It has been too long since I have updated this page! We now have a new website for anything related to the ESH cemetery. I also have obtained death records for Central State Hospital in Louisville. They cover 1936 thru the 1970s, unfortunately anything before then is likely lost.
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!
In late May, our group lost a great and vital member of our project. Mary Hatton was a nurse at ESH for over 20 years. When the hospital was “privatized” in the early 1990s she left ESH and continued with state employment inspecting nursing homes. After that she helped get our group involved in the genealogy aspect that we needed. She never forgot the patients that she cared for, and the ones before she even worked there. Many hours she spent looking for names. Mary also was the one that usually got the emails from relatives looking for answers about their relatives when the state wouldn’t tell them anything. Our project will continue without her somehow.
I had been hoping to find useful information going through old news articles. Although they make interesting, very few if any pertain to the cemetery. Most were about escapes or deaths at the asylum. Then of course the usual news about politics and request for money. After the 1930s things really dropped off when it came to ESH.
There was this one article from June 6, 1908. The only article that seems to mention the cemetery specifically. At the time the cemetery had been “improved” & all the graves marked & mapped. Unfortunately, that map is likely long gone. Although it wouldn’t help much today since that cemetery was moved in 1956. It might have had names or numbers that might’ve helped though.
So there is news, good and bad regard all things ESH. Demolition continues at a steady pace, the old female wards/CHR section is gone as of today. The college really is hell bent on erasing as much as possible. All that will be left when they are finished in January will be the Admin & laundry buildings. BCTC has promised to save some bricks for us to use at the cemetery though.
Other bad news, access to the cemetery is severely restricted until April, 2014. The state says they are concerned about people visiting the cemetery breaking into the buildings. The rules say we have to; 1)Give 72 hours notice, 2)No more then 10 people, 3)Sign waivers, 4)Has to be on a weekday, 5)Limit a visit to 2 hours, even for meetings. I told them this was not possible since we always meet on weekends and sometimes have more then 10 ppl. No exception will be made, even for Veteran’s Day. I sent an email to the representative I’ve been talking to from the state stating this was unacceptable & never heard another word. Your tax dollars at work!
Now the good news! The University of Kentucky & ESH are working to make access to records and helping relatives easier. I spoke with Vikki Franklin (PR) several times concerning the issue. For those looking for information on relatives can contact Brittanie Johnson @ 859-246-8081. She is the contact person in medical records for request of old records. They do ask that you have as much info as possible when asking, especially dates. If anyone needs more info or help with any of this, leave a comment.
Last week the hospital officially closed on September 10th as they moved to the new facility. It wasn’t the most organized thing I’ve ever seen. They had several University of Kentucky “security” staff on-hand to intimidate the patients. It was poorly executed overall, I was told I had to leave the property when I tried to ask a question, even though they couldn’t do anything. I feel bad for the patients going to the new hospital, it seems like the old one was better!
I stopped in the other day to see what was going on. The place was very quiet, probably for the first time in almost 200 years. There was a handful of state “employees” in front of one building taking a smoke break. When I asked them anything, they didn’t know what I was talking about. They pretended I wasn’t there, probably worried I was a state employee checking in them. I have emailed the state about preservation (which they have said there will be little) and access to the cemetery. As I left I saw someone that looked lost, it turned out to be a former patient looking for his doctor and his medication had run out. I told him the old hospital closed & he had no idea what was going on. I gave him a ride to the county health department to get attention.
There was an attempt to preserve most of the buildings early on in the project. As time went on most of them disappeared & the state decided to demolish more with the local NAMI yelling to make it all go away. So long story short, according to Kelly Gunning, everything is OK and there was no abuse in the past and it will never happen ever again.
September 10th was the official closing day for the old ESH facility. I stopped in to see how it was going and it wasn’t good. There was no media presence, and the University of Kentucky rent-a-cops were over-seeing the move. The people that have been used to the old ESH were suddenly threatened with UK rent-a-cops.
Manteno State Hospital in Manteno,Illinois was once one of the largest mental facilities in the US, they had over 8,000 patients by the 1950s. I had an uncle there as a patient for having Downs Syndrome. The nurses did the best they could with what they had, but that’s another story. There were many scandals and issues throughout it’s short history and it closed in 1985. There is a cemetery close to the facility that was for patients, then after it close the Veterans Administration started using it for the burial of veterans. The graves were separated by religion, Catholic & Protestant. To this day no one has been able to explain what happened to those of other religions. About 4,000 former patients are buried here, they all received a marker, but unfortunately most have sunk into the ground and there’s no attempt to fix them.
Later headstone gave dates and aren’t sinking as bad like this one
Sadly, most look like this one
Although the state says they have no information to share concerning burials, the cemetery is open to the public. The VA using the cemetery to bury veterans, it’s listed as a national cemetery by the federal government. Although they don’t bother to acknowledge the patients that were veterans. I’m currently adding names to the list of names to FindaGrave as I go.