A Walking Tour of Hospital Hill

Burial Grounds

Exposing the Buried History of the Northampton State Hospital

By Annabella Boatwright, Emma Harnisch, and Katrina Kuo ('18)

Historical burial practices in state institutions included burial of the body on site, cremation, and donation of the bodies to medical schools. Many burial sites and bodies, however, were forgotten. Current memorials at some hospitals work to honor their patients from previous generations. The Oregon State Hospital, for instance, built a memorial to honor individuals whose remains were unclaimed for decades and those that may never be claimed (OSH). Image courtesy of Seattlepi.com 

When the Northampton State Hospital needed more space for bodies, the institution used the Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence, MA to bury bodies. The patients' families paid for plots of the cemetery. After the death of the patient, permits detailed cause of death, age, and residency. Small numbered plaques then marked the burial site (as seen in the photo gallery below).

The Northampton State Hospital Burial Ground, located near Old Main, was used as a burial site from 1858 to the 1920s. The approximately 600 patients buried at this site had no family connections. Though records are seriously lacking, it is confirmed that at least 181 patients are buried on the grounds. There are also 413 burials with unlisted locations or simply “Northampton” which are most likely buried here as well. After the 1920s, it was used as a hay farm. Current memorialization efforts involve developing a plaque, renovating the bench, and compiling information about the buried bodies at this burial ground. Image courtesy of  Jesse Tibbits and Charlotte Mann.