There is a little cove on the Choptank River in Cambridge that is sacred ground to the 194 individuals who were buried there many years ago. Golfers at the River Marsh Golf Course may have noticed a spit of land nestled between the 16th and 17th holes that was fenced off and wondered what it signified.
The land where the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay now stands was once home to the Eastern Shore Hospital Center (ESHC). Over the course of many years, from 1915 to 1963, some of the patients died and were buried in the little cemetery without name or ritual. On December 9, the community held an Unremembered Patients’ Cemetery Dedication on the golf course to bring dignity, respect, recognition and peace to these 194 forgotten souls who had struggled with mental illness. Through a matching grant award from the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, donations from the English Foundation, Waddell Foundation coupled with the generosity of Thomas Monument Works and grant writing experience of Thomas Slaughter, a Cambridge Rotarian, the ESHC Auxiliary purchased a 6-foot-tall granite and bronze marker listing all 194 patient names.
The ceremony, hosted by the ESHC Auxiliary, helped “Turn Numbers Into Names” on this hallowed ground. According to the recently appointed CEO of ESHC, Forrest A. Daniels, the Turning Numbers into Names project is an important element of Dorchester County’s rich heritage. “It humanizes the 194 individuals/patients; the majority of whom were entirely from the Eastern Shore. They were family members and friends of those who, to this day, reside in Dorchester County and beyond.”
It was a rainy December day as those attending read the names of the deceased 194 individuals aloud. In most cases, it was the first time that these men and women were publicly acknowledged in life, or death. Father Dan Dunlap, Rector Old Trinity Church, asked for a moment of silence before the names were read.
The most memorable part of the ceremony, according to Judy Slaughter, ESHC director of volunteer services, was when each of the attendees read their names out loud. “These were individuals who had never been recognized. I felt like I could ‘hear’ them smiling,” said Judy.
At one time, it is assumed that there were 194 stone markers in the little cemetery, but only seven remain today. That was all that honored those buried there. There was no indication of who these souls were and why they were unremembered. The new memorial raises awareness, understanding and appreciation of their lives and helps reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The “un-remembered” names are all listed on the memorial. Joel Bunde, General Manager of the Hyatt, says, “The Hyatt shares a mutual history with the Eastern Shore Hospital Center through this sacred ground. It is an honor to maintain and care for the resting place of these 194 souls.”
Today, we have a clearer definition and understanding of mental illness and the long-term impact on these individuals. The mission of the ESHC Auxiliary is to provide the highest quality of direct volunteer services to patients by managing the auxiliary’s resources and coordinating special projects to benefit the therapeutic programs of the Eastern Shore Hospital Center. The auxiliary offers volunteer and financial assistance to hospitalized mentally ill patients who often have little or no support outside of the facility. A major goal for the auxiliary is to reduce the stigma attached to individuals diagnosed with mental illness.
The Eastern Shore Hospital Center, an acute-care mental health facility under the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), is celebrating its 105th anniversary in 2020. It serves all nine counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The auxiliary was founded in 1925 as a volunteer 501(c)3 organization whose sole purpose was to provide direct benefit to the patients of the Eastern Shore Hospital Center.
In 1915, 203 patients with severe mental illness were transported by ferry from the Western Shore of Maryland to the docks of the Choptank River and then by horse-drawn carriages to the then State Inpatient Psychiatric Facility (Eastern Shore Hospital Center). a location where the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay now stands. As years passed, the population numbers grew and included many local residents of Dorchester County.
The physical growth of hospital buildings continued for several decades and the average daily population increased steadily to about 680 patients in 1956. By the early 1970s, the patient census had dropped to about 420, primarily due to a focused effort on deinstitutionalization. On July 1, 1973, the Eastern Shore State Hospital became known as the Eastern Shore Hospital Center (ESHC), which has been fully accredited since May 1967. In November 1993, the hospital moved from assigning patients to their units by geography to a treatment-oriented system. In the mid-1990s, the hospital’s site was considered for public economic development. To allow for development while continuing to provide necessary mental health services, another site of land was purchased, and funding was appropriated to build a new facility, which was newly constructed in 2001. It features a unique treatment mall program offering group therapy/recreational facilities, library, computer room, café and a gift shop operated by the auxiliary.
The ESHC Auxiliary was chartered in 1952 as the first organized auxiliary in Maryland affiliated with a state mental health facility. Its sole purpose was to provide direct benefit to the residents of ESHC. In the 1960s, the auxiliary became the first facility to eliminate drab uniforms worn by patients and to provide “normal” clothing for them.
Today, the auxiliary operates a successful business at ESHC, the A. May Thompson Shop. Open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the shop features new gift items and nearly new clothing. The proceeds are designated to solely fund projects for patients. The shop is located at ESHC, 5262 Woods Road in Cambridge.
Auxiliary membership is open to all individuals and organizations who are interested in advocating and supporting the patients of ESHC. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Judy Slaughter at 410-221-2358.
Great Chesapeake Bay Wellness Race
The Eastern Shore Hospital Center’s (ESHC) 17th annual Great Chesapeake Bay Wellness Race and Family Walk will be held on May 9 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge. This event consists of a timed 10K foot race, a 5K Run/Walk, and a One Mile Family Walk. The event is held every May, in part, to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month.
Join the Eastern Shore Hospital Center Auxiliary to help fight the stigma associated with mental illness. The Great Chesapeake Bay Wellness Race and Walk will help raise funds for direct patient services supported by the auxiliary such as the horticulture, music and art therapy programs, indigent patient funds, the annual patient art show and special patient activities.
The event is set for Saturday, May 9 on the River Marsh Golf Course, located on the resort grounds. The running and walking track will be on the golf course with mile-markers and volunteers staffing water stations. The entry fee is $30 ($35 on race day) and registration begins at 7 a.m. and race time is 8 a.m. Entry fee includes awards at 10 a.m., commemorative shirt, beverages during the run/walk and a generous buffet-style Hyatt Regency Resort breakfast in the Chesapeake Ballroom.
Grand prizes will be awarded to the overall best finish for a male and female runner, as well as the two participants with the highest amount of pledges. Awards will be presented to the first and second place male/female runners in the 10K Race in the following age groups: under 18, 18 to 29, 30 to 49, and 50+.
To donate or for sponsorship information, contact Judy Slaughter, Volunteer Services Coordinator, at 410-221-2358. To register, visit active.com and search for 21613, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a registration and pledge form. Teams are welcome and will be listed in the Race Program if registered by May 1.