It was standard practice at the asylums of 19th century America to designate a plot of land on the grounds for a patient cemetery. In many cases, when patients were committed to the asylum for a long-term stay, they were written out of the family histories, forgotten by their kin, and expected to live out their lives in the institutions. In most cases, when the patient passed away, nobody came to claim the body, and it was interred on the grounds. Other patients - those close to the deceased, as well as work details who handled the digging and burial - would be party to a small ceremony, and the patient's final resting place would be marked by a nameless stone bearing a number for reference; it was simply too expensive to have individual inscriptions made. At many asylums, the records which correlate the numbers to the names are long since lost or destroyed, and the graves are unidentifiable - in a sense, they represent all of the people dropped off at the asylum for the remainder of their lives with little fanfare. By the early 20th century, most asylums abandoned the practice of burial for budgetary reasons, and cremation became the standard procedure. Still, many patient cemeteries remain even when the buildings are gone or repurposed, such as this one, upon a hillside at Western State Hospital in Virginia.

For #HistoryThursday from +Matt Shalvatis.
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