Saturday, May 14, 2011

Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery II, Foxborough

Continue from Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery

This cemetery was created in 1933 and subsequently expanded that those who remained in the state care even in death would have the dignity of a proper burial. -- Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery
Are we mental patients even in death? Why does the state hide our names? "It has been said that no families have come forward to claim their relatives buried in these cemeteries. WE are their families!" Mark Giles, ex-patient and activist. -- National Empowerment Center

About a month ago, I visited the former Foxborough (or Foxboro) State Hospital and its cemetery. The hospital was established as the Massachusetts Hospital for Dipsomaniacs and Inebriates in 1889. By 1914, the inebriate hospital was transformed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1976, the Foxborough closed its door and was converted to a condo in 2009.

The cemetery was created at the current location during the Great Depression because the state experienced an increase in the number of deceased patients who had nobody to claim their bodies. There are two plots; the one is on Cross Street, the other is "about 125 yards up into the woods". (from Asylum Project) Approximately 1,100 former patients are buried in the plots.

When I visited the cemetery on Cross St, I knew about the existence of the other cemetery. But I wasn't sure about the exact location.

The route to the other plot I introduce today was obscure. There was an unpaved trail between the west side of the Cross St cemetery and a private house that led to the second location. I assume the trail is a public space. Because if not, how do we get there?

Take a right

The cemetery was surrounded by trees but well maintained like the other location. The Foxborough has two sets of number in one gravestone. The one is a patient identification number and the other is the order of burials took place. This location seemed to be older than the Cross St plot since I found a number as old as 4, indicating it was 4th in burials. (I heard you, where's No. 1?)

The ground was covered with a soft carpet of moss, indicating the place is constantly in the shade. A few gravestones were crumbling, making it impossible to read numbers.

"Are we mental patients even in death? Why does the state hide our names?" It is a voice from ex-patient activists while they were investigating state hospital cemeteries in Massachusetts. "The stark anonymity of these markers is disturbing. The state claims that confidentiality regulations do not allow for the release of names of those buried!" (Both from National Empowerment Center)

On the contrary, the state claims that "those who remained in the state care even in death would have the dignity of a proper burial." (From a signboard at the Cross St cemetery, Italicized by S.K.)

The description above was the focus of the past article: what is their definition of "the proper burial with dignity"? My personal observation was that the gravestones with numbers only were far from the burial with dignity; I found it was an impersonal display with no warmth attached, implying the patients were a faceless existence with no identities. The voice of ex-patient activists proves nothing but confirming my thought.


Locate Foxborough State Cemetery II @ Google Map
Reminder: this location is just behind of a private house. When you visit, please pay respect to the surrounding residents!

Click picture to read

Consumer/ Survivor History Project, National Empowerment Center:
Foxboro State Hospital, Asylum Projects:

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog today. I love Boston so it's great to see local places I recognize. My parents immigrated here 30 years ago when I was 2 so it's pretty much the only home I recognize. You've combined 2 small hobbies of and "old stuff". I love finding the original state, structure, purpose of buildings or other relics of the past and you have done a wonderful job.

    Anyway, it seems like we have different takes on what's considered a "proper burial." I feel like the names don't need to be included. Impersonal, I agree, but not improper. Remember that these folks were deemed insane by the society at the time which also meant they were subjected to second-class citizen status and brushed to the side. They likely had a service after their deaths then buried into a plot of designated land for the deceased which is sufficient enough to qualify as a proper burial. I found this post from a funeral director that might help precisely define the term a bit more:

    After my grandmother passed away last year and seeing the whole funeral process, I'm pretty certain I will want to be cremated and not put my (future) family through organizing all in eyes, a cremation would be a proper burial for me.

    Keep up the good work...I'll keep coming back for updates. =)


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