Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded


The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded was a residential facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. At its height, thousands of residents lived there, including children. Many residents lived there for decades, even dying in residence. There is an extensive cemetery on property. 

Although the Colony did not open until 1911, its  construction was authorized by a 1906 bill written by Aubrey Strode in collaboration with eugenicists Albert Priddy and Joseph DeJarnette. Interested researchers can see the bill in the Papers of Aubrey Strode, housed in Small Special Collections Library. The The Virginia State Colony is at the center of much of Virginia's history of eugenics and sterilization. It infamously housed Carrie Buck, whose sterilization was at the center of the Supreme Court Case, Buck v. Bell, which ultimately legalized involuntary sterilization.

Alderman Library holds the annual reports for the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. These papers are extremely useful for researchers of eugenics and the University of Virginia. Samuel Lewis Ferguson (UVA Law, 1895) sat on the Board of Directors during the period of mass sterilization. The Colony also hosted clinics for University of Virginia medical students, which deserve closer attention. 

Of particular interest is to researchers of eugenic sterilization is the 19th annual report (1927-1928) which discusses the recent Supreme Court decision on sterilizations. In this report, superintendent Albert Priddy writes, “Virginia has placed herself in the forefront of civilization by this bit of progressive legislation, and no backward step must be taken.” ​​​​​​

Since 1983, the facility has been called the Central Virginia Training Center. The Department of Justice has ordered it to close by 2020.