Utah State Hospital Honors Forgotten Patients with Memorial Wall
PROVO, Utah – They may have been buried in unmarked graves but thanks to a Utah State Hospital historian, hundreds of former patients are forgotten no more. These 485 men and women lived out their lives at the facility, formerly known as Utah Territorial Insane Asylum, and died there between 1886 and 1960.
“These were people who, because of their mental illness, ended up in an asylum or hospital, eventually died over time and were largely forgotten,” said Chilton, a Utah State Hospital historian.
Thanks to her efforts and dedicated research that started back in 2002, the hospital historian has solved a century-old mystery and managed to match the missing patients with records found at the Provo City Cemetery. Today, the names of each former hospital resident and their death dates are marked clearly and engraved in granite headstones on a memorial wall unveiled in October.
Chilton said she dove into old records and found countless patients who shared similar stories. She found no shortage of old pictures documenting their lives but the question that was always looming for a long time was, ‘Where were they buried?’
“I kind of started thinking ‘do we have a cemetery’ and ‘who were these people?’”
Questions Chilton said were eventually answered. The only challenge was that the graves of the nearly 500 patients were unmarked.
“They really lost their identity in life, and we really felt like they needed to have that back,” said Chilton.
She set off on a mission, helped raise thousands of dollars and after three-and-half years, the Hospital historian turned investigator spearheaded a memorial wall in the Provo City Cemetery. The wall is giving families the opportunity to find their relatives and giving us a lesson in humanity.
“We hope nothing like this ever happens again,” said Chilton.
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