This memorial stone marks the grave of Frederick Peter Vergon (1829-1919). Located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware, Ohio, it is ten feet tall and ten feet wide and is carved from Indiana limestone. Due to the intricacy and detail of the carving it is believed to have taken several years to create.
Within the leaves of the majestic Chestnut tree are birds, a bird nest containing eggs, an owl, lizards, and a frog located in the roots. Unfortunately, vandals have damaged many of the small sculptures.
Vergon was born in France in 1829. His parents emigrated to the USA and settled in Delaware County, Ohio, where his father purchased farm land which became Greenwood Farm. From a ravine, Frederick made Greenwood Lake which he stocked with bass. He created an amusement park surrounded by imported deciduous and evergreen trees. His interest in horticulture expanded into a vineyard and a 50 acre apple orchard.
There was a time in the latter part of the last century when facilities for those suffering from mental health issues were known as Hospitals for the Insane, State Colonies for the Feeble-Minded, Lunatic Asylums or Mental Institutions, and the regard for the patients was equally insensitive even in death. Many family members did not claim the bodies of their deceased relatives and they were buried in unmarked graves or graves identified with only a number.
Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum opened in 1842. Over population and a decrease in staff sadly led to mistreatment of patients. People died at an alarming rate and it is believed that 25,000 people are buried in the hospital grounds possibly in a mass grave. The Central State Hospital in Milledgeville as it became known closed in 2010. Cedar Lane Cemetery contains numbered iron markers of patients who died at the hospital. The historic marker at the cemetery states the following: In 1997 a cemetery restoration began here triggered a movement to memorialize patients buried at state psychiatric hospitals nationwide. After discovering nearby neglected cemeteries interred some 25,000 people, members of the Georgia Consumer Council pledged to restore the burial grounds and build a memorial. A grassroots campaign raised funds to erect the adjacent gate and display 2000. numbered iron markers displaced from graves over the years. A life-size bronze angel was placed 175 yards south of here to serve as a perpetual guardian.
Letchworth Village in Rockland County, Rockland County New York, opened in 1911 as a residential facility for the mentally and/or physically disabled. It closed in 1996 after years of reported abuse and a lack of funding. Graves are marked with rusting metal T-shapes embossed with a number.
The Somerset and Bath Lunatic Asylum Cemetery in Wells, Somerset opened in 1874 and closed in 1991. The cemetery contains 2900 anonymous graves identified by numbered iron discs. A wooden sculpture by artist Peter Bolton lies on the ground beside the markers representing the anguish of mental health.
Image source: TripAdvisor
As recent as 2011, there was no road, no sign and no headstones for the 5776 patients buried at the Willard Asylum for the Insane. New York State operated 26 of these facilities.
Vermont Asylum for the Insane was founded in Brattleboro in 1834 to care for the mentally ill. Initially deceased patients were buried in the Village Burying Ground (to later become Prospect Hill Cemetery), then the Asylum Burying Ground and finally in the Brattleboro Retreat Cemetery known as Fairview. None of the graves have identification.
“The eye of him that hath seen me shall come no more. Why hast thou set in me a mark against thee so that I am a burden to myself? and why dost thee not pardon my transgression and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.” Sarah Culy
Between 1871 and 1953, there were 3200 patients buried at the Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Oregon. They were represented by numbered stones which sank beneath the surface of the ground. A granite stone has been erected over a mass grave to mark their lives and deaths.
The Longview Asylum opened in 1860 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The hospital cemetery contains the bodies of patients who were unclaimed or died indigent. Grave markers consist of small square cement blocks bearing a number.
Spencer State Asylum Roane County, West Virginia, opened in 1893 closing almost 100 years later in 1989. Approximately 850 patients are buried on the hospital grounds.
The Mississippi Lunatic Asylum was established in Jackson in 1848 and asylum patients were buried on the grounds. The cemetery which has been consecrated also contains the ashes of many anatomical donors and is the repository for the ashes of infants who died at UMC and whose families wished them to be buried there. A Ceremony of Remembrance honors them in a fall service.
“By their extraordinary gifts these dead have taught the living how to touch, through them, we touch the body of the world”. John Stone M.D.
This monument was dedicated on april 16, 1996 as a memorial to all those who have donated their bodies to the University of Mississippi Medical Center since 1955 for professional education and research.
Public attitude has since changed 180 degrees with regards to mental health. Markers and/or memorial walls have been erected to recognize those who died and were buried with no ceremony. A new national memorial dedicated to the unnamed graves of the mentally ill broke ground at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 2009.
The death of a child is always tragic, an unfulfilled life reduced to a name and two dates on a stone. Sadder still, is a headstone with no details of the departed.
Sleeping and waiting
Here lyes dust of
In May 1977, a garbage bag containing the decomposed body of an infant girl was found in the Walnut Creek arm of the Delaware River. The baby, only a few weeks old, was never identified and was buried in Oskaloosa’s Pleasant View Cemetery, where it remained mostly forgotten and without a stone marker. The grave marker for the unidentified baby girl was donated by Hutton Monuments of Topeka.
He died at the Marion County Poor Farm/Asylum in central Kansas, USA. The asylum offered a home for the indigent, those unable to live independently, and unwed pregnant girls who lived there until they gave birth. The children were then put up for adoption.
A cholera epidemic in 1847 orphaned many children who were then billeted at the Oak Woods Cemetery Orphan Asylum in Chicago. The relentless epidemic eventually led to their deaths.
Loved and lost awhile
On 8 January 1872, the horribly mutilated body of a 16 year old girl named Angeline Moore was found. She was bound to servitude with Mrs. Thompson. Although the cause of death was never determined, Mrs. Thompson and her daughter with charged with murder.
How charming all, how much she was ador’d alive; now dead, how much’s her loss deplor’d
A boy living wild in the woods in northern Germany was discovered by a party of hunters in 1725. He had been living in the forest, eating plant life and walking on all fours. He was brought to Great Britain in 1726 where he was lived until his death. He is buried in the graveyard attached to St Mary’s Church, Northchurch, Hertfordshire
The farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye You were gone before we knew it And only God knows why. 1979
Epidemics of cholera in 1832, 1848, and 1873 were the second leading cause of death in the mid 19th century. Rapid population growth and a lack of sanitary water, caused diarrhea and vomiting that lead to dehydration almost immediately and death in less than a day.
Here lies best of men whose life is at an end The best of husbands & ye truest friend Who rests, I hope, as I do hope to be Happy with him to all Eternity
During the Christmas period of 1933, a stranger appeared in the town of Willoughby, Ohio. On December 24th, she threw herself in front of a train at the Second Street railroad crossing and was killed. With no identification on her person, her identity remained unknown until 1993 when she was discovered to be Josephine “Sophie” Klimczak, a native to Pennsylvania. In 2004, a plinth with her name was donated by Kotecki Monuments of Cleveland. The inscription reads: “In Memory of the Girl in Blue killed by train December 24, 1933. Unknown but not forgotten.”
There are several versions of this sculpture containing different components which have been related to mythology, Judaism and Christianity; yet it is ultimately a Masonic carving. It symbolizes that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things. The most common symbols are Father Time, a Virgin, a broken column, an urn, a sprig of acacia, and a book, all of which rest on the top level of three steps.
Father Time is most often depicted as an old man with long hair and beard, and a pair of wings. A scythe and hourglass are symbols associated with him. The scythe represents the Divine harvest and the hourglass denotes that the sands of time bring us closer to death. As the scythe cuts the harvest, so life is ended by Father Time. He stands behind a virgin (or young woman) attempting to untangle the ringlets of her hair. It symbolizes that with time and perseverance all things can be accomplished.
The mythological Goddess Rhea is represented by a virgin or weeping woman who grieves over the loss of a loved one. Symbols differ in sculptures, the most common being an urn in her left hand and a sprig of acacia in her right hand. Acacia is an evergreen and represents the immortality of the soul. The urn is a symbol of death and was used to collect tears of the mourners. It is often shown resting on a book symbolic of the Book of Life where names of the righteous were recorded to ensure entry into Heaven.
Other representations show the virgin holding a scroll which is a symbol of life. She can also be found holding a chisel or a mallet. She stands before a sundered column symbolic of a life cut short. (A column or pillar was often used by the Hebrews to symbolize rulers or nobles.)
In Freemasonry, a summary of the sculpture relates the following.
The broken column denotes the untimely death of Grand Master Hiram Abiff.
The beautiful Virgin, weeping, denotes the unfinished Temple.
The book open before her, displays that his virtues are on perpetual record.
The sprig of acacia in her right hand, represents the timely discovery of his body.
The urn in her left, that his ashes were there safely deposited to perpetuate the remembrance of so distinguished a character.
Father Time standing behind her unfolding the ringlets of her hair denotes that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.