1896 New York State Commission in Lunacy

Before you read The New York Times Article, I have given a brief explanation of what the New York State Commission in Lunacy was and who it was responsible for. It eventually morphed into the present day New York State Office of Mental Health. Instead of a president, the head of the OMH is the commissioner.

“The commission is composed of a physician, who is its president, a lawyer and a layman, aiming thereby to secure due attention to the medical, the legal and the material or business matters which concern the insane and the institutions for their custody and care. The commission collectively and individually is invested with a wide range of powers and is charged with a corresponding extent and variety of duties.”

“The commissioners are paid for their services as follows: To the medical member, $5,000 per annum; to the legal member, $3,000 per annum; to the lay member, $10 per day for each day of actual service; and to each member an allowance of $100 per month in lieu of all expenses for travel or other purposes.”

“Under the amended constitution of the State which took effect on January 1, 1895, the commission is raised from a legislative to a constitutional body, and made a permanent branch of the State government. It is endowed with sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the insane and over all institutions, public or private, for their custody; but it has been relieved from all connection with or charge of the idiotic, the epileptic and feeble-minded, or other defective and dependent classes. Its present composition, on the threefold basis above referred to, is calculated to insure efficiency in performance and success in administrative results in a larger measure than could be attained by perhaps any different arrangement.”

SOURCE: Report of the Investigation of the State Commission in Lunacy, and the State Hospitals for the Insane, by the Subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees. Transmitted to the Legislature May 10, 1895, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1895, Pages 4,6,7.

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

President MacDonald of the State Commission Ridicules the Idea that the Patronage of the Hospitals for the Insane Will Go to Politicians –
He Expects Gov. Morton to Make Good Appointments Under the Horton Act.

Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, President of the State Commission in Lunacy, yesterday ridiculed the notion that the patronage of the State hospitals for the insane would be transferred to politicians through the operation of the Horton act, which was signed by Gov. Morton on Wednesday.

The Governor is empowered by the act to appoint new Boards of Managers for all the State hospitals for the insane except the Homeopathic Hospital at Middletown. The number of managers in each case is to be seven, to be appointed at first for terms of one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven years, and afterward for the full term of seven years.

“I am quite sure” said Dr. MacDonald to a reporter for THE NEW-YORK TIMES, “that Gov. Morton will appoint men and women as managers whose character and standing in the community will be a guarantee of their efficiency and uprightness.

The State Commission in Lunacy is an absolutely non-political body in the performance of its duties, and if it were otherwise I should not be connected with it. While the clause in the Horton act removing the present Board of Managers was not suggested or approved by the Lunacy Commission, I do not believe that the appointment of new boards will make any serious changes in the system at present in vogue.

“Under the act passed in 1893, the Lunacy Commission has large powers of audit and supervision over the various State hospitals for the insane. No expenditure can be incurred by any Board of Managers without its sanction. This rule applies to small things as well as to great ones. No repairs to buildings can be made until the Lunacy Commission has given its consent to the work and to the price which is to be paid for it.

“Most of the staple articles – such as meat, clothing, milk, and so forth – are obtained through contracts, tenders being invited for three, six, or twelve months at a given price, the articles to be supplies as required. These contracts must be submitted to the Lunacy Commission, which sees that there is no serious inequality in price between the tenders from different districts. In some cases the commission uses its powers so as to make several districts combine to purchase their supplies of certain staples from one particular contractor, selected by open competition, to insure the reduction in price which comes from buying goods by the wholesale.

“Supplies for each hospital are now ordered by its steward with the approval of the Medical Superintendent, and therefore the Board of Managers has no power to increase such orders. The appointment of all subordinates in each hospital rests with the Medical Superintendent, under carefully regulated and rigorously observed civil service rules, so that this important branch of the service is not open to the attack of politicians.

“The Medical Superintendent of each State hospital for the insane is, indeed, only after competitive examination, open only to those who have served five years as medical assistants in one the State hospitals for the insane. This is an excellent provision, as it insures promotion for those who devote their abilities to the study of insanity. The Medical Superintendents cannot be removed except for cause.

“The list of managers appointed by Gov. Morton for the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island is an indication of the class of men and women he will appoint for all the hospitals. These are now Henry E. Howland, George E. Dodge, Mrs. Eleanor Kinnicut, John McAnerney, Isaac N. Seligman, Miss Alice Pine, and George S. Bowdoin.”

The State hospitals for the insane whose managers will go out of office by the terms of the Horton act are the Manhattan State Hospital, the Long Island State Hospital, in Brooklyn; the Hudson River State Hospital, at Poughkeepsie; the Buffalo State Hospital, the Rochester State Hospital, the Binghamton State Hospital, the Utica State Hospital, the St. Lawrence State Hospital, at Ogdensburg; the Willard State Hospital, at Ovid, Seneca County, and the Collins Farm, in Erie County.

The total annual expenditure for these hospitals is upward of $4,000,000. There were 18,269 insane persons confined in the public hospitals of this State on Oct. 1, 1894. These required 3,304 medical and ordinary attendants.

The improvement which has taken place in the State management of the insane in recent years is due in large measure to the increased powers of audit and supervision given to the State Lunacy Commission as a result of disclosures of mismanagement in the Hudson River Hospital and elsewhere in 1892.

Francis R. Gilbert, Deputy Attorney General, was directed by Gov. Flower to make an investigation of the affairs of the Hudson River State Hospital in February, 1893. It was proved that one dealer had had a monopoly of supplying this hospital with meat for the preceding twenty-one years, getting from 2 to 2 ½ cents a pound more than the market price.

It was also shown that the price paid for coal was excessive, and the quantity used extravagant. The attention of the public was directed to this mismanagement chiefly through the columns of THE NEW-YORK TIMES, and the consequence was the introduction of reformed civil service methods in the administration of all the State hospitals for the insane.

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published May 15, 1896. Copyright@The New York Times.


1896 Middletown

Here are some wonderful photographs from the Twenty Fifth Annual Report of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital at Middletown 1896

Entrance to Middletown 1896

Entrance to Middletown 1896

Middletown 1-1896

















1891 Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital

This is a very lengthy Letter to the Editor of The New York Times written by MEDICUSThe Medicus – A Journal for the Busy Practitioner, of the nineteenth century. What MEDICUS was basically stating among other things was: After 1890 with the passage of THE STATE CARE ACT, all New York State Hospitals accepted both CHRONIC and ACUTE patients from their corresponding districts so that the patients would be able to remain in their hometown area. There were no longer asylums specifically for the CHRONIC INSANE as in WILLARD and BINGHAMTON State Hospitals. However, if an asylum became overcrowded, the state would transfer patients to another state hospital out of the patients’ district. The main point that MEDICUS made was: If New York State was transferring patients out of their district to another state hospital, why couldn’t the State pay for the transportation of patients whose family and friends wanted them to receive HOMEOPATHIC medical care as opposed to ALLOPATHIC medical care? They eventually won their case. There were two STATE HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITALS for the Insane: MIDDLETOWN located in Middletown (1874), Orange County, New York; and GOWANDA (1898), located in Collins, Erie County, New York.

“HOMEOPATHY: a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

System of therapeutics founded in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann on the principle that ‘like cures like.’ That is, substances that in healthy persons would produce the symptoms from which the patient suffers are used to treat the patient. Hahnemann further stated that the potency of a curative agent increases as the substance is diluted. When it was introduced, homeopathy was a mild, welcome alternative to heavy-handed therapies such as bleeding, but it has since been criticized for focusing on symptoms rather than causes. With the rise of alternative medicine, it has seen resurgence.”

“ALLOPATHY: a system of medical practice that aims to combat disease by use of remedies (as drugs or surgery) producing effects different from or incompatible with those produced by the disease being treated. 2. a system of medical practice making use of all measures that have proved of value in treatment of disease.”
SOURCE: Merriam Webster.com

Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital 1896

Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital 1896

THE MIDDLETOWN HOSPITAL. It’s History And The Laws Which Govern It.
How It Is Affected By The State Care Of The Insane Act –
How Proposed Legislation Would Affect The Insane Poor.

 To the Editor of the New-York Times:

The State Homeopathic Hospital, or, as it was formerly called, the State Homeopathic Asylum, was established by act of the Legislature of 1870 and was opened in 1874. The friends of homeopathy, in order to secure an asylum for the insane in which the treatment should be exclusively of the homeopathic order, entered into an agreement with the State substantially to contribute $100,000 for each $100,000 which the State should furnish. This agreement was carried out to only a very limited extent.

The utmost claim put forth by the friends of homeopathy as to the extent of the carrying out of the agreement on their part is this – that they contributed a few hundred acres of land and the sum of $50,000 in cash. The State was induced to waive the carrying out of the remainder of the agreement, and the institution was fully organized and equipped as a State institution in all respects whatsoever, differing in no regard from the other hospitals of the State, with the exception of the insertion of a special clause in the statute which provided that the treatment should be wholly of the homeopathic order. Subsequent legislation was obtained providing that the acceptance of the office of Trustee should amount to a pledge on the part of such officer that the principles of homeopathy should be maintained. A reference to the organic act will show that, with the above exception, it was placed precisely upon the same footing as the other, at that time, so-called “acute” asylums for the insane, said act of 1870 providing for the doing of that which had been and might be done without its passage, namely, that to the extent of its capacity courts and Judges should have the power to commit such pauper and insane poor from any part of the State as might desire to secure homeopathic treatment. The right to receive private or pay patients was also conferred upon the MiddletownStateHomeopathicHospital in the same manner and to the same extent only as was conferred upon the UticaStateHospital, which is the governing act of all the State hospitals in the State.

This act provided that such private or pay patients might be received whenever there were vacancies. From the foregoing it will readily be seen that the Legislature unquestionably intended that, while the treatment given should be purely of the homeopathic order, in all other respects the hospital should be conducted under the same laws and in the same manner as all the other State insane asylums.

By the passage of this act and the erection of this asylum the Legislature of 1870 did what had never before been done in the history of its dealings with the dependent insane, to wit, recognize a particular school of medicine-a distinction which to this day no other school has sought or had-yet, so far as a study of the statutes reveals, it was indisputably intended that the corporation of this asylum should be held to as strict a measure of legal accountability as any one of the other State asylums, an that it should enjoy no other or greater privilege than was possessed by all of them.

This institution, from the time of its erection down to the time of the passage of the State Care act, had always been regarded in the same light as the other State asylums of the State. It received appropriations from the Legislature and its capacity was enlarged from time to time, the laws under which it was governed remaining the same as when established, except as modified by the State Care act, which was prepared, it is understood, by Theodore W. Dwight, the distinguished Warden of the Columbia College Law School-than whom a more just or equitable man never lived-provided, as is well known, for the division of the State into as many districts as there were State asylums for the insane, and provided that the insane poor of any particular district should be sent to the hospital situated within said district. But the author of the statute, no doubt having in view the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital and the special treatment given there, provided that, if a patient or his friends elected so to do, he might be received into an asylum beyond the limits of the district in which he lived upon the following conditions:

First – That there shall be a vacancy in the hospital in which the patient desired treatment.

Second – That the consent of the Superintendent of the hospital and the consent of the Chairman of the State Commission in Lunacy shall be obtained.

Third – That the patient’s friends or relatives should pay the expense of transportation beyond the limits of the district in which the patient resides.

It would not have been necessary to impose any condition upon the free choice by a patient of a hospital in which he might desire treatment, had it not been for the fact that, except for some such condition, Superintendents of the Poor, for the sake of the increased mileage and emoluments which could be derived from traveling long distances, might frequently take patients to asylums situated a long distance from the place in which the patient lived. In fact, but for this reason it perhaps might not have been necessary to have established any districts whatever, as, if the element of greed could have been eliminated, convenience, accessibility, and the desires of the patients and their friends might safely have been trusted to regulate the whole matter. It was necessary, however, that some check should be imposed, in order that patients may not be obliged to travel greater distances than are absolutely necessary; and, therefore, on of the conditions named was that of requiring the consent of the President of the State Commission in Lunacy. But inquiry at the office of the commission shows that since the State Care act went into effect on the lst of October, 1890, less than thirty applications to go beyond the limits of the district have been received, thus clearly showing that a comparatively small number of people have any choice or care anything whatever as to what particular institution their insane relatives of friends shall be cared for in.

The legal rights heretofore enjoyed by the Middletown Hospital have not been interfered with in any way by the passage of this law except in the manner herein indicated. The right to receive private or pay patients under the law is precisely the same to-day as it was at the time the hospital was first opened, namely, the right to receive that class of patients when vacancies exist. The passage of the State Care act did not in any other manner whatever change existing laws upon the subject. But upon the taking effect of the State Care act on the 1st of October, 1890, it was found that there were about two thousand more insane poor to be provided for than could be accommodated in all the State hospitals in the State, and, of course, there ceased to be any vacancies for the admission of private or pay patients in the State hospitals. The State Commission in Lunacy, to which is confided the execution of the laws of the State so far as they affect the insane, were compelled to enforce the law in regard to the admission of private patients. It did not, however, enforce the law as rigorously as it might have done. It held that, at least within the spirit and intent of the law, private patients whose means are limited to the extent of being able to pay but a small sum per week might be admitted, and such patients have been admitted without objection from that time to this: That it declined to permit the admission of wealthy or high-priced private patients on the ground that the admission of such patients was not provided for by the statute, and that they could be provided for in the private asylums of the State, of which there are a large number representing the two principal schools of medicine, or equally open to both.

The bill which has passed the State Senate, if it becomes a law, will for the first time in the history of the State establish a principle which has been justly regarded as foreign to the spirit of our institutions, namely, the principle of paternalism in government – the duty of the State to provide for a class of its citizens able to provide for themselves. Moreover, it places at the disposal of one of the schools of medicine in the State a great hospital for the insane, which has cost in round numbers a million of dollars, and practically discriminates against all the other schools of medicine. This bill, which many have believed to simply restore the law as it existed prior to the passage of the State Care act, not only does this, but goes very much beyond it, as it provides for the admission of the indigent and insane poor from any part of the State, and also for the admission of “private patients” of whatever grade and upon such terms and conditions as may be fixed by the Trustees of the institution. In fact, the words “private patients” are for the first time recognized in the statutes of the State. The words “when vacancies exist” are wholly eliminated, so that it becomes a pure matter of discretion in the Trustees of a State institution, which is owned and controlled by the State and supposedly erected for the benefit of the insane poor now in the poorhouses or the wealthy private or pay patients. This is the really objectionable and dangerous feature of the bill. No matter how pressing may be the necessities of the insane poor, the rich who are able to provide for themselves may have the preference if the Trustees choose to give it. Singularly, too, no restrictions have surrounded the question of the determination of who desire homeopathic treatment. Upon the mere say-so of the patient or his friends, which would be sufficient to a Superintendent of the Poor, a patient may be transported hundreds of miles across the State to this institution simply for the purpose of adding to the fees and emoluments of a Superintendent of the Poor.

The right of the indigent insane for whom homeopathic treatment is desired to free admission to the Homeopathic Hospital from any part of the State might, perhaps, be conceded without any intervention or concurrence on the part of the Lunacy Commission, although in practice, as already stated, the occasion for such concurrence seldom arises. And incidentally, it may be added at the Lunacy Commission office the fact is freely admitted that they would, personally, be glad to be relieved of all connection with the matter, provided that some other efficient safeguard against imposition and abuse in the matter of transportation charges were suggested.

It is claimed by the friends of the Middletown State Hospital that medical liberty has been encroached upon by the passage of the State Care act. It is difficult, however, to see wherein this effect has been produced. The free and unrestricted right of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital to give homeopathic treatment has not been abridged in any manner, nor, so far as it is known, is it claimed to have been abridged. But while by the passage of the bill under discussion this liberty demanded in the name of homeopathic profession will have been extended even further than as it was held before the State Care act became law, an equal measure of the same liberty is practically denied to all other schools of medicine.

The laws of the State of New-York, with the exception above indicated, have never recognized any particular school of medicine whatsoever, and do not do so now. The rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission, so far as they relate to schools of medicine, place them upon an equality, and always have done so. The right of any particular school of medicine, so far as the method of treatment in the other State hospitals is concerned, is not abridged in any way. A homeopathic physician may secure appointment in any of the other hospitals in the State, and enforce such medical treatment as he believes in, without let or hindrance. But, if medical liberty is to be enjoyed by one school of medicine, it is difficult to see why it should be denied to the others; in other words, why a wealthy private patient who desires homeopathic treatment should be afforded by the State magnificent opportunities for its enjoyment at Middletown, while another patient who, for example, desires allopathic treatment in the Buffalo State Hospital or the Utica State Hospital, should be denied an equal privilege. It is hard to conceive how the State can thus discriminate against its citizens, can thus patronize one school of medicine at the expense of another, can place a great hospital, with all the prestige which such an institution commands, at the exclusive disposal of one school of medicine, without conferring a like privilege upon other schools; how, for instance, the eclectic school of medicine be denied the same privilege of the use of a State Hospital wherein only the eclectic method of treatment shall prevail.

The effect of the passage of such an act could not fail to be most pronounced upon State care of the insane, for it can hardly be denied that if this privilege is extended without restriction to the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital it will ultimately, if not immediately, be claimed for and must be given to all other State hospitals of the State. This would, in practical effect, destroy the distraction system, would greatly embarrass the operation of the law, and would necessitate making large additional provisions for the insane poor, since the amount of space for the insane poor, since the amount of space occupied by the wealthy private or pay patients is out of proportion to that occupied by the insane poor. Frequently it is as high as six to one, sometimes as high as twelve to one. Over and beyond the question of the recognition of one particular school of medicine by the State to the exclusion of the others, the broad question remains of how far the State is to make provision for of its citizens as are able to make provision for themselves, how far it is willing to compete with the efforts of private individuals, who are permitted and in fact encouraged by law to operate and maintain private insane asylums.

Let it be repeated that the passage of this bill will confer privileges which the institution never before enjoyed, and which an examination of the statutes heretofore enacted will clearly show were never intended to be given. It hardly seems credible that the great body of the homeopathic medical profession desire to be relieved from their share of the responsibility of caring for the insane, or to be given privileges which cannot be exercised in an equal degree by the other medical schools of the State.  MEDICUS.
BUFFALO, Sunday, April 12, 1891.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published April 19, 1891. Copyright @ The New York Times.

2013 Follow-Up to State Hospital Cadavers

After my post yesterday, 1893 State Hospital Cadavers, a reader asked, “How long did this go on?” I didn’t know but I felt that it didn’t go on for very long. I was thinking about 20 years or so. Another reader stated that it is still the law in New York State and she included a link to the statute. She was right and I was very wrong! After reading the law I was amazed at how little it has changed since 1893. The reason I thought that this practice didn’t go on for very long is because of the thousands of anonymous graves in every state of this country. Even today cemeteries have special lots that are reserved for the poor and for bodies that no one has claimed. According to this law, one would think that any body that wasn’t claimed within the 48 hour time period would be given to a medical university but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Willard State Hospital Cemetery, which was used for 130 years, has close to 6,000 unmarked, anonymous graves. This cemetery is the final resting place of the patients that no one claimed. That’s only 1 New York State Hospital out of 17. I’m sure that somewhere there is a list of those deceased patients whose bodies were given in the name of medical science. That information would certainly be in the patient’s medical records which as of this date, are unavailable to the public. If anyone can explain this law further, please feel free to do so. If you would like to learn more about this subject, please click on the RED links below.

N.Y. PBH. LAW § 4211 : NY Code – Section 4211:
Cadavers; Unclaimed; Delivery to Schools for Study.

“1. Except as hereinafter provided, and subject to the conditions specified in this article, the director or person in charge of any hospital, institution, morgue or other place for bodies of deceased persons not interred or otherwise finally disposed of, and every funeral director, undertaker or other person having in his or her lawful possession, any body of a deceased person for keeping or burial, shall deliver every body of a deceased person in his or her possession, charge, custody or control not placed therein by any person, agency or organization for keeping, burial or other lawful disposition to:

(a) any medical college, school or institute including chiropractic colleges registered by the regents of the university of the state of New York as maintaining a proper standard;

(b) any university within the state authorized by law to confer degrees of doctor of medicine or doctor of dental surgery;

(c) any other college or school incorporated under the laws of the state of New York for the purpose of teaching medicine, anatomy or surgery to those on whom the degree of doctor of medicine has been conferred;

(d) any university within the state of New York having a medical preparatory or medical postgraduate course of instruction; or

(e) any college, school or institute maintaining a mortuary science program that has either been approved by the department or holds a certificate of accreditation from an accrediting organization recognized by the department pursuant to article thirty-four of this chapter, provided, however, that such bodies remain unclaimed by any of the aforementioned institutions. Any college, school or institute maintaining a mortuary science program may only claim and utilize such bodies for anatomical and embalming instruction purposes.

2. The professors and teachers in every university, college, school or institute hereinbefore specified may receive the body of a deceased person delivered or released to the university, college, school or institute, as herein provided, for the purposes of medical, anatomical and surgical science, anatomic embalming, and study.

3. No body of a deceased person shall be delivered or released to or received by, any university, college or school or institute.

(a) if, within forty-eight hours after death it is desired for interment or other lawful disposition by relatives and in the counties of Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Madison and Cortland, by relatives or friends, or,

(b) if prior to his or her death, the person shall have expressed a desire that his or her body be interred or otherwise lawfully disposed of, is carrying an identification card upon his or her person indicating his or her opposition to the dissection or autopsy of his or her body, or,

(c) if the deceased person is known to have a relative whose place of residence is known or can be ascertained after reasonable and diligent inquiry.

4. (a) A body of a deceased person shall not be delivered or released to, or received by a university, college, school or institute, if within twenty-four hours after notice of death by the person having lawful possession, charge, custody or control to the next of kin, or in the counties of Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Madison and Cortland to the next of kin, or friend of the deceased person such next of kin or friend shall claim such body for interment or other lawful disposition.

(b) Unless a relative or friend of the deceased person shall claim the body of the deceased person within forty-eight hours after death, or within twenty-four hours after receipt of notice of death as provided in paragraph (a) of this subdivision, the next of kin, relatives or friends, as the case may be, shall be deemed to have assented to delivery or release to, and receipt by the university, college, school or institute, of such dead body.”

SOURCE: FindLaw for Legal Professionals-Cadavers; Unclaimed; Delivery to Schools; Procedure.

FindLaw for Legal Professionals-NY Code-Article 42: CADAVERS.

FindLaw for Legal Professionals-Cadavers; Delivery to Relatives or Friends.

FindLaw for Legal Professionals-Cadavers; Autopsy by Order of Hospital Authorities.


1893 State Hospital Cadavers

For those of you looking for ancestors buried in Anonymous Graves at Unmarked State Hospital and Custodial Institution Cemeteries, you may never find them.

Chapter 661, Laws 1893. Sec. 207. CADAVERS.
The persons having lawful control and management of any hospital, prison, asylum, morgue or other receptacle for corpses not interred, and every undertaker or other person having in his lawful possession any such corpse for keeping or burial may deliver and he is required to deliver, under the conditions specified in this section, every such corpse in their or his possession, charge, custody or control, not placed therein by relatives or friends, in the usual manner for keeping or burial, to the Medical Colleges of the State authorized by law to confer the degree of Doctor of medicine and to any university of the State having a medical preparatory course of instruction and the professors and teachers in every such college or university may receive any such corpse and use it for the purpose of medical study. No corpse shall be so delivered or received if desired for interment by relatives or friends within forty-eight hours after death, or if known to have relatives or friends; or of a person who shall have expressed a desire in his last illness that his body be interred, but the same shall be buried in the usual manner. If the remains of any person so delivered or received shall be subsequently claimed by any relative or friend, they shall be given up to such a relative or friend for interment. Any person claiming any corpse or remains for interment as provided in this section may be required by the persons, college, university or officer or agent thereof, in whose possession, charge or custody the same may be to present an affidavit stating that he is such relative or friend, and the facts and circumstances upon which the claim that he is such relative or friend is based, the expense of which affidavit shall be paid by the persons requiring it. If such person shall refuse to make such affidavit, such corpse or remains shall not be delivered to him but he shall forfeit his claim and right to the same. Any such medical college or university desiring to avail itself of the provisions of this section shall notify such persons having the control and management of the institutions and places heretofore specified, and such undertakers and other persons having any such corpse in their possession, custody or control in the county where such college or university is situated, and in any adjoining county in which no medical college is situated, of such desire, and thereafter all such persons shall notify the proper officers of such college or university whenever there is any coipse in their possession, custody or control, which may be delivered to a medical college or university under this section, and shall deliver the same to such college or university. If two or more medical colleges located in one county are entitled to receive corpses from the same county or adjoining counties, they shall receive the same in proportion to the number of matriculated students in each college. The professors and teachers in every college or university receiving any corpse under this section shall dispose of the remains thereof, after they have served the purposes of medical science and study, in accordance with the regulations of the local board of health where the college or university is situated. Every person neglecting to comply with or violating any provision of this section, shall forfeit to the local board of health where such non-compliance or violation occurred, the sum of twenty-five dollars for every such non-compliance or violation, to be sued for by the health officer of such place, and when recovered to be paid over, less the costs and expenses of the action, to such board for its use and benefit.”
SOURCE: Contributions From The Pathological Institute Of The New York State Hospitals, Volumes I and II, 1896-1897, State Hospital Press, Utica, New York, 1898, Pages 127-128.

1851 Kings County Lunatic Asylum, Flatbush, New York

This particular article from The New York Times discusses the creation of the Kings County Lunatic Asylum located at Flatbush, New York. This building would eventually become part of the Long Island State Hospital.

The New Lunatic Asylum – On Saturday last, some of the Board of Supervisors went to view the site selected by the Special Committee to whom the matter was referred, for the erection of this institution.

After a discussion which has occupied the Board ever since the passage of the bill by the Legislature authorizing them to raise the necessary funds, this report was adopted, and the Committee authorized to treat with the owner upon terms so nearly equal to those upon which he offered to sell, that there is every reason to hope this too long deferred undertaking will immediately be seen about in right earnest.

The lamentable condition of some of the inmates of the present wooden structure at Flatbush, owning to the over crowded state of the building, has been fully brought to public notice in the late proceedings of the Board of Supervisors. Raving maniacs are confined in cells so circumscribed in space and accommodation, that they cannot be restrained from inflicting serious violence upon each other – and placed in rooms overlooking the public highway exposed to the unthinking mockery of the passing idler, frequently exciting their already merely disorganized imaginations to a state of raving madness.

The site selected for the New Building is at the extreme end of the City, in the VIIIth Ward, bounded by 58th-st., and the Third Avenue, and the New Utrecht line. The contents are about forty acres, affording ample accommodation; and the view commanded cannot be excelled in the whole county. The entire Bay, the Ocean, Staten Island, and the cities of New York and Brooklyn are fully comprehended within its range.

There have been a great many conflicting interests at work on this subject, but the price has been the only objection to the site in question, and that by those who recommend one two miles further from the city boundary, confessedly not possessing the same advantages, and the difference in price not exceeding $100 an acre, for one portion, and $200 for the other.

An objection is raised that the avenues will be blocked by this site, and that the projected Fifty-ninth-street bisects it. On the other hand it is urged, and truly, that the effect will only be to shorten the avenues by one block, the location being the extremity of the city, and the Third-avenue and the one on the other extremity will be quite sufficient outlet for the traffic to New-Utrecht and with regard to Fifty-ninth-street, that the Corporation would not permit it to be opened, even if there was any one to apply, which there is not, as they will themselves own the whole projected line, except a short distance to the Bay, on which the owner’s private house stands. If the question is carried, the building (according to the plans submitted and approved,) so placed would be an ornament and credit to the county. And we ardently hope to see the undertaking carried out, and that a few hundred dollars will not prove a stumbling block in the way of so desirable an object.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: October 7, 1851, Copyright @ The New York Times.

Rochester State Hospital – Rochester, NY

Rochester State Hospital, formerly Monroe County Insane Asylum
Rochester, Monroe County, New York
1600 South Avenue

The history of the Rochester State Hospital is a little confusing because the lines blur between the Alms House and the Insane Asylum which would later be known as the Rochester State Hospital. Four structures stood on the same tract of land, facing South Avenue, between Elmwood and Highland Avenues, in the Town of Brighton. None of these structures remain. The original Monroe County Poor House or Alms House was built in 1826. The Work House was built in 1853 at the cost of $22,707.60 and contained ninety-two cells for men, women, and occasionally children. In 1865 and again in 1868, fires broke out and the buildings were replaced. In 1869, new brick buildings were constructed. At some point the Work House was renamed, the Penitentiary. Before county “Insane Asylums” the “insane” were kept in jails and county poor houses, separated from the other inmates and usually in chains or handcuffs. The first buildings of the Monroe County Insane Asylum were opened in the spring of 1857. It is at this point that the lines become blurred because the official year of the opening of the asylum is 1863.

According to W.H. McIntosh: In 1856, “there were thirty-seven insane confined in thirteen cells [in the alms house]. These cells were low, unventilated, and unwholesome, and in dimensions but four and a half by seven feet. In this small space were crowded as many as four persons, some of whom, wild and raving, were chained and handcuffed. There was no out-yard, and no guards to stoves to prevent self-inflicted injury. It was resolved to erect a permanent and convenient building especially for the insane. It was constructed at a cost of somewhat over three thousand dollars, during 1856 and 1857.” (1) The Monroe County Insane Asylum opened in the spring of 1857 to accommodate forty-eight people and was under the supervision of Colonel J.P. Wiggins and wife. An additional wing to house the superintendent and employees was completed in October 1859 at a cost of $26,791.57. Because of the lack of room, several patients still remained in the Poor House. In 1870, an additional wing was constructed to accommodate twenty-five more patients. In 1871, the number of inmates rose to one hundred. In 1872 an entirely new, main building was constructed with forty-one rooms at the cost of $18,000, and with various improvements close to $50,000. Dr. M.L. Lord was the warden and physician beginning in 1868.

According to the 1872 Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Monroe: “Your Committee in tracing back the history of Monroe County Insane Asylum to 1863, when, by an act of the Legislature, it was made a separate institution from the County Alms House, find that the whole number of inmates supported at that institution during the year was sixty-three. The number of inmates now in that institution have increased to 137, and has more than doubled during the last nine years…” (3, page 18).

The Alms House – In 1860, a building, “was set apart for the infirm old men.” (1) George E. McGonigal was the Superintendent, and Dr. Azel Backus was the physician. On February 28, 1872, a building committee was appointed for a new almshouse to be built at the cost of $59,600. “The almshouse was located midway between the insane asylum and the penitentiary, and fifty feet south. The architect employed was J.R. Thomas. The entire cost of the work was $72,948.44.” (1) In late 1872, the new Monroe County Alms House was completed and opened. It was built in front of the old and at some point thereafter, the original poor house was torn down.

The Insane Asylum – The State of New York purchased the land and the buildings of the Monroe County Insane Asylum for $50,000 bringing it into the State Care system. On July 1, 1891, it was renamed, Rochester State Hospital. Dr. Eugene H. Howard was the first Superintendent and served in that position for several years. (2) The Rochester State Hospital was torn down in the 1960s to make way for The Al Sigl Center. Rochester State Hospital faced South Avenue, the address was 1600 South Avenue. The Al Sigl Center faces Elmwood Avenue, the address is 1000 Elmwood Avenue.

So it appears that in 1857 a separate building was constructed for the sole purpose of becoming the Monroe County Insane Asylum. In 1863, by an act of the New York State Legislature, the asylum was officially separated from the alms house. In late 1872, the NEW Alms House was opened. In that same year, an entirely NEW main building was constructed for the Insane Asylum complete with a Mansard Roof. If you look at the sketch of these three buildings (W.H. McIntosh’s book of 1877), you can see that all three are separate but they stand side by side, three in a row: Far left, Penitentiary; Center, Alms House; Far right, Insane Asylum.

Work House, County Infirmary, Insane Asylum 1877

Work House, County Infirmary, Insane Asylum 1877

There is an interesting map that was drawn in 1984 during an excavation of Highland Park that shows the footprints of the original wood frame and brick buildings. At this time, the remains of approximately 900 people were discovered. (4) In April 2013, while researching the history of the poor house and the asylum, I came across the “Chaplain’s Report” from 1872 which stated that the unmarked cemetery, “familiarly known as the ‘bone yard,” was “an enclosed lot of the public farm in the rear of the penitentiary.” (3) This cemetery was located behind the old Penitentiary and was used to bury the inmates of the Penitentiary, Alms House, and Insane Asylum from 1826 until January 8, 1873 when the County Board of Supervisors directed the Superintendents of the Penitentiary and of the County Poor, “to discontinue the burial of paupers or criminals in the old burying ground attached to the penitentiary, and to have the remains of all such interred in Mount Hope cemetery.” (3) The county board of supervisors of 1872 were well aware that this cemetery existed but apparently, it was never recorded. Perhaps the document concerning this cemetery hasn’t been discovered yet. The Remember Garden in Highland Park marks the location of this long forgotten cemetery.

Map of Penitentiary, Poorhouse, Asylum

Map of Penitentiary, Poorhouse, Asylum

305 bodies were interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in 1985. The remaining bodies (approximately 600) (4) were left in the ground at Highland Park. The picture below shows a man preparing the ground for the monument that was or will be placed in memory of these original inmates. There is NO monument in Mount Hope Cemetery for the inmates of The Monroe County Insane Asylum / Rochester State Hospital, most of whom were buried in anonymous, unmarked graves in Section Y. If bill S2514-2013, which was introduced to the New York State Legislature by Senator Joseph Robach, becomes a law, then these people will no longer be anonymous.

Mount Hope Cemetery 11.2011

Mount Hope Cemetery 11.2011

“Work is now underway to install a monument in memory of the 305 Rochester poor house remains now interred in Mount Hope Cemetery. From the picture you can determine that the monument is in Section Y at the far west end. Note the Civil War plot, the Fireman’s monument and the Steam Gauge and Lantern Co. monument in the background. In July, 1984 when terracing land for a Highland Park addition, a bulldozer unearthed some human remains near the SE corner of Highland and South Ave. Investigation proved these burials were very old. It is believed they are from the Rochester poor house. The burials were not marked and the people were interred in the most simple wooden coffins. These remains underwent an examination prior to their reburial in Mount Hope Cemetery.” 11/2011

I have transcribed the earliest records: Names: Monroe County Poorhouse, Asylum, Penitentiary, Other Charities 1838 to 1860. If you believe that your ancestor was an inmate who lived and died at The Monroe County Insane Asylum / Rochester State Hospital you can search for them at the Rochester – Mt. Hope Cemetery Records online. Here is a brief description of what you will see if you decide to search the records for yourself: Under the heading “Residence,” a street name will be given with no specific address; or it will list the place where the person died such as: Insane Asylum, Asylum, County House, Jail, etc. (Be aware that there was an Asylum Street in the City of Rochester that as far as I know, had no connection with the Monroe County Insane Asylum). About 1891, you will start to see the words “Rochester State Hospital” under “Residence.” At some point in the 1900s, instead of listing the place of death as Rochester State Hospital the address has been given instead as “1600 South Avenue.” In some instances, the family of the deceased claimed the body and buried them in the family plot. In the case of pauper and indigent insane, the hospital buried them in unmarked, anonymous graves at Mount Hope Cemetery. Some unclaimed bodies were donated by state hospitals to state medical colleges for the advancement of medical science in which case no grave will be found.


1 – McIntosh, W.H., History of Monroe County, New York; With Illustrations Descriptive Of Its Scenery, Palatial Residences, Public Buildings, Fine Blocks, and Important Manufactories, From Original Sketches By Artists Of The Highest Ability. Philadelphia: Everts, Ensign & Everts, 1877, Pages 45-47, Transcribed by L.S. Stuhler.

2 – Hurd, Henry Mills; Drewry, William Francis; Dewey, Richard; Pilgrim, Charles Winfield; Blumer, George Adler, The Institutional Care of the Insane in the United States and Canada, The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1916, Pages 199-200, Transcribed by L.S. Stuhler.

3. – Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Monroe, for 1872, Rochester, N.Y., Steam Press of Curtis, Morey & Co., Union And Advertiser Office, 1872, Pages 18, 211, 212.

4. – Steckel, Richard H. and Rose, Jerome C., The Backbone of History: Health and Nurtrition in the Western Hemisphere, Cambridge University Press, 2002, Page 162.

Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery – The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery are a wonderful group of knowledgeable volunteers who will help you locate your loved one and provide you with all the information you need to locate the grave.

Facebook – Friends of Mt. Hope

USGenWeb Monroe County, NY – Mt. Hope Cemetery Tombstone Transcriptions

Records of the Rochester State Hospital

Photographs of Memorial to Residents of Almshouse, Insane Asylum & Penitentiary by L.S. Stuhler

History of Mount Hope Cemetery – McIntosh 1877

Rochester History – Life and Death in Nineteenth Century Rochester by Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck, pages 12 – 22.

1872 “Bone Yard” – The Remember Garden – Rochester, NY by L.S. Stuhler

1873 Monroe County Poor House

The Willard and Rochester State Hospital Connection by L.S. Stuhler

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees

The Inmates Of Willard 1870 to 1900  A Genealogy Resource by L.S. Stuhler

Cemetery Restoration – People Inc. & The Museum of disABILITY History

In Remembrance by David Mack-Hardiman, Director of Training, People Inc.

More than one million Americans are buried in institutional cemeteries. Many institutions which served people who had mental illness or developmental disabilities are now closed. Upon their closure, the cemeteries have been abandoned or passed on to the current owner of the property. Because the monuments were made more cheaply than traditional gravestones, time and neglect have taken their toll. Some grave markers are broken, leaning, tipped over, sunken under the ground, or tossed off into the weeds. Many of them are just numbers with no further clue as to the identity of the person. (TO VOLUNTEER, PLEASE CONTACT DAVID MACK-HARDIMAN at dmack@people-inc.org.)

Cast Iron Monument #100 in the Wheater Road Cemetery in Gowanda

Cast Iron Monument #100 in the Wheater Road Cemetery in Gowanda

Seven years ago, People Inc. and the Museum of disABILITY History aligned with the statewide 1033 Group and the nationwide Operation Dignity movement to embark upon the restoration of some local institutional cemeteries.

In 2006, a monument was placed in the Jolls Road Cemetery in Perrysburg. On a hillside in the cemetery, the graves of nearly four hundred residents of various state institutions were discovered. Some had small headstones but for many, there is no permanent marker. Self-Advocacy groups from Western New York planned the Ceremony of Remembrance during which the monument was unveiled.

Monument in the Jolls Road Cemetery in Perrysburg

Monument in the Jolls Road Cemetery in Perrysburg

In 2007, work began at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center Cemetery on Route 62 in Gowanda. More than five hundred grave markers were photographed and documented. They were dusted, edged, and cleaned. Community businesses provided support and officials of the Collins Correctional Facility assisted the project in numerous ways. Many markers had sunken under the ground including an entire Jewish section which contained more than thirty graves marked with the Star of David. Once all stones were accounted for and placed again on the surface, a Ceremony of Remembrance was held on a warm, breezy day. Former patients and employees of the facility joined Self-Advocacy groups, State officials, numerous People Inc. volunteers and the Superintendents of the Correctional Facility for a memorable event. The names of all those buried there were given to the Museum of disABILITY History.

Memorial Cemetery sign installed by People Inc. in 2007

Memorial Cemetery sign installed by People Inc. in 2007

In a grassy hollow along the banks of Clear Creek in Collins, volunteers spent the next three summers restoring the Wheater Road Cemetery. More than five hundred headstones were unearthed in an area which was about the size of a football field. Taking the utmost care not to damage the long buried markers, volunteers tapped the earth until they felt resistance, carefully dug around the stones and lifted them to the surface. They were washed with water and placed back on the surface. In addition, more than five hundred other grave markers were straightened and reinforced with shims or gravel. Hundreds of red tulips were planted throughout the cemetery and a heart shaped garden was constructed. A Remembrance Ceremony was held at this location as well, including a release of doves by Self-Advocates. Media attention led some families to contact the Museum of disABILITY History, which assisted them in finding the final resting places for their ancestors.

#502 in the Protestant section is unearthed in the Wheater Road Cemetery

#502 in the Protestant section is unearthed in the Wheater Road Cemetery

In 2012, the volunteers shifted focus to Niagara County and the site of the former Niagara County Almshouse. Virtually undisturbed for ninety-six years, this cemetery had just a few stones which appeared to be marking graves. Nature had literally taken over the site with thick overgrowth of grape vines, wild roses, Hawthorne trees, and poison ivy. Initially, it was very difficult to determine the boundaries of the cemetery. With community assistance and volunteer labor, the site gradually began to take shape. The volunteers cut back the vines, trimmed trees, weeded, and created a beautiful corner space in which a memorial bench was installed. In a beautiful ceremony, the names of many of those buried there were read, including the foundlings and those whose names were, “unknown.” After the ceremony, several family members inquired about their ancestors and have been provided information from the almshouse registers.

The Niagara County Almshouse Cemetery

The Niagara County Almshouse Cemetery

This summer, volunteers will assist with cleaning the marble headstones at Craig Colony Cemetery in SonyeaPeople Inc. and the Museum of disABILITY History will join with Self-Advocates from the Finger Lakes area, town historians, and, the employees of the Groveland Correctional Facility to complete yet another, fulfilling cemetery restoration.
New York State Hospitals and Custodial Institutions & Cemetery Projects.

Mental Illness & Ignorance

I am the first to admit that I didn’t have a clue about what mental illness really is, and I have never claimed to be an expert on this issue, because I am not. When I discovered that my great-grandmother was sent to Willard State Hospital at the end of her life, it made my stomach flip and I felt overwhelming sadness. I remember reading her obituary over and over again to see if I had read it correctly. I even asked myself, could there be another state hospital at Willard that wasn’t a mental institution? Did she really die there? Why was she sent there? What was her diagnoses? Before I lose your attention, let me explain who was sent to Willard so that you will no longer be uneducated, unaware, or uninformed. Anyone who was not considered “normal” was sent to Willard including the elderly with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Remember, there really were no nursing homes until the 1950s. Others were Hearing Impaired, had Developmental Disabilities, were Trauma Victims including Victims of Domestic Violence and Rape (back then they called it “Seducer’s Victim”), had PTSD (Soldier’s Heart & Shell Shock), Menopausal Women, Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Brain Injuries, Stroke Victims, Epilepsy, Neurological Disorders, Psychiatric Disorders, and some were locked up because of their sexual orientation, personal beliefs, and religious beliefs.

You have to ask yourself, why are we so ignorant on this issue? Why are we receiving the great majority of mental health information from television commercials put out by the pharmaceutical companies and Dr. Phil? God Bless Him! Why is the jail at Riker’s Island being used as the largest mental health facility in the country? This is how we used to treat the mentally ill 150 years ago. When we pay our taxes which is a huge burden on the people of New York State, we assume that the people appointed to these high paying positions are actually doing their jobs and taking care of the people they are supposed to be advocating for; those who need the most help. Obviously, this is not the case and this abuse of the public trust needs to end.

Are burial records available to the public? Yes, but you would have to sit in the town clerk’s office and pull out each record that applies to that county’s particular state hospital or custodial institution. If you post their names online, you run the risk of being charged $10,000 for each violation, or each person. It would be much easier to record this information from each institution’s burial ledgers. Is it ridiculous that the Office of Mental Health classified burial records from state facilities as medical records? Yes. Were they really protecting the identities of former patients? No. In every correspondence that I received, it was made crystal clear that this was done to protect the families because some may find it offensive. Not only has the OMH insulted families and descendants of these people who were buried in anonymous graves, they have contributed to the stigma. They need to step out of the way, focus on the living, and hand over the burial ledgers to cemetery groups and responsible volunteers who will get the job done at NO cost to the state. Our ancestors and our families have nothing to be ashamed of! That would be like being ashamed of heart disease or diabetes. Putting names on a memorial, headstone, or list, should not be offensive to anyone, unless, of course, you are ignorant.

“I Got A Name” by Jim Croce
Abused and Used – New York Times
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees

The list of these former New York State Hospitals includes but is not limited to: BinghamtonBuffaloCentral IslipDannemoraEdgewoodGowandaHudson RiverKings ParkLong IslandManhattanMatteawanMiddletownMohansicPilgrimRochesterSt. LawrenceSyracuseUtica, and Willard. The Feeble-Minded and Epileptic Custodial Institutions of New York includes but is not limited to: Craig Colony for EpilepticsLetchworth Village for Epileptics & Developmentally DisabledNewark State School for Developmentally Disabled WomenRome State School for Developmentally Disabled Adults & Children, and Syracuse State School for Developmentally Disabled Children. There may be more.

Edgewood State Hospital & Cemetery

Edgewood State Hospital (Deer Park, Long Island) & Cemetery

Edgewood State Hospital by E.M. Hornicker