Call for help from all Genealogists who believe in burial preservation!
A 2001 article in EOGN prompted many genealogists to submit a public comment to the Wisconsin Historical Society in an attempt to prevent burial disturbance at the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery #2 – Froedtert Tract. This action by many prevented the disturbance of poor farm burials at that time.
Unfortunately, there were two other disturbances (1991/92 & 2013) exhuming a total of 2,480 individuals. Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) approved requests to disturb this cemetery for the benefit of a hospital's growth. Their remains are held as a "collection" for science purposes at UW Milwaukee (UWM) who proudly boast, "...the ARL [UWM's Archaeological Research Laboratory] houses the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Skeletal Collection, one of the largest archaeologically recovered skeletal collections in the western hemisphere".
One of the scientific purposes UWM must perform is identification. UWM states they have identified close between 200-300 when in actuality, they have fully identified 6 out of 2,480 individuals as of last May. Others which they claim are identified, are listed as "mismatch", "unknown", "putative". In other words, they are not scientifically fully identified. (See attached list)
I am kin to four once buried at the poor farm among the 7,000 to 10,000 others who were provided graves by the County between the years of 1882-1925. Many individuals were simply listed as "unknown" in the Burial Book at the time of their death. And some individuals buried here were Civil War Union soldiers!
The State first provided an interim transfer to Marquette for the 1,649 individuals exhumed in 1991/92. In 2008, UWM was awarded the final disposition of this 1991/92 group of 1,649 individuals.
In addition, the State allowed "preservation-in-place" of about 1,000 individuals - that is, these burials were paved over when the new medical complex’ roadway, Doyne Avenue was constructed in 1991. No memorial signage is there and the buried are simply driven over daily for the hospital’s commercial benefit.
In 2013, a second burial disturbance resulted in 831 individuals exhumed. The State provided an interim transfer to UWM for those remains.
On Dec 1, 2022: The WI Burial Sites Preservation Board will begin reviewing and requesting final disposition proposal plans for the 831 individuals exhumed in 2013. (See attachment from WHS to Milw Co.)
Kin who are in the first priority interest on this cemetery's registry, along with community members, plan to propose reburial either on Milwaukee County Grounds or at a local cemetery. Froedtert Hospital, as the entity requesting to disturb in 2013 is to pay reburial costs - per law.
UWM, in the third priority interest intends to propose retaining the 831 individual remains for endless research for scientific purposes. No cost is involved with this type of final disposition transfer as UWM already holds these remains.
The Burial Board members and WHS Director will be making the decision SOON. The members are primarily science-based and believe it or not, UWM's Director of the ARL (as mentioned above), is also a Burial Board member. In other words, it will be very difficult for kin/community's reburial proposal plan to be approved. UWM wishes to retain the 831 remains for science-purposes forever, just like in 2008 when 1,649 individuals were transferred to UWM with final disposition.
Extra voices for support of reburial of the 831 exhumed in 2013 are especially needed at this time and are able to be heard simply by sending an email to the Burial Board before 12/1. One does not need to be a Wisconsin or US resident in order to voice their opinion. Public comments for the 12/1 Burial Board meeting should be sent to:
This Burial Board meeting will be hosted in-person and online via Zoom but the meeting link is not yet posted. This link and the agenda should be found available next week at:
Interestingly, this poor farm cemetery is the ONLY one disturbed which resulted in exhumed remains on shelves at a university. In 2003, the largest disturbance was in NJ when 4,571 individuals were exhumed from a poor farm cemetery, and by 2004, ALL were reinterred. Therefore, the poor farm cemetery in Milwaukee is treated "differently" than anywhere else in the US.
My husband set up a Facebook page in an effort to bring factual information to the public and find other kin related to the once buried. For anyone interested, this is titled: Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery Desecrations & Disturbances.
If any of you feel as strongly as I do about cemetery disturbances and the use of exhumed human remains as a scientific "collection", would you please consider submitting an email to the WI Burial Sites Preservation Board of support for reburial of the 831 individuals exhumed from the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery #2 - Froedtert Tract?
Your effort would be greatly appreciated. Let's hope all raised voices WILL make a difference and 831 individuals including, veterans, family, those unknown at the time of their death, and all of Milwaukee's poor once buried here about 100 years ago, will finally be laid to rest in peace.
Thank you very much for your time and thoughtful consideration.
Judy Klimt Houston; firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Eastman, 514 Americas Way # 3787, Box Elder, SD 57719