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Mississippi Memories

The headline in the January 24, 2015 edition of The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS) reads UMMC bound by thousands of bodies buried on campus.

In 2013, 66 bodies were discovered when the University of Mississippi Medical Center started construction on a road on campus. In February 2014, underground radar revealed approximately 1000 bodies buried where a parking garage was to be built. More research unearthed (figuratively, at least) more than 1000 bodies North of the original location.

The medical center halted construction and moved an $11 million dollar cancer facility to a different location in order to not disturb these bodies. UMMC officials, the MS Attorney General, and other key players are doing their part to honor these unmarked graves.

But where did they come from? And why are there over 2000 graves and not much record of who they are and why they are buried there?

Turns out the UMMC campus is built on the same grounds that housed the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum which opened its doors in 1855. The article states that patients housed in the asylum was a "far cry from the attics and jails where the mentally ill were often being chained", and history does bear that statement out.

However, my heart broke when I read that in a span of 22 years, approximately 1400 patients were admitted to the MS State Lunatic Asylum. Of those, 20% died. Researchers and historians also believe some of the grave sites contain Civil War dead, former slaves, and TB patients.

The discovery has resulted in genealogists from all over the country attempting to discover if a family member might be one of the forgotten dead. Patient documents are stored at the state archives, but are sometimes sketchy. Other records have been lost to fire and neglect.

While we in 2015 might find the fact that 2000 souls were buried without markers or permanent headstones 100-150 years ago, we have to remember that notifying the next of kin was much more time consuming than it would be today. Even if family members could be located and could afford to, it would take several days to travel to Jackson by train or by wagon. And transporting the bodies back for burial in local family plots was out of the question.

Lost Graves of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum

Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum opened in 1855 at the present site of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson

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Archaeologists researching the graves uncovered during the construction project

The Forgotten Graves of Mississippi's UMMC

Originally printed in Heroes, Heroines and History on February 16, 2015

​Pam Hillman

Mississippi Retro Apparel

They are for the crowd that knew the bars, clubs, restaurants and music of the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. They are reminders of the best of times spent with family and friends at the best places, those places, back then.

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