10 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this article. I particularly appreciated the photo of the person laying a flower on the gravesite, and the closeup of the person uncovering a remnant. The only comment I would make is that families did not simply leave their loved ones at Westborough or any other state institution. They were most often advised to do so by doctors, and as they were almost always families in poverty they most often did not have the resources that the rich had at their disposal in order to visit them. Thus, they did not abandon them. This happened to families of people who had developmental delays too. The problem with less than family friendly policies and practices towards people diagnosed with mental illness goes on today. This can be seen in the decision of the Department of Mental Health”s decision to close local state hospital beds while building a largely family inaccessible “state of the art” 360 bed institution in Worcester, MA., for example. Also, it is my understanding (from Glenn Malloy) that “pragmatic” practice at Westborough State Hospital consisted of burning of bodies in the crematorium on the hospital”s grounds, which were sent with a numbered brick, not a stone for “burial” at the cemetery.

    The introductory comment of your article could be felt as hurtful to loved ones, most of whom were very poor families who, as today, who did not have other choices. For example, the well to do, such as “Madame Secretary” Frances Perkins, family members placed their loved ones in institutions such as McLean”s Hospital in Belmont, where they were able to visit them frequently. I think it”s important in the effort to provide a memorial to the patients/people who died at Westborough that we not distrust any group, whether these be families, patients or ex-patients, or mental health professionals. All were hurt and degraded by these “burial” practices. Thank you

    For an interesting treatment of the important issue of family and medical professionals read “Inventing the Feeble Mind: A history of mental retardation in the United States” by sociologist James Trent. Although the book is not about diagnoses of mental illness, in the early days not much distinction was made and we were most often institutionalized together. You can look at websites such as http://www.disabilityhistory.org/dd_camp2.html too, for more history on this.

    While I am grateful that the Department of Mental Health is interested in sponsoring the efforts to provide a suitable if belated memorials for these patients, I am a interested in what really happened. To me, the meaning of such an effort today is to restore dignity that was not accorded to patients there, as history indicates, and going forward, to not allow these types of practices to happen again.
    Naomi Ruth Pinson, Cambridge, MA

    • Thank you for your reply. My great-grandfather was here for a time (we think for depression), and as you mentioned, was not abandoned, but his family could not afford the best.

  2. My records indicate that my Great Grandfather, John Baptiste Picard, died at the westbrough State Hospital in 1911. Is there any record of this? Thank you.

  3. Richard, you can contact the Westborough Town Clerk’s office at 508-366-3020 to see if they might have any information. Good luck!

  4. My great grandmother, Emma Jane Bont Whitney died in Westborough on April 29, 1906 of tuberculosis and was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery on May 1, 1906. I am very interested in the memorial that you are working on to honor those buried there. I feel a closeness to her even though I never met her and only found her while doing family research. Story was that no one knew anything about her and she was probably and American Indian……not true……just insane, which was passed down through the generations in one person or another. Bless her heart and bless you for taking an interest in those who could not help themselves.

  5. This writer is wrong.In many cases there was no interest in helping the patient.There was a bus that for $1.00 round trip that would take people to the hospital,but relatives seldom came if ever.And there were other ways.Many people had cars.A lot of relatives wern’t rich, but there WERE affordable ways of visiting.

  6. I am searching for Mrs. Eleanor Sullivan who I have as receiving an invoice for my grandmother’s burial costs from Mr. Warren Rand of the Rand & Harper Funeral Home in Westboro, MA. She must have been involved with the purchasing department there. I never knew about my grandmother whom had been at the Westboro State Hospital from about 1930 until her death on 20 Jan., 1990. It would sure be nice if I could find out about employees that may have known her so that I can find out about her. To anyone that reads my post and may have anything to share with me please do contact me at pikedrop at gmail.com. Thank you so very much! Matt

  7. Leonie Parsons Hartshorn (Leonice) was a patient at Westboro and she is my great-great aunt. She appears on the census as a patient. Are the records open/available to the public. I have no date of death for her or place of burial.

  8. Is there any kind of list of patients that passed at the hospital? If so, how would I access it? Also are there any patient records remaining from 1940s. I believe my great grandfather was there but I don’t know why. He ran his own plumbing business was married, owned his own home and raised his family. Somehow it seems he landed there and probably died there age 60+ years old. I’m curious if it was TB or another medical illness or was mental illness …depression? Alzheimer’s? Alcoholic?

    • Karen, There is a database that has been started at the Westborough Town Hall. You can try calling them at 508-871-5100.

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