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Thousands of Bodies Found Buried on University of Mississippi Medical Center Campus

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Published on: May 9, 2017

Reports are emerging that as many as 7,000 bodies may be buried on the 20 acres of the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

The bodies, more than likely, belong to patients of the government-run mental institution that was built in 1855.

According to the Clarion-Ledger:

Experts estimate up to 7,000 bodies are buried on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

They are former patients of the state’s first mental institution, called the Insane Asylum, built in 1855, and underground radar shows their coffins stretch across 20 acres of the UMMC campus, where officials have wanted to build.

But those officials have faced a steep cost — $3,000 to exhume and rebury each body, as much as $21 million total.

Now UMMC is studying the cheaper alternative of handling those exhumations in-house, at a cost of $400,000 a year for at least eight years. It also would create a memorial that would preserve the remains with a visitors’ center and a lab that could be used to study the remains as well as the remnants of clothing and coffins.

Molly Zuckerman, associate professor in Mississippi State University’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures said, “It would be a unique resource for Mississippi.  It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized.”

The Mississippi Lunatic Asylum was Mississippi’s first mental institution.  Dorothea Dix of Boston pushed Mississippi representatives to fund $175,000 to complete the asylum.

Prior to the asylum, those who were claimed to be suffering from mental illness were chained in jails or attics, according to Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the state Board of Health.

The history of the asylum was provided by Jerry Mitchell:

While the asylum provided a better place for patients, life remained harsh. Of the 1,376 patients admitted between 1855 and 1877, more than one in five died.

After the Civil War ended, the facility expanded to house 300 patients, and the area became known as “Asylum Hill,” a neighborhood that included houses, a school and Cade Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, a church for former slaves.

At its height, about 6,000 patients stayed at the asylum, and the facility provided many jobs to the area, which saw construction of a fertilizer factory, a Baptist orphanage and a sanatorium for those suffering from tuberculosis.

In 1935, Mississippi moved the asylum to the present location of the State Hospital at Whitfield.

Two decades later, construction began on the same hill for UMMC.

The long line of bodies discovered began in 2013, when UMMc officials discovered 66 coffins as a road was being constructed.  Later, in 2014, a parking garage project uncovered another 1,000 coffins, which led to radar being brought in that assessed there were at least 2,000 coffins in total.

Considering all the talk of late as to what actual mental illness is, especially when it comes to the rights of those who own guns, we would do well to understand how it was defined in the past.  Dave Tabler at Appalachian History provides 125 reasons that one would be admitted to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane between October 1864 and December 1889.  Here’s the list he provides:

  • Amenorrhea
  • Asthma
  • Bad company
  • Bad habits & political excitement
  • Bad whiskey
  • Bite of a rattle snake
  • Bloody flux
  • Brain fever
  • Business nerves
  • Carbonic acid gas
  • Carbuncle
  • Cerebral softening
  • Cold
  • Congetion of brain
  • Constitutional
  • Crime
  • Death of sons in the war
  • Decoyed into the army
  • Deranged masturbation
  • Desertion by husband
  • Diptheria
  • Disappointed affection
  • Disappointed love
  • Disappointment
  • Dissipation of nerves
  • Dissolute habits
  • Dog bite
  • Domestic affliction
  • Domestic trouble
  • Douby about mother’s ancestors
  • Dropsy
  • Effusion on the brain
  • Egotism
  • Epileptic fits
  • Excessive sexual abuse
  • Excitement as officer
  • Explosion of shell nearby
  • Exposure & hereditary
  • Exposure & quackery
  • Exposure in army
  • Fall from horse
  • False confinement
  • Feebleness of intellect
  • Fell from horse
  • Female disease
  • Fever
  • Fever & loss of law suit
  • Fever & nerved
  • Fighting fire
  • Fits & desertion of husband
  • Gastritis
  • Gathering in the head
  • Greediness
  • Grief
  • Gunshot wound
  • Hard study
  • Hereditary predisposition
  • Ill treatment by husband
  • Imaginary female trouble
  • Immoral life
  • Imprisonment
  • Indigestion
  • Intemperance
  • Interferance
  • Jealousy
  • Jealousy & religion
  • Kick of horse
  • Kicked in the head by a horse
  • Laziness
  • Liver and social disease
  • Loss of arm
  • Marriage of son
  • Masturbation & syphillis
  • Masturbation for 30 years
  • Medicine to prevent conception
  • Menstrual deranged
  • Mental excitement
  • Milk fever
  • Moral sanity
  • Novel reading
  • Nymphomania
  • Opium habit
  • Over action on the mind
  • Over heat
  • Over study of religion
  • Over taxing mental powers.
  • Parents were cousins
  • Pecuniary losses: worms
  • Periodical fits
  • Political excitement
  • Politics
  • Puerperal
  • Religious enthusiasm
  • Religious excitement
  • Remorse
  • Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
  • Salvation army
  • Scarlatina
  • Seduction
  • Seduction & dissappointment
  • Self abuse
  • Severe labor
  • Sexual abuse and stimulants
  • Sexual derangement
  • Shooting of daughter
  • Smallpox
  • Snuff
  • Snuff eating for two years
  • Softening of the brain
  • Spinal irritation
  • Sun stroke
  • Sunstroke
  • Superstition
  • Supressed masturbation
  • Supression of menses
  • Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
  • The war
  • Time of life
  • Trouble
  • Uterine derangement
  • Venerial excesses
  • Vicious vices in early life
  • Women
  • Women trouble
  • Young lady & fear

The treatment of patients in state-run facilities was not very good.  Government-run institutions were often dirty and overcrowded with barred windows.  However, in the late 19th century, there was a shift to private asylums, which were operated out of physicians own homes.  While this led to somewhat better care for patients rather than the state asylums, the problem was that often people were not dealt with spiritually and thus, the rise of psychotherapy arose, which has grown into a complete business of its own, evening fabricating disorders such as ADHD.

While this is a remarkable find, let’s focus on what is very practical here.  Understanding how the government has worked in the past, and even the present, do we really want the government deciding who is and who is not mentally fit for society?  I think not!

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