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From: "Nancee Seifert" <>
Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2009 12:39:12 -0500 (Central Daylight Time)

I had a McMurtrey relative that spent most of her adult life in Clarinda
Mental Hospital - in Iowa. I wrote to the Hospital a few months ago, and
they sent me her records. I was so saddened to know that apparently her
family didn't visit her and she supposedly died -- and the funeral was
conducted, etc. Two years later, someone discovered that the woman who had
actually died was someone else, and my relative had been living all that
time. She did then eventually pass away.
How could this happen? Why didn't her family know???

I thought this article to be of interest and wanted to share it with you.
Regards, Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert at
From: W. David Samuelsen
Date: 06/09/09 10:57:13
To: Tombstones Project; Tombstones-L; Cemetery-L
Subject: [Old Bones Cemetery List] largest forgotten cemetery discovered


By Amanda Marshall
TODAYShow.com contributor
updated 1 hour, 10 minutes ago

Sometimes spring uncovers unexpected stories. Bud Merritt was hiking in
Milledgeville, Ga., when he came across a long-forgotten cemetery.

“There almost seemed to be no end to it. You would find areas where
there were no markers. And then you walk a few yards and you would find
more,” he explains.

Overgrown with shrubs, the tall, thin headstones were nearly lost
amongst the oak trees. Upon closer inspection, Bud noticed the graves
bore no epitaphs. Not even a name or date could be found. They were
simply numbered posts.
Story continues below ?advertisement | your ad here
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It turns out Bud had discovered a lost cemetery of patients at the
largest mental hospital in the United States.

City of the dead
Founded by Quakers in 1842, Central State Hospital once housed more than
13,000 people. Beautiful antebellum buildings, now mostly abandoned,
haunt the sprawling campus.

During the Civil War, General Sherman’s troops camped here. Today you
can still find descendants of the original hospital staff caring for the
800 patients here now. Scattered in the surrounding acres lie an
estimated 30,000 dead — more than the current population of Milledgeville.

For years the mentally ill were discarded, not just in Georgia, but all
over the country. Families who didn’t claim their relatives left it up
to hospitals to choose the patients’ final resting places. Given the
stigma attached to mental illness, many were given just numbered markers.

Unfortunately, records were often lost or incomplete. In some cases,
even the markers were pulled up and tossed away. It’s estimated there
are more than 100,000 of these forgotten graves nationwide.

National correspondent Bob Dotson and I headed to Milledgeville to find
out more. Bud Merritt greeted us at the hospital museum. A sprightly man
with a mischievous smile, he showed us the records listing — in theory —
the name and number of everyone buried on the grounds. The books date
back to the 1900s, and with each handwritten entry is an incomplete
story — the name of a person who came to the hospital and never left.

"There's a lot of people that, frankly, have expressed the attitude to
me that it's too late and there's no need to raise these issues again.
It would be best forgotten. But I've never felt that way,” says Bud.

Death by heartbreak
Casey McClain grew up in the shadow of her great-grandfather Herbert
Martin Williams. Once the backbone of the family, Papa Williams suffered
a breakdown after losing his wife in childbirth, his infant son to
illness, and his business to a dishonest partner. Overwhelmed, he
checked himself into Central State and died of heart disease — literally

Casey's grandmother, Mollie, learned of Papa Williams’ death when she
was a teenager. Not knowing where her father was buried pained the young
woman. For years, she kept photos of Papa Williams hidden in a shed.
Later, Casey would tag along as they searched local graveyards for his

“It was a child loving her father and mourning,” Casey says.
“Grandmother told us, ‘There's a reason why people do what they do. You
just have to look for the answer.’ ”

In 1997, Casey went to work as a counselor at Central State. She had a
hunch that Papa Williams was buried somewhere on the 10,000-acre
property. Bud, also an employee at the hospital, had been so moved by
his cemetery discovery that he made it his personal mission to help
interested families identify graves.

Together they combed hospital records. Within six months, they were able
to locate the plot where Papa Williams is buried. “I just got a peaceful
feeling,” Casey says.

Casey and her family now have a headstone at grave No. 1951. It reads,
“Herbert Martin Williams, February 1859-October 9, 1907.”

Visiting the cemetery is still extremely emotional. Casey considered
moving Papa Williams to a family plot, but then realized that he
belonged where he was; a name in a sea of numbered graves.

This month, a new national memorial dedicated to remembering those
unnamed graves of the mentally ill will break ground at Saint
Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. The memorial is a significant
step in acknowledging the plight of those suffering from mental illness.

As Casey puts it, marking these graves is “like our Arlington. It
recognizes all of the unknowns and gives them dignity in death that they
didn't have in life.”

A final goodbye, too long in the making.

For more information, visit the Mental Health America Web site by
clicking here.

If you would like to contact the subjects of this American Story with
Bob Dotson, write to:

Bud Merritt
c/o Central State Hospital
620 Broad St
Milledgeville, GA 31062

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