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Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary

Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary opened in 1854 as an almshouse. According to the National Park Service, they began accepting what they call "pauper insane and became the state's first facility to accept cases of chronic mental health issues."

Tewksbury State (which changed its name several times over the years) cared for patients with numerous illnesses beyond mental health issues including those associated with tuberculosis, small pox, and typhoid fever to name a few. According to the Public Health Museum, "by 1874 the facility had changed to include: 40% being used as a mental illness ward, 27% as a hospital ward, and 33% as an almshouse."

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, was at Tewksbury Hospital from 1876 until 1880. One of the buildings at Tewksbury State is named after Anne Sullivan.

By the end of the 1930's, unlike the "bat-like" design of Danvers and Northampton State, Tewksbury State had 50 brick and 30 wooden buildings, which included cottages for the employees and a power plant. By 1945, Tewksbury State had 2,004 patients and was "the second largest population group of poor and mentally ill in the country. By 1954, it became the largest hospital in the state for a wide variety of medical issues which caused staffing problems. The state then decided to transition Tewksbury State into a general medical center.

Today, the portion of the hospital pictured above no longer functions as a hospital but actually is part of the Public Health Museum. The museum building and Tewksbury campus of the hospital were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1994. Due to COVID-19, the museum is closed until further notice, but here is the website for you to check back for its hours for when they do open. The museum has rotating exhibits set up..looks like on infectious disease, mental health and nursing. I have not been able to go in yet, but plan to visit. Unlike Northampton and Danvers, Tewksbury Hospital is currently in operation and has 370 beds. It provides specialized medical services for dementia, neurological specialties, wound care, and some mental illness (to name a few).

Tewksbury State Pines Cemetery

There is a cemetery at the property, just like Danvers and Northampton State, but it looks very different. It is interesting to see how at each location of these State hospitals all treated their interred patients very differently. Each in their marking of graves and now with community preservation methods. I have read that between the Pines Cemetery and No Name Cemetery at Tewksbury State there are over 10,000 bodies buried. The cemetery operated from 1854-1930. Many poor Irish patients are in the cemetery. The cemetery is starting to have some overgrowth in areas where the markers are located (typical summer growth). The grave marker here is a metal medallion that has a cross with a number and leaves around it. Pink flags also mark the locations of these markers. Those pink flags were put out by a group that organized on Facebook as a means to try to start to clean up the cemetery. Save the Pines Cemetery on Facebook got together last fall to clean up, mark graves with pink flags, clean markers, clean up leaves and generally put some love into the place. Unlike the Danvers State Main Cemetery, there wasn't a transition of named granite monuments for the numbered medallions. We did not have chance to visit the No Name Cemetery portion of the cemetery as a serious thunderstorm rolled in, but when we visit the Public Health Museum, we will check back.

I found a website that transcribed what is believed to be patient data collected from 1903-1971 death records located at Tewksbury Town Hall. According to the website, data gathered prior to 1903 came from microfilmed vital records, or was submitted to the website manager by family members. It does not appear to link names with specific grave marker numbers or specific graves, although the hospital may have those records. The web manager does mention that burials prior to 1891 are impossible to identify exactly where in the cemetery they were buried.

I am so glad to see a group caring for the cemetery and hope to see it continue. Danvers and Northampton Cemeteries are well cared for, peaceful places to visit, so it is important to see these locations identified and looked after. I also hope to visit the Museum soon. My next blog will be about the Grafton State Hospital and cemetery. Until then, stay spooky.

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