Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery, Foxborough

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As needs increased in the Great Depression, 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

After visiting the Foxborough State Hospital -- a former psychiatric hospital now converted to a condo -- I headed to the Foxborough State Cemetery. Located 0.8 mile (1.3km) apart from the hospital, it is in a quiet but moderately populated residential area on Cross Road. A robin was tottering on the property; indeed a rare sight to see. Because I usually experience a complete silence detached from the surrounding environment in a state hospital cemetery. But this cemetery felt less isolated than the other.

Apparently, there are two cemeteries in different locations. The one I visited is more accessible; the other is "about 125 yards up into the woods" (from Asylum Project.) I wanted to visit the other site, but there was little clue available. If you know about the other location, I would greatly appreciate your tip. As I always do, I'll visit the cemetery with a flower bouquet.

Up in this woods?

This cemetery was created in 1933. Approximately 1,100 former patients are buried in the locations. The state originally purchased plots in Rock Hill Cemetery in Foxborough, but the arrival of the Great Depression meant the increase in deceased patients who had no families claimed the bodies and provided plots for them.

It is sadly striking that the correlation between the patient number and the gravity of the economic depression. I cannot help wondering about how the recent financial crisis circa 2007 affects our mental health. At least, it hasn't been the easiest period for an immigrant like me.

Each state hospital cemeteries in Massachusetts has its own system in numbering the deceased. For example, Metfern Cemetery in Waltham (a final resting place for some of the patients in the Metropolitan State Hospital and Fernald State School) sorts gravestones by religion: a gravestone inscribed as "C + number" meant the deceased was a Catholic, and "P + number" was a Protestant.

The Foxborough has two sets of number in one gravestone. For example, the face of one certain gravestone is inscribed with 5 digit number (i.e. 12537), and the other side has 3 digit number (i.e. 278). According to Asylum Projects, the 5 digit number indicates the patient ID number, and the 3 digit indicates the order of burials took place. Please examine the following pictures:

Patient Number 12537
Patient 12537 was 278th in burial

The cemetery claims that "those who remained in the state care even in death would have the dignity of a proper burial." What is their definition of a "proper burial", I thought. Doesn't a proper burial mean providing a gravestone with his name, the date of birth and the date of death? Even if the hospital couldn't find a patient's name and the date of birth, they could at least provide the date of death. I'm not sure whether providing "John Doe" with DOD would constitute a burial with dignity, but I do not think gravestones with numbers only constitute my definition of a proper burial.

On the other hand, the case with the Northampton State Hospital in Northampton, MA is an absolute history of neglect. The detail of burial is uncertain because the records have been missing or stolen; there is even  a possibility no one with authority tried to document ! The burial site for the Northampton is currently used as a hey field owned by the Department of Food and Agriculture.

However, as with the case of some state hospital cemeteries in Massachusetts, it is possible to recollect the documents and accompany new gravestones with names at the Foxborough; there was no single gravestone with a name at the cemetery.


Continue to Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery II

Locate Foxborough State Hospital Cemetery @ Google Map

Click picture to enlarge

Foxboro State Hospital, Asylum Projects:
A brief history of the burial site, NSH Burial Site Project:

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