In an earlier blog, I mentioned my frustration at not finding the prison camp and hidden cemetery I set out to look for on Mothers’ Day weekend. Well, yesterday, Kim Packard, the founder of Pine Acres came by my campsite after reading that blog and offered to drive me there and show me the area. What a treat!
The former camp for prisoners is located only a few miles from Pine Acres. It was established in 1903 in conjunction with a program to reclaim and improve over 900 acres of wastelands. The prisoners themselves were serving sentences for minor offenses, including drunkenness, and they all suffered from tuberculosis. The camp at Rutland was to be an innovative experiment in rehabilitation as the prisoners were prescribed a tough regimen of diet, exercise, hard work, and fresh air in the hopes of improving their health.
Under the supervision of the very kind and considerate William Turner and his desire to create a self-sufficient community, the prisoners created a working farm of 150 acres to support themselves and supply the neighboring communities and the state prison with fresh eggs, milk, vegetables, and potatoes. The dairy barn housed 60 pure-bred Holsteins, which produced enough milk to send to Worcester.
In 1934, the State of Massachusetts reclaimed the land as part of the Quabbin Reservoir project and shut down the Rutland Prison Camp Hospital for good. You can still see crumbling remains of some of the buildings, including the six-cell solitary confinement building, the fruit and vegetable cellar, and several foundations and walls. Most are in a very sad state of disrepair due to vandalism, destruction, and rampant graffiti.
The “hidden” cemetery is indeed hidden and no longer easy to see clearly. Brush and vegetative growth have covered the area, and all the crosses marking the 59 graves of those prisoners who died in camp have been removed.
Following our short hike out of the cemetery area, we drove to Barre Falls Dam, constructed primarily to prevent severe flooding of the small communities in the area. It is now quite a recreation and hiking area.