Skip to main content

Names replacing numbers at state hospital cemeteries

  • Author:
  • Updated:

For more than a century the patients who died at Minnesota state hospitals were buried in graves that were unmarked, or were labeled only with a number.

Now the Star Tribune reports an effort to place headstones on the graves of those people has passed the half-way point.

The group heading the effort, Remembering With Dignity, says on its website that it has installed proper markers on more than 7,000 graves but still has more than 5,000 to go. Their campaign is meant to provide some posthumous dignity to those who seemed to have little of it in life.

The Star Tribune story explains that while many of the patients at 11 state hospitals had mental illnesses or physical disabilities, others were institutionalized because of addiction, epilepsy, Down syndrome, or even postpartum depression. An Inver Grove Heights man who spent 15 years in the Faribault hospital beginning at age 10 tells the paper of neglect and abuse.

As the state's approach to mental illness, disability, and substance abuse evolved, most of the hospitals were closed. But the legacy of those campuses lives on in some ways -- most recently in the debate in Fergus Falls about whether to demolish or preserve the architecturally impressive building known as the Kirkbride. Empty since 2006, KARE-11 visited the former asylum this month after it was spared from demolition.

The "guerilla history" website also profiles the history of the Kirkbride at a page replete with historic photos.

In 2010, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a resolution apologizing for the way Minnesota treated residents with mental and physical disabilities.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 7.13.33 AM

Family identifies man killed by police in Otsego

The 21-year-old was reportedly experiencing 'mental health challenges' and allegedly had a knife when deputies opened fire.

88 S 11th St, Minneapolis, Minnesota - April 2022 (1)

Gun found on WCCO-TV rooftop after homicide in Minneapolis

It's the 56th death reported as a homicide in Minneapolis this year.

Screen Shot 2022-08-07 at 11.43.15 AM

Deputies fatally shoot man in Wright County

Police claim the man, who had allegedly been experiencing a mental health crisis, was armed with a knife.

Ambulance hospital emergency

17-year-old killed in northern Minnesota crash Saturday

The other drive involved in the crash, a 75-year-old man, sustained life-threatening injuries.


Alcohol a factor as driver rolls ATV into corn field, injuring 3

The crash occurred in Lake Lillian Saturday night.

Minneapolis police

Man dies after being found shot at Minneapolis' 38th and Chicago

Responders were called to the scene early Sunday morning.

Screen Shot 2022-08-07 at 6.34.12 AM

7 children arrested after 'disturbance' at Cabela's, escape in stolen vehicle

Employees called police saying the children were stealing goods from the store.

Screen Shot 2022-08-06 at 6.16.49 PM

Fire sparks evacuation from apartment building, man arrested for arson

Police and fire crews responded to the fire just before 9 a.m. Saturday.

Flickr - utility pole power line

Morning storms cause power outages, ensuing problems in Eagan

There have been reports of disabled traffic lights and issues at local businesses.

kim crockett facebook sos

GOP nominee questions if those with disabilities, non-English speakers should be able to vote

Crockett made the comments in a 2020 radio interview following a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court.


Jury: MN pharmacist did not violate woman's rights by refusing her morning-after pill

Gender Justice, the advocacy group that brought about the lawsuit, says it will appeal the decision.


After theft, bronze star markers replaced at cemeteries

Snap Fitness founder and CEO Peter Taunton donated $5,420 to replace more than 200 bronze star markers recently stolen from the graves of veterans in three cemeteries in Isanti County. The markers on Tuesday were placed on the graves by local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.