Plot 31 where six students are buried in an unmarked grave.

Plot 31 where six students are buried in an unmarked grave.

The Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf has celebrated its 150th birthday. In effort to celebrate this great milestone, the school had this bright idea to create an 150th anniversary book. In the book, there is an acknowledgement and dedication to the students and during the discussion about the dedication for students, an alumni found his voice and shared something interesting. There are six children buried in unmarked graves at the Maple Lawn Cemetery.

The Minnesota State Academy had its first student enrolled in 1863 but lot 31, where the unmarked graves are, was not purchased until 1875. Ada Jenkins was the first child to be placed in lot 31. She had fallen to her death on the school lawn at the age of fourteen.  Jody L. Olsen, the 7-12th grade principal at Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) has no idea how this has come to be. The incident is most likely because their families had been too poor to pay for a proper burial or the children had come from an orphanage.

The Fairbault Daily News (along with a lot of information about the children and dates of death) reported that Michael Cashman proposed marking the graves and recognizing the students who are buried there.

“I think it was great that they marked the Faribault State Hospital graves and I think the deaf school students deserve the same,” Cashman said. “I approached the School Board to set up some kind of monument, that way people can at least pay their respects.” (Fairbault Daily News)

MSAD. 07/28/2014.

MSAD. 07/28/2014.The deaths are recorded but the graves are unmarked. Over the next twenty nine years, five more children were buried in lot 31.

With the records discovered by Doug Bahl, the six children buried in lot 31 over a twenty nine year span can finally have their graves marked. MSAD can mark their graves on lot 31. Doug, a leader in the state of Minnesota (who had passed away as of January 21 of this year), is recognized for his research and discovering the history behind these children both in life and death. Cashman said, “He did the research and was very much immersed in the history of these children and how they passed away. He did a great job finding this information.” (Fairbault Daily News)

Fairbault State Hospital works with Remembering With Dignity to mark their unmarked graves and MSAD wants to work with the same organization to mark these graves. They are working to raise money and want to secure a grant to help pay for the students’ tombstones.

The 150th anniversary book isn’t the only thing that MSAD is doing to celebrate their anniversary. They also have a lot of other things going on. For further information, check out their facebook page!

Written by Mary Pat Withem
Follow her on Twitter @mpwithem