Before I begin to talk about the cemeteries specific to Harrisburg State Hospital I would like to talk about state hospital cemeteries in general. There is a lot of mixed information out there about hospital cemeteries, and the following is a general summation of the common practices at state hospitals in the United States. During the early days of state hospitals up until about the middle twentieth century it was common for deceased patients to be buried on hospital grounds if they had no family or relatives to claim the body. Burial practices varied between each hospital, but they tended to be done at low cost and were unceremonial. Early on patients might just be wrapped in cloth or in a plain wooden box and buried in a location that was off to the side or rear of the hospital property. Grave markers were typically not used, and unfortunately record keeping for the early cemeteries was normally confusing at best. If grave markers were used they would often be removed over time to make it easier to maintain the lawns. Through out the twentieth century many cemeteries were forgotten, as grave markers had been removed and records misplaced. Into the twenty-first century there has been a push to clean up and recognize cemeteries at former state hospitals. Many now have at least a single dedication stone to mark the cemetery and there are many dedicated individuals out there spending their personal time trying to piece together the history of these forgotten cemeteries.

There are three known locations that were used to bury deceased patients of Harrisburg State Hospital. After the hospital opened in 1851 the Harrisburg City Cemetery was used. Later on two cemeteries were established on the hospital grounds.

Original Cemetery 1857-1927
The first cemetery to be established on hospital grounds was on a plot of land about 115 feet by 120 feet in size. At the time of its creation the cemetery was located to the far rear of the main hospital campus, directly behind the male wing of the Main Building. This cemetery was likely created around 1857 and used until around 1890. When the hospital was rebuilt from 1893 to 1910 the cemetery was left untouched and due to grading work done on the grounds it ended up being well above ground level for a period of about twenty seven years. In 1927 the court was petitioned for the removal of "unsightly public cemetery on state hospital grounds". At the time of it's removal the cemetery held the remains of two hundred and thirty people. There is currently no documentation available as to what happened to the remains after their removal in 1927. It is possible that the second cemetery located along what is now Arsenal Blvd may contain some of the remains from this cemetery. In 1928 the Married Nurses Home (also known as Hemlock Hall) was built on the same land this cemetery occupied.

Second Cemetery 1927
The second cemetery created on hospital grounds was likely established in 1927 when the hospital underwent it's rebuilding. This cemetery is located on a hilltop to the south of the Morgue Building, along what is now Arsenal Blvd. This cemetery doesn't have any individual grave markers, but does have a single dedication stone that was placed in 1987. The cemetery is apparently fenced in and locked, with access to it being only from the highway or a trek up the steep hillside from the morgue. Currently there is no specific information on those buried here, but it is possible that this cemetery was only used for some of the remains moved in 1927 from the original cemetery. There are supposed to be only seven graves at this site, though some speculate a higher number while others speculate that there are in fact no remains buried at this site.

Harrisburg City Cemetery 1852-1856
When the hospital first opened bodies of deceased patients were likely sent back to their family for burial. However if the patient had no family or relatives then they were buried at the Harrisburg City Cemetery. This went on for a span of about four years until the first cemetery was created on the hospital grounds. The hospital owned several lots at the city cemetery, more than were actually used, but in 1857 the unused lots were sold back to the cemetery. Today (2011), there are no visible grave markers at the site where the patients are buried, however a ground probing has revealed several markers that are now located below grade. During the four years the city cemetery was used patients were buried in section O, lots 7,8,9,14,15,16. Below is a list of known persons buried in these lots.

Mrs. Fanny Moscrip Bradford Co.
Mrs. Ellen Ray   Lancaster Co.
Mr. Keller  
John H. McAllister Allegheny Co.
Daniel F. Wilson Montour Co.
James Coil, Jr. Susquehanna Co.
David Troup Perry Co.
Thomas Johnson Erie Co.
Emanuel Elkin Philadelphia Co.
Philip Townsen Delaware Co.
Simpson Heller Monroe Co.
Peter Crim Schuykill Co.
Matthias Bower Union Co.
Mrs. Martha Kelly Cambria Co.
Margaret Ross Crawford Co.
William W. Wallace Philadelphia Co.
Josiah H. Russell Schuylkill Co.
Mrs. Mary Tenant Susquehanna Co.
George W. Irvine Adams Co.
James Snyder Crawford Co.
Mrs. Sarah E. Marquis Washington, D.C.
James Patrick Butler Co.
Mrs. Nancy Stone  Perry Co.
Isaac Johnson Bucks Co.
Miss Maria Byers Franklin Co.
Newton H. Dickey  Beaver Co.
George Boyer Berks Co.
Mrs. Mary Royal Philadelphia Co.
Miss Hester Cochran Fayette Co.
Dr. William Channing New York
Ludwik Grassman Northampton Co.
Miss Mary L. Clark Greene Co.
Adam Wolcott   Luzerne Co.
Benjamin Bender Perry Co.
John C. Taylor  Jefferson Co.
John I. Clark Washington Co.
Frederick Haack  Allegheny Co.
B. Fehleisin's Child  
Mrs. Otilia Royer Schuylkill Co.
Adin Blanding Susquehanna Co.
Child of Henry Bucher  

*A special thanks to David of the Harrisburg Cemetery for supplying the information above.


*Much of the cemetery information above has been pieced together with help from former hospital employees and other persons as well as speculation on significant dates. Please forgive any inaccuracies that there might be, if you have any information on the hospital cemeteries please feel free to email me or post a message on the message boards.




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