Recognizing the unnamed buried in Mount Hope Cemetery
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – More than 350,000 are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Twenty percent of those plots are unmarked.
Nearly 1,000 of them are in the public section of the burial ground. They came from three Monroe County institutions: the almshouse, which opened in 1826; the penitentiary, which opened in 1854; and the insane asylum, which opened in 1857.
Their names have been lost to history, but now, a memorial stands to those who died as paupers or prisoners or considered mentally ill.
“Invisible No More: Honoring the deceased buried in the public section of Mount Hope Cemetery” was spearheaded by Dr. Ryan Thibodeau, a psychology professor at St. John Fisher University.
“I’ve long been interested in the history of mental illness, the history of psychiatry, history of social welfare, really. And so it seemed like to take on some of this local history was a very obvious, you know, a very obvious thing to do, really. And so that’s that’s really where the project started, you know, with that interest,” he said.
On Monday, he and others gathered to unveil new markers memorializing the deceased.
Dr. Thibodeau says it was common for people to die in these institutions.
Some were lucky to be claimed by friends or family.
“When that didn’t happen, the county would bury these folks at county expense. And they were first buried in a cemetery that was in the back yard of the penitentiary in what is now Highland Park,” Dr. Thibodeau said.
They were buried unnamed and unmarked. In 1863, the county relocated those graves to the public section of Mount Hope Cemetery.
The last time someone was buried in this section was in the early 1900s. The section contains some scattered headstones, but the majority of graves are unmarked.
Now, part of it includes a marker with information on each institution and remembers the hundreds who died in them.
Rochester Institute of Technology student Eliza Kort attended Monday’s dedication.
“It’s really crazy to just think about how many people, how many stories there were that are here, and you really wouldn’t know that. You especially wouldn’t know that before this memorial is here. And it’s just, it’s crazy to think about just the sheer history of it all that is now finally visible for all to see.”