. Finally, it gave many people a chance to grieve over what had happened to them. Often, their memories were so painful that they had never gone back to the state hospitals in which they had been housed.”

Jeffrey Lee Geller, M.D., a Massachusetts Psychiatric Society representative to the APA Assembly and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, said, “People with chronic mental illness are all too often lost and isolated in life and all too often lost and isolated in death. Restoration of these cemeteries is an important statement as to our need and responsibility to respect these individuals in their deaths, and more important, in their lives.”

The effort in Massachusetts also produced more practical outcomes. Danvers State Hospital had been closed in 1991, and state officials were debating what to do with the valuable land. Publicity about the cemetery gave ex-patients and their supporters a good negotiating tool in that discussion. The Citizen Advisory Committee recommended that in the proposed housing development, 20 percent of the units be set aside for people with mental illness and that 10 percent of the jobs involved in developing the property be similarly set aside.

In January 2000 the National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts received a grant of $58,000 from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) for a study of the history of consumer/survivors in the mental health system. Deegan had developed the proposal because her work with cemeteries and other aspects of consumer history persuaded her that like other “oppressed” groups, consumers had to discover and rewrite their own history.

“The perspective of an ex-patient about a mental hospital is not that of the psychiatrist who ran the system,” she said. “Yet, our voices are rarely heard in histories of mental health.”

In Georgia, ex-patients were also achieving remarkable victories. Funds were raised for a combination restoration/commemoration project to honor the people lying in the unmarked graves. Advocates installed an intricate iron gate in front of one of the hospital’s six cemeteries and commissioned the design and casting of a bronze angel. Larry Fricks, director of the Office of Consumer Relations in the Division of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse (MHMRSA) and a leader of the effort, said, “The angel represents all major religions. It will guard the cemetery to make certain nothing like the previous abandonment of the graves ever happens again.”

Public Apology

The cemetery project captured the imagination of Thomas Hester, M.D., medical director for MHMRSA. He issued a public apology on behalf of the state to mental health consumers for abuses that had occurred in Central State Hospital (see box).

“That statement was the single most powerful gesture of reconciliation between consumers and the mental health system that has ever occurred in Georgia,” Fricks said.

William T. McLarty Jr., M.D., a Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association representative to the APA Assembly, said, “I’ve heard only very positive comments about the cemetery project. It’s quite an honor to have a chance to remember these people as individuals.”

Deegan used grant funds from the CMHS-funded history project to help produce a manual that will assist other advocates with cemetery restoration efforts. “The Georgia Story: How to Successfully Restore a State Hospital Cemetery,” written by Fricks, gives a step-by-step account of the Massachusetts and Georgia projects and also includes information about similar activities in Arizona, Connecticut, Ohio, and South Dakota.

Future Projects

Even more projects appear likely in the future. The Board of Directors of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directions approved a resolution in March recommending that state mental health authorities investigate the history and condition of patient cemeteries on the grounds of state psychiatric hospitals and consider activities such as a formal apology, cemetery restoration, and registration of the cemetery as a National Historic Site.



N.J. Sen. President Codey seeks to restore grave sites for mentally ill

By Lawrence Ragonese/The Star-Ledger
September 19, 2009, 9:00PM

MORRISTOWN — The small concrete cylinders are buried at Morristown’s Evergreen Cemetery, virtually impossible to see until you are almost standing on them.

Each is marked with a four-digit number etched into its flat top, like a bar code for the dead — fading markers into past lives of indigent state psychiatric patients long ago placed shoulder-to-shoulder in the ground in body bags or pine boxes.

They were people once, with names and lives and families. But as many as 6,000 former state patients rest in mostly anonymous graves in Morristown and in potter’s fields near state psychiatric hospitals in Glen Gardner and Marlboro, Winslow Township and Trenton. In some instances, with markers sunk underground or inexplicably removed, the history of these patients dating back as far as 150 years ago has been lost.

Now, that may change.

State Sen. President Richard Codey, who as a youth picked up the dead at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital for his family’s funeral business, has embarked on a crusade to find identities of these people and restore their dignity in death.

“This is all these former patients have to show for their lives — a number,’’ Codey said as he pulled up a piece of glass embedded in the ground next to a virtually hidden numerical grave marker at Evergreen Cemetery last week. “This is a stark reminder of society’s attitude towards the mentally ill at one point in our history.

“It was like these people committed a crime. They were treated in life and death like they did something wrong.’’

Codey, a longtime advocate of the mentally ill, wants to restore the grave sites and create an electronic registry of the dead indigents from Greystone, Hagedorn, Marlboro, Trenton, Ann Klein and Ancora state hospitals who were buried mostly in anonymity.

Under his plan, relatives of deceased patients could contact the state Department of Human Services and get access to files that could lead to the burial places of their loved ones or ancestors.

Also, Codey wants the state to provide a “modest sum of money,’’ but he said he doesn’t know yet how much money it will cost to help reclaim the grave sites, which could include landscaping, digging up and restoring numerical markers and erecting monuments to acknowledge who is buried in these fields.

Officials at the Department of Human Services, which runs the state hospitals, said they have not seen Codey’s proposals. But spokeswoman Ellen Lovejoy said the agency “supports efforts to give patients the dignity they deserve.’’

Evergreen Cemetery is tucked into a 60-acre tract off Martin Luther King Avenue, about a mile from the Morristown Green and five miles from Greystone. Established in 1855, the cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent people, including New Jersey Governors Theodore Fitz Randolph and George Werts, who have impressive monuments to their past existences.

Just down the hill, in cemetery section 16, it’s a different story.

Codey and others, accompanied by Evergreen historian Kemper Chambers and cemetery officials, last week explored this peaceful, wooded area looking for Greystone graves.

The entourage literally was walking over graves of hundreds of people on a hillside Chambers used to sleigh down as a kid.

“We had no idea. It was just a good place to play,’’ said Chambers, who has authored a book on the cemetery’s history.

More than 3,000 patients were buried here from 1877 to 1966, with just numbered markers. While no names are attached to those slim cylinders, each number chiseled on them corresponds to listings in cemetery log books meticulously maintained by cemetery manager Jill Edwards.

Those records detail the names, birthplaces, ages and marital status of Greystone’s indigent dead, and also each patient’s medical doctor, date of death, cause of death and name of the mortician who handled the burial.

According to records, the first indigent Greystone patient buried in a “free ground’’ donated by Evergreen Cemetery was Edith Muhrehgen, a German immigrant who died on Oct. 7, 1877, of what the registry book lists as “hemorrhage.’’ Another German immigrant, Heding Pfotenhauer, was buried about the same time, dying from “general chronic exhaustion.’’

“I’m often amazed we have so much information,’’ Edwards said.

Relatives of patients sometimes reach out to the past, trying to find ancestors and what happened to them, said Bob Davison, executive director of the Essex County Mental Health Association. He said a burial registry would be a welcome tool for these people.

In one instance, thanks to cemetery records, orphaned children of a former Greystone patient tracked down the fate of their late mother, recalled Glenn Coutts, vice president of trustees at Evergreen. Now, a grave marker with the name Concetta Bruno sits in the middle of a restored field of some 2,000 anonymous, numbered graves.

Codey says this search demonstrates exactly why such a registry would be invaluable to relatives.

“There may be husbands or wives or grandchildren of former patients who may want to know what happened to their loved ones,’’ Codey said. “Some people may want to find out about ancestors. This may be a way for them to reconnect and to bring some closure to their lives.’’



Western State Hospital cemetery’s unmarked graves are named

A group of volunteers has formed a nonprofit, the Grave Concerns Association, to install headstones with the names of those who were buried in unmarked graves at the cemetery for Western State Hospital.

By Sharon Pian Chan
Seattle Times technology reporter

Grave Concerns Association

To find out more about the Grave Concerns Association, contact Laurel Lemke at 253-761-7533 or lemkela@dshs.wa.gov.

Mary Gosselin explained the relationship between a 4-year-old named Aidan and a grave at Fort Steilacoom Park. “It’s his great great great grandmother, and I’m his grandmother. She was my great grandmother. Can you keep that all straight?”

Gosselin, 79, watched as a gray granite headstone was added to the grave of Mary Beran Hart, until now known only by a stone with the number “1300.”

Hart lies in a cemetery with 3,200 other people, all patients of Western State Hospital between 1876 and 1953. She shares the ground with a Civil War veteran and the founder of the city of Des Moines, who also died at the hospital.

Until 2004, the graves were anonymous, due to a state law requiring hospitals to use only numbers on graves of patients buried there. A group of volunteers worked to overturn the law at the state Legislature and has now formed a nonprofit, the Grave Concerns Association, to install headstones with names of all of the people buried at the cemetery for Western State Hospital. The cemetery grounds, across the street from the hospital, are now part of Fort Steilacoom Park in the Lakewood area.

Gosselin said the mystery of her great grandmother was a hole in her family history that had been filled.

“When I was putting together my family information, she was the missing link,” she said, and encouraged others to seek out family members whose stories had gone dark because of the stigma of mental illness.

Hart lived in a one-room cabin on a homestead in Auburn. After the birth of her sixth child, she suffered from postpartum depression and was committed in 1884 to Western State Hospital, where she remained until her death in 1914.

Hart’s daughter — Gosselin’s grandmother, then 7 — had no idea what happened to her mother. The daughter received a postcard in the early 1900s, asking her to come and see her. That’s the last the family heard from Hart, Gosselin said.

Gosselin, who lives in Tacoma, said she knew her great grandmother had died here but did not know where she was buried. Five years ago, she and her husband walked across this same field for hours unable to find the plot. Most of the numbered stones had sunk beneath the earth over the decades.

The changing of state law connected the plots to the names.

“We began the project in 2000 to reclaim the cemetery,” said Grave Concerns Association Chair Laurel Lemke. “We sold dahlia bulbs, held bake sales.” Then the group landed a $5,000 grant, 95 percent of which they say they spent buying headstones.

A crew of volunteers with wheelbarrows and shovels has installed 164 markers in the past two years, plus an additional 31 markers Sunday.

Two weeks ago, Gosselin and her sister came back and, with the help of Lemke, located grave number 1300.

“Just because she had mental problems doesn’t mean people should be afraid to look for their relatives,” she said.

Volunteers told other stories of individuals that have come to light since the changing of the state law. The city of Des Moines located their founder, John Moore, who died in 1899. Moore became despondent after his wife died and his neighbors were alarmed when they found him throwing furniture out of their house. He was committed to the hospital and buried at the cemetery.

A Civil War veteran who served in the Ohio infantry, Charles Wesley Cooley, had a stroke and was committed afterward to the hospital. The U.S. Army paid for his headstone when they found he was buried here.

“Whenever we mark someone’s life, we are showing such a great honoring of each and every life,” said Kristi Kreamer, a pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, after Hart’s headstone was installed Sunday.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com



Civil War veteran’s service remembered at tribute

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Last updated: 9:30 am

Former Armstrong County resident and Civil War Pvt. Chauncey Flower was remembered for his service to his country in a tribute that included the presentation of the colors and the playing of taps.

On Oct. 29, Las Vegas, N.M., veterans representing Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1547, along with Flower’s great-grandchildren and a few guests, honored the soldier who is buried in the New Mexico state hospital’s cemetery.

Flower enlisted as a private in Company G, 56th infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia of 1863.

“This means more than words can ever express to the family,” amateur genealogist and Chauncey’s great grandson, Paul Shumaker, said at the ceremony. “I’ve been researching Chauncey’s life for 11 years. For 10 years, that research brought my wife and me here to the hospital; my brother Bob (of Manorville who attended with wife, Nancy) is here to participate in this ceremony and tell you a little about the man we have all come to love.”

The family knew about Flower’s service to the country and some aspects of his life before Shumaker started his research, but they didn’t know where he was buried. The service marked the end of his search for his ancestor.

Shumaker said Flower was born in New York State in 1845 and died in 1922 at the state hospital in Las Vegas. He was a descendant of Sir Roger Flower of 1300s Rutlandshire, England.

By the time the Civil War broke out, he was living in Armstrong County and enlisted.

Flower was a dentist by profession and had three wives in his lifetime. By 1893, his second marriage was falling apart and he went to the Chicago World’s Fair, where he saved the foot of a lad who had been trampled by a camel. The boy he saved turned out to be the Rajah Tipo Sahab of India, family research found.

Shumaker said Flower was later called to St. Louis by a message and given $10,000 worth of presents and an offer of a lifetime job as the physician to the Rajah.

“In 1894, his divorce from my great-grandmother was finalized two weeks before she died of the flu. In 1896 he married his third wife in Pennsylvania and continued to practice dentistry there until the early 1900s,” Shumaker said.

Flower held patents in England, France and the United States for his “Dental Gold Process.” He received royalties for some years from that patent.

Around 1915, Flower moved to New Mexico to homestead on 320 acres in Lincoln County and was living there when he was committed to the New Mexico State Insane Asylum in 1916 by the Lincoln County courts as addicted to alcohol and laudanum. He was later discharged as cured.

Flower went to White County, Ark., briefly, then to Pennsylvania and back to Lincoln County, where he died Oct. 25, 1922.

“We are especially grateful to the staff for their kindness and hospitality to Chauncey so many years ago,” Shumaker said.



Anonymous No Longer at St. Elizabeths

National Memorial to Honor Psychiatric Patients Buried in Unmarked Graves

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009

As he walked through a cemetery filled with more than 4,000 unmarked graves, Patrick J. Canavan, chief executive of St. Elizabeths Hospital, said he and his colleagues were making a major step to correct decades of wrong.

“This is about respecting people who are the aunts, uncles and grandparents of my neighbors in the District of Columbia, who have never been recognized in their death [but] were part of this community,” Canavan said.

His comments followed a service last month at the Southeast Washington campus, where mental health professionals from across the country remembered the unnamed people buried at their institutions.

In almost every state is a cemetery like the one behind St. Elizabeths, because at one time patients sent to government psychiatric facilities were admitted with no expectations of ever leaving. But in recent years, a coalition of mental health providers has launched an effort to build a national memorial on the grounds of St. Elizabeths to stand for the thousands of patients who died at such facilities.

“This memorial sanctifies and makes holy the grounds where people were forgotten and buried away silently but are now being brought to visible attention,” said A. Kathryn Power, director of the Center for Mental Health Services for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The importance of this memorial is that it is a national symbol of the fact that people with mental illness, at all times, should have the opportunity to live where they choose, to get the treatment they choose and to be in partnership with the people who are helping them with their journey to recovery.”

During a memorial service in the chapel of St. Elizabeths, a marble marker was dedicated. It reads, “I must fight in the open,” the words of Clifford W. Beers, a young Yale graduate who in 1908 published an autobiography about the abusive practices of a mental hospital in Connecticut. He later founded Mental Health America, originally known as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene.

Stephen T. Baron, director of the D.C. Department of Mental Health, said that, for too many people, “when you checked into a state mental hospital, you didn’t check out until the time of death. And in this facility, if you were not in the military, there was a high likelihood that you would have been in an unmarked grave.”

Baron said St. Elizabeths was selected as the site of the national consumer memorial in recognition of its historic leadership in moral treatment for people with mental illness. “The Gardens at St. Elizabeths — A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity” will be woven into the cemetery on the hospital grounds, where more than 4,500 patients are buried, along with several hundred veterans of the Civil War.

The memorial will include metal markers surrounded by gardens and a pool of water representing those buried in hospitals from throughout the country, including in the District.

During the program, Phyllis Cureton, chaplain for St. Elizabeths, sang “We Are Standing on Holy Ground,” and Pam Thomas, who has been treated at St. Elizabeths since 1972, read a poem that moved some people to tears:

Every one of us, with dignity and respect, would want the world to bury us, when life’s end we’ve met. That is why this call goes out to rally around this quest. Let’s give these souls what they deserve. This really means our best. And if the voiceless people happen from the grave to cry, are given a voice by those who live we never could deny. For we too have had no voice, we have suffered much as well, we’ve come together on this day, and this is oh so swell.



Restoration honors society’s forgotten

Project in Collins locates resting places of mental patients

By Tom Buckham

Updated: October 26, 2009, 8:24 AM

In a tree-surrounded grassy hollow a half-mile from Collins Correctional Facility, volunteers have spent two years tapping the earth with plastic poles in search of square concrete slabs that sank out of sight long ago.

When one is located, it is gently levered to the surface with a crowbar, cleaned with a bristle brush, soap and water, and reinstalled on a firmed-up bed edged with gravel.

So goes the painstaking work of restoring the anonymous graves of 1,200 patients from Gowanda Psychiatric Center. They were buried in Wheater Road Cemetery between 1898, when the hospital opened, and 1994, when it closed. The site reopened as the Collins and Gowanda correctional facilities in 1995.

The only markings on the flat gravestones are a number or a wreath, signifying that the deceased was Protestant, or a cross, denoting Catholic. Records containing the names of those buried in the cemetery were lost after the hospital shut down.

The restoration was undertaken by People Inc., an Amherst-based agency serving Western New York’s developmentally disabled population, to finally give honor and dignity to the facility’s unidentified and unmourned former residents.

Students from Siena College and St. Bonaventure University are doing the work, under the direction of David Mack-Hardiman, People Inc. training director, with assistance from the Collins state prison and Gowanda historian Phillip Palin.

“We did a lot of research on how to do this properly,” Mack-Hardiman said. “We don’t want to do any harm.”

The nonprofit agency learned of the Collins graveyard and similar sites off Route 62 in Gowanda and Route 39 in Perrysburg, site of the former J. N. Adam Developmental Center, from a 2002 story in The Buffalo News.

It reported how the cemetery had been uncovered by local members of Operation Dignity, a national movement to honor tens of thousands of institutionalized mental health patients buried in unmarked or numbered graves. Dense thickets of weeds and berry canes were cleared, and Collins Correctional Facility agreed to maintain the graveyard’s four quadrants.

Support for the restorations was slow in coming, Mack- Hardiman said, because mental illness has long carried a stigma, and the institutionalized were deemed “not so worthy” of proper burial by the state that cared for them and even by their families.

“What took time was getting people to understand what we were doing,” he said.

The project gained momentum when People Inc. forged an alliance with the Cattaraugus County Mental Health Association and prison officials.

“We said, ‘Sure. Definitely. These are people we need to remember,’ ” said Jim Thompson, Collins Correctional Facility deputy superintendent.

After the restoration of 550 graves in the Route 62 cemetery, a “ceremony of remembrance” was held in 2007 to install a monument honoring the dead from the Gowanda and J. N. Adam hospitals.

Mack-Hardiman said he foresees a similar observance at the Wheater Road location, although restoring the remaining gravesites will take at least two more years.




Graves uncovered at Toledo State Hospital

TOLEDO, OH (WTVG) — Thousands of local graves have been hidden for decades.

Thousands of local graves have been hidden for decades. But thanks to the dedication of volunteers, those graves have now been uncovered and some family members have finally found closure.

The volunteers say the people buried in these cemeteries truly were numbers because that’s all that marks the small stones at the two state mental hospital cemeteries.

To Troy Myers, 214 is more than a number. It’s the number assigned to his great-great grandfather’s grave site. He was buried there more than a century ago and family members have been looking for his gravesite for 50 years.

When it opened in 1888, it was called the Toledo Asylum for the Insane. It’s known to most people as the Toledo State Hospital. There are two cemeteries on the old property near the University of Toledo Medical Center Campus, with about a thousand people in each one.

Volunteers have been working at the cemeteries for several years. “There were no markers visible. We had to search with probes and we had to poke around until we found something, until we’d find a numbered block,” says Jane Weber.

Many of the people who lived at the State Hospital did suffer from mental illness. Others had things like Alzheimer’s, tuberculosis, or even epilepsy. Sharon Yaros was so moved by what she learned about those buried here that she permanently honored some of them. “Two infants were born and died here with no first names. I wanted folks to remember, they’ll be remembered,” says Yaros. She had the gravesite numbers of the two tattooed on her arm.

The last person was buried in the State Hospital cemeteries in 1973. A state historical marker will be put up on this property next spring. If you’d like to donate time or money to help with this cause, please visit www.ToledoStateHospitalCemetery.org



Published on October 15th, 2009

Mourning those at Morningside

By Dorene M. Lorenz

Bennett Blackjack lived a remarkable life. He was the son of the first Eskimo heroine of Arctic exploration, Ada Blackjack, and brother of respected native leader Billy Blackjack Johnson.

As a child, Bennett suffered from spinal meningitis and tuberculosis. Between 1927-37 he lived at the Jesse Lee Home in Seward while his mother was recovering from tuberculosis. There he became an accomplished pianist who was often featured at recitals, despite being deaf and only having the use of one eye, according to Jackie Pels’ account in her book, “Family After All, Alaska’s Jesse Lee Home, Volume II.”

Mrs. Blackjack collected her sons, brought them back to Nome, and that is when Bennett’s difficult journey turned into what many would find to be an impossible one.

The recently uncovered records of Morningside Hospital offer a glimpse into what surely were the worst years of his challenging life, and his patient notes shine a bit of light on the dark corners of one of Alaska’s dirtiest secrets:

Patient Number 1775. Blackjack, Bennett- admitted November 7, 1938. Nome, Male, Eskimo, White. Age 21, Alaskan born, Woodcutter. Single. Committed because of persecutory ideas. Shot at imaginary persecutors. Grandiose ideas. Reacts to auditory hallucinations. Adjusts well in hospital. Suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis. Diagnosis: Dementia Preacox. Paranoid type. Prognosis Unfavorable.

Facts about Bennett’s story, and the story of many Alaskans who were involuntarily committed to what was billed as a mental hospital but in reality was more like a concentration work camp for some, are just now being brought to light.

Former Alaska Commissioner of Health and Social Services Karen Perdue and CEO of the public policy research company Information Insights Ellen Ganley were contracted to create the Alaska Mental Health Trust History Jukebox.

Started in 2007 by the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with funding from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the project offers remarkable insight into the long struggle to provide quality mental health services in Alaska from the perspective of the people who participated.

A three-day trip to the National Archives resulted in the discovery of 42 boxes of Morningside Hospital records. Perdue and Ganley brought what they could back to Alaska, uncovering a story that reads like a Hollywood script.

No justice for children

According to a chapter on Morningside Hospital and the passage of the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act in Claus Naske’s book “Bob Bartlett of Alaska … A Life in Politics,” prior to statehood, “mentally ill or retarded people would be declared ‘an insane person at large’ in a court hearing before a jury of six laymen who would be impaneled to “to inquire, try and determine whether the person so complained of is really insane.’ ”

Naske contends that contrary to the American concept of justice, these court trials for insanity laid the burden of proof upon the accused person. A friendless soul in the throws of a hangover might prove so unresponsive to questioning, so ignorant of the importance of the hearing, or simply so inept with the English language, that the lay jury might in good conscience adjudge them “insane as charged.”

Sen. Bob Bartlett, Alaska’s Territorial Delegate to Congress, heard testimony from Alaskan Edward Cannon, who fought for an Alaska institution, suggesting it “will stop a lot of railroading [of patients] on frame-ups by crooked territorial appointees who wanted to settle their revenges in this way.”

According to Naske, no transcripts of Alaska commitment hearings have been found.

In their blog, MorningsideHospital.com, Ganley writes, “It was never clear to me when Morningside started admitting children. The patient lists during the early years seemed to be populated by miners, gamblers and others who came North to seek their fortunes. By the time Alaska assumed responsibility for providing mental health services to its citizens in 1956, a significant percentage of patients at Morningside were children with developmental disabilities. Some admitted soon after birth.”

Admitted for poor English

“A Survey of the First Admissions to the Alaska Hospital for the Insane,” a thesis presented by Doris Freeburger to the Division of Philosophy, Psychology, and Education at Reed College in May 1941, found the average Morningside patient was a single male in his 30s to 40s.

At that time, 58.4 percent of the hospital’s population was not diagnosed. Dementia, manic depressive, epileptic, senile, mental defective, general neurosis, paranoid, trauma, drug addiction, and a high rate of alcoholic psychoses rounded out the population’s reported aliments.

About half of those deemed as “mentally defective” were Alaska Natives who spoke poor English, according to the study.

Over the decades, federal inspections of Morningside by doctors representing the Congressional Government Operations Committee painted a grim picture of life in the facility.

Admissions procedures were characterized as “comparable to the apprehension and commitment of a criminal” with the words “archaic, cruel, inhumane and essentially barbaric” underlined in the report.

The Morningside Hospital Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives 1957 provided a comprehensive narrative of the practices of Morningside Hospital from 1905-1957.

The Majority Opinion suggested that “The greatest shortcoming lies in the fact that practically no psychiatric treatment is afforded the many patients who urgently need such treatment.

The professional staff is inadequate numerically and professionally to provide the required treatment.”

At that time, one clinical psychiatrist, with a minimum of training, was available for the psychiatric care of 344 patients.

Sedation and insulin shock

Under the open hospital model, the Opinion study noted that Morningside patients were controlled through sedatives rather than lock and key. New patients received a regular psychiatric interview, after which electric shock and/or insulin shock was often prescribed.

The Opinion further stated that, a “violent and hazardous” treatment of insulin-coma therapy was found to be used “dangerously” at the “grossly understaffed” hospital “without sufficient professional personnel.” Some of the patients selected for insulin shock therapy were poor risks as they were over 65 years old, or suffering from serious physical ailments,

Insulin shock therapy, the study explained, involves injection of insulin for the purpose of inducing a temporary coma, which is terminated after some 15 to 30 minutes by administering glucose, sometimes intravenously but usually by means of a tube inserted into the stomach either through the nose or mouth while the patient is in a coma. Because of the danger of introducing the tube into the lungs and drowning the patient with the glucose, the practice, or gavage, should be done only by medically trained doctors and registered nurses.

But when the insulin shock therapy treatment was inaugurated by Dr. Thompson at Morningside Hospital, there was only one registered nurse on duty. Her hours were from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and after she left the attendants would terminate the secondary insulin coma, which often developed several hours after the initial treatment. Many gavages were performed without records being made of the procedures.

The Opinion determined that a number of patients died either as a direct result of the insulin therapy treatment or within 24 hours after undergoing the shock, with substantial evidence indicating that some of the deaths may have occurred from drowning of patients while being gavaged by attendants without benefit of proper oversight.

In a number of cases the congressional committee found “shocking instances of neglect of patients.” They noted a common practice for elderly patients who lacked control of their bowels to be “strapped to stools in the lavatory” for many hours. In one instance, in 1950, a patient who was “usually” kept strapped to the pot chair “all day,” was found dead of exhaustion.

Another example citied was in 1953, when a patient who vomited during an epileptic fit was placed in a bathtub and doused with buckets of water instead of being cleaned with a sponge or cloth. The patient, whose head was under water at times during the epileptic seizure, died a few minutes later.

“The evidence before the committee indicated that when medical examiner Dr. Keller was first assigned to Morningside Hospital in April 1947, he found conditions at Morningside deplorable, with inadequate staff, and improper care and treatment verging upon outright abuse,” suggested the Opinion.

The detailed government report told the story of how Morningside Hospital’s owners made millions off the forced labor of their heavily tranquilized patients, and fed them food that was “lacking in variety, unappetizing” and ‘full of grease.'”

No respect for the dead

Those who died at Morningside were “buried without regard for common standards of decency” including interment of more than one individual in a single grave, according to government reports, which noted graves of Morningside patients were near a ravine, overgrown by tall grass, and unmarked. Outer caskets were not used. It was determined that because of confusion in records as well as absence of markers, it would “be difficult or impossible to locate and identify some of the bodies if a relative should wish to disinter a deceased patient.”

Perdue and Ganley are spending their free time sifting through dusty boxes, compiling information, and posting it online. The Wall of Names of Morningside Patients found at http://www.morningsidehospital.com/morningside-patient-lists/ sees constant additions.

The National Archives records Morningside patient lists from 1904 to the 1950s, contracts, investigation reports, personnel records, medical officer reports, and administrative correspondence. There are also telegrams, vouchers, and letters, some of which concern the custody and care of mental patients, discharge of cured individuals, as well as a few heartbreaking missives from family members to patients that were retained by the hospital.

Perdue and Gangley have set up a Web site, http://www.MorningsideHospital.com, to disseminate information on committed Alaskans. Efforts to assemble a database of patient names and information has begun, but is missing the estimated $15,000 needed to complete the task. In a recent interview, Purdue mentioned that they weren’t anticipating the extreme emotional toll their efforts would exact.

“One day at a meeting while on break, I called a friend over to my laptop and pulled up the list, pointed my finger at a name and said, ‘This guy has your last name – ever hear of him?’ ” Purdue writes on her blog. “What was I thinking? The reaction of my colleague was immediate and profound. ‘That is my brother – and we have been looking for him for decades,’ said my friend, tears streaming down his face.’ ”

For now, these two volunteers are working their way through the copies they brought home from the National Archives and posting the information on their Web site. There are thousands of stories at Morningside Hospital, and none of them have happy endings.

For some, at least, their last story finally has an ending.

Dorene Lorenz lives in Seward and is President of the Friends of Jesse Lee Home.



Editorial: Patients deserve dignity in death

10/13/2009 8:45:02 AM

If death and taxes are really the only guarantees in life, perhaps there should at least be a third: dignity in death.

The Rochester State Hospital Cemetery Recognition Group is teaming up with a St. Paul-based organization — Advocating Change Together — in an effort to provide dignity for the 2,019 people who are buried in the state hospital cemetery in Quarry Hill Park.

In the past three years, several hundred grave markers with names have replaced the numbered, anonymous stones that mark the majority of this cemetery’s burial sites. This year alone, 125 new markers have been put in place, but roughly 1,150 remain unmarked.

The people buried in this cemetery, which was in use from 1886-1965, didn’t have an easy life. Most were mentally ill or had physical or mental disabilities at a time when such conditions were little understood. Today, the least we can do is provide them and their families with the serenity and dignity that every human being deserves.

Beth Thompson, a volunteer for the cemetery recognition group, takes that message to churches and other organizations.

“We love to spread the word on this project,” she said. “When we first started doing the presentations, they were done more as money-raisers. Now, however, it’s more of just an historical, informational presentation — but we’re always happy to receive donations.”

The state is paying for the grave markers — nearly 8,000 graves across the state have yet to be marked — but other improvements at the Rochester cemetery require local dollars.

“We don’t have enough money to finish the project locally,” Thompson said. “The funds we’ve raised have gone toward rebuilding the memorial out there, putting in a landscaped entrance, re-establishing the perimeters and putting benches in. We hope to raise enough money to put in a roadway up the center of the cemetery because the state won’t pay for that.”

We encourage individuals and organizations to do what they can in support of this worthy cause.



Jean Davison visits site of unmarked graves at High Royds, Menston

2:20pm Monday 31st August 2009

By Marc Meneaud »

An author who was given electric shock treatment at the former High Royds psychiatric hospital after being wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia has backed a campaign in memory of 3,000 former patients.

Jean Davison, 59, was a patient at the day hospital of the former asylum in Menston, with Derek Hutchinson, who is behind a campaign to build a lasting memorial to those buried in unmarked graves at a site in Buckle Lane.

The Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden, led by Mr Hutchinson, want to see a derelict chapel on the site transformed into a centre to give information about the history of the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, which later became known as High Royds.

A garden with a plaque carrying the names of each of the 2,861 people buried in pauper’s graves is also planned.

Mrs Davison, who has written a memoir, The Dark Threads, of her experiences at High Royds, said the friends’ campaign brought back memories.

In 1968, Mrs Davison had gone to High Royds as a voluntary patient because she “wanted someone to talk to”. She spent four months as an in-patient.

She said: “It makes me think of all the people in the past who have suffered there.”

The Friends are hoping businesses will back the garden project. Scaffolding and timber to replace roof joists in the old chapel are especially needed. To help, call Mark Davis on 07833 110110. For further information visit highroydshospital.co.uk.

e-mail: marc.meneaud@telegraphandargus.co.uk



High Royds garden campaigners get keys to site

3:09pm Thursday 23rd July 2009

By Marc Meneaud »

A dream has become reality for campaigners wanting to build a memorial to nearly 3,000 inmates of Bradford’s former lunatic asylum.

A memorial garden will be created to commemorate those buried in pauper’s graves at the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum at High Royds, Menston, after the campaigners received the keys to its burial ground yesterday.

Derek Hutchinson, a 62-year-old former patient and chairman of the Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden, was at the site in Buckle Lane to mark the start of the major project.

He said: “This is the best thing I have ever done.

“But it is not for us, it is for the people who are buried in the ground there. We are going to do them proud because that is what they deserve.”

The effort has been a two-year struggle to finally get to the stage where work can be carried out on the graveyard.

The friends group will now refurbish the derelict chapel.

Plans are also in the pipeline for a wildflower meadow with benches and a sculpture commemorating 2,861 patients bur-ied there between 1890 and 1969.

They include six babies, most of whom died as patients.

Gardener Kevin Lupton, who will look after the site on a full-time basis, will now work with a team to clean it up ready for work to start. A full-time security guard has also been employed.

Mr Hutchinson, who was a patient in the early 1970s when he underwent electric shock therapy, said he had been contacted by the families of more than 200 people buried at Buckle Lane, offering donations.

Here’s a story out of Croydon, England, about the unmarked burial sites of WW1 vets at an asylum there. I don’t know where they’re at as regards non-vets, maybe they haven’t gotten around to them yet.


Relative describes scandal of forgotten Cane Hill soldiers as ‘disgrace’

9:24am Thursday 8th October 2009

By Kirsty Whalley »

A relative of one of our forgotten soldiers said it is “disgraceful” their service in the First World War has not been recognised.

George Lammie’s great-nephew Bill Harris, 56, was astonished to learn his grandmother’s brother had ended his days in the Cane Hill lunatic asylum.

He said: “I do feel that they deserve to be recognised, I think its disgraceful that they are not on the honour roll.”

The Croydon Guardian is campaigning to have soldiers who served during the First World War and died later in the Cane Hill asylum, included on the national Debt of Honour.

The bodies of 26 soldiers who died while being treated in the Coulsdon asylum lie hidden in an unmarked grave.

Their names do not appear on any official or state memorial despite the fact that they had full military funerals.

Local historian Adrian Falks uncovered the scandal.

Mr Harris, a father of four, heard about his great-uncle from his grandmother, Jean Lammie, who lost two brothers in the war.

Her father had died in 1909 leaving George, William and Jean without a home and in a desperate situation. Mr Harris does not know what happened to their mother Clara, but George as the eldest son took it upon himself to look after his family.

He said: “George managed to find work for William, who was 15 or 16, on a relative’s farm in Dorset. In order to put a roof over my grandmother’s head, he put her into service as a maid.

“She was very young, possibly in her early teens.”

When war broke out, George and William both enlisted and fought on the frontline. William was killed during the Battle of the Somme. Mr Harris has visited his grave at the Authuile Military Cemetery. William’s name is on the Debt of Honour.

Until he read our story he did not know George Lammie had died at Cane Hill hospital and now lies in an unmarked grave.

He said: “George’s war record shows he was a bit of a lad, he was known to have a drink and indulge in fisticuffs.”

According to the record, George fought on the front and was sent home after being “blown up” on the battlefield.

His war record does not go into the extent of his injuries.

Mr Harris said George married a woman named Daw during the war. She had a daughter whose father had been killed in battle.

Daw’s second husband would die after his mind had become ravaged by syphilis. Like many other soldiers, he contracted the disease for which there was no cure.

Mr Falks said: “It was a common disease among soldiers at the time. The army’s thinking was that it was a way of army life.”

He said it was not a barrier to inclusion on the Debt of Honour and George Lammie should be remembered for his service on the frontline.

A spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said: “We welcome this campaign to add the names of any individuals who were not included on the Debt of Honour, and is working closely with the Ministry of Defence to identify those who may have been overlooked.

“It is worth noting that it is not, and has never been, the policy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to discriminate with regards to the mental health of an individual.

“Indeed, the commission has, from its inception in 1917, had a clear and unambiguous policy of not discriminating on any basis, be that creed, colour, religion, race, criminal convictions or state of health.

“Our team of researchers are now examining the list of names presented to us. The MoD will then make the final decision as to who is added to the Debt of Honour.”

• What do you think? Let us know by email here, phone the newsdesk on 020 8330 9555 or leave a comment below.



Group works to restore names of dead at state mental hospital cemetery

By KARE 11 Staff Writer

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Years after their deaths, no one knew who the hundreds of Minnesotans who died while in state mental care were. That’s because they were buried as a number, but thanks to a group dedicated to giving identity to the dead, numbers in a graveyard are turning into names.

The Minnesota State Hospital in Rochester is one of the pioneers in encouraging local groups to help bring contacts to normal life for its patients.

The Rochester State Hospital opened in 1879 and housed people who were mentally ill. It stayed open until 1982.

Not far from the former hospital is Quarry Park and the old Rochester State Hospital Cemetery. It’s were more than 2,000 patients were buried from 1886 to 1965.

The cemetery has come a long way in recent years thanks in part to Jeff Anderson. Each year he has been adding name stones. It’s a far cry from the jars of cement with an etched number which once marked the graves.

“We’ve started at the newest side and we’re working our way up to the older graves and we’re marking them all with these solid granite memorials,” says Anderson.

His company has been working with the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery Recognition Group to replace the numbered markers at cost. The group “Remembering with Dignity” has been gathering grants to fund the project.

“This project was something that my dad was trying to do forever,” Anderson recalls. “I remember when I was a little kid, trying to come up here and looking for graves and different things and trying to place an occasional marker here and there.”

Anderson says the project has given significance to the lives of the people and a new life to the cemetery.

“They were put into an institution and became a number. And today, people with those types of difficulties aren’t thought of that way anymore, aren’t treated that way anymore, thank goodness. And because of that, they all have a name and they deserve to have a name,” Anderson says.

(Copyright 2009 by KTTC. All Rights Reserved.)



Ceremony celebrates placement of 125 more grave markers

10/6/2009 8:10:02 AM

By Janice Gregorson
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Another 125 grave markers have been placed at the old Rochester State Hospital cemetery, replacing the numbers on the unmarked graves with names.

A ceremony Sunday honored the people buried at the cemetery and celebrated the placement of the additional grave markers. Several hundred markers have been placed at the cemetery, in Quarry Hill Park, in the past three years.

Between 1866 and 1997, almost 13,000 Minnesotans living in state institutions were buried anonymously. That includes 2,019 at the former Rochester State Hospital cemetery. Of the 13,000, named gravestones have replaced the numbered markers at 5,050 gravesites.

The grave-marking project is the work of the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery Recognition Group, which teamed up with Remembering with Dignity, a project of the St. Paul-based Advocating Change Together. In 2006, the groups received a $100,000 state grant to place 500 headstones.

An art project has been developed to help tell the stories of these forgotten lives, said Halle O’Falvey of Remembering With Dignity. She said the project begins in November and ends next May. The project will include 40 workshops of visual arts programming and historical research of the decedents.


‘We can finish the story of their lives’

By Luke Duecy

STEILACOOM, Wash. – A special ceremony Sunday at a cemetery behind Western State Hospital in Pierce County brought some peace of mind to a local family after decades of doubt.

Many years ago, the state-operated mental institution buried patients with nameless markers. Now – one group is trying to find the names and families looking for them.

That effort ended one woman’s search for her great-great-grandmother just one week ago. It ended near the base of a shade tree outside the hospital in Steilacoom.

Mary Gosselin has waited her whole life for this moment.

“There really is closure now – we can finish the story of their lives,” she says.

Way back in 1884 – after giving birth to her sixth child – Mary Hart suffered from post-partem depression. She was committed to Western State, where she died a few years later.

“But we didn’t know when she died or anything about her because in those days it was a stigma,” Gosselin says.

Nineteenth-century workers buried Mary Hart’s body alongside 3,000 other patients – literally – in back of the barn.

And while the family kept what few records they had, they had no idea – until they found Laurel Lemke.

“It really is completion for folks,” Lemke says.

Lemke and about a dozen other volunteers pored through stacks of state records for family’s like Mary Gosselin’s.

They match names to numbered markers in the field. They also place brand new headstones beside them when they’ve identified a grave.

Her work has been so well receoved that the state is now offering her organization federal grant money to help find more families whose relatives were buried anonymously.

Lemke hopes her work might dispel the stigmas attached to mental illness.

“Sometimes there’s a question in the family because there’s current mental illness, or they want to find what’s going on and I refer them to the medical records. It helps solve questions and bring closure,” she says.

Generations ago, family members who suffered from mental illness were sent to an institution. When they died, they were buried in a cemetery like the one at Western State – with no name – just a small concrete block with a number.

In fact, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that Washington state released their names

And now, families like Mary Gosselin’s can track down lost loved ones – so the next generation of great-great-grandma Mary Hart’s family will know.


Volunteers’ work honors forgotten graves

Assistant News Editor

POSTED: October 3, 2009

COLLINS – Section by section, row by row, a dirt path off Wheater Road leads past secluded graves.

The markers, invisible from the main road, are divided among four flat areas as the path slopes downward. Some markers are metal crosses; others are upright or in-ground stone slabs. It is estimated that about 1,200 graves lie at the site, but the exact number remains unknown as there is only a rudimentary map to go by and some of the flat-lying markers have been swallowed by the earth.

As to who lies in each plot, that too is largely unknown; for aside from the rare stone placed long ago out of the expense of a loved one, every marker bears only a number.

Here lie residents of the Gowanda Psychiatric Center; the institutionalized who passed away sometime during the facility’s operation from the late 1898 to the cemetery’s estimated closure in the 1950s. The center would continue operating until shut down by the state in 1994 and all grounds associated with it transferred to the Collins Correctional Facility, but by then time would consume the cemetery in weeds and briers.

The cemetery remained hidden to nearly all until the early part of the 21st century, when someone literally stumbled across a marker.

“Sandy Hooten was the original person who found the place, said David Hyde, a member of the Mental Health Association of Cattaraugus County Friendship Club, an association of people who live non-hospitalized lives while receiving care from mental health providers.”She was walking her dog through this area and tripped over one of the grave markers.”

Since then, volunteers have been working to reclaim the site and its occupants from obscurity. The Friendship Club joined with the national Operation Dignity project to recognize and restore abandoned psychiatric cemeteries, including the successfully restored psychiatric cemetery on Route 62. Other groups, including students from Siena College who worked Friday and are scheduled to work today, have been happy to assist.

“We think this effort is really important; that people have the right to have resting places that are dignified, and that we acknowledge and honor them,” said Diana Strock-Lynskey, a professor of social work at Siena. “And, based on circumstances, that is something that is able to happen.”

Two Siena students, Kimberly Vassilatos and Julie Kallenburg, first visited the cemetery site in June and returned along with additional students to continue work. Although a steady rain poured throughout Friday morning, no one was letting the 5.5-hour drive go to waste.

Work was concentrated on the lowest level of the cemetery Friday morning as the volunteers dug stone slabs up from beneath the ground and straightened them out on the surface.

In the next row back, more previously unknown plots had lately been discovered. Since the cemetery was re-revealed, the Collins Correctional Facility has helped clear the underbrush and repair some of the markers. It was a mower from the facility that accidentally hit one of the few named stones in the cemetery; the only marker sticking up in the concealed back row. It could be said that Edward Lutje, born 1867 and died 1950, spoke from the grave to alert the volunteers to more of the buried.

Learning the names of the rest of the interred is not so simple. Some burial records that remained with the town of Collins have been found, but the rest are thought to be stored somewhere with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center – if they still exist at all.

“The thing that gets me is the way these people are all labeled by numbers, because you know they all had names, even though they might not have used the names,” said Marsha Kennedy, a Friendship Club member who had worked in the Gowanda Psychiatric Center youth program. “They had language barriers.”

Some residents of the center’s past may have been able to lead relatively normal lives, but were immigrants unable to convey their health in an understandable language. Others may have been family members dropped off at the center because their loved ones could not or were unwilling to take care of them anymore.

Over time, the sites appear to have been divided by Catholic and Protestant residents. Other records show patients defined as “white,” “black” or “red.” It is assumed the numbers on each marker indicate the order that patients died or were buried.

“It’s a painful memory of how they were treated in life,” Vassilatos said.

As better treatments were discovered to replace the potentially damaging ones of the past, conditions gradually improved throughout mental health facilities over the course of the past century. The difference is not lost on the volunteers.

“I currently work at the Capital District Psychiatric Center back in Albany, so I mean for me it very well could’ve been my patients here, too.” Kallenburg said.

According to Mental Health Association Social Club Director Tammy Querns, the known age range of those in the Wheater Road cemetery is 3 days-105 years. Work will continue at the location through next year, expecting to restart in April.

It is likely that more research will be done in hope of discovering the identities of those in the cemetery and notifying descendants, but Strock-Lynskey noted that discussion into the ethics of this action is ongoing and would be the subject of a panel the volunteers would attend at St. Bonaventure University Friday evening.

“Every number should have a name,” she said. “Shouldn’t people have the right to have their name on their grave site? But the issue is would we be violating the privacy of someone because it would out them as a mental health consumer?”

Volunteers from St. Bonaventure University were expected to join the restoration effort on Saturday.

For more information on Operation Dignity or volunteering, contact Querns at 372-0208.



A Day of Remembrance

By Carole Brodsky
Updated: 09/22/2009 12:00:35 AM PDT

For the Daily Journal

Over 60 individuals gathered Tuesday at the Russian River Cemetery District for a somber and bittersweet tribute to patients of the former Mendocino State Hospital.

The seventh annual Day of Remembrance, coordinated by the California Memorial Project, is a collaboration of three California agencies for the purpose of restoring dignity to mostly unknown individuals who lived and died in state hospitals and developmental centers – some who were buried and others who were cremated and placed in mass graves.

For Tony Vau, District Superintendent of the cemetery district, the event has a special poignancy. Vau’s mother, Betty, worked at the State Hospital for 18 years, beginning in 1957.

“We spent a lot of time there as kids,” says Vau. “There were holiday parties, employee picnics, barbecues and even a movie theater.”

Vau’s father-in-law, Walter Freeman, was the head gardener and tended the hogs, and Vau’s father, Charles, was the head butcher for the hospital.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the hospital was a self-sustaining farm,” Vau said. “They had their own dairy where they made milk, butter and cheese. There were hogs and beef and a vegetable garden.”

Vau says that approximately one-third of Ukiahans were employed by the hospital.

This year’s ceremony was the largest ever, and representatives from county health and human service agencies as well as non-profit organizations serving mental health consumers and those with disabilities were on hand. Representatives from both state Sen. Pat Wiggins and Assemblyman Wes Chesbro’s office were expected to attend but were not present at the event.

The event began at the west side of the cemetery, where 433 individuals are buried in separate plots. The historical site is now marked with a headstone donated by Ukiahan Jack Cox.

A second site holds the remains of 1,660 individuals who were cremated at the State Hospital and transferred to the cemetery upon the hospital’s closure in 1972. A memorial bench has been installed honoring the memory of Ukiahan Nicky Fabyunkey, who died in 2008. North Bay Monuments and Mendocino Monuments are donating a headstone for the site. Vau is hoping that the State of California will soon release funds promised for memorial plaques at both locations. Vau notes that local resident Lisa Mammina “really woke me up about this,” and once he realized the gravity of the situation, the Cemetery District was quick to support his work to improve the two grave sites.

For those who were patients at the hospital – or for those who had relatives who were patients, the event was an emotional rekindling of a combination of painful memories and gratitude for staff who helped people during times of crisis. Many individuals made the point that state hospitals housed a variety of people, some who had no place to live, some with substance abuse problems, unwanted teens or people who didn’t “fit” into society. Treatment modalities seem primitive and even cruel by today’s perspective, and the scars that some patients received may never heal.

Dozens spoke of their time at the hospital, or recounted stories from loved ones. Cathy Trevino, who was taken to the hospital by abusive parents as a teenager, remembered walking to the hospital canteen with a friend.

“A car came screeching up and a man was pointing a rifle at my friend,” she recalled. Another patient observed the incident and hollered at the gunman. “The other patient was shot,” Trevino said. “I never found out what happened. We were never debriefed. I used to wonder if that man was buried here, but now I like to think that maybe he lived.”

Trevino, who now has a masters degree in social work, went on to raise her own family. “Not all of us fell back into that system,” she said.

Some spoke about the need to bring to light the trauma in developmental centers.

“People on the outside do not understand that at our core we are the same,” one person said. Others spoke of caring staff and progress made. “It was just like out here. Good things happened and bad things happened,” another explained. Shock treatments, medication and the lack of hugs – many spoke about a culture where the plight of the mentally ill or disabled human being is not discussed. “We need more events like this,” said one participant.

The California Memorial Project will continue to restore graves or cemeteries housing institutional patients. They are attempting to document the history of clients and consumers in California, and even more importantly, collecting oral histories of clients who were institutionalized. The Ukiah Methodist Church held a gathering in their Social Hall following the remembrance ceremony.

Sandra Davis of Manzanita Healing Hearts summed up the feelings of the group with a poem.

“We remember you.

Undeserved confinement,

Someone’s Grandpa,

Sitting in a chair,

Watching birds sitting in a tree…

Lost, lonely souls,

Souls not as lost as presumed,

Touched by the light of the universe.”



Forgotten Mental Patients Honored

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin Staff Writer
September 20, 2004

This cemetery is no verdant, tranquil place of peace and repose. It more resembles a barren desert.

A dozen people gathered Monday at Patton State Hospital to honor those buried there as others gathered at state mental hospitals and former hospitals up and down the state. It was called Remembrance Day.

Perhaps it should have been a day of shame.

An estimated 45,000 forgotten souls – more than 2,000 of them at Patton – are lying in similar plots throughout California.

The few folk driving into the parking area for the ceremony had to wait for the clouds of powdery dust to settle before they could get out of their cars. As they walked, their feet sank into the inches deep powder that, together with a few weeds, was all that covered the ground in the 3 1/2-acre plot lying hard alongside the hospital.

The ritual of remembrance was simple. A man, who identified himself as a former mental patient said a few words; a young Indian man chanted a prayer.

But notable by their absence were any members of other religious orders: no priest, no minister, no rabbi. Nor was there a representative of the state.

The three chipped 3- to- 5 pound numbered markers that stood upright at the cemetery’s makeshift entrance seemed a bit out of place.

The three once lay atop three graves at the hospital.

An estimated 2,022 mentally ill patients were buried there between the late 1890s and early 1930s.

Today, all but about 200 of those markers seem to have grown feet and escaped. The others are said to be kept somewhere on the hospital’s grounds.

Then there’s the landscaping – a dozen or so 3-foot poles evenly dispersed and bordering the cemetery at the northwest corner of the institution, which is on Highland Avenue between Victoria Avenue and Orange Street.

“I’ve seen pet cemeteries that look better than this,” said Michael McPherson, a former mental health patient.

There is hope these burial grounds will improve under Senate Bill 1448 – a 2001 law that assists in the restoration of cemeteries at state mental institutions and developmental centers.

“Most of these people were indigent, didn’t have money and their family members didn’t care about them,” said Riverside resident Geraldine Rech, who on Monday was handing out pins for attendees to wear during the ceremony.

One of the more famous Patton patients was Serrano Indian Chief Antonio Saver, who was sent there in 1907, died a month after arriving and was buried at its cemetery.

Virginia Johnson of San Bernardino — Saver’s great-granddaughter — said the chief had a nervous breakdown after his wife and daughter died. While mourning, he wrapped his wife’s body in a blanket and carried it to the Santa Ana River wash near Morongo Valley.

There, he cried and sang Indian chants that caught the ears of others. The authorities were sent to the area where they tried to restrain Saver.

Johnson said it took at least five people to restrain her great-grandfather.

Saver was later taken to San Bernardino County Hospital then transferred to Patton, where he died at age 105 of senile dementia, according to records.

Members of his family contend Saver wasn’t mentally ill, just distraught.

“This was Indian country and my great-grandfather was Serrano and didn’t speak English,” Johnson said. “When he was approached by people, they thought he was crazy, but he wasn’t. He was just in mourning. They took him to a hospital because no one understood him.”

Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for someone without a mental illness to be locked up in an institution, said Rech, 52, who also was a mental health patient, and now is an advocate.

In the Sun’s six-day series, “Lost Among Us: How Society Fails the Mentally Ill,” it was noted that tens of thousands of people were locked away against their will and drugged. Many of them were not mentally ill.

“I think the stigma was worse back then,” Rech said. “People hid the fact that a loved one had a mental illness or that something was wrong with their brain. They didn’t want to claim them.”

Of the thousands that died at state mental institutions, less than 10 percent are in marked grave sites, and about 9,000 were cremated and had their remains placed in mass graves, some holding upward of 5,000 individual remains.

“When I leave the earth, I’d at least want to have a rock with my name on it to say I’m buried there,” McPherson said. “Our goal is to not only restore these cemeteries but put a face on those who have died.”

Goldie Walker, Saver’s great-granddaughter hopes the family can someday remove his remains and bring them back to his homeland near Mission Creek.

The Band of Serrano Indians is in the process of reclaiming ancestral land along Highway 62 just off Interstate 10.

As part of the ceremony Monday, Johnson and other great-grandchildren of Saver’s performed an Indian ritual around his grave site that was marked by a bed of rocks, three American flags and some colorful flowers.

The group held hands in a circle around the grave and walked slowly for a few minutes as another person held a peace pipe.

At 1:55 p.m., a moment of silence took place.

Similar events also were held at Napa State Hospital, Stockton Developmental Center, Mendocino State Hospital, Sonoma Developmental Center and Agnews Developmental Center at the same time.

This is the second annual Remembrance Day, which is held on the third Monday of each September and marks the anniversary of the signing of SB 1448.

McPherson said another goal of the Memorial Project is to identify each of the individuals buried at the cemeteries and to construct memorial walls for the hospitals.

There also is hope of making contact with some relatives.



September 30, 2009

Three more families to honor once-anonymous gravesites in old Western State Hospital cemetery

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — A group that formed to bring honor to the historic old Western State Hospital cemetery and to identify the patients who were buried there anonymously will hold another ceremonial grave-marking activity on Sunday, Oct. 4, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The event coincides with National Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4-11) with this year’s theme of “Building Community and Taking Action.”

“The installation events on Sunday will be particularly meaningful for the Grave Concerns Association (GCA) because for the first time descendents of multiple former patients will be present,” GCA Chair Laurel Lemke said. GCA Vice Chair Carol Slaughter added that the publicity about the group’s work this year has sparked an increasing number of inquiries from families who lost track of their relatives after they were sent to Western.

Three patients will be singled out for special honors on Sunday. They are Mary Beran Hart, Michael Wutz and John Krause, all with families expected to attend the ceremonies.

Lemke said Hart’s story was especially poignant. She had been brought to the hospital for post partum depression and died there in 1914, unattended by family or friends. Recently, Lemke helped two great-granddaughters — Mary Gosselin of Tacoma and Marjean Galbraith of Cushing, Minn. — search through the graveyard, finally locating her burial site in a wooded area of the cemetery.

They marked her No. 1300 gravesite that day by outlining it with small rocks. On Sunday, this time surrounded by family members, the site will be remarked with a stone crafted by Premier Monuments. It includes her full name, date of birth, date of death and a cross to remember her Catholic faith.

The Grave Concerns group was originally organized after a rededication ceremony in 2000 for the old cemetery in Fort Steilacoom Park during Mental Illness Awareness Week that year. Four years later, the group was instrumental in changing a state law that required the hospital to use only numbers on the gravesites of patients buried there.

“The Legislature’s decision to change the law effectively ended an era in which the stigma of mental illness prevented identification of mental patients who died,” Lemke said. “We feel what we are really doing is restoring these individuals’ histories as well as their identities. They were real people, with real lives and, in some way, we’re giving that back to them and their families.”

This will mark the fifth family-initiated event that Grave Concerns has arranged since 2004 and the third installation work event this year, building on the support of the Greater Puget Sound Consumer Coalition and the state’s federally funded Transformational Mental Health Project. Those who attend the ceremony on Sunday will be asked to help install 30 additional markers with patient names.

Among those expected to attend are representatives from the Pierce County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the NAMI-Citizens-Guild, Rose House, TACID Mental Health, OptumHealth Public Sector, Pierce-RSN, Mental Health Action and Western State Hospital Local 793. The event is free and open to the public.

Lemke said the Grave Concerns group will provide some digging equipment to install markers, but that volunteers are urged to bring work gloves and their own shovels.



Forgotten graves

09/03/2009 02:04 PM
Kim Matas

Group puts markers on 3,200 graves of mentally ill.


By Rachel La Corte
Associated Press Writer

LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) — Faded numbers stamped into small cement blocks marked the graves of more than 3,200 mentally ill patients buried here at Western State Hospital between the 1870s and 1953. Over time, the stones themselves sank into the earth, leaving the dead in almost perfect obscurity.

But a nearly decade-long effort by volunteers — buoyed by national efforts to bring light to these forgotten cemeteries — has put names to some 660 people who went unclaimed by either family or friend after dying at the state’s largest mental hospital, about 40 miles south of Seattle.

The remaining numbered stones have been restored to the surface, cleaned and await their own personalized plaques. Another 59 markers will be added this fall.

“It’s righting a wrong,” said Laurel Lemke, chairwoman of Grave Concerns Association, the volunteer group working to give each person a named marker. “For me, a lot of it is reducing the stigma of mental illness.”

The hospital has always had a mapped list of the names of those who are buried in what once was the hospital farm, but the stigma of mental illness, and the state’s confidentiality laws, led to decades of numbered markers, Lemke said.

One of the newest markers identifies the grave of Sabra Garwood Langworthy, who entered the hospital in 1879.

Alexsandra Stewart, Langworthy’s great-great-granddaughter, was doing genealogy research when she found Langworthy in census records that placed her at the hospital.

Stewart felt sadness and anger when she learned her ancestor was buried in an anonymous grave, marked only by the number 1412.

“There are records of the family visiting her, but the last 10 or so years, either they don’t have records or people didn’t visit,” she said. “I was angry about that too.”

Stewart, a 72-year-old Portland, Ore., real estate broker, said she had remembered hearing stories about Langworthy being institutionalized, but she said no one really remembered details.

Langworthy died of pneumonia at the hospital in 1915 at age 79. Records Stewart acquired from the hospital show the brutal diagnosis of the day: Insane.

Stewart said that Langworthy was “lost in time to a mental disorder of some kind and also lost to her family.”

“The records I found and the placing of a named marker was in some small sense a way to recover her, bring her back to the family,” she said.

The project at Western State is part of a national movement to attach names to more than 100,000 such graves across the country, “symbolically giving voice and dignity to people who have been ostracized by their communities,” said David Shern, president and CEO of Alexandria, Va.-based Mental Health America, a national advocacy group.

Similar efforts have been undertaken in several states, including Massachusetts, Georgia, New York and California. A new national memorial dedicated to the unnamed graves of the mentally ill broke ground at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. in June.

Western’s cemetery is within what is now Fort Steilacoom Park, across the street from the hospital, once the site of Fort Steilacoom. The named plaques are scattered through the cemetery, surrounded by a dog park, playgrounds and trails.

The oldest remaining building on the hospital campus is the 1934 administrative building, which replaced the first brick-and-mortar building that was built in 1887. The original asylum was established in 1871 in officer housing and military barracks at the fort.

Through the years, Western’s cemetery was overgrown and the stones sank.

“It just seemed abandoned,” said Lemke, who said that her own battles with bipolar disorder made her want to restore the cemetery. “I felt kind of a kinship for people who didn’t have the same opportunities I had.”

Starting in 2000, Lemke and other volunteers, including patients at the hospital, began to raise and clean the numbered markers.

A large monument at the cemetery’s entrance was put up in 2003 in honor of all of those buried there, but because the state’s confidentiality laws still prevailed, Lemke’s group wasn’t able to disclose names. After lobbying the Legislature, her group was successful in getting the law changed in 2004. The first individual marker was placed later that year.

More than 530 names belonging to those who died and who were cremated between 1939 and 1952 are engraved on a large marker bearing the legend, “Rest in Peace.” An additional 127 people have individual markers on their graves.

On a recent summer day, tall, prairie-dry grass filled the cemetery, but the markers — both the numbered and the named — are clearly visible.

The granite marker of Robert Beatty, who died in 1888, is next to stone number 124, which has faded so much that the number is barely legible.

“I don’t know what their mental illness was, I don’t know if they were born in another country, I don’t know if they were a farmer,” said Lemke, who said she doesn’t have access to any of the personal medical records of the patients.

Family members who have a relative buried at the cemetery and want to find out additional details can request the records from the hospital.

Some of those buried here have historical significance, including John Moore, one of the first homesteaders in Des Moines who died in 1899, and Charles Victor ’Victory’ Faust, who pitched two games for the then-New York Giants, and died at the hospital in 1915.

Of the additional markers planned for the fall, Lemke is planning a special ceremony for one of them — a Civil War veteran, Charles Cooley, who up until now has only been marked by the number 200.

Lemke said her group’s goal is to complete replacing all of the markers in the next 10 years, and she hopes that each unveiled name will bring honor to the memory of the people who had such troubled lives.

“To me it’s a peaceful place,” Lemke said. “For myself, I don’t have a family cemetery to visit. Many people have cemeteries they tend to, so this is mine.”



Descendents pay tribute to Civil War vet at Western State cemetery

History: Family found remains in grave No. 200

The News Tribune
Published: 09/13/09 12:05 am | Updated: 09/13/09 6:00 am

For more than a century, the only evidence of Charles Wesley Cooley’s life was grave marker No. 200 at the Western State Hospital cemetery.

The site was one of hundreds where unidentified patients at the state’s largest mental health hospital are buried. In Cooley’s case, the marker said nothing about his life or his service in the Civil War. He simply was a number.

That all changed Saturday at Fort Steilacoom Park, when the man who lived from 1844 to 1891 received a new marker to honor his life and service in the military.

Cooley’s family and the Grave Concerns Association wanted to give him a proper tribute. The family spent months trying to find out where and who Cooley was.

The tribute brought together family from Washington and California, some of whom didn’t know each other before Saturday. Some 50 people attended the event.

In a memorial and living history lesson that featured Civil War re-enactors, a Fort Lewis honor guard and doves, “Chester” Cooley got the tribute that was 118 years overdue.

Hans Backer, Cooley’s great-great-grandson who traveled to Lakewood from Newport Beach, Calif., said Saturday was special.

“It makes it all the more meaningful for our family,” he said.

Backer first got the idea to locate Cooley following a family reunion last year in California. He spoke to his Uncle Lenny, who told him how Cooley fought for the North in the Civil War.

He began to research Cooley and his family – a wife, four sons and two daughters. His work led him to Western State Hospital.

Cooley was born in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1844 and was part of the 49th Infantry Regiment. By October 1864, he was promoted to full sergeant.

Cooley’s regiment – which suffered more than 900 deaths – fought in famous battles such as Shiloh and Chickamauga. Family legend is he also was captured during one of those battles, Backer said.

After the war, he returned to Ohio and married Laura, who’d be his wife for 20 years. The family moved to Missouri, then headed west to Salem via the Oregon Trail.

In 1880, the family moved to Goldendale, Wash., where they purchased a ranch. Cooley himself spoke Chinook and traded firewood with local American Indians, Backer said.

In 1889, Cooley suffered a stroke and was admitted to Western State. He was discharged the next year before being readmitted a few months later.

In 1891, Cooley died and was buried in the hospital cemetery with a marker that read “200.”

His was one of the unmarked graves that the Western State Hospital Grave Concerns Association wanted to restore when it formed in 2001.

Backer contacted Laurel Lemke, the association’s chairwoman, and they set up a proper memorial for Cooley, who is the 125th unmarked patient to be honored by the group.

On Saturday, Backer’s pride beamed as he shared Cooley’s story. The audience sang tributes such as “America the Beautiful” and the Civil War-era “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.”

They even released 25 doves to symbolize the release of Cooley’s spirit.

“Wasn’t it an amazing ceremony?” asked Karen Andreasen, Cooley’s great-granddaughter. “Sadly, he was lost to us.”

More than a century after Cooley’s death, his family finally found him.

Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653


25 Responses

  1. I am the community organizer for a project that is changing the way society looks at people with disabilities. Our project is called Remembering With Dignity. People who were buried in the state hospital institutions were given numbered gravemarkers. We make new gravemarkers with their names, birthdates and deathdates.

    Now we have developed an art exhibition that not only shows art but has an interactive game that mimics the verification process.

    here is a recent press release for an upcoming show.

    Putting a Face with the Name:

    New art exhibit seeks to put the past into focus as artists imagine the lives of the residents in former state hospitals

    by Bret Hesla

    Remember those old Minnesota state hospital cemeteries? The ones with anonymous graves for people with disabilities? The same cemeteries that are now getting restored with headstones that have names, birth and death dates? Here’s a question for you: how did they ever figure out who was buried where, and what their names were? And what did these people look like, anyway?

    Those questions will be partly answered later this month when a new interactive art exhibit goes on display in St. Peter’s Treaty Site History Center. On Saturday, Sept 11, Advocating Change Together’s (ACT) Remembering With Dignity (RWD) project will present “See Their Faces,” a series of new portraits and an interactive game that gives the public a chance to experience the process of turning a clearing in the forest (abandoned cemetery) into a place of dignity and remembrance.
    *********** *************
    Remembering With Dignity
    “See Their Faces”
    Art exhibit and Interactive Game
    Saturday, Sept 11th, 2010
    1:00 – 4pm
    1:30pm Reenactment of Research Process – The Interactive Game
    3:00pm Ceremony Celebrating the Artists and
    Honoring Those buried in the State Hospital Cemetery
    Treaty Site History Center
    1851 North Minnesota Avenue
    Just north of St. Peter on U.S. Hwy. 169
    St. Peter, MN 56082
    (507) 934-2160

    “See Their Faces” offers new art created by people with disabilities who are members of Remembering with Dignity. Working since last November, each artist created a piece related to the story of a person with a disability in the past century that lived and died in one of Minnesota’s state hospitals and was buried in an anonymous, numbered grave.

    “I worked on a portrait of Eddie Walesheck,” said RWD artist Liz Koltes. “He died when he was 42 and was buried under number 424 in Faribault. That could have been me.”
    Since December 2009, members of RWD have been working hard. Experienced artists and teachers supported RWD members as they embarked on a new path as emerging artists. “We came in two times a week,” said Kelly Lee. “We worked on drawing faces. We worked on drawing shapes. It was fun. And hard. I even came in on my days off” Each new artist kept a sketch book, and wrote their own artistic statement. “I went through seven sketch books” said RWD member Carol Robinson.

    “The project had two equally important goals,” said Halle O’Falvey, RWD organizer and lead teaching artist for the exhibit. “We’re educating society about a powerful piece of the past, and providing an opportunity for the people with developmental disabilities to see themselves as artists.”

    The exhibit will have another component to it; a game that mimic’s O’Falvey’s job in her researching and verifying the identities of the former inmates/patients buried in the cemeteries, not to mention finding the markers themselves. “Finding those old numbered markers was pretty tough,” said RWD member Larry Lubbers. “We had to walk through the woods looking for old concrete cylinders made from coffee cans.”

    Visitors to the exhibit will get to look for numbered grave markers hidden in Newell Park. When they find the numbered markers, they will then have to match the number with the name. Various files will be available for this process: cemetery records, admission records, coroner reports, death certificates, birth certificates. All to verify that the information is correctly spelled and the dates are correct.

    Remembering with Dignity works to highlight and celebrate the lives of people with disabilities who lived and died in the Minnesota State institutions. “We’re turning numbers to names,” said Carol Robinson when describing RWD’s work to convert numbered grave markers to proper headstones. When the RWD project began in 1994, Minnesota had more than 13,000 unmarked or numbered graves. Since then, the state legislature has provided funds to restore 5,629 markers. (In the 2009 legislative session, RWD was not funded.)

    “’See Their Faces”‘ has been a great and honorable feat,” said O’Falvey.” Nearly every RWD member began this art project thinking that they were not artistic and could not draw. Look what they did.” When she heard the exhibit referred to as “outsider art.” O’Falvey responded, “We prefer to call it art.”

    Come see for yourself, and help RWD honor the past and build for the future.
    For more information, call Remembering With Dignity organizer Halle O’Falvey at 651-641-0297.

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  7. I am interested in the St Elizabeths Hospital cemetery restoration. I am a local historian and genealogist living Conklin, MI. I have been researching the life and death of a Civil War veteran, Sevia Cervia, who died at St. Elizabeths on 16 Oct 1901. He served in Co. B, 5th Michigan Cavalry. I have discovered the record of the headstone that was ordered for his grave. I am now trying to find the location of his grave in one of the cemeteries at St Elizabeths Hospital. Is there a group or groups who are working on this project and, if so, how do I contact them.

    • If you mean St Elizabeths Hospital in the DC area, plans have long been afoot for sometime to make a national memorial of its cemetery. This memorial project has its own website, The Gardens of St Elizabeths : Memorial of Recovered Dignity.

      I suggest you see about using the contact page, and see if maybe one of the people listed on the page can help you with this matter. I have my doubts that they would know themselves, but I would imagine they could put you in touch with someone who could help you.

  8. I attended a solomn ceremony in the 1980s at Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, in NJ, at which time graves were identified. A memorial was constructed with names of the dead who were buried there. The cemetery was located across the street from the institution and quite a number of employees walked the distance, led by men playing bagpipes. The plaque with names of the dead was unveiled and the dead were no longer unknown. I am now disheartened to learn that the cemetery has returned to disrepair.

    • 20 years makes your solemn ceremony history. I suggest that you or someone else take the matter to politicians, history buffs and peers in New Jersey. Flowers, remembrances, art donations, and other ceremonies could do wonders. Restore your cemetery and revive your memorial at the same time. All it takes is people. These things just fade away when the support isn’t there to keep them going, therefore, support is crucial. I’d think after 20 years it was time to have a ceremony celebrating that fact alone, and to once again bring attention to the fact that people lived and died in that institution. They deserve the proper respect owed to anyone in a similar condition for humanitarian reasons.

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