ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — River Bluff Nursing Home held a memorial service for hundreds of people who were buried on the property decades ago.

The former River Bluff facility sits on the site of the former Winnebago County Poor Farm, a working farm for people who were not able to support themselves and those deemed insane. The former farm of John DeGroot, it was purchased by the county in 1853.

When residents died, the county placed a “potter’s field” cemetery on the property to bury them. Six hundred men, women and children who lived there were buried between 1853 and 1954.

Administrators of River Bluff, at 4401 N Main St, believe the Poor Farm cemetery is part of Winnebago County’s history.

On Friday, they were recognized in a ceremony outside the nursing home.

Cemetery records mean some of those who were laid to rest there were identified, but others remain unknown.

Some of those buried at the site are military veterans. The Loves Park VFW honored them with a traditional performance of Taps.

“Each and every one of them had a mom, had a dad, had a brother or sister, an aunt, an uncle,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. “To know that we are living up to our communities values today and really honoring those who have come before us and honoring their lives. If we know their names, if we know their independent stories or not, we know that they need to be honored.”