Vineland’s Feeble-minded Denizens… A South Jersey History Lesson

Vineland’s Feeble-minded Denizens

By Guest Blogger, Laural Boney

fee·ble-mind·ed (fbl-mndd) adj.

1. Offensive Deficient in intelligence.
2. Exhibiting a marked lack of intelligent consideration and forethought: feeble-minded excuses; a feeble-minded plan doomed to failure.
3. Obsolete Irresolute and weak-willed.
feeble-minded·ly adv.
feeble-minded·ness n.



In the 1880’s, there was a crisis in New Jersey, there was no place for the “feeble-minded” to be cared for. Doctors, professors, and lawmakers alike, were working feverishly trying to figure out what to do about this problem. In 1887, S. Olin Garrison started a school in his Millville home. By year’s end, he had such a surplus of admissions, that he could not take on anymore folks. He soon ran into luck. In early 1888, Garrison received 40 acres of land and the attached, Scarborough mansion, from Vineland Philanthropist, B.D. Maxham. On March 1, 1888, the Vineland Training School opened with the original (and very long-winded) name “The New Jersey Home for the Education and Care of Feeble-minded Children.”


Scarborough Mansion.

By the end of 1888, it was home to 55 boys and girls. The school had made history for being the first to be dedicated to the feeble-minded. In 1892, the school introduced “The Cottage Plan” where instead of large dormitories, the students would live in small group homes. Pupils would learn independence. Practical living skills taught, instead of just being helplessly institutionalize for life.


Edward Johnstone

In 1900, after the death of Garrison, Professor Edward R. Johnstone became head of the school. By 1906, Mr. Johnstone created a psychological research laboratory. It was the first of its kind in America specifically dedicated to the study of mental deficiencies. Henry H. Goddard became its director. Under Goddard’s direction, the laboratory made many breakthrough advancements in mental science. The Training School became the country’s leading authority on mental diseases.



For the next two years, under the supervision of Goddard, the Binet IQ test was translated to English. Testing took place on the residents of the Training School. In 1911, the standardized test was performed on 2,000 Vineland public school students. With its success, the IQ test and the research laboratory , initiated the mental testing movement across the U.S. and around the globe.

In 1912, Goddard wrote a book called, The Kallikak Family- A Study in the Hereditary of Feeble-mindedness. Although, now the books validity is questionable, it was ground breaking in its link between heredity and mental illness. In 1913, the Training School started their extension program. It spread their prolific research across the world. Within that same year, the U.S. Government, sent 3 staff members, headed by Goddard, to Ellis Island. They would perform the mental testing on incoming immigrants.

In 1913, Johnstone built an addition to the Training School. This school was constructed for just the feeble-minded young men. Over 530 acres of land was bought, at the price of $10 per acre and the land became housing and farmland for the young men to work. They gave it the name, “The Menantico Colony.” The Training School saw this rural setting as a place to challenge the men and to ease their minds. It could give them skills that they could use outside of the institution. What made this extraordinary, is that the colony was nearly self-sufficient. The construction costs were offset by the patients labor. Most notably, the building of the structures supervised by masons.


Wagon of the school.

The men, who could not physically perform construction, would work to clear the land. By 1919, there were accommodations for 120 young men. Most of their expenses were completely paid for by the production of the food from the farmland. There was some concern that the work was unethical, but people who visited the farm, knew that these men were happy to be there. They were glad they were not institutionalized. They finally were working to live like any other man of their age.

It made them feel like a human being. The work helped to keep them out of trouble, as you can imagine, with 120 young men in close quarters, many with behavioral problems, there was much frustration among all of them. Instead of fighting, they had a healthy way of getting the aggression out, by clearing brush or pulling up stumps. In only two and a half years, the men had cleared nearly 100 acres of land and started to grow vegetables and fruit, even tending to animals.

The young men, loved their newly built colony so much, they often referred to it as, “our home” or “our colony”, as stated the 1919 book “The Kallikak’s of Kansas: Report of the Commission on Provision for the Feeble-Minded”.

The Book also states, “The colony offers a cheap, safe and happy home for these innocents, where they will be kept from pauperism, crime and disease, and from burdening society with their many defective offspring.” Ouch!! That last part isn’t very nice! During the early years of the colony, they began to experiment on new methods of growing peaches, egg laying and poultry rearing, in conjunction with Rutgers University. With this success, came the research of poultry vaccines.

I have to say I feel like these men lived greatly. They enjoyed work and life. They accomplished so much in the way of farming and research. These men owned their “feeble-mindedness” and did not allow it to hold them back. It is what made the Menantico Colony such a success.

In the early years, of the institution, it was world-renowned for its studies in mental health. Not only did it carry out research on mental deficiencies, it also researched epilepsy, pedology (the scientific study of children), heredity, biochemistry, neuropathology, clinical psychology, metabolism, blood chemistry, photomicroscopy, cephalometry (the study of head measurement), idiocy, criminology, speech pathology, birth injury, electroencephalography (EEG brain wave methods), and much more.

Studies included an Army intelligence test that was used during WWI. Also During WWII, the Vineland Social Maturity Scale (used to measure ones ability to adapt to their surroundings) was standard for military use. The scale set a worldwide precedent and is still current being used today.

In 1945, Professor Johnstone died, it ended his prolific 45 year term as superintendent. Dr. Walter Jacobs took over his place and continued research. Author Pearl S. Buck had placed her daughter at the school in 1925. After visiting the Training School, in 1950, she wrote articles for Readers digest and The Ladies Home Journal. The article titled “The Child Who Never Grew” went on to be published in 13 languages and gave the school publicity.

In decades to come, the school continued to be a leader in mental studies. In 1965, the school’s name was changed to The American Institute for Mental Studies- The Training School Unit, also known as AIMS. In 1970, The Division of Emotional studies was established, to find a treatment for those who were emotionally disturbed. In 198, to avoid closure, the institute was taken over by the Elwyn Institute of Media, Pennsylvania. They proposed a multi-million dollar redevelopment plan to restore the dilapidated campus. For its 100th birthday, in 1988, the school reinstated its original name “The Training School at Vineland.”

In the upcoming years, the school worked to get the residents into community based group homes. The process was complete in August of 1996. The training school has over 50 group homes in South Jersey and has since been renamed, Elwyn, New Jersey.

I started this, with the idea, that it would be full of gruesome history, such as lobotomies and electric shock therapy. I was hoping to find some of that here, but in my research, I found no such things. I do believe they most likely did practice these and many other cruel and unusual treatments, but in those days, it was common to practice such atrocities on people.

The only thing I learned, that was horrific, came from my mother, who worked there in the late 70’s. She told me that my great-grandmother worked at the institution for years and that my great-grandmother told her that the orderly men would get the women patients pregnant. She had walked in on more than a few abortions being performed during the 50’s-60’s. I imagine, The Training School, was not the only place this was happening. I’m sure there are many more of these stories out there. If you have a story about the Vineland Training school please leave it in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

The mansion is on Landis Avenue and The Colony was located on Hence Bridge Road (if you were wondering.)


Hi! I’m Laural Boney. I live in the beautifully historic town of Fairton, NJ. I’m the mother of two perfectly ornery boys. I love History of all kinds, but my favorite subjects would have to be local and ancient history. I love learning new things about this great state especially when its odd or weird. And yes, I love to write too. Follow Laural at

148 thoughts on “Vineland’s Feeble-minded Denizens… A South Jersey History Lesson

  1. maybe you could do a write up of the Lullworth house on kings hwy’ Haddonfield nj on the BANCROFT campus–I believe it was the first house in Haddonfield to have electric lights–a beautiful house–home of Margret Bancroft–in the same teaching category of henry Goddard–just a suggestion—

  2. That was interesting. I knew about the Vineland Training School. I had also heard about the Colony. I knew they dated back quite a few years, but didn’t know their history.

  3. The Elwyn connection goes back far beyond the training school. As the Training School history pages says:

    “In 1845, Cumberland County Senator Stephen Ayres Garrison battled on the floor of the New Jersey Senate to recognize the needs and rights of mentally retarded children. Although his attempt to secure the establishment of a State institution to care for the feeble-minded failed, a provision was made by the legislature for the care of such children at Elwyn, Pennsylvania.”

    For years now, I’ve been trying to learn why Senator Garrison was so interested in this. I’ve never found an answer. My best surmise is that he had one or more in his family.

    Edward Johnstone became the pivotal person for the whole enterprise. He was a caring man who gave to the school this motto:

    “Happiness first and all else follows.”

    The Johnstones had a son, Earl Ransom Johnstone, who has been an object of my research for a lot of years. He was born at the school in 1906, and 18 years later was playing the violin on the newfangled radio. Jack as Earl was known throughout his life became one of the top three producer/directors of radio drama in the “golden age of radio.” He was instrumental in creating the Buck Rogers and Superman radio shows in the 1930s. By the 1950s, he was directing Marilyn Monroe and Jimmy Stuart in radio drama shows. For more info on Jack, see:

    • @Bill the reason why Mr.Garrison was so intent on helping the feeble-minded came from him watching 2 feeble minded children playing in his church that spurred him to fight for those children and others alike. Also I read a little about Johnstone’s son while researching for this blog I know that he did a lot of amazing things in radio and he is often forgotten about but he is not forgotten by me and certainly not you. I think its great your keeping his name alive. I’ll tell ya when I think the name or go by the school I will always think of Jack not just his Father. Both men accomplished a lot of good in their lives they both deserve the recognition for what they did. Oh and I just realize I read your blog about him while researching lol that’s where i learn of Junior so thank you.

  4. I lived at the Vineland Training School from the age of 4 through the age of 17. My mother was an unwed mom in 1938 who gave me up to the state of New Jersey when I was just four.. Why I was placed in Vineland I do not know. I am not mentally or physically challenged so I can only think that they didn’t have anywhere else to put me. My childhood was generally happy but the schooling I received was very minimal.
    The teachers told me that they weren’t allowed to do more for me since I was so far ahead of the others. So my formal education is about third or fourth grade level. We lived in cottages that were age grouped for about 14-24 boys. Hutchinson Cottage for ages 4-5, Baker Cottage for ages 5-10, Mills Cottage for ages 10-14, Robinson Cottage, Cattell A and Cattell B for ages 14 and up. There were grown men in these three cottages also. I now know that some of the other boys had a variety of mental illnesses that were just not diagnosed at the time such as OCD or ADD or ADHD. In 1956 the majority of the boys were sent to Johnstone Training and Research Center in Bordentown, NJ. Most were then sent out into the world to fend for themselves with minimal manual labor jobs. I have very fond memories of growing up in Vineland.

    • Michael, I was very pleased to hear that you have “very fond memories” of living at Vineland. My great grandmother, Gertrude Hartman was also a resident there. I believe she arrived there in 1935, was there in 1940, but that’s all I am able to find out about her, so far. So knowing that you had very positive experiences from there, makes me happy, and very glad for you, as well as for my great grandmother! So, thank you so much for sharing your story.

      • In reply to Lauren Lawson, I also had a relative in the Vineland State School who is shown living there in 1935 and 1940. She had been adopted by my great grandparents and is shown in the 1920 census living with the family. I knew from family stories that she was a problem child and during the 1930’s since my great grandparents were getting older and my great grandmother died in 1937, it seems like my great grandfather could no longer handle her. She was not retarded, in fact she was very cagey and rather out smarted the family over and over again. She showed up at my grandparerents and parents home in the 1960’s when I was a child. Brought a husband and a little girl with her. She was looking to borrow money, which my father had anticipated. Very outgoing and seemingly intellegent person as I remember. So I was wondering if you know how to research the facility in order to get more information. I would love to know how the family was able to admit her and also how she got out and when. Since I am writing the family history, this is one area that has been a problem since I cannot seem to find furthur information.

        Thanks for any help you may have in your own research.

        Joyce Viti Garofolo

        • I am desperately looking for information about this school. My father was adopted. At one point I had a file that said his mother was “sent to live in the Vineland School for the Feeble Minded” but “escaped” 5 days later. Was this also a place they placed unwed mothers? She apparently had been so “friendly” with the men in the police and fire department in Camden she didn’t know the father of her child (my father).

          Unfortunately the file was lost in a hurricane down here in Florida so I can’t recall much more. I know her last name was Selah and she was from Camden. My father was born in 1941. I’m on Ancestry trying to track down anyone from this family. My father, brother and mother have all passed so I am the only Selah left. Would love to know more.

          Please don’t hesitate to contact me!

        • There is a graveyard??? I had no idea! Is there any way I can find out how to get that kind of information? You see, my grandmother was placed in an orphanage along with her sister. She was only 3 years old. She was placed there by her father, and he also put his wife, my great grandmother, in Vineland. He did this because he had started a second family and wanted them instead of his first family…my grandmother, her sister, brother, and mother. And my grandmother never found out what happened to her mom, and never spoke to her or saw her again. And I am on a mission to find out! So with that said, any and all information, and help is GREATLY appreciated!!!!

        • Lauren…The grave yard is at the Training School(now Elwyn). Based on you response…I’m guessing your relative was at the Vineland State School/Developmental Center. The facilities are across the street from each other. The Training School was a private facility. So to have someone placed there would have required some amount of financial means on the part of the family. You need to find out which facility your relative was at? Getting information from Elwyn about the former Training School is quite frustrating. The state facility may be more receptive. You just need to find out definitively which facility your relative was at. I suggest you contact me directly via my email at:

        • The graveyard for the Vineland State School now known as Vineland Developmental Center) is located on the Almond Rd. campus. It is located near the building which currently houses the Vineland Bd. of Ed Pre-school program. I know they kept records of who was buried there. You might want to try contacting the Central Records Department of VDC. Give them as much info as you have. Hope this helps.

    • Michael, I met a woman (now deceased) who taught at Vineland probably during some of the time that you lived there. She told me that there were definitely children of normal intelligence at Vineland–just as you were. She had told me at the time that she believed some of the children came from poor families where the parents just didn’t feel equipped to take care of the children and hence, they ended up institutionalized at Vineland more because of poverty than because of intelligence level. However, she never addressed why this would have been the decision made for a normal child–versus foster care, a group home, or an orphanage, for example, until adoption could be arranged. But whatever the reason you were placed in Vineland, I’m glad that you didn’t find the entire experience dismal.

      That all said, let me share another story this former Vineland teacher told me.

      Molly later married, and her husband was an officer overseeing some of the reconstruction of Germany after World war II. While overseas with him, she ran into one of her former Vineland students–someone who had been of at least average intelligence. He was in the U.S. Army and involved in some of our reconstruction work there. Anyway, he begged Molly not to tell anyone how she knew him. After all, he was afraid that some folks might start giving him a hard time about being mentally retarded–to use the term which would have been used at that time, unless they were still describing people as being feeble-minded.? Of course, she understood his concern and assured him that she would keep his secret.

      I’m glad I came across your post and could share this with you. I met Molly after she and her husband had retired to New Hampshire–where my parents were living in retirement, too. As they say, it is a small world–especially with the internet!

    • I am trying to learn something of a woman who once taught at the school. Her name was Margaret Durand. Can anyone help me in this endeavor? Among other things, I am trying to find out when she first worked at the school. She had a mentally challenged son named Jerome, and her husband was George Durand.

    • I had a neighbor who’s son was raised at the Vineland training school and he was sent there because his mother was unwed also. He told me he learned to read but he didn’t get much of an education. He did have a temper but lived with his mother til she passed.

  5. Hi I worked at the American Institute for Mental Studies from 1978 until 1983. I have just started writing a book about many of the situations that occurred doing those years. It was not a good time in reference to management and during its decline, alot of bad things went down there including abuse and death. Just as I was looking to work at the Vineland State School next door, Elwyn Institute took over. I have been back to Vineland (I live in AZ now) from time to time and stroll the grounds… it is very creepy to me… many of the cottages had been left with furniture and belongings. A friend told me that the asbestos is so bad in them that it would be a major environmental hazard to tear them down, so they have just been locked. I understand many ghost shows have asked permission to film there without luck. It definitely would make for an interesting story.

    • Susan…I suspect we worked there at the same time. I was there through most of the 70’s. I was there when the place basically crumbled. The beating death of one of the younger residents was the straw that broke it open. I started in Mills Cottage as a direct care counselor, in transportation, recreation and finally as a teacher of the handicapped. I’ve actually been inside some of the abandoned cottages. So sad, and yes very creepy indeed! There is no way most of them could be re-built/renovated. I would like to share more. My email is

        • What would you like to know? I suggest you email me at my regular email… I will say this, the whole situation was hushed up quite quickly. To this day It’s pretty much impossible to get anyone to talk about it. That includes the local police dept. and prosecutors office.

      • I read with great interest the Vineland’s Feeble-minded Denizens… A South Jersey History Lesson” you provided. I noticed a significant gap from 1919 to 1945. My aunt was at this facility in 1935. She passed away under mysterious circumstances in 1948 at the age of 21 years. There are reports of criminal interactions between staff and residents with surgical procedures being performed by less than talented physicians. Is there a record of admissions/patients? Thank you Barry Constantine

        • Hi Barry-

          My dads mom was sent there as an unwed mother and my dad was put into the foster system. I know she was there in 1941 but disappeared after she gave birth to my dad. I want to know how that could happen and see the records. Did you ever find them? If so, can you contact me at Thanks!

  6. My grandmother’s sister Colombia Butler was sent there as a child sometime around 1920. I do not know the extent of her mental disability. I believe she was preteen and stayed institutionalized until her death in the late 70s.

    • Dan…If your grandmother isn’t buried in a family plot…your grandmothers grave may very well been at the cemetery on the grounds.

    • Dan…There were other “Butlers” (Freddy…likely deceased as well by now) at the training school when I worked there in the 70’s. I do not recall a Columbia Butler. But I worked with teens and young adults at The Training School/AIMS. I suggest you contact me via my regular email at: I know of someone that worked there during the early 70’s that may have known your grandmothers sister.

    • For Dan Parrish: There is a Columbia Butler listed in the 1940 census for Vineland. She is listed as being 17 years old at the time.

  7. I wish someone would write a book on all the children with no mental illness that lived most if not all their life in the Vineland state school and we’re not allowed to leave. My mother was taken from my grandparents when she was 6 years old then at 16 she was sent to the Vineland school where she was forced to stay for half her life.

    • Hi Connie,
      If you would like to write about your mothers’ experiences, please let me know. I may be able to help you.

      Joyce Viti Garofolo

      • I stopped at the Vineland State School a few months ago to see if I could get any info about my mother’s stay there. After waiting and with several inter office calls, they told me that my mother’s records were destroyed in 1953. I thought that the state had to keep records for many years before they could be destroyed. My mother told me about other people that were kept there without any disabilities. So unfair

        • Hi Connie,
          I know it is frustrating when you are told records have been destroyed. Sometimes you have to work around that. I just got court records for my great grandfather after being told by the co. clerk that they may have been destroyed since it was in the 1930’s. Finally got them from Superior Court. If there were any court records on your mother, try probate court since those records will list the how and why your mother was placed in the school. Also try NJ State ARchives. They will be able to help and they are very kind.

        • Connie…was your mom at The Vineland State School or The Training School/AIMS in Vineland. Either way, it’s pretty much impossible to find any old records of residents at either facility. The Training School/AIMS did/does have a cemetery on grounds. In both facilities there were residents that would today have never been placed in either facility. Unfortunately in the early to mid 1900’s it was a very common practice.

        • The “State School” and “The Training School/AIMS” are two different facilities?

    • The Vineland State School and The Training School/AIMS are two different facilities. Although they are across the street from each other.

    • Connie…The Training School was no different as far as residents that should have never been there….except it was private. 😦

  8. I wish I had been more aware of things when I worked at AIMS in approx 1966-1967. I was 18 at the time. I stayed in a room on the grounds most of the time while I worked there. I remember some staff who were definitely client focused and it made it a great experience for me and I remain close friends with one person. There were two ponies on the grounds back then that I got to play with before work.. And Boris, who lived there – he must have been a previous employee who still lived on the grounds – he was a Russian Cossack and a wonderful man who will always remain in my heart. I later went on and got my degree in Mental Health and I’m sure my experience there influenced my decision.

    • Wow Margie…Glad to hear you had some great experiences at The Training School/AIMS. I was there during most of the 70’s. I remember it was right around the time they started to phase out house parents and staff living on the grounds. I too started my mental health career at The Training School/AIMS. I know w/o a doubt working there had a profound impact on my life.

    • Margie…Actually the man you speak of that cared for the ponies was a resident of AIMS. One of the many that should have never been institutionalized at that time in history.

        • My thoughts are with you and the loss of your Dad. He fought long and hard against his Parkinson’s with the huge support of his wife. He was a good man, one of the best and I know he did a lot for AIMS. I will forever miss him and am so fortunate to have known him and kept up with him for almost 50 years.

        • No, sorry I don’t remember Joe Ascoli. I remember a woman named Sonja who worked there – red head, and another woman Bonnie maybe? short dark hair. And Boris. Dear Boris. And a couple of the residents, one who won my heart – I always wondered what happened to her. Another red head – initials LB.

        • There was quite a lot of staff turnover there. So it’s very difficult to recall folks. I imagine it wasn’t an easy place to work for some. Do the initials you posted belong to a male or female resident?

  9. I just found this website. Very interesting. My grandfather was the founder, S. Olin Garrison, and I have always been interested in the school and Garrison family. I was born many years after he died, but enjoy researching the history.

    • Norma…I have been trying for a few years now to get Elwyn to agree that there is a a need to do some type of historical documentary on The Training School/AIMS. The few buildings that are left have been allowed to decay and are being taken over by nature. Eventually they will be torn down. That seems to be Elwyns approach…let they decay and then destroy them. I have a friend in the film industry that would love to get into the remaining buildings to film and do a story about the history. Sadly, I can’t seem to get anywhere. There is one staff member that has been very receptive…unfortunately this individual is not in any position to make it happen. You are the second relative of a former founder that has shown up on this blog. The great granddaughter of Dr. Johnstone is also on here. I contacted her as well. I look forward to hearing from you. My regular email is

    • Hello Ms. Logan.

      I worked at the Training School from 1985-1989 as a group home staff member, Case Manager and Supervisor of Case Management. Mr. Garrison had either a grandson or nephew who was a resident of TTS and Menantico. His name was Phillip. I was his caseworker when he was in his later years. Phillip would often come to my office and sit and chat and would ask for chocolate. I grew quite fond of him, taking him to my family’s home for holidays and to a restaurant for a meal on his birthday. He passed away in 1991-92 (?) and is buried in Siloam Cemetery in Vineland. He was definitely impaired but such a sweet man. He told me about having an accident at Menantico where he fell of the wagon and injured his leg. Subsequently, he walked with a walker.

      As I worked with all of the senior residents, (most born in the 1900s or 1910s), I would hear stories of being placed because of promiscuity, having a quirk, etc. Many were children of wealthy families or prominent people who did not want to deal with “problems”. I loved working with those seniors!!

      Thank you to the original poster for bringing back some memories!

    • I worked for Elwyn-TTS in the late 80s for 3 years. I was a Case Manager there in the senior cottage (Caiola). Many of the residents were placed there for “ornery” or “promiscuous” behavior. Many were from wealthy families who placed them on “Lifetime” status, paid a large fee and the resident was cared for by the school for the rest of their lives. Many of the residents I worked with had that status. Some were private pay and others were state funded. The youngest resident I worked with was in their 60s.

      One of the residents was named P. Garrison. He was such a sweet man and was allegedly the great grandson or great nephew of the founder, S. Olin Garrison. I grew very fond of my seniors and sadly they passed one by one. I recall some of the stories they told but most have escaped me. I believe that the last of “my residents” passed about 10 years ago.

      I hope that some of this information is helpful for you and the rest of the folks looking for information about TTS.

  10. Hello Laural…
    I worked at AIMS/The Training School during most of the 70’s. Your grandmother is correct, sometimes things aren’t always as they appear or presented when it came to AIMS/The Training School. I grew up around the corner from the the main campus at Main Road and Landis Avenue. My first job there was as a cottage counselor, then in recreation, transportation and finally as a special education teacher. Hence I got to see many facets of the day to day…evening to evening so to speak workings within the facility. In many ways it was a magical place to work. Especially getting to know so many of the wondeful residents. However, there was a dark side to the facility as well. Places such as The Training School/AIMS are very difficult to staff with competent, compassionate and stable folks. Much of the facilities difficulties that I witnessed in the 70’s stemmed from staffing issues. Add the this the downward financial and mangerial spiral that started with Dr. Jacobs and ended with Dr. Smith. Sadly I was there at the end of the 70’s when everything that could go wrong did go wrong at this facility. Culminating in mulitple arrests and the death of a young resident under very suspicious circumstances. The beginning of the end so to speak. Although the end had been comiing in all reality since the 60’s it seems. For me personally it was such a sad, sad, sad end to a once world renown facility. I still live close by and walk the grounds frequently. The decay and subsequent demolishing of once such beautiful buildings and grounds is heartbreaking. I have many fond memories of my work there and of so many of the residents. Wondering whatever became of so many of them. I have talked with a few folks that are employees of Elwyn that were also there in the late 70’s. Except for a very select few, most seem as though they could care less about the the history of the facility and it’s present state of physical decay. The buildings are essentailly falling down…just waiting for the wrecking ball. The graveyard is overgrown and hasn’t been maintained for years. Very sad indeed! Apparently the property at Main and Landis has been for sale for years. I imagine when it’s sold…not a trace of the The Training School/AIMS will exist. I would love to hear from you via my private email.
    Peace…J. Jody Janetta

    • My father worked at the Training school for many years. Starting as a speech therapist and ultimately becoming the Superintendent under Dr. Jacobs. During his time as superintendent we lived on the grounds at the house at the Main road entrance. I believe it’s a bank now. When Dr Smith came in he got rid of a lot of the senior staff including dad

      • Brad…I recall your dad…Leon Glovsky if I’m correct. Dr. Smith destroyed the facility. He was an awful human being.

  11. I found this article very interesting along with the comments. My grandmother was in Vineland for a time (about 1938 or so.) Was sent as an ‘incorrigible’ as she had already had 2 children out of wedlock and was pregnant at the time. We believe that the baby was delivered and put up for adoption but she would never talk about it. She was also sterilized but according to everything I’m reading this wasn’t done. (?) My family says it was not an uncommon practice for unwed mothers of multiple children at the time. It seems like there is quite a bit of whitewashing of the information w/in the state of NJ but it is good to hear that she was in a mostly pleasant place at least. I can’t find any records of the birth but I did find her name there in a census year. Thanks for the info.

    • J. Van…Was your grandmother at The Vineland State School or The Training School/AIMS? The facilities are across the street from each other. In either case, finding old records is pretty much impossible. I was an employee there throughout the 70’s.

      • My grandmother was listed in the 1940 census as being in ‘The Vineland State School’. I believe there was one facility and another came later. If you were there in the ’70’s, it was a very different set-up. She was there 30 years prior.

        • J. Van…I was employed at The Training School/AIMS, not The Vineland State School. I did do a special education/teacher of the handicapped internship rotation at The Vineland State School in the late 70’s.

      • I noticed that your article doesn’t mention the connection between Goddard and the Eugenics movement. There was a rather dark side to his studies and Hitler used some of Goddard’s research as the basis for his Eugenics theories for creating a master race. I believe that this is why it was deemed okay at the time to forcibly sterilize a woman who was deemed ‘simple’ and ‘incorrigible’. There is a lot of fascinating history connected to this place but I cannot find any available records.

    • Oh my goodness. Same situation here. My grandmother was placed here for being an unwed mother. My father was put up for adoption. He was taken as an infant into a wonderful family but they never fully adopted him- he was a foster child. He found out his last name was Selah when he went to apply for his license. Years ago I obtained a file about my dad that said his mom was sent to Vineland. She was part of a huge family from Camden. I can find all of the siblings in her family except her. Eleanor would have been there in 1940-41. I am trying to get a replacement file from the state, it’s called a “Foster Follow Up File” that was full of information. It was destroyed in a hurricane and the state refuses to give me another one because my dad is deceased (he never requested the first one- I did) so I’m very frustrated. If anyone has any information about young unwed mothers being sent there I would love to know more details.

      I’ve spent the last 30 years or so looking for this family… this information has me stunned. Thank you to all that responded with personal stories.

      Jacksonville, Florida

  12. I worked at the Vineland State School in the summers of 1973 and 1974. I was a student at Glassboro State College (Now Rowan University) and was studying Special Education. Vineland hired students for the summer to assist the residents in recreational activities. I worked in a mostly non-ambulatory unit and many of the residents were extremely disabled. I cannot imagine they were able to go to group homes. However, my job was to get as many out in the fresh air as possible. The campus had a “train” that was run all day by a college student. The main “car” had seats for the residents in the other “cottages.” For my residents there was a flatbed car that we could roll wheelchairs onto so the residents could take a ride. For those that were able, I would help them get ready for church services that were held on the campus. I would also take those able to the pool – even if it was just to feel the water. We did crafts and other activities as well. For those completely non-ambulatory and severely disabled, I would just try to walk by their “cribs” and talk to them and perhaps hold their hands. I do recall one resident who was non-ambulatory but could curse up a storm. I felt the staff – particularly those that hired us for the summer – were extremely concerned about the residents and about giving them whatever pleasures they could. The atmosphere was as much like a summer camp as possible. My parents came to visit one time when there was a festival of sorts held at the campus. My mother always wore a lot of costume jewelry and by the end of that day, she had given it all away to the young women residents.

    I also recall one resident – I believe in a private room in one of the cottages – who was close to – or was 100 years old. She was a great lady. She chewed tobacco and they had to place newspapers all around her room for when she spit. She was fun to see and talk to. I also recall that Carol Buck (Pearl S. Buck’s daughter) lived on the campus, but I do not recall if I saw her.

    I no longer live in New Jersey and it is sad to hear that the place is just abandoned. I am sure bad things occurred there – and that individuals were placed there inappropriately, but what I saw was a place that cared about the residents and tried to make life as good as possible. Hadn’t thought about it in a long time. Thanks for your post.

    • Actually it’s not completely abandoned. The main building and a few others are still in use. However, most of the residents now live in some type of group home setting. Sadly most of the buildings have been left to the elements…just waiting for the wrecking ball. It is amazing since this was a world renown facility at one time. I was bale to actually visit last year and was permitted to check out a few of the cottages that have been abandoned. The saddest being the one I started out my career in mental health working in. It’s basically falling down. I still live very close to the property and take walks through the campus all the time…going into buildings that should not be! 😉 I worked there through most of the 70’s. First as a cottage counselor, then in recreation, transportation and finally as a special education teacher. The Training School/AIMS had a profound impact on me that continues to this day. I have very fond memories of the residents…some of the most wonderful folks I have every met throughout my life.

    • Carol Buck was not at The Vineland State School. She was at The Training School/AIMS. The facilities are actually across the street from each other.

    • Susan…It sound like you were at The Training School/AIMS and not The Vineland State School??? I was an employee at The Training School/AIMS throughout the 70’s.

    • Susan…I’m pretty confident we may have worked together at The Training School/AIMS during the 70’s.

      • Hi Jody – we definitely worked there at the same time. I was also a special ed student at Glassboro and was there those 2 years. I worked in the older, female, non-ambulatory unit. Do you remember the train driver – it has been too long to remember his name, but most everyone knew him because he came to all the units to gather the residents. Good to hear from you. Susan

        • Susan…I too was a special ed/psych major at Glassboro. I graduated in 77 and my 1st teaching position was at the Training School/AIMS. What is your last name (send to my regular email at My guess is we had some of the same professors…Vivarelli, Maddoxs (was a a former administrator at The Training School/AIMS), Heifmiester. Ognibene, Rosenberg, Herman etc…Peace Jody

    • Susan…Did you have Vivarelli, Rosenberg, Haifmeister, Maddox and Ognibene as professors in the Special Ed program?

  13. Carol Buck was at The Training School/AIMS…Not at the Vineland State School (Vineland Developmental Center)

    • Could not send to email listed for J. Jody Janetta. Had hoped to ask a few questions regarding Vineland State School. In particular, about one Margaret Durand who died in 1962. She was a teacher there

      • Rick…I Did not work at The Vineland State School. I was employed at the Vineland Training School/AIMS. The two facilities are across the street from each other.

  14. I think my granduncle, Thomas Cunningham worked at the Training School, AIMS until 1971. He died here in Ireland in 1984. In his papers are correspondence from Adelheid Gorr and Emmet Maddock, who also worked there. Hutchinson Cottage is mentioned. Does anyone remember Thomas Cunningham? He was tall and thin, and fond of discussing the weather!

  15. I am the Great Granddaughter of Professor Johnstone. There is a lot more to the history of the Training School that was not covered in this article. Professor was a very kind,loving man & went to great lengths to teach the world more about the”feeble-minded”.
    He was even Knighted. Our family has more on the history of this amazing man & the school he ran.

    • Kimberly…I have been trying in vain to get some recognition for the history of the Training School/AIMS. The present owners are Elwym Institute and they seem rather un-interested for the most part. There is one person on staff that seems very interested. I have a very dear friend in the film industry that would love to set the wheels in motion for a historical documentary. Unfortunately the present administration seems rather resistant. Sadly the place in literally falling down and Elwyn does not seem to care. So if something doesn’t happen soon there will be nothing to film. My regular email is

  16. Pingback: No. XII Case Studies – Delinquents | Thinking Locally

  17. Wow, interesting stories about Vineland. When were those old cottages closed? It amazes me that parents were allowed to leave their children there to be raised by the state because they couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them or take responsibility for them. After all, they had them. Did they not know how children are conceived? The parents should have been made to support them. Instead they got free child care for life. Now we have welfare and section 8 housing. Sad for those children back then.

    • Donna…The Training School/AIMS was not a state facility…it was private. Such arrangements where pretty common up though the 60’s into the early 70’s. The Training School/AIMS was a world class facility at one time in history. Since Elwyn took over they have simple let the buildings go as well as the graveyard. very sad indeed!!!

    • Hi Donna, I wanted to share my story of my brother Carmen who attended the training school in Vineland School NJ My bother was at the Vineland Training school around late 1940’s early 1950 my brother was mild MR and my parent’s sent him to the training school for an education because the local sohool system at the time said my brother was “not” to be allowed in a regular classroom in a public school. My bother was not “a bad child” my parent’s said after placement they had to hire a lawyer to get him out of the school. My mother told me the condition’s were “horrible” and when my parent’s found out what was really going on, they pulled my brother out (Carmen J Rosati Jr) DOB 11/11/1940 he lived for 55 years and was cared for by my mother. My mother died when she was 80 3 years after my brother.

  18. My mother was an inmate at Vineland from 1920 to 1930. I found this on census records, but know nothing more. Does anyone know if the Vineland records are archived somewhere?

    • Was she in the State Facility or the Training School? They were across the street from each other. You would have to know which facility she was in. Even then you will find it very difficult to get any information. Good Luck!


        • Contact the Vineland Board of Health. If your relative is in the graveyard on the grounds they may be able to help. I recently was able to help another relative find his brothers grave on the grounds. Good Luck!

  19. My name is Barry Constantine. My aunt, Thelma Constantine was at the State Home for the Training of feeble-minded girls in 1935 and beyond. She died under suspicious circumstances in 1948 and the family has been told what had happened to her. The rumors were a botched abortion at the facility. How can I investigate what may have happened to my aunt?

    Thank you,

    Barry Constantine

    • Barry…The State Home for the Training of Feeble-Minded Girls you refer to is the facility your aunt was at. That facility was right across the street from The Training School/AIMS which was co-ed and private. You would have to contact the state of NJ Dept of Human Services. The facility she was in is still located in Vineland, NJ. Good luck getting any answers. Sadly, a botched abortion is very possible.

    • Stopped there a few years back. After talking with the lady at the window and waiting for about 20 to 30 minutes she told me that the records were distroyed. Check in the archives in Trenton, I thought records are suppose to me kept for 100 years before being destroyed.

    • Barry please let me know if you find anything out about your Aunt. My grandmother was admitted there for being an unwed mother in 1940-41? I can’t find any census info for her ANYWHERE after there. It was said she “escaped”… don’t know if I believe this.

  20. It was an unusual way to end a story about an institution created to better the plight of the unfortunates of the area. The salacious occurrences should have been saved for another article.

  21. Are there any records available that could verify whether a particular individual was at the Vineland Training School, or died and was buried in the cemetery on the property?

  22. I had a dream last night about the Vineland Training School/AIMS and decided to go to the internet and see if I could find out any new information on the school. My family had an unique history with the school. In 1956 my father was hired as the head dietition for the school.(Robert Gower) He was in charge of feeding all of the residents as well as maintaining the food production from the farm at Menatico. At this point of time all of the residents lived in cottages and would go to a separate building where they ate at a dining hall. There were residents who worked for the dining hall and earned money weekly. My father also had a group of men who worked with him at the farm at Menatico. All of the food production was used at the institution to feed the residents. The residents lived a good life where they learned basic life skills such as getting dressed and feeding themselves. I never saw any resident who couldn’t walk. They went to school to get an education. They had social gatherings and put on plays. They saw movies, went swimming in the swimming pool, went on trips, and had picnics at Menatico. My family participated in these activities. There were family days where the residents families could come and spend time with their child. In the late 1960’s things started to change and my father’s job ended when another organization stated that they could save the school money and decided to have staff feed the residents in the cottages that they lived in.

    In 1956 I was two years old and continued to visit the institution until I was a teenager. When I was going to college in New York state in 1976 I was hired to work at AIMS for the summer doing summer activities with male teenagers. In the summer of 1977, I worked third shift in a cottage with male teenagers. In January of 1978 through 1979, I did vocational training for adults living at the school. These jobs turned my thinking to finding jobs that teach vocational skills to mentally retarded adults with learning issues. When I moved back to New York State in late 1979, I applied for work at other institutions particularly vocational training. So many jobs questioned me about working at AIMS. Most interviewers believed that there was no way that the institution would have hired me. I told them to get in touch with the school and they would find out that I was telling the truth. Working at AIMS was such a fantastic job opportunity that I was given. I am so grateful for the priveledge of working in this atmosphere.

    I believed that I worked with you in 1976. My name was Raven Gower at that time. I also remember the incident of a resident who was deaf and killed in one of the teenage cottages. It was later stated that a staff member killed the boy for refusing to have sex with the staff person. A group of residents were bullied into stating that they had done the deed and were punished as well as confined into the hospital located on the grounds. They were kept there for around 6 months until the police department sent 2 undercover agents to get the truth. The staff people involved were arrested and spent time in jail. The parents of the child refused to let any residents or staff to attend the residents funeral. The staff was so upset and confused with the situation. Most of the staff loved the residents and treated them as family. This was such a blow to the staff population. This teenage boy was such a loving person and died in such a tragic death. I will never forget this resident.

    • Hello Raven! Wow, it’s been a very long tine since we worked together at AIMS. I was actually in contact with the brother of the young boy killed at AIMS. He and communicated for sometime about 2 years ago. Lot;s of rumors and mis-information about the murder. It essentially remains “unsolved”. The folks that went to jail did not go related to the murder directly.

    • Jody, it is so great to hear from you. For a long time, I did not see my article included in this area. I would love to talk to you. I live in Florida now and would like to hear from you. My telephone number is:386-317-4203 and my email address is Raven

      • Hay Raven…I never heard back from you??? This site is terrible at keeping folks connected and in contact. It’s best if you contact me via my personal email at

  23. I, like most in these conversations, know The Training School; quite well. I worked as a summer counselor from 1963 thru 1971. I knew Jimmy W, Boris, Henry Renne and children like Carol Buck, George Cunio, Eddie Call, Diane Lane and Betty Messenger. I worked between Elmer, Loudon and Carol cottages. My memories are of my vast learning experiences there. Dr. Jacob, Mr. Fanning, Dr Hollowinsky, etc. were administrators that took their positions seriously. The downfall was more because of a new era beginning. New studies were being proven that mentally handicapped children were better with their families than in institutions. The nurturing was far superior. With that thought many families did just that – kept their child at home. The school was started to have financial issues. When Dr. Smith took over, instead of trying to bring in more children, he turned to the state. He “sold” the famous school and abused his titled. I agree that the 70’s were terrible times. I am glad that I experienced the good days. I have very fond memories.

    • Dea…I know all of the folks you have mentioned! It was a wonderful place to work.I worked there in th 70’s and it still had it’s good qualities until the later part of the 70’s Dr. Smith was an awful human being.

      • Hi Dea…I was hoping to hear back from you? Do you recall Maurice and Irene (I think that was her name)? They were both residents and a couple. Very high functioning and lived independently on the main grounds.

  24. I live very close to this place, I drove in the driveway but there’s a gate and a sign that says something about dropping off deliveries. I want to check it out so bad! Had no idea what this place was but just saw on Google maps the name of it. So interesting. Is there another way of getting back there besides Hance bridge rd?

    • Melanie…Do not attempted to go back there. The property is privately owned by a singe family. They will call the police. Fortunately my wife and I took some photos before it was sold. I knew the campus well when I worked for AIMS/The Training School.

      • Hi Melanie…Did you ever go back and attempt to talk to the owners. They have been known to allow folks onto the property with them escorting.

  25. Mr. Chicano,

    I live not far from the Vineland Training School. In the summer, the school would make trips to Lake Lenape for the children to swim. They ( the children) were always well behaved and seemed well cared for.

    Unfortunately, people being what they are, salacious occurrences are part of life, and part of the history of the Vineland Training School. Pretending they didn’t happen doesn’t change anything.

    I am curious if there is any published history of the Vineland Training School? So far I can only find small pieces of information here and there.

    • Roy…
      Finding anything out abut the history of Training School has gotten more and more difficult since Elwyn took over. They have been consistently tight-lipped and resistant to any suggestion of a historical account. I have attempted to discuss the idea of a documentary. Sadly, no interest at all….some resistance in fact. I wanted to go onto the grounds and film what was left of the facility and go through old files and photos. Most of which have been left in decaying buildings to rot. It’s all very sad indeed. It’s not even considered a historical site in NJ.
      I agree about the “salacious” comment/attitude. I was employed there when the murder happened and knew many of the folks connected on one way or another. Anyone that worked there knows the 3 residents that were held accountable for the murder in no way had anything to do with it. A few years back I was able to talk to the brother of the young boy that was killed. He was very interested in my thoughts and seemed quite sad about what had happened to his brother…and the outcome legally.
      He and I have a pretty good idea who was likely responsible for the murder (he has since passed away)…or at least this person knew who did commit the murder. There were two female staff members that were on-duty in that building the day of the murder that were never thoroughly questioned???
      Many of us feel murder is an “unsolved” one.

  26. Hi, I grew up in Vineland, NJ. My grandfather J . Forrest Adams was the baker for the Vineland State School. My grandmother Gertrude Gross was a nurse at the Almond Rd Facility. My grandfather also owned the Adams Bakery and I have a calendar from 1930 but would like to get more information about this. Any help you could provide would be wonderful.

  27. My aunt Rose Rachel Chasens was confined to the Vineland Training School from August 9, 1961 until her death on April 2, 1996. She was born may 1, 1906, so she would have been almost 90 at her passing. She was born and raised in Woodbine. I contacted the facility (now the VIneland Developmental Center) a couple of years ago seeking information but could only obtain a copy of her admission form. I was told her records were destroyed after she died. They did do a search of the burial records for New Freedom Cemetery but could not find anything on her. Is there anyone out there who worked there at the time who might have some information on my aunt. I would love to find out more about her and where she is buried. Thanks for any replies in advance. Bert Garber. Email: . Telephone: (985)893-9058

    • Bert, I worked at The Training School at Vineland from 1985-89 in the social work department. When I had a caseload, I had all of the senior residents. If your aunt resided at what is now the Vineland Developmental Center, I would not know her because The Training School is a different facility across the street from VDC. Back then, it was called the Vineland State School. I wish I was able to provide more information. Good luck in your search!

      • I can’t be certain of the name of the specific facility she was in. The person who sent me the copy of the “Register Of Admission” for my aunt was Katerine (Katy) O’Doyle, Central Record Supervisor, Vineland Developmental Center. The document itself has the number 5140 at the top left, but it does not include the name of the facility or the address.

        • Hello Bert. I worked at the Vineland State School for two summers (1973, 1974) while attending college. I worked in the cottage with elderly women and women who were non-ambulatory. I don’t recall any of the names of the residents or the people I worked with, but I do recall some faces and I have strong memories of my time there. So, I won’t be able to tell you anything about your aunt specifically, but I can tell you that what I saw was good. A group of college students was hired every summer. Our entire mission was to provide fun activities for the residents. There was a train that went around the campus all day taking residents on rides. There was a special “car” that was attached for those in wheelchairs so everyone could go. We took residents to the pool and did crafts with them. On Sundays, we took those who wanted to go to church on campus. We spent time visiting and talking to everyone. At the end of the summer, there was a “carnival” and friends and family members would spend an afternoon with the residents playing games and enjoying themselves. I can’t speak to how things were any other times, but perhaps this may help to know that, as far as I saw, your aunt would have been well cared for and her emotional needs were addressed. This, of course, does not negate those who may have been sent there inappropriately or if any were subjected to harsh treatment. I can only speak of what I saw. Good luck in tracing your aunt. Susan

      • Lynn…I trust you are well.I’m wondering if might be able to shed some light on a few residents I worked with in the 70’s at AIMS. Please contact me via my email: i don’t want to post names here in a public forum
        Peace…J. Jody Janetta

    • I worked at Vineland State School – later renamed Vineland Developmental Center – for over 30 years, and I did know Rose Chasens in her later years. She was a small framed woman who rarely, if ever, spoke. As I recall, she would easily be described as “prim”. She liked to wear a cloth smock over her dresses and would occupy herself with the pockets and hem of the smock. For an 80 plus year old (when I knew her), she was able to do many things for herself. I was on duty when she suffered what I assume was either a heart attack or stroke while in the community area of her building one evening. Her passing was extremely quick. It is possible her funeral was “private”, provided either by family or her burial fund. Funerals arranged by the State were rotated among 3 or 4 local funeral homes at the time. Have you checked with any of them?

      • Thanks for that information. The last time I saw my aunt was when I was about 11 years old (probably around 1956). She still lived at home with her mother, my grandmother. When my grandmother was no longer able to care for herself or my aunt, she was sent to the institution. Do you remember the names of those funeral homes & are any of them still in business?

        • The only one I remember for sure is Demarco-Luisii, still in business in Vineland. Sorry for the over due response.

  28. I had a great uncle (Charles Abijah Barker) who it appears was sent to Vineland sometime between 1906 and 1910, between the ages of 11 and 15. I don’t know exactly what his issues were, but newspaper articles claimed he was feeble-minded, along with being an incorrigible thief. His constant criminal behavior was reported on in the Camden newspapers. Unfortunately, the school did nothing to change his behavior. It appears he had a miserable life, constantly in and out of jail for stealing and related crimes. He died young of tuberculosis at the age of 27 in 1922.

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