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Willmar State Asylum

Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1168878177000
Classification: Query
Can anyone give me any information on this hospital? One of my ancestors was in there. Hilja Johnson
She was in the asylum in the 1930 census. She was born in 1888 in MN.


Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1173825914000
Classification: Query
It is still there. Opened in 1912. Some recent talk of closing it or selling it. On the northern side of Willmar off Hwy 71, just look for signs that say "do not pick up hitchhikers" and your close.
There is a Hilja Johnson on the MN death index.
for Ottertail County, MN died in 1970.
That is the only one without a date of birth.
And also interesting is there is another state asylum in Fergus Falls, MN (also in Ottertail County). If it is still there back in 1970.

I found some interesting reading.
"Minnesota is another area where unmarked graves are being replaced with proper names of deceased patients. In 2003, named grave markers were placed on 128 graves in the Oak Knoll Cemetery in Willmar, MN., while tens, if not hundreds more unmarked graves of former residents of the Willmar State Hospital were found on site."
Back in those days it was very easy to get admitted.

I found this listed on the MN Historical Society website.
Record ID 001728051
Index to burials, ca.1912-1976, in the Willmar State Hospital cemetery, compiled by hospital staff from extant records in the facility.

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1184035875000
Classification: Query
Thanks so much for the information! It is alot of good reading!

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1184601094000
Classification: Query
I presently work on the campus of the State Hospital. There does remain some psychiatric care that takes place. I work with the adolescents, and at least for the time being they will continue to be treated here. The adult units have been scheduled to be closed for some time now. But they are waiting for the state to build a new 16 bed community-based treatment facility in Willmar. Groundbreaking for this will begin quite soon, so adults will in the very near future cease to be treated on the Willmar campus of the Regional Treatment Center. The entire campus, which is quite beautiful, has been sold to MinnWest. They are currently converting in into a technology and research facility. Currently there are new businesses in the fields of animal research and agricultural based businesses locating there. The new sign just went up a couple of weeks ago now known as the "MinnWest Technology Campus."

At one time this hospital "housed" (very little treatment happened back then) hundreds of patients and was staffed with approx. 150 people. They were very self-sufficient out there. They grew their own food and raised their own animals for food and milk. They had their own water tower and steam plant for producing heat. Both of these are no longer in use. There is a network of underground tunnels connecting each of the buildings. Kinda dark and spooky down there, but a little fun and exciting to see as well. The buildings are beautiful, at least on the outside. They look a bit like old Army barracks; beige stucco walls with red titled sloping roofs. Truly, this campus is beautiful. Many many trees with acres upon acres of green lawn. I currently work in one of these buildings that has had very few updates over the years. Modernization inside the buildings will be taking place as MinnWest slowly continues to add businesses to the campus.

If you would be interested in seeing photos of the campus I would be happy to send you some. Do you know if your relative is interred at the cemetary there? They did put names on most of the graves in the recent past. Most were marked by just a number until then. If they are buried there I'd be happy to assist you in tracking down a burial site and taking photos for you if you wish.

Let me know how I can be of help to you.

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1187287035000
Classification: Query
I have a listing of the people buried in the Oak Knoll Cemetery. The only Johnsons who are listed with the first name starting with an "H" are men.

Here is a copy of a letter with some information about the Willmar State Hospital:


Willmar State Hospital
Oak Knoll Cemetery

The Willmar State Hospital Cemetery, now known as Oak Knoll Cemetery, has served Willmar State Hospital for many years--since December of 1926 at which time one, Alma Marsh, was buried. The services have continued until the most recent interment in June of 1973, a Mr. Victor Berdan. Now to think back, the Willmar State Hospital was estaqblished in 1907, when the property of N. Tallman was acquired for the establishment of an inebriate residential farm. First patients came to Willmar State Hospital in December of 1912. In 1917, it was adjusted to include the services for the mentally ill. In examining history, it shows that the Tallman farm was the initial purchase by the state. Until 1921, there were several smaller parcels of land purchased. The land that we are most interested in is that west of now Highway 71 and County Road 90 immediately south of its juncture at Swan Lake. It is my understanding that about 1923 a Mr. Sampson was manager of the farming functions here at Willmar State Hospital. Either by formal training or by avocation, he was a surveyor. Records show that he re-surveyed the land of all of the State Hospital properties. More specifically, he laid out on a formal basis what is currently the Oak Knoll Cemetery establishing plots in units of 10 with the appropriate dividers and cart ways. The cemetery itself overlooks Swan Lake and the area is quite grassy with a pleasant oak grove. The cemetery was divided into an area primarily for those of the Catholic faith and the balance for Protestant faith in general. Thus far, 675 lots have been used in the Protestant area and 194 in the Catholic area, constituting a total of 869 burial sites. The cemetery itself was expanded in about 1962 for the third addition. The current usage of the cemetery is held in abeyance even though space still does exist. It is a contemporary philosophy that families and counties are responsible for the disposition of the deceased. Public funds and contractual arrangements for funeral arrangements are quite common now and we have not had a burial here since June of 1973. The presumption is that in the event of a devastating economic situaion, we might be called upon to continue its use.

Hospital farming was ceased in the early 1960s. Land was deeded to the City of Willmar on the north of the campus itself. To the west side of Highway 71, the title to the farm land, with the exception of the cemetery properties, was transferred to the Department of Transporation, ostensibly for a rest area for the highway system and possibly a roadside park arrangement overlooking Swan Lake. The cemetery is expected to be under the custody of Willmar State Hospital and/or the State of Minnesota indefinitely.

Lester E. Johnson
January, 1979


Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1207271795000
Classification: Query
I too had a family member in the Wilmar State Asylum in the 1930 census. If your offer of sharing photos applies to anyone I would be very interested in seeing where my
G.Grandmother (Frances A. Sengir) spent part of her life.
Thanks Tina

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1207282370000
Classification: Query
Try this link to see pics and a bit of history. Looks like you'll need to cut and paste. Beautiful set of buildings and ground, we drive by it every time we go to Willmar.

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1207539186000
Classification: Query
I haved just discovered my great grandmother died at the "State Farm" in Willmar in 1917. She came to America from Sweden with my grandmother & sibs. My great grandfather died before they came to America. Is it possible she died in the State Home because she was widowed or would she have had to have been a mental patient.

Oddly enough one of the articles mentions a Mr. Sampson in 1924 as managing the farm functions. My Grandmother's sister married a Theodore Sampson who was a farmer.

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1207587099000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Sampson
I don't know for sure about your question. My guess is that if she were a patient there and died and wanted to be buried there, her family wanted her buried there, the family didn't have money to bury her, then she was probably buried there. Also, I think, some workers at the hospital were buried there.

If you tell me her name, I will see if she is listed in the burial records.

Re: Willmar State Asylum

Posted: 1207606558000
Classification: Query
Grandmother's name was Johanna (nee Olsen) Casper. September 1, 1917 was date of death. I think she died at the State Farm- the obituary says after a four month illness which I know to be cancer. It also states she was buried in the Litchfield Cemetery.
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