Abandoned Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia is a decaying witness to changing attitudes toward mental illness and asylums.
If you are a Georgia native of a certain age, a scolding like this from your parents would make your blood run cold:
“You best behave yourself or I’m sending you to Milledgeville!”
You knew they weren’t talking about the charming, former state capital of Georgia with its grand antebellum homes, towering oak trees and vibrant universities. Instead, they were talking about Milledgeville’s sprawling, ominous mental asylum just a couple of miles up the road.
Known today as Central State Hospital, this now abandoned asylum was once one of the largest mental hospitals in the United States. Its long and often controversial history mirrors our country’s constantly changing attitudes toward mental illness.
Table of Contents
- Where is Central State Hospital in Georgia?
- Early Treatment of the Mentally Ill
- Milledgeville and the Civil War
- An Overcrowded Asylum
- Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
- Thousands of Unmarked Graves
- Is Central State Hospital Still Open?
- Photo Gallery
Where is Central State Hospital in Georgia?
Milledgeville (population 18,704) is the county seat of Baldwin County in central Georgia, 98 miles east of Atlanta. Central State Hospital, though only a couple of miles out of town (Google Maps), seems worlds away from Milledgeville’s quaint downtown district, a magnet for tourists and nearby college students.
Driving around the largely abandoned campus there is an eerie calm belying its often chaotic past, when it was overrun with patients committed for all manner of mental afflictions, rightly or wrongly.
On the front side of campus, once-majestic buildings of Gothic-inspired design sit decaying on the edges of a shady pecan grove. Their roofs are rotted and collapsed in spots, slowly succumbing to the elements. While inside, lead paint peels off the moldy walls, and thick vines slither through shattered windows.
While on the back side, more institutional-looking brick buildings dot the rolling hillsides once farmed by patients both as treatment and servitude. Acres of empty fields hold the remains of thousands of unidentified patients, many forever lost.
Some believe Central State Hospital is haunted. Not by one particular ghost or horrific event, but a compounding of many years of suffering. So-called “dark tourists” may flock to the campus these days. But the real story of Central State Hospital is a more complicated tale of good intentions, tragic mistakes and heroism. All mirroring our country’s changing attitudes toward the mentally ill.
Early Treatment of the Mentally Ill
Until the early 19th century, mental illness was a misunderstood disease. Many felt lunacy was the result of demonic possession, with punishment by God or man the only treatment. As a result, people diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) as “lunatics” were often thrown in prison, shunned in communities or farmed out as virtual slaves. While others were simply the dirty secret best kept at home.
In Georgia, these attitudes began to change in 1834 when Governor Wilson Lumpkin, addressing public concern for the plight of those afflicted, fought for state care of the “idiots, lunatics and insane.” Consequently, the Georgia General Assembly approved the creation of a dedicated “lunacy commission.”
Milledgeville Physicians and the First Asylum
Among the first commission members were an influential group of physicians from Milledgeville, then the state capital and epicenter of wealth and power. Riding through Milledgeville at the time, it was common to find bustling streets lined with cotton bales from surrounding farms, waiting for shipment downriver to the Georgia port of Darien on the Atlantic Ocean.
The Milledgeville physicians influenced the state legislature to authorize the creation of a “State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum” on December 28, 1837. It would be the first institution of its kind to treat all three afflictions (as they were then known). Shortly thereafter, a 40 acre plot of land just two miles south of Milledgeville was purchased for $4000. This plot was chosen due to its proximity to town and the physicians’ practices. Milledgeville’s centralized location also made it convenient for statewide patients.
Five years later, this Milledgeville asylum was turned over to its trustees, who then appointed Dr. David Cooper as the first superintendent. These trustees were only reimbursed for their everyday expenses, as it was thought small salaries would not attract a high calibre of physician. But the trustees considered hospital work to be a public service. Hence, physicians like Dr. Cooper could continue their private practices in Milledgeville while also overseeing the asylum.
First Buildings and Patients
The first asylum buildings were typical brick structures with wood roofs, 3-4 floors each. Each floor had around 20 rooms with glass windows and cast iron fixed window sashes, opening into an airy hallway. Oil lamps and torches provided light.
Men lived in the first two floors, while women occupied the top floors and were supervised by a matron. Slave attendants and servants lived in the basement next to the large iron stove that heated the building. Eight staff members managed the entire institution.
The first patients arrived with a variety of mental disorders, from religious hallucinations to paranoia, depression and alcoholism. Georgia residents deemed “lunatics,” “idiots” or “epileptics” had to first stand trial before a jury with at least one physician. If judged to be a danger to the community, they were sent to the Milledgeville asylum in chains. Unruly patients were locked in special, blue-colored rooms. If this soothing color didn’t work, they were chained to a chair in the corner to make sure.
“Institution As Family”
Dr. Cooper applied the then-radical model of the “institution as family.” He believed patients were best treated by an extended family of strangers. At home, the patients’ conditions might be misunderstood, or emotional attachments could keep them from being cured. Patients were encouraged to work in the garden, field or workshop to gain a sense of usefulness.
Another prominent Milledgeville physician named Dr. Thomas A Green became asylum superintendent in 1845. Dr. Green built upon the “institution as family” model. New patients would frequently arrive at the asylum in horrible condition – beaten, filthy and in shackles. Dr. Green made it a personal ritual to release these shackles as soon as the patients arrived, giving them a new level of freedom within the institution. He regularly ate with staff and patients, and abolished further physical restraints.
Of the 200 patients admitted, only a small number were kept in isolation. Even when the institution became overcrowded, Dr. Green had a reputation for not turning people away.
Milledgeville and the Civil War
From the early days, funding the Milledgeville asylum was a challenge. At first it was believed the hospital could be partially self-sustaining by admitting paid patients. But this system soon became untenable.
Dr. Green asked for more state money to complete the hospital, build a library and chapel, and purchase more land. But with the Civil War ravaging the state’s cotton economy, families could no longer pay for treatment of their loved ones. Rising operational costs left the hospital’s financial fate even more in the hands of the political machine.
By the time Union general William T. Sherman marched through Georgia, the hospital was already in dire straits. Though Sherman spared the hospital from destruction, it now had little support from the defeated state.
Dr. Green admitted refugees from other Southern states where hospitals were in Union hands. With the able-bodied off to war, older and infirm staff could hardly handle patient care. Supplies were scarce, and Dr. Green resorted to scouring the countryside for food and money, selling off what little the hospital had for cash.
Another challenge from the South’s defeat was the increasing black patient population freed by the war. Though not as segregated as other institutions, the hospital had no separate buildings for black patients as required by law, leaving them to sleep outside on hospital grounds. In 1866 the first “colored only” building was built on campus, the start of an eventual second campus.
An Overcrowded Asylum
By 1872, 4 doctors treated 448 patients at the hospital, with an annual budget of $100,000. To control the population, Dr. Green only admitted non-violent patients, putting 2-3 together in small, 10-12 foot rooms. Dr. Green believed the earlier patients were treated (1 year or less), the more successful treatment would be and the patients could return home.
But despite his best efforts, the explosion in new patients was just beginning.
Dr. Theophilus Powell, assistant physician to Dr. Green and a noted scholar of psychiatry, became superintendent in 1874. Dr. Powell immediately inherited the growing issue of patient overcrowding. The Milledgeville asylum had become a dumping ground not just for the truly insane, but for communities looking to get rid of their unwanted (alcoholics, criminals, the elderly). Other patients simply had nowhere else to go.
Adding to the chaos, a law passed making the asylum free for all state citizens. Part of this reasoning was due to political pressure. State legislators were keen on taking care of patients from their home districts. While Milledgeville lawmakers wanted to keep the asylum constantly in business for their friends who worked there.
Dr. Powell and his staff developed more accurate methods of diagnosis to try to keep the population manageable. In 1886, a new law passed allowing patients to return home who were deemed incurable but harmless, to make room for those who could be treated. Dr. Powell continued the work, exercise and amusement programs for patients. An on-site railroad station and construction of a new hospital building led to a flood of new patient applications.
Abuse, Neglect and Racial Tension
At the dawn of the 20th century, overcrowding had become a major problem at the facility now renamed the Georgia State Sanitarium. By 1910, 12 doctors cared for 3347 patients. Decrease in care was inevitable, with numerous reports of abuse, neglect, unsanitary facilities and seclusion rooms surfacing. Staff could only take care of the patients’ basic needs, unable to provide appropriate treatment for all their illnesses.
Many patients whose mental state was diagnosed as “unclassified” were simply lost in the system. This led to many stories – some true, others just folktales – of loved ones vanishing in the bowels of the sanitarium.
In 1921, segregation of black patients came to an end. But racial tension was still a reality in the community at large. Four years later, the first reported murder of a hospital staff member occurred. Amy Oxford, a popular nurse, was struck in the back of the head with an axe handle by a black patient, who then returned to his work quietly. As news spread, local townspeople broke into the building where the patient was in seclusion, killing him in the same manner.
Hospital staff still considered farm work a helpful activity for the patients. 800 acres of nearby farmland took care of the facility’s food needs, tended by the patients. Although this program offered little in the way of actual treatment, it developed and nurtured job skills the patients could use back home when discharged.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Georgia State Sanitarium changed its name again in 1929 to Milledgeville State Hospital, a reflection of society’s evolving views toward the mentally ill and treatment. By now the hospital had become a small city, with 6000 patients in treatment (600 per physician) and a waiting list of 1500. Many buildings were deteriorating and had become fire traps. In response, the hospital expanded to include 132 more acres. Four new hospital buildings made of brick and modern interiors were built, plus a dedicated tuberculosis ward.
By the 1940s, Milledgeville State Hospital had over 10,000 patients averaging 20 year residencies. Attendants and nurses worked 60-70 hour weeks, with nurses making around $74 a month. It was later believed thousands of patients could have been sent home as harmless. Many patients claimed to have been “railroaded” into the institution by others, for various reasons.
But poor state financing and draining of able-bodied staff during World War II meant radical treatment was needed to stem the unrelenting tide of patients.
Shock Treatments and Lobotomies
To combat the untenable conditions, more radical forms of treatment such as insulin shock and electroshock therapy (also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT) became commonplace.
Hospital staff administered electroshocks at their discretion on a mass assembly basis. Patients were frequently confused if shocks were being given as treatment or punishment. Afterwards, nurses walked patients back to the day room in a stupor. While hospital chaos died down thanks to electroshocks, memory loss in patients was common, unpredictable and sometimes permanent – helping wipe out, as some advocates noted, any memories of abuse.
“Shock treatment makes you forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget.”Peter Cranford
BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: MILLEDGEVILLE!
Lobotomies were introduced in 1951 for especially chronic cases. 125 severely ill patients were lobotomized, with only 24 able to return home. An unknown number became even worse.
Atlanta newspapers ran frequent articles on patient abuse and deteriorating hospital conditions, becoming one of the few advocates patients had. State politics continued to influence hospital policies, with the board pressured by politicians to appoint staff as political favors, and to patient levels high for economic profit.
In the 1960s the now-renamed Central State Hospital had over 12,000 patients and vied with Pilgrim State Hospital in New York as the largest facility in the country.
Thousands of Unmarked Graves
“Rows upon rows of numbered, small, rusted markers as far as you can see. No names, just numbers. It must be the most gruesome sight in Georgia. Unknown humans, shunned when living, deprived of their very name in death – and literally known only to God.”Peter Cranford
BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: MILLEDGEVILLE!
While some patients treated at Central State Hospital eventually returned home, many did not, literally disappearing into the earth. Today what looks like pastoral, rolling fields is actually a massive potter’s field for tens of thousands of patients, many feared lost forever.
In 1938, construction crews dug up an African-American cemetery to make room for a new building. With the caskets long disintegrated, remains were placed into small boxes and moved closer together to save space. These tiny plots were marked only by simple metal poles with identification numbers.
The use of these numbered poles instead of headstones was common on hospital grounds. It is believed around 30,000 patients are buried at Central State Hospital in six neglected cemeteries, both African-American and white. Consequently, Central State Hospital contains one of the largest graveyards in the world for people with mental disabilities.
Cedar Lane Cemetery
In the 1960s, prison inmates on groundskeeping detail tossed thousands of numbered markers into the woods without recording their locations. Other markers were lost in underbrush. As memories faded it was no longer clear where the true burial plots were. As a result, Central State Hospital Cemetery a.k.a. Cedar Lane Cemetery became one giant, unmarked plot.
In response, groups of volunteers like the Georgia Consumer Council worked to identify as many graves and patients as possible. Some recovered markers were placed in a special memorial. State and national media covered their efforts, and donations began trickling in. To help the fundraising effort, Dr. Peter Cranford, a former clinical psychologist at Central State Hospital, donated the printing rights to his book But For The Grace of God: Milledgeville!, recognized as the definitive history of the asylum.
Is Central State Hospital Still Open?
Toward the end of the 20th century, patient numbers at Central State Hospital dropped dramatically. With improved medications, home treatment, construction of new facilities statewide and less stigma toward mental illness, the need for such a massive and crowded institution died away. As of this writing only 165 seriously ill patients remain, committed by the courts.
Therefore, the question became what to do with the nearly 2000-acre campus. Once one of Milledgeville’s top employers, Central State Hospital’s downsizing was a significant economic blow to the community. But Milledgeville was not alone – numerous old asylums around the world suddenly became obsolete. So a worldwide movement began to reuse these asylum properties as everything from arts centers and offices to high end condos.
For this reason, the state of Georgia tasked the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) with finding economic development opportunities on private, state or federal levels. In early 2019, the CSHLRA rebranded the hospital grounds as Renaissance Park to attract future investment.
While small businesses have since repurposed some of the inactive buildings, the challenge remains to find new economic partners. Especially for the large, decrepit buildings drawing the most interest from curiosity seekers.
Can You Tour Central State Hospital?
The Milledgeville Visitors Center now offers daily trolley tours of the campus grounds, including Cedar Lane Cemetery and the Chapel Of All Faiths.
The campus is home to numerous outdoor activities throughout the year, including a bike race, music and food festivals, and staff reunions in the beautiful pecan grove. The ME Film Festival even hosts a horror movie night on the grounds near the Chapel of All Faiths.
However, entrance into many of the historic hospital buildings is strictly forbidden. Decades of neglect have made these boarded-up buildings too hazardous to enter (any interior photos featured in this article were obtained with staff permission).
In short, society’s treatment of mental illness has come a long way from early religious zealotry to modern day home care and patient counseling. Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia stands as a silent monument to the timeline of psychological health in this country. To some it will always be a painful reminder of past abuse and trauma. But to others, the hospital was home to scores of tireless workers seeking to calm and treat mental afflictions we still struggle to understand.
For a deeper look into the history of Central State Hospital, see the photo gallery below.
All photos by Craig Dominey unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Nancy Davisbray and Kari Brown at Georgia College & State University for all their help with this article.
This Post Has 119 Comments
I’ve been trying to find information about my aunt, my dad’s sister. Her name was Alice Pearl White, born Hollis. She was born in 1905 and died in 1979. She lived with her parents until she was about 35. She married an Edward White in 1941. She was institutionalized sometime 1940’s or early 50’s. I went with my mother and farther in late 40’s or early 50’s. I sat in the car with mom while dad went in to see her. To this day I can still hear the screening and hollering that went on in the inside. What a miserable place that was. I’m 82 now and working on finding ancestries and descendants. If there is a book or web site with names of patients, I hope you can reply to me. Thank you.
Hi Jim, I believe record requests have to go through the Georgia DBHDD: https://dbhdd.georgia.gov/locations/central-state-hospital
I am writing a novel set in the later 1960s. One of my characters is hospitalized at Central State Hospital 1967- 1969. I’d love to interview anyone who can provide information about what the hospital was like for women patients at this time. I have a good bit of history of the hospital — but need more detailed info of the day to day lives of patients and staff. You can email me at email@example.com.
Beth, I would suggest joining the Friends of Central State Hospital Facebook group.
My aunt Helen Duvalis married a cruel man in the Army. She was from South Dakota. When she disappeared for over 10 yrs my mom ,her sister thought the worst. And that it was. She was put there from her mean husband that decided he wanted to marry his x sister in law. She was given shock treatments repeatedly and drugged. She would write letters to my mom but that awful place wouldn’t mail them. They took out her female orgains and did exploratory surgery on her. After she was in there for 10 yrs a nice nurse snuck her letter out to my mom. They went there and got her. She was there from 1940s to 1950s. I called yrs ago for her records and was told there was a fire that burned them.
Has anybody gotten records from that time? I would appreciate any information please. Thank you. firstname.lastname@example.org
My Mom was a patient and the Mental Hospital in Milledgeville in the 1960s and may have been there in the 1950s for a few months at a time. Is there anyone I can contact because I would like to get my Moms medical records and what she was diagnosed with. She died in the 1980s but I want to know the history. Please let me know.
We visited the hospital a few days ago. In a few places, the word “moon” is graffitied on buildings. Is this you? I am wondering specifically about an area around the back of the Jones Building labeled “dummy door.” Was this you and if so, is that door accessible?
Not us Paula, sorry!
Good article. My mother’s family lived in Milledgeville, as I did for a couple of years in the mid-60s. I remember riding with my grandfather through CSH on the way somewhere else. In those days, the grounds were beautiful but, of course, the patients were rather pitiful. I can remember folks with Down syndrome, older patients who may have had dementia or Alzheimer’s, and others who may have suffered from schizophrenia. Apparently, anyone with any kind of “mental problem” could be sent to CSH. To the hospital’s credit, the patients I saw appeared healthy and well-supervised. But there were also people in the upper-floor windows of (I suppose) the Jones Building, looking out from behind barred windows. I was young at the time and it was a bit scary. I imagined all kinds of things happening in there.
I drove through the hospital complex earlier this year. Some of the buildings are obviously run down, but others are still being used. If the place isn’t too run down, it would be nice to put it to a new use. For better or worse, it’s a piece of Georgia’s history.
My paternal grandmother was a patient at Milidgeville Hospital around 1969-1971. I was wondering if I can get a copy of her patient records. How would I go about this?
My grandfather was a patient there between mid 40s and mid 60s. I have been to the hospital searching for records. They were all very nice and were very apologetic in telling me that they had records that were lost during that period of time. No one knew what could have happened to them. The only thing they could provide was either his admitting paper and/or death certificate (I don’t remember which one I actually got from them). But all records in between that time were unaccounted for. That was several years ago and I have never checked back to see if they “were found”.
Just found this article and wanted to share some experiences at the State Hospital. I first went there as a summer clerk in 1961 at the recommendation of Dr. Florene Young of the Univ of Ga. At that time there were other students there in psychology, nursing and medicine. The psych students lived in the basement of the Jones Bldg where it was so hot we slept in our own sweat even with an electric fan blowing on us all night. I heard many horrific stories and would hear the screaming of hospital patients at night. I returned to the State Hospital in 1963 as a psychology intern. This also was an ominous experience which was fortunately blessed by the arrival of our second daughter Kathy.
I won’t go into the experiences I had at the hospital other than to say I appreciated Dr. Bob Wildman the head of the psychology department. He was a good man who made a difference and was there at the time of JFK assissination when we were in a conference with a well known psychologist from NYC.
I am looking for anyone with knowledge of patient life at CSH from 1946-1968, the transfer of patients to Southwestern State Hospital (SWSH) in Thomasville, GA and life there from 1968-1975, and the policy of patient re-entry to communities in 1975. Additionally, I am looking for someone that might clarify and expand upon abbreviations , etc typically found on the index cards of patients. Thank you!
My father was a physician at CSH from 1952-1955. He was a foreign trained doctor and thus was paid 1/2 what the “American” doctors were paid – even after he learned English. Not a complaint just a fact. When he arrived he was told he had 6 months to learn English and Psychiatry . He like many of the other doctors there were WW2 refugees. 10 years later he started a successful private practice in Atlanta.
He often says that the “Negro” nurses had the most wonderful bed-side manner. When he moved to take charge of an all white unit he requested to take them with him- not allowed. Sometimes he talks of the heat in those buildings – unbearable.
The understaffing – well that’s another story.
We lived in a small , white, wood frame house on the grounds. As I was only 1-4 most of my memories are from pictures. I do remember the pecan trees and the screaming from the hospital.
My sister was born in the Jones Bldg. Loved telling her and others that she was born there.
One aside- according to Mama “bombed out Vienna was better than Milledgeville”.
Have a gospel song book dated 1917 that was inside with a patient who wrote his name from Hartwell Ga .Emmett M j or G he was placed in a padded cell and his symptoms were called
Love crazy, I read three the whole book and apparently he used this book to message another patient back and forth the sad thing was he wrote that a Dr. Told him if he can get his mother go write he could get out on October. I found tiny ripped out purses of the book with a single word on each as a secret way to sent a message as if he was afraid to get caught and the message being seen , I seen a spot where he wrote a ryme saying… I wish I had a nickle I wish I had a dime I wish I had a ginger cake to give that boy of mine…. and below a response asked where the boy was and he responded writing he did not know . I wanted to put this as a memory for the lost man that I don’t know but I honor him Emmett or Edmond m. G I wish the name wasn’t so faded god your with now the flesh is nothing
Great web site. My grandfather worked at the asylum most of his life, Ozen Dine Horton was his name and he and lived in Hardwick with his wife Emma. I have been told that I was born in the hospital in 1930. Sure would like to have the record but I imagine all such records have been lost. My brother Robert was also born there in 1935. He July 4, me Aug. 1.
Thanks for the webpage. Joe Maddox Ocala, Fl.
Curiously enough, this article fails to mention the legalization of sterilization through a concept called Eugenics. Good read… But let’s be honest about it’s history. Winston Churchill said it best–“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
I taught Ga. History in Milledgeville Ga/J.F Boddie Jr High for many years 1980’s , Central State Hospital became one of my major areas of research , and interest. At one point , I taught In School Suspension (ISS) within different bldgs. at CSH . That was designed to get students to behave , or they would be picked up by a bus, everybody knew was going to to the “State”. The bus would arrive at all the Baldwin Schools early in the morning , while everybody stood around laughing at those who had to go.Actually those going , had a major brush with historical value. CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL !!! May Jesus Christ, God Almighty Bless all the CSH patients,relatives, families, employees and ISS students.!!! All my Bests , Coach Mike Wilkes
My g-grandmother was sent to Milledgeville around 1905 and died in 1952. She had hung my grandmother (2 at the time) by her ankles over the well to try and “rid her of the demon in her”. (Can you say misunderstood postpartum????)) Her husband had her committed at the advice of her doctor. I have been to CSH twice in trying to find any record or information on her. I cannot even find her parents name. Is there any repository of records that I could come and go through? Were the records transferred somewhere? I would be willing to do a volun-cation to come and assist with making them digital. My daughter is an archeaologist and historical researcher and I’ve picked up a few things. I am a photographer with a heavy background in restoration and developing of photographs. Any lead on where to look for these records would be appreciated. If I am able to obtain a grant to do this work is there someone that I could talk to about working on this? Thanks.
@AJ… I worked in Allen. I was the Behavior Specialist for Allen 2. The building housed people with developmental disabilities. My unit housed 40 severe and profoundly mentally retarded males.
I have been trying to find information about my great great grandmother, who was a patient here from 1910-1935. I’ve already contacted the administrators at CSH and they say there are no surviving records of her, which is probably true considering the years she was there. Her name was Della Louisa “Dollie” Bridges/Shelton. According to family lore, she was relegated to cooking duties at the asylum during her last years, and the family believed she was well enough to come home, but the hospital refused to release her because she was such a help to others. She liked picking flowers on the grounds. She died at the hospital, but her body was sent home for burial. That is literally all I know about her time there. If anyone has any info about her, or other patients/that time period, please feel free to contact me! I am a writer and genealogist and am working on a project that involves CSH. Thanks.
We have no access to the records at CSH, sorry. There are many lost records from there.
I was wondering if there were any surviving staff members still living from the 40s and 50s.I have a picture of a patients room in one of the buildings. The room is not distinct. THe only distinction is one window that Is double hung My Great grandmother was a patient there for many years. The picture is dated July 1942. She was Emma Woods Nease. Any info would be appreciated.
Looking for info on Sally Mae Pierce born Nov. 1, 1889, died Apr. 6, 1945.
She was a resident of Lumpkin County Ga. She also had a son in this hospital. His name was George L. Pierce. Born Jan. 12, 1920. Died Nov. 3, 1951. Any info is appreciated.
We all need to push for this hospital,to become a state park that people can go tour and see. There is so much history good and bad that all need to be made aware of.
How can I get information on inmates/patients at this facility?
Looking to see if my 3rd greatfather Anderson Quick was a patient at Central state Hospital in Milledgeville Ga. he was amended to the hospital June 28 1846 and he pass away May 11 1847 and if he is buried in the cemetery on ground Thank you Barbara Smith
Late 70’s Early 80’s – I was sentenced there . First Building was “Kemper. Building . Holly , Ingram I was sentenced user te First Offenders Act. I was told that based of the resistive rate on being there for as long as I was , I would not be able to cope . Well I’m typing this on an iPhone . Yes the place is haunted . Yes I have relics that will show you that CSH at one time was pulled fgthetank&gmail.com its Late I’m tired for more of the Truth email me .
I would like to see if I could get his medical records. I know I have to contact the hospital.
My father wrote a book about being in this hospital in the 1940’s. He is dead now. He met my mother in the early 1950’s and his life turned out pretty good after the horrible story of his inpatient years. He got bit and clawed by a large wild cat in Georgia. Had to get rabies vaccines which resulted in him going into attacks of seizures. Doctors did not know what to do with him so they sent him there. He said he was one of the helpers who had to carry dead bodies to be buried. One night it drove him so crazy that he escaped but was later found and returned to the hospital for several more years. he said he had no visitors for years and then one day they let him go home. He left Georgia because he had to get away from his past. Neighbors and family said he was crazy. He took off to the West and met my mother and her family. My grandmother was a Mexican Spiritual Healer and she healed my dad of the seizures. He has a very interesting journal that I think would make a great love story.
Hello – fantastic article. Seeking patients, workers, witnesses, etc. Please email me for an interview at email@example.com
To whomever it may concerns my Mother brother was a patient in the Midgeville Mental hospital in the year 1970.His name was Claude Andrews while a patient there someone gave him an eletric shock treatment which resulted in him dying.My UNCLE has steel plates in his head.I would like to get a copy of his Medical report.Our family would like to information so my mother and her sister can finally get the truth about what really happened to their brother
We are not associated with CSH, sorry. You can contact them via the link at the bottom of this story.
I had two uncles admitted to this hospital in the mid 1950s. Both were children at the time and went for developmental issues. Its amazing to me that they were in the hospital for over 50 years for just development reasons because now it’s so different…. One was named Clarence Hood Jr and the other James Hood. Clarence moved to a nursing home in Atlanta around 2012…James moved to Georgia Regional in Decatur last year (he was one of the last residents at the hospital). Sadly, James passed away on Thursday and we will be having the services for him at Chestnut hill Cemetery in Atlanta but due to the lack of family there might not be many people there… If you worked at the hospital and knew James, please feel free to contact me about service info. Unfortunately, I only met him once but I recall my grandmother traveling down once a month or so to visit her sons. My grandma (Emma) passed away in February…IDk why I’m venting on here but my mother’s side of the family was riddled with mental illness. My mother had severe depression to where she committed suicide. My aunt is a army vet with bipolar disorder and is constantly in and out of jail because she can’t get proper treatment…. It saddens me to hear how the mentally ill were treated. There is still a need for better legislation and laws to help our families and friends who are impacted by it. Mrsfizz9@gmail.com
Does anyone know the contact information of anyone I could talk to or email about coming here with a small group for a couple hours so I can get some footage of some of the building? I know it’s highly illegal to just trespass, but I want to know if there’s someone I can talk to for permission?
I Would Like To Know HOW I Can Get some photographs of inside the old part of the building?? I’m a free lance photographer and would absolutely love to get just a few inside photos. THANKS
Has ANYONE been able to obtain an ancestor’s medical records from Milledgeville State Hospital? If so, who was your point(s) of contact? Phone number or address? My great grandmother was sent there and died there within about 9 mos.
If anyone has had any success, PLEASE email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance.
The photo of the couple at the end of the article is my Great grandfather Herbert Martin Williams and his wife, Dicy Lucinda Whitley Williams. He was “placed” at CSH in 1907 and died there later that year. My family was very involved in the cemetary restoration project and my sister, Casey is featured on the Today Show coverage of the story.
Beth, thanks so much for letting us know! You’re probably aware that their photo hangs in the tiny museum at CSH. The historian on site at the time told me about them.
Mary Peacock, you must be related to Alan Peacock … I’ve heard him talk about having a relative who worked at this hospital. I noticed because my grandmother was railroaded into that hell hole in about 1936 when she had post-partum depression. My dad missed out on having a mom, a piano teacher and a lifetime of memories with her.
I VISITED MY MOTHERS SISTER ABOUT 1970. SHE HAD THE SHOCK TREATMENTS AND IT MADE HER MEAN. THAT WAS A SCARY PLACE.
I actually grew up living on the grounds of the Central State Hospital physicians housing from the time I came home from being born at Baldwin County hospital in 1969 until I married in 1993. My father was a Psychiatrist in the long term care division. He was very dedicated to his patients and the employees that took care of them. He actually was employed there during it’s highest census- being that there were so many patients and no more actual hospital rooms, that the broom closets were converted to temporary patient rooms during his tenure.
It is so sad to know and see that the mentally disturbed have been turned out to the streets left to commit crimes and be treated only when convicted of a crime and mental evals deem treatment. It is the same conditions being treated under a different classification. These people are the same people- HUMANS, turned away because mental health costs the state too much money.
I want to get medical recorders of my morther her name is Stella bryant
Can someone please tell me what the Allen building was used for
I arrived at Milledgeville State Hospital in the fall of 1963 after accepting a position as a social work aide. Georgia was at the time offering an opportunity for person with a bachelors in social work to work at the hospital and then on condition of satisfactory performance have their graduate education in social work, funded through a stipend which covered their tuition, books as well as a portion of their returning salary to live on during their two year graduate training. The stipend was awarded on condition of employment in the state mental health system for the number of months of their education stipend, normally two years. I and numerous other staff benefited from this opportunity.
W.H. Welch, LCSW
I worked for two years prior to leaving for graduate school at the University of GA, School of Social Work. I worked in the Whittle and Allen Building. Each had 1000 patients each, Men in the Whittle Building and Women in the Allen Building. I and one other social work aide covered these two building under the supervision of Mary Kingston, who had her masters degree and was an excellent, and demanding supervisor. Our medical staff was made up primarily of Cuban doctors who had left Cuba after the Castro led revolution gained power, leading to the mass migration of professionals and academics in many fields. These doctors arrived in the U.S. with excellent training and experience in a wide variety of medical specialties.
Gaining entrance into the U.S. and becoming practicing physicians entailed many difficulties including legal, language and medical credentialing, on top of starting their life over, often with spouses, children and parents and others still in Cuba. I shared a suite in the single staff dormitory with Ramon Boza who left Cuban through seeking asylum in a foreign embassy after learning that he was going to be arrested by the Castro government. His decision was so sudden, he was not able to get his wife and two children out with him. I learned that he did eventually gain their permission for departure years later.
He was previously the head of the Pathology Dept. at the largest hospital in Cuban, in Havana. Georgia granted he and many other Cuban doctors the opportunity to work as physicians at Milledgeville State Hospital while simultaneously completing their training and residency in Psychiatry.
Dr. Boza and I made a bargain that I would help him with learning local or colloquial English in return for his introducing me to Cuban food, culture and music. His English was good, but he had responsibility for 1000 female patients. I was the sole social worker on this unit as well. We had many patients who were in their 60’s and who had been admitted as children from rural, impoverished families who did not have the resources or means to care for them. We only had one or two anti-psychotic medication available at the time, and shock therapy to help control the devastating symptoms of these patients, who behavior was often self destructive, violent and aggressive to others.
Lobotomy was no longer utilized at the time, but we had patients who had been recipients of this procedure in the building, although I only recall a handful from my memory. Often times their behavior was so violent and destructive as to run headlong into brick walls.
There were only 45 RNs on the staff in these early years of the 60s to cover all 12.000 patients for all three shifts.
Obviously there was a sever shortage of staff, and much of the caring for patients was informally performed for those patients who had been in the hospital for many years and were essentially recovered but were so institutionalized and separated from their family that they were performing their own rehabilitation in place and with minimal supervision.
After returning to the same unit following completion of my graduate education, I became the Chief Social Worker in the Allen and Whittle Building, supervising to social work aides. We had Dr. Everette Kuglar as the Chief Psychiatrist on the unit, a very skilled and compassionate physician who was trained at the Medical College of GA and later became the Superintendent of the Georgia Regional Hospital in Augusta which opened in 1969, the second Regional Hosp to open in GA, after the one in Atlanta.
I was recruited to GA Regional in Augusta later and became the Director of Social Work there until 1971. We had the opportunity there to create a new culture of mental health treatment and actually produced a film utilizing our own staff depicting patients and staff as they went through the admission and treatment phase, to discharge back to their home. This film was shown at various opportunities, including a county fair, with the idea of distilling the stigma attached to mental health treatment. We still did not have a community mental health system in Georgia with which to provide in home or community treatment. Milledgeville only had a one weekend per month outpatient clinic.
I was involved in the deinstitutionalization of patients from Milledgeville, which included visiting nursing homes across the state to find placements suitable for our patient. I was also able to facilitate “half way house” placement for a number of patients who had overcome their active psychosis but have severely limited social skills.
I later worked at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah as Director of Social Work and was able to being the level of professionalism and treatment up to the standards set by the Joint Commission, working closely with other professionals on the clinical staff. I was there from 1987 to 1991 and left to help open up the new VA Clinic in Savannah which is now serving over 15,000 veterans in this area.
Since retirement from the VA I have now rejoined the staff at Georgia Regional Hospital since 2012, working in the Treatment Mall with groups. During my span of professional practice in Georgia, since 1963 to the present I have witnessed and been a part of pioneer work to better serve those with sever mental illnesses.
I predicted in 1987 when GRH/S began to receive and utilize the new atypical antipsychotic medications that the hospital which had over 300 patients at the time would soon close due to the many patient become able to function outside restrictive care such as that of a close psychiatric unit. Indeed the hospital did come close to closing and were it not now providing treatment statewide to forensic patients who did require restrictive treatment under court restrictions.
Now we have private as well as public mental health hospitals providing excellent care and many professionals among the psychiatric, social work, psychologist and professional counselors working in clinics, and private practice.
The stigma of receiving mental health treatment has no disappeared but doesn’t present the horror in the minds of patients and families, as well as the public that was once the case. We now have advocacy organization such as the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill that provides education and advocacy in this field that is invaluable and has a very positive impact.
Thank you for this comprehensive history of Milledgeville State Hospital. I look forward to seeing the completed work. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in this task. There is much more to the story that has yet to be told. For example the role of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in bringing to public awareness as well as the foresightedness of elected and appointed government officials who were dedicated to bringing Georgia our of its dark past in regard to mental health treatment.
Regardless of this dark past and numerous oversights, abusive and neglectful care, even in the days of horrendous shortages of nursing, and medical staff there were hundreds of dedicated low paid and over worked staff who ever day did what they could in spite of these shortcomings to make the life of those in their care more bearable and humane.
My Grand mother worked at this hospital…This gives me the heeby jeebys
This was a very good article. I do believe many of the horrific stories are either exaggerated or from misunderstood situations. As part of our psychiatric training, we nursing students spent a rotation at CSH. (1960s) I remember when we went to a new building, we were given a set of keys and a deck of cards.
There are events that took place that could easily be misunderstood or mis-interpreted as abusive/neglegent/mistreatment – bath day for instance – but routines and procedures were in place that were necessary to get the job done in the best possible manner for the safety and well-being of the patients. I never witnessed any abuse or mistreatment of any patient. The staff were there because they wanted to be there – not for the pay or recognition – and they sincerely cared for the patients.
Patients ate the same good food that was provided for staff (and us nursing students.) Some patients did work in the gardens and greenhouses – CSH grew most of the food consumed there – because they wanted to and enjoyed the work. Programs were plentiful – picnics, dances, reality orientation to name just a few. Common rooms held ping-pong tables and checkers, chess and cards were favorite pastimes. They did quilting and pottery – there was even a store where they could sell their items. I still have a teapot one of the patients made.
Some patients really were confined to cells with nothing but a mattress, but these patients were severely demented and a danger to everyone. The “cages” children were kept in were nothing more than a screen placed over the top of their cribs to keep them from climbing out – and they were not used for every child.
Who were the patients? Those who were profoundly retarded, those with mental disorders, with dementia, men and women whose families could not handle them for whatever reason, out of control alcoholics or drug addicts. CSH provided a safe place for them…and for society.
Where are these patients today – now that ‘the powers that be’ have determined that these people have the right to be in the mainstream of society? In jails. Homeless. Committing crimes – assault, burglary, murder.
A friend has a teen-age son who is so troubled from a very young age. He has threatened the family to the point they sleep with their bedroom door locked. He has been in and out of trouble with the law. He has held my friend with a knife to her throat. He desperately needs help but there is none to be had. There is no longer a place for people like this, and countless others we are reading about who go on a rampage and kill a bunch of people. The police tell them they can’t do a thing until he hurts (or kills) someone…then they can put him in prison.
What kind of sense does this make? We need CSH – many of them. Some people just don’t need to be, can’t function in society. There needs to be a place for them – a place like Milledgeville!
I have a photo of my great grandfather on the steps of the male convalescent building taken around 1900. He worked there as an orderly . The picture is of a group of male employees all in uniform. Their caps all had GLA on them that stood for Georgia Lunatic Asylum.
In 1969/1970 my college psychology class went on a field trip to Central State Hospital. We observed patients begging not to be given shock treatments which was so upsetting to me. The actual shock treatment that we observed was horrific. I was so shocked when one patient I recognized was a middle school classmate who had been in the “special” class at Tubman Junior High in Augusta, Ga.. The special class was for “slower” learning students. In just a few short years she had gone from innocence to a terrifying experience as a resident at this institution. I know these folks were only trying to help but I left in tears and opted out on future visits! I am now 63 and still think about that field trip.
If it is torn down what will happen to the grave site? What about the people who are buried there? Martha Soloman…what about our grandmother? Loisiana Brown Meeks?
I was diagnosed with a sch. disorder while being a meddic in the army in 1982 (probably pts) and received an honorable discharge, type retirement(50% base pay with all the benefits of any retired personnel). Couldn’t hold a job for long after that, six months here a month there, very difficult times. In my mind i was hounded by malevolent beings in the spirit world that said and did insidious things to torment me. I never thought it was coming from the people around me always considered anybody who actually got caught up in it to be manipulated and basically forgave them. Since i was never of a violent nature there was never a cause for admittance at CSH. They tried once back in the early nineties. Admitted me on a Friday and had to release me on a Monday. Very unusual for them not to hold a person five days. Legal issues were in my favor.There were no drugs, or alcohol, and I was sound and non violent. Never will know why two people signed me in like that, I can only imagine they thought i was on drugs or something because they heard or saw me screaming at the darkness. LOL I met a psychologist in a night club when i was twenty five, we dated we fell in love and married. I went to work at CSH as a Health Service tech/ CNA. and held that job for fifteen years. Everyday of my life tormented by the condition. Everyday rewarded through helping the clients be less miserable, I was their Brother their Father their son, always a friend, we were the only family some of them had. We fought those illnesses and Demons together and we won in more ways than you could imagine. Central State hospital was up and running in the late 80’s and into the 90’s, medical restraints and physical restraints were outlawed. We took the barred steal doors of the seclusion rooms and hauled them out of the buildings. Personnel had to stay in arms reach of violent people and keep them from hurting themselves or getting hurt by them( i took some punches, some kicks, and a skin tear or two) as did many other employees. It was nothing to have a man run at you with a chair or try to throw a bed, Tv or anything they could get their hands on, you safely took it out of their hands, you stepped aside, you blocked, and moved away quickly. I said: Its me Mr. Such and such its me, a thousand times to calm a person down. I was able to stand respectfully close and speak as a friend to bring them back to their right minds, let them know somebody cared. It didn’t matter if they thought aliens were landing in the front yard I made sure they knew I wouldn’t let them get to my friend and never completely gave in to the psychosis they were caught up in. One of my jokes about it all is: If you don’t put that Nurse down you are not getting any chocolate pudding(works every time).It was my job to be aware of each individuals personal needs, to tell the nurses what was going on with them, to describe how they expressed their feelings, what behavior they exhibited to Doctors and insure we were doing everything we knew how to help them. I heard many horror stories about the State from a hundred years ago until today. I saw a much different place, I saw a place where people struggled against a horrid oppressing darkness called mental illness. God as my witness it was not in vain.
My deddy worked there for quite some time. He transported patients. I remember going to visit him at work and he would tell me about all the stories of CSH. Its crazy to hear about how bad it really was back in the day. I remember on the snow days we did have we would go out into the pecan field and roll down the hill(:
When I tell people that I am from Milledgeville the first question I get asked is ” is that where all the crazy people live
” my answer is ” nope crazy people live everywhere in the world” lol. My granny & grandmama worked there til they retired. Zena Page & Lola Cook
I was emergency room orderly on 3-11 shift in the Jones building ’68. Took psych rotation there in ’73 for my nursing degree. My grandmother died in the nursing home facilities there. CSH is a historic part of Milledgeville, the state of Georgia, and the south in general. Preservation of this site should be done before it is forgotten.
I am doing research on my family tree. I had an aunt who spent probably 50 years at Central State. Is there any way to get her records since the hospital has closed?
eliza yawn, was there for about 40 years, she died there. 1951. my 5 time great grand mother’s daughter. I would like to know what was wrong with here, she was put there after her mother nelly-Nellie yawn died, about 1905.
CURRENTLY WAS A PATIENT AT THE HOSPITAL IN POWELL E BUILDING BK IN THE YEAR OF 1994 OF OCTOBER AND A GREEN WARRANT WAS SIGNED AGAINST ME AND IT I SAW THE PAPER DEPUTY PIERCE HAD IT SAID WJ WARTHEN AND EVA BRINKLEY AND THAT BERNICE TUCKER SIGNED AND LOIS DAVIS SIGNED AND STATED THAT WAS CORRECT BECAUSE THEY HATED ME AND WAS JEALOUS OF ME AND WHEN I SAW IT I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT THE WHITE GIRL IN THE HOSPITAL ROOM WITH ME AT UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL I THINK WAS KKK WHITE AND SHE BLEED ALL OVER THE BATHROOM BK IN 1994 AND SHE IS STILL HARASSING ME AND GOING WITH BLACK MEN DRAY EM AND SHE HAS MURDERED MY CHILD HER AND MY DOUBLE S AND JHERRIE HEMBOINE EM AND LIBBY AND SANDRA WILEY HELENA HERMANSNIDERJR BECAUSE THEY HATE ME AND MOMA FOR WORKING FOR THEM BECAUSE THEIR KIDS AND REALY SNIDERS THEY JUST ME BUT THEY ARE WHITE AND CELESTE AND THEM SWITCHED MY CHILD IN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL AND SHE WILL NOT ADMIT SHADRIKA IS HERS AND SHE IS A HART HERSELF AND SHE HAS TAKEN TORCHER AND THEY HAVE KILLED OR SWITCHED SHADRIKA AGAIN EVEN IN SCHOOL THEY MURDERED MINE WHEN THEY TOOK HER TO THE NURSEY TO HELP RODNEY AND VANESSA AND PAULA SWAIN TO COVER UP THEIR HIV OR AID PROBLEM THEY HAD AND FINANCIAL PROBLEMS TO THE PEOPLE HAVE NOT STOPP FOLLOWING FROM THE WHITE VAN THAT THEY DROPPED ME BK OFF IN SANDEREVILLE AFTER THEY DIMISSED ME FROM THE POWELL TO FIND OUT I WAS PREGANT WITH BRITTANY NOW I HEARD TWANNA MOSS AND THE OTHERS IS TELLING FOLKS THAT SHE IS ME BUT HER GRANDMA CHILD IS HER MOTHERS AUNT AND SISTER AND SHE WAS TRYING TO MURDER ME TO KEPT IT QUITE THAT DREZ REALLY DADDY IS HERMAN SNIDER JR AND HE HAD GIVEN TWANNA AIDS I N THE HOSPITAL OR HIV HE WAS 9 LBS AND STILL HAD BE IN INTENSIVE CARE AND THEY PUT HIM ON PURPLE AND WHITE MILK ALIUMENTIUM MILK I HAD TRY TO HURT THE BABY AND MYSELF BECAUSE I LIKE TO LIFE BY MYSELF AND I JUST AFFORD A BABY AT 23 BK THEM BUT I ACCEPTED THING S AND THE HOSPITAL MADE A CHOICE TO AND I DIDNT EVEN KNOW IT AND IT WORRIED I KNEW SOMETHING WAS QWRONG BUT I DID NOT KNOW WHAT IT WAS I AM 45 NOW AND THE WHITE VAN I S STILL FOLLOWING ME AND EVEN IN OTHER STATED THAT I HAVE BEEN IN AND HEARD THE EMPLOYEE WAS TRYING TO SET ME UP OR MY MOM WITH DRAY EM AND VERON EM ONE SAID THE LADY WAS MARRIED TO ONE OF THE MEN AND WAS TRYING TO SEE WHO WOULD OR HAVE BEEN SLEEPING WITH ONE OF THEM A COLOR THING LIKE RED BONE AND THEY I S STILL AT ITPEOPLE HAVE GOTTEN MURDERED AND POLICE HAVE GOTTEN FIRED TO OR SUSPENDED AND THIS GUY WITH THESE BIG SNAKE AND A DISGUISE IS FOLLOWING ME TO HE IS A KKK WHITE TO AND THAT SNAKE IS IN 92 THROUGH50 DAILY OR HOURLY KKK HOMOPHONES OR LANDLINES NOTE AREA ORJUKI AREA THE TARRENT OR AKA OR NUGENT POLICE ITS ON THE NOTES I CAN TELL THE TRUTH AND THE WHITE GIRL IS JEALOUS OF ME BECAUSE SHE HAS AIDS AND A BABY BY A BLACK GUY AND HER PARENTS MIGHT BE TARRENT POLICE OR STACY ADDISON OR ARMAGDDEON OR LESTER OR HER 85 ALIAS NAME OR CELESTE WILEY OR MILLER OR HERMAN SNIDER JR THE TARRENT OR HELENA THEY HAVE THE NOTES AND THEY P ICTURES AND THEY HAVE BEEN LIEING BK AND FORTH AND HEARD CELESTEMILLER OR WILEY HELENA SNIDER OR ELLEN BOOKER OR ELENOR BOOKER ANNIE BRINKMAN MIGHT MIGHT HAVE LIED ON THE GREEN WARRANT AGAINST ME IN WARTHEN GEORGIA THE PLACE WAS SNIDER’S PLACE HAMBURG WARTHEN SAID BECAUSE MOST OF US WAS INFECTED WITH AIDA OF TOOTIE WAS INFECTED NOT SURE WHO FORGE BUT MY PHONE TO THE SHERIFF DEPT WAS NOT A PRANK AND MOMA AND WJ WAS ABOUT TO SHOT OR MURDER ME THE OLD PHONE NUMBER WAS 9125525965 CHANGED 4785525969AND THE SNIDERS’ OLD NUMBER WAS 9125522332 HELENA SUPPOSELY HAD A JOB OVER AT CENTRAL STATE AS A DIETIAN BUT TO ME SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PATIENT THEIR SAID SHE OR TWANNA OR PEGGY TELLING FOLKS THEY WERE ME AND MY OWN MOMMA EVEN LIED TO YOU I AM IN ARIZONA TYPING THIS TO YALL I KEEP IN TOUCH WITH MOMA BUT SHE LIEING SOMEWHERE AND SHE IS HER MIND I GUESS LIES TAKE YOU DOWN B UT THE TRUH KEEPS YOU UP AND GOING CELESTE MOMMA’ OLD PHONE IS 9125521566 4785521566 SANDERSVILLE GEORGIA OFFICER WONKA A FAGGIE OR MADEMMEZELL I BELIEVE NOT SURE SHADRIKA’ REAL DAD CELESTE DOES HAVE TWO OTHER OLDER BOYS ……… I FEEL ADMINISTRATION NEEDS TO TO TALK TO THEM FOLKS I MENTION I N MY COMMENTS
ANNISSA BRINKLEY / ANNA bRINKLEY`
Me and my family recently visited this hospital and I haven’t been able to sleep my wife has captured an image of a young woman I believe she is sarah crider if any one can contact me on this it would help (phone number removed) thanks you must see to believe no jokes this is real
I believe my great grandfather (African American) died in this place in June 1925 based on his death certificate; signed by the Ga State Sanitorium. Is there a way to research former patients? I am saddened.
Both of my paternal Grandparents died at the Milledgeville Hospital. My grandmother went insane when her 8 sons were all over seas during WWII. It was more than she could deal with.
My grandfather became senile in 1952 and almost killed his daughter. Only the intervention of my Father and two of his brothers stopped him.
CSH was the only place that was available during those times.
I spent the early 1980s of my mid-teen years in a private mental hospital in the town of Asheville, NC, for counseling and an education. The staff were very kind and nice there. One of the older staffers told me about growing up on the campus of the Central State Hospital of Milledgeville, GA, where her father was one of the treating doctors in attendance there. He was one of the few doctors who tried his best to make his tour there as comfortable as possible for his patients, staffers and family. One of her memories of being at Central State Hospital was whenever a patient attempted to run away from the hospital grounds, her mammy (a strong and hefty looking black woman) would always be there to comfort some of these poor and emotionally/mentally tortured souls with her open arms and soothe them, telling them everything was going to be okay and Jesus loved them so much because He had a soft spot for them too. She’d tell them, “Come to Mama! Come to Mama!” This almost always did the trick, especially if they had nowhere else to run or nobody to turn to.
I think Mother Teresa of Calcutta was right about why there’s so much sickness and despair with people and other relatives are left at places like Milledgeville, Camarillo, etc. People just don’t know how to love or are incapable of love.
Had I been in a place such as Milledgeville as a patient, I would do my best to make it a better place by befriending the staff and patients there, letting them know they too are loved.
These people were tortured and abused to death by whims of the Judge and the Medical providers and the legislators. The thing I say is right, as veiled behind a need to settle the minds of patients , the patients are invariably of certain religions and also either Blacks or Whites from the USA. The real madness is the crazy doctors pretending these people inherited disorders from the alien fallen angels to justify their own egotistical religious beliefs of creation and sin.
Looks like a place the Jinn would haunt and witness
Church of Genies
Letters to Leigh series of poetry
My great grandmother (African American) died in this hospital in 1942. I petitioned for release of her records which only stated she died of “mental exhaustion.” Her body was shipped by railroad in a box to Washington, Wilkes County, GA. I am shivering with sadness and pain after reading this article.
I was the clinical director of forensics for 5.5 years between 2003 & 2009. Staff during that time worked hard to improve the care of patients. Those years have been some of the most rewarding of my career. It was a privilege to have worked with many dedicated, caring people. I am proud of the care we provided to many of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.
My mother passed away two years ago at the age of 85, and her stay (or should I say that she was locked up) for almost two months at this mental hospital was never let go by her. My mom was the many that received electrical shock treatment during the 1960’s. Mom was only 34 years old at the time, and all it took was a signature from my dad to put her there. My sisters and I saw first hand what this treatment did to our mother. It is a part of our lives. J
Unfortunately much of the history will disappear soon. Word is spreading locally that the college will be transforming these buildings into more college grounds, dorms to be specific. GCSU apparently has already begun purchasing bits and pieces.
For anyone wanting to do research there are record books in the basement of the main building. They are separated by year with the name, reason, and the date of the committal. If your relative died there it also gives the date of death. I spent several hours trying to find a relative. It has to be done the old fashion way. You also have to make an appointment which will require the patience of Job and repeated request. It takes a while for them to get back to you.
My aunt spent 10 years at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville from 1961-71.She died of smoking-related lung disease in 1996 and didn’t talk much about her stay there except that she knew a woman there who always liked how she hand-rolled her own cigarettes.
I remember I was there for first time when I came to csh and stay at boland building it was back in 70 or 71 then they moved me allen building and I was in school in boland,I’m so glad got out from csh on 1972…But I have some bad memory for being there and it was very crazy to see strange things,but I will never forget as long I lived…
I was a music therapy intern in 1974 at CSH. At that time, Saralynn Latham was the director of 35 music therapists and there were 7 interns from all around the country. We were supplemented with a room in the Nurses Dorm, free meals, and a very small stipend split among us 7 interns. We worked about a month in each bldg. and spent a month with a guy who provided square dances and folk dancing instruction. We had our own little band and provided entertainment for the patients. At the conclusion of my internship was the beginning of deinstitutionalization where patients were placed according to the county they lived in to facilitate integrating patients back into their respective communities.
What a great learning experience I had at CSH! CSH was like a city with everything imagineable provided for patients and staff. I’m sure I did not see many of the atrocities that happened there, but like any city, life is what it is – some good and some not so good. For the most part, medications were just coming out to help people manage their mental challenges. After the institutions closed and people went to their respective homes, community mental health centers were more prevalent in patient care. But what I think is people were cared for in a mostly safe and enjoyable environment, whereas now they are lost in the cracks of society and are on the streets vulnerable, homeless and uncared for. Many of our mentally ill are now housed in prisons and jails, so all in all the institutional life of the mentally ill was more humane and better funded back then. Thank you for remembering CSH. Some of the music therapists that have worked there over the years are considering a type of reunion.
Thank you so much for your comments, Vicki. I passed them along to the CSH redevelopment staff and those interested in the place. This is a part of the story I haven’t heard before!
Wow, how fascinating! I found a picture of the representation of graves on Pinterest and decided to Google CSH, finding your post. I wanted to learn more, having grown up hearing from my mother “Y’all are going to send me to Milledgeville!” when we aggravated her (we lived in Augusta, I now live close by in Macon). Thank you for the great article!
Great information. My uncle was actually a patient. He died there in 1927. I am currently doing a family tree. Would it be OK for me to use your article, providing I give credit.
Feel free to link back to us, thanks!
My grandmother, Mamie (Mayme) Christian Robertson, died there in 1954, and probably entered there in the late 1940’s. I would love to have any records of her (dates, diagnoses, treatment, etc.) for my family history. Her children are all dead. What do I need to do to get this if it still exists? Thanks so much!
I can’t believe that most of these comments glorify this institution. I have a great aunt who was sent there in the 60’s for depression and the stories she tells are absolutely horrifying. I was told that many of the female patients were raped by other patients and staff members. If they got pregnant they were held until the baby was delivered and they never saw the baby again. This happened to her and she has always wondered what they did with the babies. I do however appreciate the historical aspects of this article, but would love to see one done on the “unmentionables” that took place there.
I have reason to believe I was hospitalized for severe depression at the age of 9. This would have been 1958/59. is there any possibility I could find these records and would Milledgeville have been the only option for families with limited resources? Did Grady Hospital have a mental ward at that time?
MY LIFE BEGAN AT CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL IN THE JONES BLDG. THE HOSPITAL AND GROUNDS BECAME LIKE A SECOND HOME FOR ME. I ENJOYED MOVIES AS A BOY IN THE GYM SOMESTIMES WITH PATIANTS SOMETIMES ON SAT. FOR THE CHILDREN AROUND THE HOSP. MY FIRST JOB WAS CARRING THE ATLANTA JOURNAL NEWSPAPER ALL AROUND AND IN THE HOSP. ONE FAVORITE THING WAS TO SLIDE DOWN THE BANISTER IN THE POWELL BLDG AFTER CLIMBING TO THE TOP FLOOR TO DELIVER MY PAPERS, THE SIDEWALK WAS OUR SKATE RINK OF THE TIMES, THE BALL FIELD BEHIND THE WHITTLE AND CABINESS BLDG. WAS A FAVORITE PLACE TO WATCH THE MILLEDGEVILLE BASEBALL TEAM PLAY. AT TIMES I WOULD CLIMB THE FENCE IN LEFT FIELD AND GO TO MY GRANDFATHERS HOUSE, ONE TIME I GOT HUNG ON THE SHARP CHAIN LINK FENCE IN MY WRIST AND A PATIENT HAD TO LIFT ME UP SO I COULD GET DOWN. THE KITCHENS HAD BLOCK ICE ON THE PORCHES AND I RUINED MY TEETH EATING ICE FROM THEM. I ATE MANY MEALS IN THE CSH KITCHENS SINCE MY DADDY WAS A COOK FOR DIFFERANT BLDGS. IN THOSE DAYS. I WAS ALLOWED TO WATCH A PAITENT BEING IMBALMED, MY NEIGHBOR WAS IN CHARGE AND ALLOWED ME TO WATCH, NOT A GOOD IDEA AT THAT AGE I WAS IN THE DARK RIDING MY BICYCLE BY THE TIME HE FINISHED BOY WAS I SCARED, I CRIED ALL THE WAS UP TO WHERE THE STREET LIGHTS WERE IN FROMT OF THE CENTER BLDG. I SAW THE TRAIN COME IN AND PICK UP PINE BOXES WITH DEAD PATIENTS BEING SHIPPED HOME, I BOUGHT ICE CREAM FROM THE WINDOWS IN THE STORES IN MOST ALL THE BLDGS. WHEN I COULD COME UP WITH A NICKLE. I SAW PATIENTS SO MENTAL THEY HAD TO BE LOCKED IN A ROOM WITH ONLY A MATTRESS, THEY WOULD TEAR THAT UP IN A SHORT TIME. THANK GOD FOR MEDICATION TO END THOSE DAYS. MY FIRST JOB AFTER THE AIR FORCE WAS AN ATTENDANT AT CSH, FOR A FEW DAYS IN THE WHITTLE BLDG, WAS TERRIABLE, THEY SENT ME TO SCHOOL LIKE AN AID AND AFTER THAT I WAS MOVED TO THE JONES BLDG WHERE PATIENTS WERE SENT TO BE CARED FOR FOR SICKNESS AND TO DIE. I TRIED SEVERAL JOBS AFTER THAT AND ALL WAYS WOUND UP BACK AT CSH, I FINALLY LANDED A JOB IN THE T V SHOP REPAIRING ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FOR PATIENT BENEFIT FUND. STAYED OVER 20 YRS AND STARTED MY OWN BUSINESS. THANK GOD FOR THE HOSPITAL, MY GREAT GREAT GRANDADDY WAS SENT THERE WITH HEART TROUBLE AND DIED THERE. MY WHOLE FAMILY MADE A LIVING THERE AND MOST ARE RETIRED FROM THERE. HOPE THIS IS INFORMATIVE IN SOME WAY . RAY HARRIS
This article is extremely thought-provoking and eye-opening. I remember my mother, a nurse who worked at Central State for more than 30 years, talking about the Powell building all the time. The story about the slave grave is appauling and sad. So much to digest from this research you’ve shared…
Excellent article. I was a nurse at the hospital 1964 until 1988 then I finished 34 years of service with public health in 2000. It was an honor to minister to, care for and love the people with mental illnesses during the years I was there. Those were the years of great reform (not always for the better) and we had the largest census ever. Medications were beginning to be used, lobotomies had just ceased, electroshock treatments were given every day (early on without medication). Those were the best years of my life and my career. Sooo many great memories.
My Great Grandfather John A. Nicholson died there and buried in grave #110 his son-my Grandfather Hubert L. Nicholson also died there and is buried in Blue Ridge, Ga.
Did this hospital not have to report deaths to the state the same as every other individual or institution did? I know for a fact that Grover Cleveland Coffey died there in 1940 but cannot find a death certificate anywhere.
As part of my nursing school training, I spent a rotation in 1961 at this hospital. We lived in a building run by trustee patients. My memories are still incredibly vivid of the patients and staff there. Some memories are very painful to recall, some are very poignant, some are funny. The students were used as staff. We had classes taught by nurses and trustee patients as assistants. Thorazine was just being used. I remember the patients lined up at the nurses station to receive the liquid medication. I also remember “shock” day when electrotherapy was performed like an assembly line. We were there for a couple of months, very long months. It was a valuable part of our education. A very special time.
My great grandfather was railroaded to that place between 1940 and 1959 when he died there. I’m sure there are some good things that happened at this hole but for tens of thousands of poor souls, they would have macabre stories to tell that would make anyone’s blood curdle. What started as a pretty good idea in the early 1800’s turned into a concentration camp where murderers and rapists walked the halls and grounds and I’m not referring to just the patients. The proper way to find out or retrieve records for a past patient is to email the person in charge of this particular dept. and I don’t believe they even reply, even if this is the proper procedure. I called the number listed and I honestly believe the person that answered the phone was asleep just before they answered the phone, and definately did not care what I may have been calling about, much less helping me
Three of my four grandparents worked at CSH back in the 60s-80s, and my mom was an Operating Room R.N. at the Jones building for over 20 years. I used to come there after school some days and play in and wander the halls of the Jones Building. It was a really neat place. My Grandmother also worked there in timekeeping, and I’d visit her in her office for hours. So many memories there! Also, my sister was married at the Chapel of All Faiths on the grounds in 1996…….was a beautiful old church back then. What a great article about its history! I would really love to see a good documentary about the place that has so many memories for me and my family!
Shame that such a beautiful hospital has to be torn down. I was born in the Jones Building. My father worked at the hospital in the 1940s. At that time medical services were free to employees and their family. I have a great grandmother buried in one of the cemeteries. The people at the hospital helped to locate her. We placed a marker and some of our family puts flowers there on special occasions. I really hate to see the hospital go. Some of the early buildings are beautiful and hold many memories. May God Bless everyone who has passed through this hospital. Most of the people in Georgia has had some connection to Central State Hospital.
Martha, there are no plans as of now to tear the buildings down. But Jones is in bad shape as you can see in the photos.
Sister did a semester there in psych rotation for Nursing School….Experience she will never forget! Thanks for the respectful but historical article. Getting lots of response comments to my facebook post. So many never knew the history, but had lots of relatives with connections to CSH, as patients, or worked there or did training there!
Why has this not been presented to a respectful documentary film producer? Great historical story of early days of mental illness treatment! Hope someone will one day do a documentary film on this! Thanks for the great article and unknown background, even to those who grew up in Georgia, but didn’t know the history!
Joann, I’ve heard there is a small documentary in the works but there’s probably a larger story to be told. Thanks, we’re glad you enjoyed the article!
my grandmother barbara brown longshore died in the mental hospital in milledgeville georgia sometime in 1976. I would love to learn about her and her records from there. How would i get that information ?
Worked for Central State Hospital from 1962 until 1974. Worked in the Freeman Building for 14 months then worked in the Telephone Office there . Was not crazy about working in the Freeman Bldg but it was ok. Loved the telephone office. Then I transfered to DOAS with State gf Georgia in the office with Tommy Spivey. Worked in that office until I retired in 1996.
I work at CSH in Plant Operations.
Many of the old buildings require some work, but most are sound enough to be repurposed. The pecan grove is lovely, and the buildings around it have more atmosphere and aesthetics than any modern office park. The railroad station houses a small museum of the hospital’s history.
Anyone interested in tracing a relative should contact hospital administration. I’ve seen record books (not the contents) that look as old as the hospital, so you should be able to find out what happened. (In the past, people from as far away as New York were admitted.)
The photo showing the iron stakes is a representation of the many stakes recovered after being tossed aside by groundskeepers. There are no little boxes of remains from Negro patients entombed at that site. The graves from the Negro cemetery that were moved to make way for the Rivers complex were respectfully reburied in order at another burial ground on campus. There are several cemeteries including the current one where patients are still being buried…not to hide abuse…but to respect their privacy which was thought of as more respectful at the time…Census records only gave initials…photos (and videos) that sought to exploit someones’ misfortunate circumstance…were and still are prohibited.
Jones, thanks for your response. The caption below the photo you speak of says the graveyard pictured is a representation. Though since this is featured around the information on Negro burials it may have been unclear. Thanks for the clarification, though.
Sad. So very, very sad.
hey there, thanks for the great blog entry! an amazing place indeed. my last record was conceptually inspired/informed by this place. find out more here, if anyone’s interested: http://www.marktulk.com/
Thank you for this well-written article. I appreciate the way you communicated the history without over-dramatizing. My grandmother was a resident for more than 20 years. In the mid-1980’s CSH was the only facility in the area that would accept Alzheimer’s patients. It is amazing how much changed at the hospital from that time until her death in 1996. When she entered, the atmosphere was very much a “ward” with heavy metal doors, stark visiting areas, and strict rules. It felt like an “institution” when I visited her. However, as time went by and the status of the hospital changed to a nursing home, the atmosphere changed, too. Some of the buildings were updated and remodeled. The last building she was in (I don’t remember the names now) was nice and felt like a good place to be. We were free to visit in her room, and we could help feed her when we were there. The Nursing staff was very caring.
No one wants to have to send away a family member, but for my family CSH was a godsend when we had no way of giving our loved one the care she needed.
My mother and father worked at the hospital my mother retired from the hospital and so did several of my ants and cusions If you worked there you had medical care provided so guess what I was bore there in the jones building I also worked there for a while so living in Hardwick I have a lot of memories of the place to bad its just falling down hope the state can come for some good use for it
Good article. I was born and raised in Milledgeville. My family and I lived very close to the hospital grounds. I remember my friends and I riding our bikes around the hospital grounds, marveling at the buildings, the acreage, and the activites we saw taking place. Most of my family worked at the hospital and retired from there. I also had a Post traumatic stressful grandmother and 2 mentally retarded aunts admitted there for a while for treatment. I grew up, became a nurse and worked there too. The hospital not only offered job security to many in the community but it also offered intensive treatment and extracurricular activities to its clients. Now that the hospital is closed, I can’t imagine whats happening to all those clients who really need long term treatment and a sense of family that understands their needs.
still waiting to receive my Great grandfathers medical records. I was called over a month ago. Hoping it will give more insight on his final days and condition.
Is there any way to access medical records of a deceased family member that was sent there in the 1950- 1960s and also died there?
Rebecca, I don’t know how good their record keeping is. I think a lot of things are in storage. You may wish to contact the organization we link to in the article and see if they can forward you to the proper people.
i loved reading this . i love anything with history. ive been by the csh many times from living so close by and my great aunt working there . altough she never wanted to talk about her job there . it seem to give her the chills when i would ask about it . thanks again
I was a patient in the Adolescent Ward in 1975 and then moved to the Yarborough building. Distinctly remember alot of activities in the school, ward and Yarborough building that have remained unspoken. Remember Bart Martindale, the school psychologist paricularly. My crime? Runaway from home.
I worked in the Yarbrough Building in the early 1970s. Amazing article.
Thank you for this article. i grew up in milledgeville.. then married and lived a stones throw away from it.. i find the history on it fascinating.. my brother is skitsophrenic and has visited this hospital for treatment for as long as i can remember. that hospital has done a great many things. thank you very much
Very informative article. I remember some of the names from stories my father told me when I was a child. He ran the morgue at CSH for 16 years before it was bidded out to private funeral homes in the early 80’s.
Growing up in Milledgeville I remember most all of the budings and pictures in your article. I roamed the grounds several times. We even playing high school basketball games in the gym. Now that I grown and have a famy of my own I have taken them to visit the grounds and told them many stories! Very interesting then and still is. I remember the gift shop the patients made things for and even have a wedding gift from there that was given to me!
Thanks for the wonderful read!
I am floored at the numbers listed here! So many!!! And a railroad station on-site?!!! I do not really understand how people went unaccounted for, though. If they were placed as a result of a court order or diagnosis, were there not records for each admission?
I loved reading this. My Grandmother was sent there for a short time probably 25 years ago. I just remember the buildings being overwhelming! I didn’t know you could tour the buildings. Very neat to know.
Thank You for sharing. My family roots are deeply entwined in the history of Central State Hospital. My grandmother worked in the Jones Hospital, my mother grew up on the outskirts of CSH in the Hardwick Community. My mother and father met at a dance at Central State Hospital. My father was a patient at CSH in 1964 and again in 1971. My father should have never been released from the hospital, my parents should have never met or allowed to marry. I have so many questions but no one wants to talk about the DEEP DARK SECRETS OF CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL
My mother was a nurse here in the Arnold building. I can remember some of the photos and my dad drove the white transportation buses on the grounds and transported patients later back and to to Thomasville, Ga. I can relate to this story very well, enjoyed reading about what you all had to say…Thanks
Yes, this is a terrific and informative article! Love the pictures too.
Thank you for the very informative article. Some of the names mentioned in it were kind of familiar to me because both of my parents were employed by CSH for most of their “working lives.” My father worked in at least two or three buildings – my mother, in two, also. I can recall only their last jobs…my father was an accountant there in the Lawrence building, and, my mother was an HST the Allen Building. Both are deceased, now, but they told me and my siblings many true stories about CSH. I also have a lot of memories about the buildings and the cafeteria as my father would sometimes bring food home for our supper. I also went on a school field trip in the fourth or fifth grade, back in 1972 or 1973. I forget the exact year, but, remember the trip “as if it was yesterday.” Thank you again for the article!
Thanks, Curtrice – I bet you have some interesting stories to tell!