GRAND CHUTE – The Outagamie County Insane Asylum Cemetery has been closed for more than 70 years.
But a new county committee hopes to bring changes to the historical area, and honor the 133 people buried there.
On a two-acre site in Grand Chute, a makeshift memorial and antiquated sign remind those of times past.
“When the hospital was in its prime, it was called the insane asylum. And I think we have grown from that point in history where we would not call it an insane asylum any longer. Now we use other names, but in respect to that site, and to the people, that name is being used,” said Jim Beard, Outagamie County Insane Asylum Cemetery Oversight Committee.
But change is on the way.
The newly-formed Outagamie County Insane Asylum Cemetery Oversight Committee approved the site plan Tuesday. Plans include boundaries, benches, and more.
“To pay respect to those interned there. With a monument, with some landscaping, and with recognition of the 133 folks who have passed,” said Beard.
The cemetery is actually very close to the Fox Valley Technical College Truck Driving Training Course. Tech officials say changes will have to be made to traffic signs already in the area.
“They drive both ways. There’s a sign here, and a sign here, that tells pedestrians to watch out for trucks and traffic,” said Beard.
The cemetery operated for 52 years, and last person buried there was seven decades ago. Those who work in the mental health field say it’s an honor long overdue.
“It’s not to change the history or to forget about what actually happened, because it is the Insane Asylum Cemetery, and you don’t want to forget that. But we do want to provide something with a little more dignity,” said Gwen Zimmerman, AGAPE of Appleton.
The site plan has been sent to the State Historical Society for consideration. If approved, improvements could begin in a couple of months.
Any changes need to be approved by the Outagamie County Property Committee, and then the full County Board itself.