Old Bryce Hospital Cemetery is located on the north side of Jack Warner Parkway (formerly River Road) and McFarland Blvd. near the University of Alabama.
Currently Bryce has 3 cemeteries. You have to make an appointment and be escorted when you go as these are private cemeteries, not open to the general public.The newer Bryce cemetery is located on the south side of Jack Warner Parkway (formerly River Road) behind Bryce Hospital. It has been used since the 1920's. Patients that died at Bryce while a patient and did not have another place for burial or no family members that would claim the departed were buried there.
The hospital is named for Peter Bryce, Alabama's first psychiatrist. He was medical superintendent for Alabama Hospital for the Insane from its inception in 1860 to his death in 1892. In 1893 the hospital was renamed for Dr. Bryce.
In the early years of Bryce Hospital, the white patients' markers were made of wood and the black patients' of concrete. For many, the wood deteriorated and the blacks' markers were the only ones which lasted. The markers placed on the patients' graves are just small stones about 5" x 5" with a number on it...eg, 1399, which can be cross referenced back to a patients' name.
Many of the old grave sites were marked with with an iron cross and patient number. Today only about 200 crosses remain out of 1000 graves in that part of the cemetery. The crosses still bear the initials A.I.H. for Alabama Hospital of the Insane.
About 1970 part of the old Bryce Cemetery was moved to make room for River Road. The section of the cemetery nearest the river still remains as it was; the rest of the cemetery was moved nearer to the hospital. When the part of the cemetery was moved, many graves were bull-dozed and pieces of bone as well as casket fragments were found. During the move that created River Road, each grave found was documented.
In the earlier days, the state put people that could not afford other care. Many of the graves would be of those that nobody claimed their body, were so old that they had nobody else, or couldn't afford burial.
The patients once grew vegetables at the soccer fields. For a time in
the mid 1980's methane gas was
pumped from those fields but they later capped off those wells and added to the rec center and soccer fields.
About 1993, there was a planned a survey of Bryce Cemetery and the place near there where they reburied the patients after the road was cut through.
It has been a problem for researchers is that the records are not readily available like other cemetery books are. I guess sometimes you must get in the 'trenches' to retrieve the info. You have to make an appointment and be escorted when you go as these are private cemeteries, not open to the general public. Officials are very cautious about giving out information on deceased individuals.
To conduct research at Bryce Cemetery, you will need need a DOD and death certificate. You can go to any county health department and fill out a request for a death certificate search or visit the Vitalrec.com website for ordering information. The death certificate should show that the person died at Bryce and was buried there, and what they died of. Then you will need to make an appointment to come to Bryce Hospital and look at the records.
If you are a living next-of-kin, you will have to sign a release form from Bryce stating so . Once this is done, they'll pull the microfiche for you to look at and copy any pages you want (copies are $1 each). The main concern of the staff is protecting the privacy of their patients, living or dead. Once you have located where your ancestor is buried at Bryce, you can request to be escorted to the gravesite.
To contact Bryce Hospital: 200 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL
35401 (205) 759-0799
ADAH page on Peter Bryce