The question of the deaths and burials of the patients who died at the Vermont Asylum for the Insane in Brattleboro, Windham Co., VT, has become of interest to those who are ardently seeking answers to genealogical questions relating to their families.  It also seems appropriate that these inmates should receive the dignity of having their life recognized in some way, if only in the fact of their death.  In an attempt to address these issues, the compiler of this database was, after many months, able to locate a fragile old book entitled The Old Burying Ground: An early journal dated back to the 1830's.  This book is in possession of the Brattleboro Retreat and is for all practical purposes not available for public perusal.


With the gracious permission and cooperation of the Retreat, listings in that book were carefully recorded just as they appeared in the book and were presented in a booklet entitled, “A Record of Burials at the Vermont Asylum, Later Known as the Brattleboro Retreat, 1837-1900.”  Many of the early names and some of the later ones were unreadable as the whole book was handwritten in old script.  Most of the "illegible" entries appear only as a squiggly line. 


The book itself consists of three separate sections.  The first is called Record of Burials in the Village Burying Ground.  The second, Records of Burials in the Asylum Burying Ground dates to 1898.  The last section has three entries from 1900 and 1901, and is called List of Internments in the new Retreat Cemetery known as Fairview.  This is where the book ends.


Since the publishing of the above noted booklet in 1999, more information has been found giving more insight into how and where inmates who died at the Asylum during that period were buried.  The first issue dealt with what was called the Village Burying Ground.  After finding some of the stones in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro that had been recorded in the first section in the little book, one tends to wonder if all in the first section were buried there.  Other information about Asylum patients during this period was found in the Vermont Phoenix newspaper and other places.  In follow-up research, it was found that some of these patients were also buried in Prospect Hill.


Prospect Hill cemetery is a very large cemetery close to the center of the town.  It was used very early for burials and was at one time known as the Village Burial Ground.  The section that held the few stones seen of patients from the Vermont Asylum is known as the “Poor Section.”  The stones are scattered few and far between leaving large areas that most likely held other burials.  Thus it is assumed that the earliest patients to die at the Asylum were indeed buried in this cemetery.  This has not been proven except where a stone was seen or a record of the burial was found, however, for the purpose of sorting where patients were buried, during what time periods, the compiler is using this assumption unless otherwise proven false.


The Asylum soon created its own cemetery behind what is known as Linden Lodge.  Although this cemetery has been cleaned of brush and debris and the remaining stones reset, there are very few stones left.  This is not a large piece of land and is on a side hill.  Though many were buried with no stone, it is not known how many patients actually were placed here.  And because there are over 700 patient burials listed in the little journal, it does not seem like there is room for all of them in this cemetery.


Because of the great number of patients listed as buried at the Asylum, a further search has been done for other possible cemeteries.  Although rumors have been heard about the Asylum taking bodies in baskets on a wagon to a place beside a corn field and burying them, this has not been proven.  An early map of the Asylum land does show an area next to the upper golf course that is marked ‘cemetery’.  There are no stones on this little piece of land however and it was not sold until recently.  Because so many of the patients were people whose families had left them in the hands of the Asylum for the rest of their lives, they were immigrants with no family, or were just not able to afford a proper burial, the idea that they were buried in an unnamed and unknown burial ground is possible but not proven.


The listing of patients from the Asylum journal can be found here with the 1999 attempt at reading the scrawled and scribbled entries.  There were very few dates given, one page gave places of possible births beside the names but this book is not a good source of other information.


The column labeled as Journal Entry was what was actually seen in the journal.  Tier numbers given in the journal are in column labeled Tier.  Other information, such as year, comments about stone or no stone, place of birth, marital status and 1880 census listing have been added as seen on either 1880 Vermont Death Index, 1880 Vermont Census or Brattleboro Vital Records.  Very few of the early burials are in the Town Clerk’s records. 




Code for reading chart:

        Bk --  Book, referring to sections as described above

        Tier – Tier number as given in Journal

        Seq – Sequence of names as entered in the Journal

        Journal Entry – Name as read in Journal.  Some names were unreadable and are indicated as such

        Year- Year of death if known.  Italics means an approximate date based on surrounding records.

        Cemetery – Probable cemetery of burial

                PH --  Prospect Hill Cemetery, South Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

                Asylum – Thought to be cemetery behind Linden Lodge, or perhaps another unknown burial ground located on Asylum/Retreat property

        GS – Indicates gravestone, showing if the person has a gravestone that has been seen

                Y – Yes

                N – No or not known of

                U – Unknown

        Gravestone Information – includes reading from gravestones and a few comments, most often regarding tier, interments, and cross reference information

        M. St. – marital status as seen on Census or Town Records

        Census Records – Shows basic census information for some patients.  The census year is given first.  All records refer to patients listed in the Asylum in Brattleboro VT, unless other wise noted.  There are a few entries from the 1880 Vermont Death Index and it is noted as such.

        Birthplace/BVR/Other Sources – Other information found.  Most often this is from Brattleboro Vital Records (BVR).  Many entries have been written out here, although there are many more where the entry only shows that they were recorded in the Brattleboro records and the birthplace if given there.  A complete table of entries found can be seen in the book “A Record of Burials at the Vermont Asylum, Later Known as the Brattleboro Retreat, 1837-1900,” compiled by Marge Howe in 1999.  Copies are available by contacting her directly.

        BVR – Brattleboro Vital Records

        IGI – International Genealogical Index on LDS web site