Bringing Their Stones Home

A plan to return misplaced headstones to the Dane County Hospital & Home Cemetery.



The Dane County Hospital and Home Cemetery

...is a small rectangular plot of land on Verona, Wisconsin's east side, surrounded by modern development.  Built to serve as a burial ground for residents of the former Dane County Poor House, Poor Farm, and Asylum from the 1880s to around 1950, approximately 440 people are known to be buried there.  People were admitted to these institutions due to reasons such as mental or physical illness, family abandonment, old age, being poor, homeless, or otherwise not being able to care for oneself.  Over half of those buried here were born outside of the United States in places such as Norway, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, or England.

Headstones Removed

Both a 1949 photograph and the memories of longtime Verona residents recall rows of numbered headstones originally being present.  In the 1950s, all headstones were removed and discarded.  The exact reason is unknown, but the local belief is this was done to facilitate easier maintenance.  The actual burials are still present.

Free of any obvious marking for decades, the cemetery became overgrown and largely forgotten.  In 1993 a group of Verona residents, several with connections to the Poor Farm and its former patients, erected a commemorative plaque (seen above) and corner markers to the plot.  Headstones were still absent and unaccounted for.

Found Again!

It has since been discovered that in 1959 an employee of the Poor Farm recovered and reused a quantity of the discarded headstones for landscaping pavers at his new house on Verona's southeast side.  This house is on its fourth family now, and the current family is working with the Verona Area Historical Society to return these stones to the cemetery.  The family has been able to locate and recover 79 headstones - some buried under decades of accumulation.

Putting Them Back, Righting a Wrong

Thankfully, plot maps still exist detailing the layout of the cemetery and the locations and names of each burial.  The most recent map made in 1945 also indicates the presence of buried iron stakes for reference.  Three of these stakes were located with a metal detector in 2015 and have been used to measure out the location of each recovered headstone's grave as closely as possible.

The Verona Area Historical Society's "Bringing Their Stones Home Project" began in 2016 by securing the appropriate permissions necessary to work in this historic cemetery.  We also learned non-destructive ways to re-install the old marble headstones above each grave using small ground holes filled with compacted gravel to facilitate drainage, resist winter cycle heaving, and not damage the headstones.  Small pavers are loosely placed around each stone's base to assist with grounds maintenance.  Some of the stones had been broken in their half century away and have been carefully repaired with an approved epoxy.



Current Status

The entire project is being done with volunteer labor and donations.  As of July 2019, four volunteer "Dig Days" have been held.  Of the 81 total original stones that have been recovered (80 from the Whalen Road house, and one extra from another house in Verona), 66 have been re-installed into their original spots.  Of the remaining 15, 11 have been measured and marked out for our next dig day.  The other are in the northern part of the cemetery (the asylum portion) and will require additional surveying, hopefully to be done in 2020.

The final effort will be to commission an on-site plaque listing the names, birth and death dates, country of origin, and grave number of each known burial.  Our next volunteer dig day will be in 2020, check back here for updates.  Email SaveVeronaHistory@gmail.com if you'd like to help, thank you!


(Above Image:  A 1917 Fourth of July event at the Dane County Poor House in Verona, WI.)

Further Research

Below are a few resources to learn more about the cemetery, and the Dane County Hospital and Home.

  • "Local Project Returning Grave Markers to Old Hospital's Cemetery", a Verona Press article by Jim Ferolie about the project, written in May of 2018.
  • "A Grave Situation", An article written about this cemetery by Melissa Seymour and Jim Ferolie, Verona Press, July 24, 2008.
  • "Dane County Hospital and Home, Verona, Wisconsin" by Walter Kietzke, et al. 1993.  A collection of research related to the Dane County Poor House / Home, Poor Farm, and Asylum/Hospital done by longtime Verona residents in the early 1990s.  This was the group who organized erecting the plaque that still stands on the site today.  Many of them have passed on, and we proudly carry their torch.  Included in this collection are names of people buried in this cemetery and another lost cemetery "A".

Questions or Comments?

Please email us at:  SaveVeronaHistory@gmail.com.  Thank you!


A 1949 photo looking south from the far end shows the cemetery as it looked before stones were removed.
Image Credit:  Vinje, Arthur M. 10/19/1949.  Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The same perspective in early 2018.
Image Credit:  Verona Area Historical Society.