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Unclaimed Cremains at the Oregon State Hospital

The Oregon State Hospital in Salem is the custodian of 3,489 cremated remains (cremains) of people who died while at the Oregon State Hospital, the Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital, the Mid-Columbia Hospital, the Dammasch State Hospital, the Oregon State Penitentiary, and the Fairview Training Center between 1914 and the 1970s. The remains were unclaimed by families who had abandoned their relatives to the system, unable to care for them when they were alive or after their death.

The fact is most states have similar stories about the treatment and fate of mental health patients during the last century. In Georgia, up to 25,000 were buried in a numbered graves - without names or recognition. The nearly 3500 copper urns at the Oregon State Hospital were all but forgotten for more than a century until the Oregon Legislature and mental health advocates began discussions to memorialize the former patients in 2005. Now a concerted effort is being made to locate relatives of the deceased.

Honoring the Past

The hospital, in collaboration with the Oregon Arts Commission, is planning a memorial to honor these former patients and inmates and is expected to be complete in 2012.

The hospital hopes to unite the cremains with family members, and has posted a list of names of the deceased. Hospital officials urge anyone who thinks they may have a family member who passed away at one of these institutions to review the list. As soon as the connection can be confirmed, the hospital will make arrangements for the cremains to be sent to the family.  To claim remains, please see the instructions posted at the Oregon State Hospital website.

List of names

The names of those whose cremains are in the custody of the state hospital are listed alphabetically by last name. Listings include the date of birth and the date of death, when known. While this information is obviously of importance in genealogical terms, if you are related, or know of a relationship, please contact the hospital.

NOTE: The Oregon Legislature passed a law that allows the hospital to disclose this information which otherwise would be protected by medical confidentiality laws.

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Last updated: 07 Feb 2011