The first decades of operation at Colorado's state mental health institution in Pueblo in the late 1800s were plagued with scarce resources. The facility was overfilled and understaffed; often, the first supervisor of the facility was forced to make tough decisions. It was, perhaps, an effort by the institution's first superintendent to save money that led to hundreds of people presumed to be patients, who died while committed, to be buried in unmarked graves on the hospital grounds.
The graveyard and remains of the patients were discovered in 1992 when the state was building a maximum security facility for the criminally insane. When construction activities revealed the graveyard, the remains of 135 individuals were exhumed under the direction of the state archaeologist and turned over to an anthropologist at Colorado College. Other artifacts found with the remains, such as buttons and scraps of clothes, were turned over to the Colorado History Museum. The remains of approximately 20 other individuals were uncovered and exhumed during the planning phase of another expansion of the facility in 2000. Through an agreement between Colorado State, Colorado's Department of Corrections, the State Archaeologist and Colorado College, assumed responsibility for the skeletal remains of 155 individuals.
How these patients ended up buried on the grounds of the institution was likely the result of many factors. When the institution first opened, it was a simple farm house. Under the direction of the first superintendent, Dr. Pembroke Thombs, patients tended the gardens and orchards which helped sustain the institution. As the population grew, funding did not.
Thombs' repeated requests for more funds were turned down by Colorado's legislature and the Board of Charities and Corrections, which oversaw the institution. Thombs apparently had a falling out with the board in 1898 regarding the burials. She is seeking minutes of the meetings to determine, if possible, topics of dialogue between Thombs and the board. More than 500 patients died at the institution between 1879 and 1899, but only 155 have been uncovered.
For more information of the topic including newspaper articles click hereFirst Skeleton Uncovered Full Body Skeleton Another Skeleton Male Skeleton 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
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