The 1912 Grave Desecration of the Milwaukee County Institut

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The 1912 Grave Desecration of the Milwaukee County Institut

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The 1912 Grave Desecration of the Milwaukee County Institution Grounds Poor Farm Cemetery

Alexander W. AnthonyUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, 15-19 April 2015.

Symposium: People that no one had use for, had nothing to give to, no place to offer: The Milwaukee County Institution Grounds Poor Farm Cemetery


Superintendent Bark

Wisconsin Historical Society


Subadult Burials

An Increasing Need For Space

Adult Burials

Richards Dissertation




The Investigation Begins

Milwaukee Leader 11/22/1912


Report Fennell Smith Testifies in front of the Special Committee

Milwaukee Leader November 21, 1912

Burrowing into the stack I pulled two of the coffins out and examined them. As I held one up, something dropped on my foot. When I picked it up I saw it was a human bone.

Milwaukee Leader 10/30/1912


Martin Sackmeister Testifies In Front of the Special Committee

I came to the almshouse cemetery every Sunday to visit the grave of my little child which the county had buried for me when I was poor and without work.


Milwaukee Leader 11/15/1912

The Grave Digger George Kuczynski


Some coffins had been excavated.A few human bones were found within one of these coffins.A photograph had been taken of the pile of coffins before work was completed. The workers had no intention of burning the pile.A skull had been placed on a fence post. No evidence that it had been used for bowling.The Board of Trustees held no blame.

The Findings of the Special Committee


Superintendent Bark previously reported the need for more burying ground. Had asked for and received permission to use plat of land that had been used as a cemetery 25 years earlier.Bark had cautioned grave diggers to return found remains to graves.Human remains had been found.Bark had failed to report finding human remains to the Board of TrusteesCommittee recommended enlarging the cemetery or building a crematory for “the disposal of bodies.”


Source: USGS

7.5 Wauwatosa Quad 1958


1990s GLARC Excavation Maps


“Two years ago Mr. Bark said it would be necessary to use part of the old cemetery…” –Trustee T.J. Driscoll (Milwaukee Leader Nov. 22



And lo! The clay cried, ‘Use me tenderly, I was a man myself but yesterday.’


References Cited


References Cited


References Cited






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