Family memories have faded, but the Murphy sisters, born 10 years apart in 1882 and 1892 into a farm family in Western Maryland, were probably "mentally retarded," Moore said. When their mother died in 1917, no one else could care for them. They were sent to live at Springfield and shared quarters at the hospital. Given the distance between the hospital and extended family, they had few visitors.

"When they died, there was no money for the family to bring their bodies all the way home to Allegany County," said Moore. "And they had been here so long, the family probably thought it best to leave them here."

The names of Bessie and Martha Murphy are etched in the last column on the memorial stone.

"I feel privileged to be here today," Moore said. "I know these graves have been cared for and now the patients buried here have been recognized."

The ceremony Tuesday reminded the nearly 200 in attendance that "it is never too late to fix a problem," Sharfstein said.

"What we do here today reflects on us," he said. "The respect and dignity we have provided these patients is as much about us as them."

Jen Fry, a nurse at the hospital, lives near the grounds and frequently walks among the gravestones.

"There is a real peace here, but I have wondered forever about who they were," she said. "I knew the hospital had to have their names. Now that we have turned the numbers into names, there is still peace but a real difference in how this place feels."

The memorial means 908 people who lived and died at a state institution will be remembered, and that should comfort all people, said Kummerow, the historian.

"We actually die three times," he said. "Once, physically; again when all our immediate family and friends die off; and finally, when the world forgets us entirely. There are only a very few remembered through the centuries."

The Rev. Edward Richardson, hospital chaplain, placed his hand on the memorial and blessed it. The patients were probably buried without ritual, but "God knew all along how important it is to name them," he said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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