Dignity Being Restored to the Graves at the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery

An excellent article about the cemetery located at the former Toledo State Hospital is found in the April 19, 2009 edition of the Toledo Blade. Following is a teaser:

This land, owned by the University of Toledo and site of its Medical Center (the former Medical College of Ohio), was once home to grave markerthousands who lived at the Toledo State Hospital. It was the Toledo Asylum for the Insane when it opened in 1888. Between then and 1973, nearly 2,000 people, unclaimed by families or friends, were laid to rest in two locations, one adjacent to a pig barn.

Their anonymity in death reflects their status in life on society’s bottom rung. Interments did not warrant polished granite slabs heralding their dates and earthly contributions (“Beloved Mother, Wife, Daughter, Teacher”). Rather, in institutional style, each grave was assigned a numbered concrete stone pushed in the ground. After all, who would come to meditate? Grave blankets in winter? Memorial Day bouquets? Unlikely.

Indeed, recent efforts to find these index-card-sized concrete nubbins by probing the ground with metal rods have been thwarted because most have sunk below the surface or are altogether gone.

Restoring dignity
The time is nigh, say a determined group of people, to acknowledge the humanity of these 1,994 women, children, and men.

Read the full article by Tahree Lane in the April 19, 2009 edition of the Toledo Blade.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (www.FamilyRootsPublishing.com), writes daily at GenealogyBlog.com, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

6 thoughts on “Dignity Being Restored to the Graves at the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery”

  1. Glad to see you’ve picked up on this. There are a number of us working to raise the buried markers in the cemeteries and place a monument (for all interred there) and flag pole (for the vets)in each cemetery. This spring/summer alone, we’ve located about 900 of the 1,000 markers in the new cemetery, and over 200 in the old, out of a total of 1,994. God bess the volunteers working on this project!

  2. I’m so glad to hear this is being done, Jane. I had my psychiatric training at Toledo State between 1957 and 1958. The hospital grounds were sprawling and beautiful with vast orchards of every fruit and berry one could think of. The meals were wonderful and we students were treated wonderfully well by the instructors and other staff. However, most of those patients, especially the ones who were considered to be ‘incurable’, meaning, in essence, they were there for the rest of their lives, had no visitors, were so filled with drugs like Thorazine (that I always believed contributed to making their conditions worse until they were totally out of touch with society, many with serious dyskinesia, which has now been connected directly to the use of the drug), that they were little more than zombies. Between that and treatments like electroshock treatment and ‘coma’ therapy, it was a horrible existence for these poor souls. We treated them well and stood up for them, but we had no control over the medications and treatments ordered for them. Neither did the physicians, since they did not have the benefit of the studies and knowledge today’s physicians have of how detrimental those drugs and treatments truly were for the patients. At least, I pray they didn’t. Thankfully, psychiatric hospitals, including the present-day Toledo State – are approaching treatment in a more humane way now, involving patients and their families in their treatment approach and plan of care, and not giving those horrible mind-robbing and body destroying drugs we used to have to give them. God bless all of you, Jane, for what you’re doing or trying to do about locating these graves. Maybe, at least, with this knowledge, their descendants will be able to honor their memories, finally. Thank you for allowing me to make these comments.

  3. My great grandmother is buried in the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery. She was admitted in 1896, the year my grandmother was born. While our family was aware my great grandmother, Minnie, had been hospitalized, little was known about what precipitated the hospitalization or where she was hospitalized. For many years I have wondered about her. My grandmother, Tempa, struggled with severe depression most of her adult life. I also have struggled with depression since my early 20’s and now my daughter has also had to deal with depression – also starting in her 20’s. It is only conjecture, but I feel there is a connection.

    It was such a joy when I discovered Minnie was hospitalized at the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery. The discovery was made through a search of the 1900 Census records. I was hoping to find medical records, but they have been destroyed. I do have her grave number. I know Minnie’s grave site has not been found, but several near hers have been. I am planning a visit to the Cemetery in May2011 and hope that I am able to locate her marker. I wonder if her husband or other family ever took note when she passed away. It just breaks my heart.

    When I think of my great grandmother, I weep. I know my grandmother, who was raised by fosters, always felt the loss of her birth mother. Tempa reported to me she only had one memory of her mother. When she was 12, she was taken to see Minnie. Her mother screamed and ranted, “This is not my daughter, Tempa is a little baby”. This had a profound effect on Tempa. While Tempa was very close to her foster parents and siblings, she always felt beholding in only a way that a foster could. Knowing her foster family, it was only in my grandmother’s mind, but that was real to her. Beyond the depression, this was another level of suffering for Tempa.

    I can’t explain the connection I feel with Minnie, but it is real and deep. It is most amazing that Tempa had pictures of Minnie, her birth father and brothers. These have survived from the late 1800’s. I only wish that my grandmother was still alive to go with me to find her mother’s grave. I know it would have meant a lot to her.

    Many thanks to all who have volunteered their time to find these graves and honor these souls.

  4. It’s very touching to read Peggy’s and Donna’s stories. The Cemetery Reclamation Project is searching for people with stories to tell about the old hospital, whether they worked there, were patients, or were visitors. It’s important that we document the past. Please go to http://www.toledostatehospitalcemetery.org if you would like to be interviewed, and contact the web master.

  5. My own grandmother Jeanette died in this hospital in 1963. She was wheelchair bound. I believe she had Dementia. The place was huge, iron bars on the windows. There was one woman in the same cottage, that was so huge, she had to have 2 dresses/gowns on. One to cover her front, and another to cover her back. They were held together at the middle with a rope, or belt. This place was just plain scary to me. When grandma died, we had her buried at Lakeside, Ohio. So she was not one of those numbers buried at the hospital grounds. RIP grandma, we love you.

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