About lsstuhler

Linda Stuhler is a Genealogy Geek from Rochester, New York, who loves to find out the facts. She has been researching her family tree for over twenty years and has accumulated an abundance of information on various subjects that she enjoys sharing on her blog at: https://inmatesofwillard.com/. She was responsible for the creation of the New York State Senate Bill S840, initiated in August 2011, which allows for the release of the names, dates of birth and death, of former patients who were buried in anonymous graves in New York State Custodial Institutions. The bill was changed from the original draft to S840A and does not work the way it was intended. It became a law on August 18, 2016, but it did not include provisions for a searchable database available to the public as New York State attorneys and the Office of Mental Health believed that if they did so, they would be sued. She is the author of "THE INMATES OF WILLARD 1870 TO 1900, A GENEALOGY RESOURCE."

NO TOUR at The Willard State Hospital Campus in May 2016

According to Teri Weaver at tweaver@syracuse.com, “No tour of Willard insane asylum for 2016, NY state says” As far as I know, the cemetery is always open to those who wish to visit and pay their respects.

Willard at newyorkupstate.com/finger-lakes

Willard at newyorkupstate.com/finger-lakes


THE BAD NEWS: Thousands Remain Nameless!

The New York State Office of Mental Health put on a fabulous “show” at the Willard State Hospital Cemetery on Saturday, May 16, 2015, by allowing ONE man, Lawrence Mocha, an inmate and hospital grave digger, who died 47 years ago, to be remembered with a beautiful ceremony that included a plaque displaying HIS NAME, DATE OF BIRTH, DATE OF DEATH, AND LOCATION OF GRAVE! OH MY GOD! IS HELL FREEZING OVER?

Plaque Honoring Lawrence Mocha

Plaque Honoring Lawrence Mocha

Mr. Mocha was ONE OUT OF 5,776 buried at this cemetery. This ceremony was hosted by the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project. The only reason that the OMH let this ceremony take place was because they were humiliated by an article published in The New York Times by journalist, Dan Barry. Why wasn’t Mr. Barry fined $10,000 by the OMH as they so often threaten? Might they be afraid of The Times and its readership of 1 million people a day?

It has been my belief that the New York State Legislature should pass into law two bills:

  1. New York State needs a law that would release the names, dates of birth and death, and location of graves of ALL deceased patients of ALL 21 former New York State Hospitals and 5 Custodial Institutions which SHOULD BE AVAILABLE AND ACCESSABLE ON THE OMH Website as a searchable data base. All these cemeteries are INACTIVE! There is no reason why anyone has to wait 50 years to be remembered!


  1. An additional law that would release to descendants the medical records and photographs of loved ones who were incarcerated at these institutions 50 years after the patients’ death with the same wording as provided by the new Federal HIPAA legislation of March 2013.

The New York State Office of Mental Health WILL NOT ALLOW the burial ledger of the Willard State Hospital or any New York State Hospital or Custodial Institution to be released to the public. The names of the deceased and the location of their graves must be made available to the public in order that people may find their ancestor, visit the grave, and purchase a headstone if they wish to do so. Withholding their names is unacceptable, dehumanizing, and insulting; it only serves to feed the stigma associated with mental illness. Many of these former patients died over one hundred years ago; they are not under the care of the Office of Mental Health or any government agency. It is important and necessary for a new law in order to restore the dignity and personhood of the THOUSANDS of people who were incarcerated and died at former New York State Hospitals (formerly Insane Asylums), and Custodial Institutions. When the bodies of the inmates/patients were not claimed by family members, they were buried in anonymous, unmarked graves on state owned and county cemeteries. They deserve to have their names remembered and available to the public in a searchable database located at The New York State Office of Mental Health Website.

The NYS Office of Mental Health always sites “Protected Health Information” for their reason as to why they cannot release patient names. Let’s start at the beginning by defining the following: What Is Personal Identifiable Information? AND, What Is Protected Health Information? If you take the time to read these two definitions, you will CLEARLY SEE THAT THESE LAWS AND PROVISIONS WERE WRITTEN FOR THE LIVING, NOT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN DEAD LONGER THAN 50 YEARS!!!! A BURIAL PERMIT, which can be obtained in every County Clerk’s Office in the State of New York, is not covered under any state or federal privacy law. Old Books, Burial Ledgers, and The United States Federal and State Censuses which are released after 70 years, are not covered under any law that I know of. Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates can be obtained from the NYS Vital Records page. 145 years have passed since the first person was buried at the Willard Asylum in 1870. It is time to let those nameless souls rest in peace and be remembered!

Anyone can sit at the County Clerk’s Office and sort through all the records pertaining to any state hospital or custodial institution but the information contained in the burial ledgers would be much more accurate and less time consuming. An inscribed headstone or a name on a searchable database would not positively identify a specific individual UNLESS it stated the city, county, state, country of origin, parents, spouses, sibling names, etc. And even then, you would have to claim that person as your ancestor and notify the media that he or she was diagnosed with a mental illness in order for you and your family to be “stigmatized.” Come On! This Is The Twenty-First Century! Privacy ends at death and according to the new HIPAA Law, Confidentiality Of Medical Records only lasts for 50 years after death of an individual.

The real reason why the OMH does not want to publish this information is simple. They don’t want you to know how badly they’ve screwed up!

I have been told over and over again that one of the cemeteries on the former KINGS PARK STATE HOSPITAL property is being used as a youth baseball field. This had to have been approved by the NYSOMH. As far as I know, the bodies were never moved. I wonder how the families of patients buried at this site would feel if they knew that their loved one’s grave was being disrespected in this way? If this information is incorrect, I apologize.

What about all the VETERANS from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam that are buried in these former NYS Hospital Cemeteries. Don’t they have a right to be remembered with a marker?

The NAMES of deceased patients buried at the former BINGHAMTON STATE HOSPITAL Cemetery are already online in a searchable database. The burial ledger was found in the trash. AND, in 2014, Glass Photo Negatives of Patients were discovered in a pile of pigeon poop at Binghamton’s Historic Asylum. If these old photographs and burial ledgers are so important, then why were they found in the trash?

At the former MIDDLETOWN HOMEOPATHIC STATE HOSPITAL patient records were left in boxes which were photographed and put on the internet. Looks like the staff left in a hurry! These facilities closed in 1995.

Someone from the former GOWANDA STATE HOSPITAL gave the burial ledger to The Museum of disABILITY History for safe keeping. Thank God! The names are on display at the museum.

Why is the largest mental health facility in New York State the Prison at Riker’s Island?

If medical records for the recently departed are protected, then why was Sally Green’s Anonymous Burial and a detailed story printed all over the news in February 2012?

Lastly, and most importantly, The OMH would have to release 21 State Hospital and 5 Custodial Institution Burial Ledgers. Do they even have them?

The list of these former New York State Hospitals includes but is not limited to: Binghamton, Buffalo, Central Islip, CreedmoorDannemora, EdgewoodGowanda, Hudson River, Kings Park, Long Island, Manhattan, Marcy, Matteawan, Middletown, Mohansic, Pilgrim, Rochester, St. Lawrence, SyracuseUtica, and Willard

The Feeble-Minded (Intellectual Disabilities) and Epileptic Custodial Institutions of New York includes but is not limited to: Craig Colony for Epileptics, Letchworth Village for Epileptics & Intellectually Disabled, Newark State School for Intellectually Disabled Women, Rome State School for Intellectually Disabled Adults & Children, and Syracuse State School for Intellectually Disabled Children.

Please check out and share the NAMES page.

More Reading:

Mental Illness & Ignorance

They’re Buried Where? May 24, 2013

Mental Illness & Prisons

My Story

THE GOOD NEWS: One Man Is Remembered!

On Saturday, May 16, 2015, LAWRENCE MOCHA was honored and remembered as a living, breathing, contributing member of society, 47 years after his death, with a lovely service and memorial. LAWRENCE was a patient at The WILLARD STATE HOSPITAL and served, unpaid, until the age of 90, as the gravedigger for the institution for thirty years. He dug 1,500 graves for his fellow patients, all of whom, with the exception of one other man, remain in anonymity. As you will see in the video below, it was a beautiful celebration of life that not only remembered with dignity and grace MR. MOCHA but all of the nearly 6,000 patients buried in anonymous graves at the 30 acre, WILLARD STATE HOSPITAL CEMETERY.

Lawrence Mocha

Lawrence Mocha

I was honored to be invited to this special event but I was unable to attend. I did however view the entire 55 minute video. I was so happy to see that so many people attended the celebration! I understand that there was quite a traffic jam and the State Police had to be called to divert people away from the WILLARD CAMPUS that held their annual tour and fundraising event for the Day Care Center. I hope in some small way I was able to help get the word out with my book and this blog about the dehumanizing, anonymous graves in former NEW YORK STATE HOSPITAL and CUSTODIAL INSTITUTION CEMETERIES.

Lawrence Mocha's Marker

Lawrence Mocha’s Marker

After viewing the video, there are a few thoughts I would like to share:

  1. The anonymous graves at WILLARD would never have been brought to light, and the suitcases found in the attic would never have been saved and preserved without the tireless work of CRAIG WILLIAMS, Curator of History at The New York State Museum at Albany.
  2. The Lives They Left Behind, Suitcases From A State Hospital Attic” written by DARBY PENNEY and PETER STASTNY, opened the eyes of the public and made us aware of what it was like to be institutionalized. This book inspired so many people, including me, to try to correct the disgrace of anonymous burials in former New York State Hospitals and Custodial Institutions. It led me to ask my State Senator, Joe Robach, to draft a bill concerning the release of patient names, dates of birth and death, and location of grave. Written in 2011 and first introduced to the New York State Senate on March 23, 2012 as S6805-2011, on January 13, 2013 as S2514-2013, and on January 7, 2015 as S840A-2015. As of today, it has not passed into law.
  3. In 2011, The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project was formed. God Bless all the volunteers who made this celebration possible!
  4. JOHN ALLEN, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (518-473-6579), verified in his statements on the video exactly what I have been stating for years! Thank you, Mr. Allen! He told the story about how difficult it was to match A NAME, ANY NAME, with the correct family especially after multiple generations have passed since the ancestor’s death. He spoke about how problematic it was to find a living relative of the deceased buried in a numbered grave (which is exactly why the Federal HIPPA Law changed in March 2013). I know I’m going to hell for saying this, but it gave me great pleasure watching MR. ALLEN getting choked up as he told his story. Hopefully, he now knows what it feels like to search, and search, and search for a “long, lost relative” and finally finding them. MR. ALLEN also had a photograph of MR. MOCHA which he could show to a long, lost family member. Most of us don’t have that luxury even though photographs were taken of each patient. I would love to have a photograph of my great-mother. It’s simply outrageous that one government agency has the right to withhold the names, dates of birth and death, and location of graves of THOUSANDS!!! We’re not talking about medical records here, only the most basic of information concerning the death and final resting place of our loved ones who happened to live and die in a NEW YORK STATE HOSPITAL or CUSTODIAL INSTITUTION.
Plaque Honoring Lawrence Mocha

Plaque Honoring Lawrence Mocha

A NAME IS JUST A NAME AND MEANS NOTHING TO ANYONE UNLESS YOU’RE THE ONE SEARCHING FOR THAT LOVED ONE! It’s just a name that many other people share, it’s just a birth date, it’s just a death date. NO FAMILY WILL BE STIGMATIZED unless they are like me and tell the world that their great-grandmother lived and died at a state hospital. Remember that when WILLARD opened in 1869, that people were really poor, something that we have a hard time understanding today. Some families did not have the money to ship their relatives’ remains home. To believe that none of these people were loved and or missed is incorrect. To think that no one ever attended their burial or said a prayer for them is simply not true.


In case you didn’t catch the fifty-one names, beginning at minute 45, here they are.
I apologize in advance if I misspelled your loved ones’ name.
Do these names mean anything to you?

Names Of The Dearly Departed That Were Read In Public And Recorded On Video At: The Willard Memorial Celebration Saturday, May 16, 2015

June 3 – Hannah Thompson
August 14 – Eliza Delaney
October 16 – Ida Bartholomew

September 9 – James Foster
September 15 – Patrick McNamara
October 31 – Mary Champlain

April 26 – Sophia Anderson
May 26 – Mary Brown
June 23 – Katherine Davis
November 16 – Lavinia Hayes

January 4 – Electa George
June 7 – John Van Horne
September 24 – Mary Church
October 20 – Sarah Scott

1893 January 20 – Susan Dugham
September 26 – John B. Kellogg
December 12 – Effie Risley

January 1 – Syble Pollay
February 19 – Suzanne Klinkers Waldron
March 26 – Carolyn Gregory
June 23 – Elizabeth Weber
August 21 – Sarah Ann Baker
November 8 – Sarah Jane Hemstreet
December 30 – Willis Mathews

February 2 – Sophia Podgka
July 21 – Elizabeth Dawson
November 26 – Parmelia Baldwin

March 3 – Ann Dady

April 27 – Miriam D. Bellamy

August 10 – Julia Holden

November 15 – Delia Richards
December 4 – Genevieve Murray

February 3 – Ellen Jane Roe
May 14 – Honora Nugent
July 1 – Harriet Gray
October 12 – Lottie Sullivan

September 19 – Rachel Tice

August 24 – Emma P. Sandborn

April 18 – Elizabeth Snell
December 3 – Nora Murphy

February 20 – Catherine Walwrath
March 18 – Margaret McKay
April 27 – Ellen Horan
June 21 – Isabella Pemberton
October 29 – Mary J. Chapman
December 20 – Mita Mulholland

August 4 – Susan Stortz
September 7 – Mary Gilmore
October 25 – Adele Monnier

April 11 – Sarah Rooney

October 26 – Lawrence Mocha

Willard Cemetery Memorial Celebration 5.16.2015

The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project chair Colleen Spellecy of Waterloo said the ceremonies will begin at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 16, 2015, at the cemetery, located near the east shore of Seneca Lake. It is being billed as a memorial celebration for all those interred at the cemetery in unmarked graves, with a special remembrance of Lawrence Mocha.” Two 3 hour tours of Willard will begin at 9:00am and 1:00pm with the Memorial Celebration at 11:00am.

Lawrence Mocha

Lawrence Mocha

Mocha was born June 23, 1878 in Austria. He emigrated to the United States in 1907, settling in New York City. He experienced some mental issues that ended up with him being sent to Willard in 1918. He stayed there until dying Oct. 26, 1968, at the age of 90.

Memorial Plaque

Memorial Plaque

During his 50 years at Willard, he dug more than 1,500 graves for his fellow patients. The cemetery operated from 1870 to 2000, and those who died at the psychiatric center, both with and without family, were buried in graves marked only by a number.”
SOURCE: Finger Lakes Times – March 22, 2015.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic.

Willard Drug Treatment Campus – 7116 County Road 132, Willard, NY 14588.

Home In The Finger Lakes – Public Tour Of Willard.

Restoring Lost Names, Recapturing Lost Dignity by Dan Barry – The New York Times

UPDATE 12.22.2014 – THE NEW YORK TIMES: No Longer Anonymous: Gravedigger Gets His Due at a Psychiatric Hospital by Dan Barry.

UPDATE 12.21.2014, From DARBY PENNEY: “A shout-out to the power of the press to shame government into doing the right thing, and the power of dogged activists to make change! Breaking news: Lawrence Mocha will be honored by name in the Willard Cemetery. Thanks to Dan Barry’s powerful 11/28/14 article in the NY Times, and years of hard work by Colleen Spellecy and the Willard Cemetery Memorial Committee, the New York State Office of Mental Health has changed their mind and will allow the plaque to be placed with his name and full information about him. They located a relative of Mr. Mocha who gave permission. In addition, according to Colleen Spellecy, “They also want to work with us on a general memorial honoring all of the individuals buried within Willard cemetery. After these memorials are installed they want to support a multi-denominational community service to re-consecrate the cemetery lands and dedicate the memorials. They will then invite the Mocha family to participate in this event and OMH will work with them to provide necessary travel arrangements.”

“OVID, N.Y. — For a half-century, a slight and precise man with an Old World mustache resided as a patient at the Willard State Psychiatric Hospital, here beside spectacular Seneca Lake. You are not supposed to know his name, but it was Lawrence Mocha. He was the gravedigger.

Using a pick, a shovel, and a rectangular wooden template, he carved from the upstate loam at least 1,500 graves, 60 to a row and six feet deep. At times he even lived in the cemetery, in a small shack with a stove, beside a towering poplar.

The meticulous Mr. Mocha dug until the very end, which came at the age of 90, in 1968. Then he, too, was buried among other patients in the serene field he had so carefully tended.

But you will not find the grave of Mr. Mocha, whose name you should not know, because he was buried under a numbered marker — as were nearly 5,800 other Willard patients — and the passing years have only secured his anonymity. The hospital closed, the cemetery became an afterthought, and those markers either disappeared or were swallowed into the earth.


A few original cast iron grave markers. Nearly 5,800 patients were buried under numbered markers to shield their names. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

Now, though, this obscure gravedigger has come to represent the 55,000 other people buried on the grounds of old psychiatric hospitals across New York State — many of them identified, if that is the word for it, by numbers corresponding with names recorded in old books. This numerical system, used by other states as well, was apparently meant to spare the living and the dead from the shame of one’s surname etched in stone in a psychiatric hospital cemetery.

A retired schoolteacher, Colleen Spellecy, is seeking to end the anonymity, which she says only reinforces the prejudices surrounding mental illness. One way to do this, she says, is to place a plaque bearing Mr. Mocha’s name on the spot where his shack once stood.

“He’s a symbol for what we want to do with all the rest,” Ms. Spellecy said. “It’s almost like if we could just do something for one, we could do it for all.”

But the State Office of Mental Health, which oversees some two dozen hospital cemeteries tucked in upstate corners and along busy Long Island highways, has consistently denied her request. Its officials say that a generations-old state law protects the privacy of people who died in these institutions.

“Stigma and discrimination is alive and well, though I wish it were not,” said John Allen, special assistant to the commissioner of mental health. “Outing every family, whether they want to be outed or not, does not conform with the reality.”

But advocates say that other states have long since figured out how to return names to those buried under numbers — a process that the advocacy organization Mental Health America says would help to end prejudice and discrimination. In an email, its spokeswoman, Erin Wallace, wrote: “These people had names, and should never have been buried with us forgetting them.”

Larry Fricks, the chairman of the National Memorial of Recovered Dignity project, an effort to create a Washington tribute to all mental patients buried without names, agreed. He suggested that the cost of memorializing so many people could be a factor in a state’s reluctance — and some of those books with recorded names have been damaged and even lost over the many years. The issue is not trivial, Mr. Fricks said. “There is something embedded deep in our belief system that when people die, you show respect.”

In addition to his name and burial site, here is what else you are not supposed to know about Lawrence Mocha: Born poor in Austro-Hungarian Galicia in 1878. Hit in the head with a rock as a young man. Drank heavily, was briefly institutionalized, and served in the Army. Emigrated, and found work at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Caused a ruckus one day and was sent to the psychiatric unit, where he talked of guilt and depression, of hearing God and seeing angels. Sent to Willard in 1918, never to leave. Kept to himself for years, but eventually took an interest in tending to the graveyard. Requested freedom in 1945, but was ignored. Made an extra dollar here and there by preparing bodies for burial. Stopped having episodes, if that was what they were. Dug, and dug, and dug.

Gunter Minges, 73, the last grounds superintendent at Willard, sat on his pickup’s tailgate at the cemetery’s edge and recalled Mr. Mocha in his last decade. A reclusive man, he said. Had special kitchen privileges. Smoked a pipe. Wore hip waders, because groundwater would fill his neat rectangular holes. “He dug until he died,” Mr. Minges said, and was rechristened with a number. Then, with a Catholic priest at graveside, the grounds crew used ropes to lowered Mr. Mocha’s coffin into a hole dug by someone else. “But where it is,” Mr. Minges said, “I don’t know.”

Many of the numbered metal markers, forged by hospital patients and spiked into the ground, vanished over the years, sold for scrap or tossed into a nearby gully as impediments to mowing. In the early 1990s, groundskeepers began affixing numbered plaques flat onto the ground, but the job was left incomplete when the hospital shut down in 1995. In a last-minute search of Willard’s buildings for items worthy of posterity, state workers opened an attic door to find 427 musty suitcases. Among them: a brown leather case containing two shaving mugs, two shaving brushes, suspenders, and a pair of black dress shoes that a slight and precise immigrant hadn’t worn since World War I.

The discovery of the suitcases led to an exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany, a traveling display, and a well-received book about forgotten patients called “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic.” Confidentiality laws forced its authors, Darby Penney and Peter Stastny, to reluctantly use pseudonyms; Lawrence Mocha, then, became Lawrence Marek.

Ms. Penney said that for the last several decades of his life, Mr. Mocha exhibited no signs of mental illness and was not on any medication. Her guess: “There were certain people who were kept there because they were decent workers.”


Lawrence Mocha Credit New York State Archives and New York State Museum

And Mr. Mocha was the meticulous gravedigger.

Ms. Spellecy read the book. She is a wife, a mother, and a retiree who lives in Waterloo, about a half-hour’s drive from Willard. Visiting the cemetery for the first time, she “sensed the injustice immediately,” she said, and quickly set about to forming the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project. Its mission: “To give these people a name and a remembrance.”

They have also engaged in a contentious back and forth with the Office of Mental Health over its refusal to grant names to the dead — beginning with a plaque on that boulder to honor Mr. Mocha, and then, perhaps, a central memorial that would feature the names of all those buried anonymously or beneath numbers.

“It’s as if they are saying that they own the cemetery and therefore they own the names,” Ms. Spellecy said. “In so owning the names, they are owning the person — as if these people continue to be wards of the state.”

State officials say that they are bound by state law to protect patient confidentiality, even after death, unless granted permission by a patient’s descendants to make the name public. They also say that attempts to change the law have failed, and that, even now, some descendants express concern about prejudice.

Mr. Allen said that the state had worked with communities throughout New York to restore these cemeteries as places of reverence and contemplation, and had assisted families in locating graves. In fact, he said, “We have helped a number of families place a marker at a number.”

But without some descendant’s consent, Willard’s dead will remain memorialized by a number, if at all.

State officials also say that at the request of the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project, they are searching for any relatives of a certain individual — they would not say “Lawrence Mocha” — who might grant permission for the public release of that individual’s name. This is highly unlikely, advocates say, given that this individual never married and left Europe a century ago.

But Ms. Spellecy will not give up. She and other volunteers are developing a list of the dead through census rolls and other records, and hope to secure permission from descendants to have those names made public, perhaps even in granite. When asked why she has committed herself to this uphill task, Ms. Spellecy paused to compose herself. With her eyes wet from tears, she said: “Every stage of life is very sacred. Life deserves to be remembered, and revered, and memorialized.”

A few weeks ago, Ms. Spellecy and some others bundled up and went out again to the 29 acres of stillness that is the Willard cemetery. They removed a little brush and cleaned a little dirt from a few of the numbers in the ground. The autumn winds carved whitecaps from the steel-gray lake below, while fallen leaves skittered across a field of anonymous graves, many of them dug by a man buried here too, whose name, Lawrence Mocha, you are not supposed to know.”

SOURCE: “Restoring Lost Names, Recapturing Lost Dignity” by Dan Barry – The New York Times. (A version of this article appears in print on November 28, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Restoring Lost Names, Recapturing Lost Dignity.)

1. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees
2. Cemetery Information at the NYS Office of Mental Health
3. New York State Hospitals, Custodial Institutions & Cemetery Projects.
4. S2514-2013 – NY Senate Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Senate
5. NEW HIPAA UPDATE March 2013!

1864 Dr. Willard’s Poor House Report By County

New York State County Poor Houses – Dr. Sylvester D. Willard’s Report 1864.

1864 The Willard Asylum and Provisions For The Insane – County Poor House Investigation – 8.29.2013.

1864 Albany County Poor House – 9.18.2013.
1864 Allegany County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Broome County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cattaraugus County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cayuga County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chautauqua County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chemung County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chenango County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Clinton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Columbia County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cortland County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Delaware County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Dutchess County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Erie County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Essex County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Franklin County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Fulton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Genesee County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Greene County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Hamilton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Herkimer County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Jefferson County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Lewis County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Livingston County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Madison County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Monroe County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Montgomery County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Niagara County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Oneida County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Onondaga County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Ontario County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Orange County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Orleans County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Oswego County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Otsego County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Putnam County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Queens County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Rensselaer County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Richmond County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Rockland County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Saratoga County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schenectady County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schoharie County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schuyler County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Seneca County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 St. Lawrence County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Steuben County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Suffolk County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Sullivan County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Tioga County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Tompkins County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Ulster County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Warren County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Washington County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Wayne County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Westchester County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Wyoming County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Yates County Poor House – 9.22.2013.

The following excerpt from NEW YORK The Empire State is a wonderful outline for those who want to understand why County Poor Houses were created in the State of New York. Here are a few additional resources:

1. David Wagner, “Poor Relief and the Almshouse,” Disability History Museum.
2. 1603 – 1900 Brief History of Charity in New York State transcribed and annotated by L.S. Stuhler.
List of Counties in New York State.

Public Welfare – Though privation and hardship were fairly general throughout the Dutch Colonial period, the number of actual dependents was small, and relief, when needed, was administered by the officers of the Dutch Reformed Church. Churches of other denominations were expected to care for their own poor, an in localities lacking a religious organization relief was a function of the civil authorities. Funds for the poor were raised through church collections, individual donations, and court fines for misdemeanors and violations of the excise laws.

Soon after the organization of the Colonial Government, several sieck-entroosters, minor ecclesiastical functionaries, were sent to the Colony charged with the duty of visiting sick persons in their homes. These were the first social workers in what is now the Empire State.

For the dependent aged, almshouses were established by Dutch Reformed congregations at New Amsterdam, Rensselaerswyck, and other settlements, and a company hospital was erected in New Amsterdam in 1657 to care for sick soldiers and Negroes. Orphanmasters were appointed at New Amsterdam, Beverwyck (Albany), and Wildwyck (Kingston) to protect the interests of propertied widows and orphans, but when the latter became desititute they were turned over to the care of the deacons.

After the Colony came under English rule, poor relief in the southern counties was regulated by the Duke’s Laws (1665), which made each parish responsible for its own poor and for raising funds by taxation. The few general poor laws enacted were directed against vagabonds, beggars, and others moving from their places of legal settlement. Until formally accepted as an inhabitant of a town, a newcomer might at any time be “warned’ to depart by the authorities. An undesirable was ‘passed on’ from constable to constable until her reached his place of legal settlement or the border of a neighboring colony.

The prevailing attitude toward dependency was stern, cold, and strait-laced; in many places the pauper was made to wear a brightly colored badge on his sleeve inscribed with a large letter ‘P.’ No attempt was made to segregate the types of dependents; the insane and the physically handicapped, the aged and the young, the inebriates and the sober were housed together. The first public institution for ‘the employing of Poor and Indigent People’ was established in New York City in 1734 and opened two years later under the name ‘House of Correction, Workhouse and Poor House.’ The only method of caring for destitute children was through apprenticeship and indenture, by which children were bound out singly or in groups with the specification that their masters have them taught to read, write, and cipher.

During the Revolutionary War the local poor relief system broke down in many communities. Refugees from areas controlled by the British or ravaged by raids, not being chargeable to either county or town units, became the first ‘State poor,’ cared for by State commissioners. In the wake of the Revolution a great wave of humanitarian reform surged over the new Nation. Private philanthropic organizations were set up, the most important being the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism established in New York City. A sweeping revision of the penal code in 1796 reduced the number of crimes punishable by death from thirteen to two and established the first State prison. Corporal punishment, such as confinement in the stocks, whipping, and branding, was gradually abolished. Reforms were made in the laws against debtors. Public poor relief was completely secularized; the office of overseer of the poor was made elective instead of appointive; and towns too small to maintain individual almshouses were permitted to join others in town unions for the purpose of providing institutional care. Poor funds continued to be raised by local taxation supplemented by income from fines.

Several severe yellow fever epidemics at the turn of the century resulted in such public health measures as systematized quarantine, general sanitation, isolation of patients, and appointment of public health officers. The Ladies’ Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children was established in New York City in 1797 to help surviving dependents of fever victims. An offshoot of this Society founded the first orphan asylum in 1806. But child aid grew slowly, and for many years dependent children were herded indiscriminately with all other classes of dependents.

In the same period the insane were recognized as a separate social problem. In September 1792 the first mental patient was admitted into the newly opened New York Hospital, but treatment remained custodial rather than curative. The Bloomingdale Asylum, opened in 1821 as a separate unit of the New York Hospital, was the first institution for the insane in the State operated primarily on therapeutic principles. It received annual State grants for many years. The New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb-second of its kind in the Untied States-was incorporated in 1817 and later received State grants.

In 1824 the secretary of state, J.V.N. Yates, published under legislative authority the first State-wide poor law survey, which revealed that besides almshouse and home relief, the indigent were being cared for under the ‘contract system,’ whereby the dependent poor were let out to householders at a fixed rate, and under the ‘auction system,’ whereby the poor were bid off to persons offering to maintain them for the lowest cost. After summing up the chaos, cruelty, and waste arising from prevailing poor law practices, Yates recommended a State-wide system of county poorhouses, where all paupers were to be maintained at county expense, the able-bodied to be set to suitable work and the children to be given adequate education.

As a result of the Yates report the legislature in 1824 passed ‘An act to provide for the establishment of county almshouses’; but so many exceptions were allowed that, although poorhouses were established in all but four counties during the ensuing decade, the attempt to put the county system into effect eventually collapsed and relief was returned to local responsibility. However, the indiscriminate herding of dependents resulted in abuses so shocking as to lead to constant pressure for proper classification and segregation of different groups. The earliest effective changes took place in the field of child welfare. In 1824 the House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents, the first juvenile reformatory in the country, was established in New York City by the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents. It was supported mainly by State funds. In 1849 the Western House of Refuge (now the State Agricultural and Industrial School at Industry) was opened in Rochester as the first American juvenile reformatory under complete State financial and administrative control. The Asylum for Idiots (now the Syracuse State School) was established in 1851, the first of its kind to be opened under State ownership and control.

Several other important child welfare organizations were founded in the middle years of the nineteenth century, including the New York Juvenile Asylum (now the Children’s Village at Dobbs Ferry) and the Children’s Aid Society, which inaugurated the placing-out movement. The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was organized in 1855 under private auspices and taken over by the State in 1875. By 1866 the total number of privately managed orphanages exceeded 60.

A distinctive feature of this period was the development of State institutional facilities for the mentally and physically handicapped. The State Lunatic Asylum at Utica was established in 1836 and opened in 1843. The New York City Lunatic Asylum (now Manhattan State Hospital), founded in 1834, was the first municipal mental hospital in this country. The blind had received separate care as early as 1831, with the founding of the New York Institution for the Blind. In 1865 the State Institution for the Blind (now the New York State School for the Blind) was established at Batavia to serve the western counties.

Mass immigration in the nineteenth century brought in its wake grave problems of public health and poor relief. Large numbers of immigrants needed medical care upon landing; many were poverty-stricken; others were mulcted of their meager savings by thieves and swindlers. Without friends of funds, they soon found themselves drawn into the slums or the poorhouse, or were obliged to engage in the meanest forms of work for low wages and under conditions that exposed them to vice, disease, and death. Alarmed by the growing hordes of indigent aliens, poor-law officials demanded State and Federal legislation to protect local communities. In 1847 a State board was created to help and advise newcomers and to reimburse local communities for immigrant relief. Funds for this purpose came out of head taxes and indemnity bonds imposed on immigrants. The agitation against ‘alien pauperism’ culminated in 1882 in an act of Congress regulating immigration and containing a provision intended to exclude persons likely to become public charges.”

SOURCE: NEW YORK A Guide to the Empire State, Copyright 1940 by New York State Historical Association, First Published in November 1940, Bureau of State Publicity, New York State Conservation Department, State-wide Sponsor of the New York State Writer’s Project, Pages 118-121

Finally Some Attention!

From The Finger Lakes Times:

Willard Cemetery Tour - Dave L. Shaw photo - Finger Lakes Times

Willard Cemetery Tour – Dave L. Shaw photo – Finger Lakes Times


Petition for Lawrence Mocha To Be Honored & Remembered With Dignity!

This is a very simple request. Please click the link below and sign this petition that will allow the Willard Cemetery Memorial Project to honor and remember with dignity former patient and resident grave digger, Lawrence Mocha, with a plaque at the Willard State Hospital Cemetery. Thank You!


Support New York State Senate Bill S2514 that will allow the release of the names, dates of birth and death, and location of graves of former patients buried in anonymous, unmarked graves in long-closed NYS Hospital and Custodial Institution Cemeteries! There are THOUSANDS of forgotten souls who deserve to be remembered with DIGNITY! This bill introduced by Senator Joe Robach has been before the NYS Legislature for over three years. It is time for this bill to become law!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtaQX8uQdmY

Willard Cemetery Memorial Project 5.18.2013

Willard Cemetery Memorial Project 5.18.2013