Provo • Nearly 500 patients buried in unmarked graves after they died in what was once called the Utah Territorial Insane Asylum have been honored with a new memorial in Provo.
The names of patients who died from 1885 to 1960 at the facility that is now the Utah State Hospital are inscribed on the memorial unveiled Wednesday at the Provo City Cemetery, The Daily Herald reported .
The patient name plaques are embedded on a series of headstones placed near an obelisk recognizing the deaths.
"I always thought that these people had lost everything in their lives, including their own identity, and that we felt like if you really wanted to do this right, you had to give them their names back," said Janina Chilton, the historian at the Utah State Hospital. "You had to identify them. They needed to have the same respect and dignity that everyone gets, which is a marker that says 'I've been here.'"
The Utah State Hospital's Forgotten Patients Cemetery Project unofficially began in 2002 after Chilton started investigating where patients were buried, eventually leading to the hospital raising $90,000 for the memorial.
Chilton tracked the history of a single patient, leading her to the site of the unmarked graves. The site wasn't in the best shape when she visited it for the first time.
"I was horrified because it was this big, grassy area," Chilton said.
Most of the patients were buried in the same area, but others were placed at various locations in the cemetery. A few dozen patients had markers from families.
“This is one piece of that puzzle that bothered us, is what happened to these people?” Hospital Superintendent Dallas Earnshaw said. “When we found this out, it was liberating. It was exciting that we didn’t have to worry anymore — that we had found this piece of our history we could bring to closure for everyone here.”