Gardner State Colony, Worcester, Mass.

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Hello,

My husband's grandfather's brother went from Sweden to the US in 1892 and nobody ever heard from him again, it was all very sad and they tried to find him through the global Salvation Army. Tonight I discovered through ancestry.com that he was actually a patient at the Gardner State Colony, Mass. According to the census, he was there in 1910, 1920 and 1930. Both me and husband are archivists and historians and we'd like to get more information about this. Are there any records left? Where? Does anybody know? We live in Sweden and know the archives very well here but not in the US. His name was Valentine Bostrom, born in May 1870, Sweden. In 1900 he lived in Suffolk, Boston and worked as a painter and according to the sources, he was a painter in the Gardner State Colony as well. We don't understand how he could have managed to travel to the US all by himself, work and live there for a decade and then end up in a mental institution? Wonder what happened, poor man. If they had known at home they would certainly have tried to go there and get him back home to Sweden. Were the patients free to leave or were they stuck there? We can't find him after 1930, are the US censuses not public after 1930? We can't find any death record for him either at ancestry. Any tip or information will be highly appreciated! What a sad story, I shall try to get some books etc about the institution.

Forum Veteran
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The 1940 US census wont be available until April this year & unfortunately Massachusetts doesn't have death records available after 1910. Gardner State Hospital/Colony is now a prison so they likely don't have any of the old records. For information on his death you can try the office of vital statistics;
vital.recordsrequest@state.ma.us

Then the state archives should be able to help you find any other records or information. Be sure to tell them you live in Sweden & cant be there in person for any research or requests.
archives@sec.state.ma.us

There is also the Department of Mental Health, they probably have custody of any old records from his stay at Gardner, they likely wont be easily accessed, but never hurts to ask. They only list a phone #(1 800 221-0053) but maybe when you email the state archives they can direct you to the right person.

Good luck and keep us updated!

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Thanks!
Thanks a lot, that's very kind! We'll contact the places that you mention here and also wait for the 1940 census!

I found a page
http://www.worcestermass.com/places/asylum.shtml

where lots of people tell about their experiences from that institution, both as emplyees and patients and relative. I understand people could end up there for basically no reason and that the patients had a bad time there. People were buried there also. Two persons told that they had gained access to their relatives' papers, but it was a bit too complicated for me to fully understand, but something like this, you go to some sort of office and pay 130 dollars and get a paper showing you have the right to see those papers and then you go and show this and get everything! One of them even got a photo!

I'll keep you posted!

Once more thanks!

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If you have specific questions or need help understanding anything you need to make the request, I am sure that someone will be more than happy to help. One of the common general reasons for detention at that time was vagrancy or being found to be intoxicated on the street. America was a melting pot at that time, but people of different backgrounds often settled and grouped together because not everyone was welcome in every community. I wish you the best of luck in your search.

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I just found that my great grandmother was a nurse there in the 1920 census, her name was Ethel Kimball and she may have been there during that time that he was a patient.

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I might be able to get you a picture of the list of names in the hospital cemetery if that helps

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i have arelative who was at Gardner in the early 1900s. I have been in touch extensively with MA archives and Dept of Mental Health, and they tell me that the Gardner records have been destroyed.

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Valentine Bostrom(Bastrom)
Valentine is buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Gardner, Massachusetts...Lot265 Grave 11
Findagrave.com.......Memorial number 133164601...Valentine died in 1944

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Looking for Relative
Guy A Maynard
born 1883, died in 1968
Lived in the State Colony for his entire adult life.
Where is he buried?
Thanks,
Pat Gendron

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I lived in Gardner for a good portion of my life.....wanna know what I know
Quote: Sat 14th 3:26 am
Hello,

My husband's grandfather's brother went from Sweden to the US in 1892 and nobody ever heard from him again, it was all very sad and they tried to find him through the global Salvation Army. Tonight I discovered through ancestry.com that he was actually a patient at the Gardner State Colony, Mass. According to the census, he was there in 1910, 1920 and 1930. Both me and husband are archivists and historians and we'd like to get more information about this. Are there any records left? Where? Does anybody know? We live in Sweden and know the archives very well here but not in the US. His name was Valentine Bostrom, born in May 1870, Sweden. In 1900 he lived in Suffolk, Boston and worked as a painter and according to the sources, he was a painter in the Gardner State Colony as well. We don't understand how he could have managed to travel to the US all by himself, work and live there for a decade and then end up in a mental institution? Wonder what happened, poor man. If they had known at home they would certainly have tried to go there and get him back home to Sweden. Were the patients free to leave or were they stuck there? We can't find him after 1930, are the US censuses not public after 1930? We can't find any death record for him either at ancestry. Any tip or information will be highly appreciated! What a sad story, I shall try to get some books etc about the institution.

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Cremation
I found a furnace located in the woods and away from the hospital which was used for cremations

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Urban Exploration
I used to explore the grounds back in '93 when I was around 10 years old. I remember there being patient records scattered throughout the abandoned buildings, which I found to be quite disrespectful. Others I knew had explored the abandoned tunnels and I was also told about an abandoned mansion on the property, supposedly connected to the tunnels.

Several years ago I went back but could not find the buildings I once explored. I've been told that they were demolished, but was also told that they were burned down via arson. There are now no-trespassing signs which prohibit getting anywhere near the prison grounds and there are also security patrols on ATV's (since 9/11 I think, could be wrong).

There is a small cemetery on the grounds that can be accessed without trespassing. It's next to the small pond with the abandoned maintenance shed on it's shoreline.

Other than the prison most of the grounds are used as a bird-watching sanctuary, hunting or just walking/jogging/biking. The area is actually quite large, as it's not just in Gardner but stretches into Westminster as well. As a shortcut, you can cross the railroad track where the demolished bridge is.

Stumbled across this page, figured I'd share that...


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