Saturday, September 17, 2016

Poorhouse....The story of Columbiana County Part 4

Photo courtesy of the Lisbon Historical Society.

Sometime back in the early 1930's it was decided that the county home needed it's own hospital. Previously the terminal were transported to Salem hospital. With the advent of the WPA during the Great Depression a new hospital was built on the Poorhouse property along with a power plant that generated steam for heat directly across the street. The photo above shows various county officials and the farmhands of the farm breaking ground for the new hospital. It is now known as that grey structure left of the original red bricked institution. It has recently been condemned by the county. 


Out of all the ledgers in Youngstown that were documented they only ran from 1830 through 1911. I hit another dead end up until I talked to the Columbiana County Archive and Research Center. With their expertise and a common bond of the love of the Poorhouse they contacted the Columbiana County Commissioners. As we know records were doubled for the Poorhouse, meaning that two books were kept for the county and those for the poorhouse. As it turns out the County has records up until 1934 in their vault. Hopefully I can photograph these ledgers for the archive center in the early fall. We still have not located anything from 1934 to 1976 when it was closed down. That includes a list of people that were admitted there as well as those that died there. That is an unbelievable amount of people between those dates. Any information or photos of the old institution would be greatly appreciated. They are extremely hard to come by these days. I know that somewhere someone has information and or photos that can help complete this story.

So far this series has far exceeded anything I ever thought it would. Apparently it has had the same impact on you as it has had for me the past several years. I have received so many e-mails from all over the country of people tracking down a name of a lost great grandfather or grand mother. They would send me a name or the year that they thought they were in the institution. In almost every instance I was able to run through hundreds of ledger photographs and find the name. Often times I was able to send the photo of the actual entry to them. That has been the most rewarding thing through this whole story. Being able to help somebody connect with their family history is pretty cool.

Linda McElroy, Shirl Criss, Mary Ann Gray, Debra Weigle, Ken Everett, and Leah Rudy. These people think it's cool to help others with their family history also. They just so happen to volunteer at the Columbiana County Archive and Research Center in Lisbon.

The center is strictly set up by donations and memberships. It is a resource that is so valuable to our county. Everyone there is a volunteer. Most of the people there have already finished their lifetime careers and are now doing what they are passionate about. They share the same excitement about history and genealogy the same as the person coming there for the first time learning about an unknown relative. That is the best way that I can explain it. I have never met people so willing to help, so knowledgeable on where to look for the information you need. They are also very busy. Not only did they help me and point me in right direction, they gathered countless old newspaper clippings that they had saved over the years and copied them for me. They had all of Carol Bell's research saved as well. They spent hundreds of hours indexing every single photograph I took of the ledgers in Youngstown. Now all one has to do is stop in and look through their books to find a name or information on someone that was in the institution. Of course this is a work in progress, and hopefully all of the years will be completed in the near future. It is a great place with an unbelievable amount of information available about our county. I can't encourage you enough to support this place. Memberships are reasonable as well as copy fees. They are open on Tuesday from 9 am to 6 pm and  Wednesday through Friday from 9 am to 3 pm. They can be located a block down from the courthouse at 129 south Market Street in Lisbon. 

This center also put me in touch with the Lisbon Historical Society. They have been exceptional in letting me copy old photographs without any restrictions whatsoever. From what I can tell I am convinced these photos were taken in the early 60's. As you can see the old water pump was probably still working ( yes the same well that was dug in the 1830's) although they had to have had indoor plumbing by the early 60's. This is the view looking towards the Superintendent's house.

Here is a picture that totally blew me away. As we know the threat of nuclear war gripped our nation from World War Two well into the Early 1990's. In the early 60's the Civil Defense promoted the use of fallout shelters for the public's safety. Fallout shelters were everywhere. They had to meet a certain criteria which back then was no where close to being safe. The goal was to save some of the masses not everybody. Dirt, concrete, air, and brick were considered safe barriers from Gamma rays. Many older buildings and old schools were considered safety zones because of their sturdy construction. So many of these old buildings were considered Fallout Shelters back then. Especially those buildings built in the country. I find it ironic that the tag of a Fallout Shelter is stamped on the poorhouse institution that housed the poor and sick. This was now deemed a place of safety, a place of refuge, and place to save ones life.... In the end though when it comes down to it we are all equal when we face death, rich or poor, sick or healthy. 


The Archive center also had these cards that they allowed me to photograph.

These cards came from the common bath area at the poorhouse located in the basement of the three story insane asylum. In the changing area there were homemade wooden cubes to store fresh clothes to the inmates. The inmates had a card tacked to the front of each cube. As you can see items like shirts, pants, long underwear, and work caps were issued out to them and kept track of. My best guess of a date that this system was used was probably in the mid 30's because of the new steam plant creating hot water. Before then most of the water was heated by fire. 

 The changing area with the cubes.

The bath area. The old group tub has been removed.

We take for granted today the luxury of bathing. We have heated and cooled homes. We have running hot water, and most of us have tubs and showers in multiple bathrooms. In the early days of the poorhouse though bathing wasn't that much fun. In fact it was a lot of work and very uncomfortable, especially in the winter. To give you an idea on what the superintendents dealt with and what the mindset of that generation was at that time here are a few stories of an inspector from that time frame. These didn't occur at our poorhouse but I am sure this was common all over Ohio. This was taken from the 1908 Ohio Bulletin of Correction and Charities at a meeting of directors. The speaker was an inspector in Indiana for his whole career. He is speaking of an over zealous superintendent...

I always feel at home in the poorhouse, although I've never lived there longer over night. It used to be my business to visit and inspect  the poorhouses in the state of Indiana, and I remember many interesting things, sometimes very touching and sometimes very comical. One of our county institutions was being badly managed, and was in a dreadful condition. The water tank in the attic and the steam heating condition had been allowed to go to decay, the house was filthy and disorderly. It was so bad the only thing to do was to make a big fuss about it. The result of the fuss was that a new superintendent was appointed. He was a small man weighing about 125 lbs, but full of vigor and energy. He was a splendid fellow. When I visited him he was very anxious for good advice. He said " Now Mr. Johnson , you tell me what I ought to do, and I will do just as you say". I told him the best thing to do was to use good common sense; but I gave him a few suggestions. He ask me particularly about the rules for bathing the inmates. He said "What about bathing these fellows?" Shall I make them take a bath?" I said "Sure". "How Often"he said. "Well, in summer at least once a week; but in winter, if you have trouble, let it go twice a month." He said he would do it. When I called upon him the next year he said, "Mr. Johnson, I did what you said about bathing, but we killed one man." I said, " Hows that? " "Oh " said he, " He was a big fat fellow, looked about as big as you." ( I weighed about 245 lbs at the time.) I said to him " Bill, you have to take a bath." He said " What feet and all"? I said " Yes all over." He said " No I ain't; I ain't had a bath all over since I was a kid and went swimming." But we stripped him, and he had on two coats and a wamus, Three shirts, two pair of pants, two pair of overalls, and in between his shirt he had chaff and old newspapers enough to fill a bushel basket. When we got him stripped he wasn't as big as I am; but my! he was a dirty devil, and, oh how he stank. I took his clothes and burned them. We scrubbed him well, and I was afraid he might take cold, so I gave him a suit of heavy warm underwear that we had bought for a consumptive man, and the heaviest suit of clothes in the house, and I lent him my overcoat; but he shivered and shook until we put him to bed and sent for the doctor and in three days he died of pneumonia." I said to him " Well, I think that the next time you bathe a fellow that has not had a bath since he was a kid, you had better begin with him at his feet and go up about twelve inches at a time, take him in sections, until you get him washed all over." 

Another story from the same inspector..

I heard the story the other day about an old lady who took her first bath at one of the bath houses in Chicago. She said, " Oh dear, I have not had a bath all over since I was a little girl, and think of the pleasure I have missed all of my life! I hope I will live a few years more to enjoy so much pleasure."

As outrageous as this is it is still somewhat funny... We can appreciate the seriousness of these reports but can also understand how down right humorous these reports were. We can never imagine how people lived back then. We just can't relate. We need to be a generation that understands 
history instead of a generation that tries to fix things we do not understand. 

There was also this from the Ohio Patriot newspaper in New Lisbon circa 1875.

An amusing incident took place the other day at our county Infirmary. A gentleman from the rural district having some business to transact at that place,visited the institution with some very erroneous ideas of it's management. It was his first visit to the county farm, and he supposed it to be like a hotel, and all expenses paid by the county. He being one of the sovereign people, on arriving there ordered his horses to be put up and fed. He was shown to the barn with his horse, and there found one of the paupers in charge, who took his horse and gave the animal five ears of corn, our friend wanted more corn for his horse and was refused by the pauper. A quarrel ensued, and Mr. Rural left the barn in search of the landlord, who he thought would make matters right. Just as he found the landlord, the bell rang for the for the paupers dinner. He then dashed off for the dinning room. When Mr. Stephenson the superintendent put his hand on his shoulder and told him to wait they would have another table in a moment, Mr. Rural replied he did not eat at the second table at home, and would not do it there, and ordered out his horse and left saying, it was not much of a hotel anyhow...

This among other stories brought humor to an otherwise unhappy situation. There was even an uprising over slimy "pickle loaf" a staple in the early 70's apparently. It was one of the many complaints brought against superintendent Mattevi and his wife, and became a major lawsuit that eventually closed the county home in 1976. It was leased out for another year to an outside contractor but eventually it fell through sending the inmates to other institutions around the state in 1977. This place has been dormant since then. Abandoned but not very silent. It seems to haunt the minds of us that want to know more about this place...

I can not end this series without  telling you about Mrs. Martha Bishop. Martha is the director of research at the Labor museum in Youngstown. The second floor holds the local records of the Ohio Historical Society for Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties. She is pretty much in charge of everything there. She is also a person of great interest. I can tell you that for the past year once a month she graciously let me have full access to all of the county home ledgers. She is just as like minded as the rest of us freaks about history. She must have apparently recognized the passion I had or the complete dumb luck I had finding this place. I am not the only person she rescued. She has helped so many people and organizations find their history over her career. It's unbelievable how many people she has helped. Many were YSU students working on their thesis. Others were looking for their relatives work history in the local mills. I will never forget the memories I had discovering these ledgers that had never been seen in a hundred years and watching weddings take place at St. Columba Cathedral across the street on a warm spring day. We talked about our families and our own history as the snow fell in the dead of winter. The time spent there was time well spent for me. She is an amazing person that has raised an amazing family. Even though we were generations apart we still had a common cord...

These articles made me realize just how important our past is and I hope that it did that for you also. Our county's modern day situation is pretty dark. We have gone through dark times before though. History shows that we came from some pretty amazing people. People of resolve and character. It's our choice to let it live on in us. We all have a common cord. I am fortunate to have been born and raised here.  





Thursday, July 28, 2016

Poorhouse..the story of Columbiana County Part 3

Artwork by Craig Wetzel

Frederick Lewis, died June 25th 1889 of heart problems, single, 
age 66, born in Germany, he was a priest.

Lawrence Huska, died January 24th 1898 of cancer, born in Italy,
he was a laborer.

Annie Karnie, died March 7th 1896 of Consumption (tuberculosis),
age 33, born in Ireland, she was single.

James G Trytholl, died March 29th 1906 of old age, single, born in Wales, he was a miner.

John Wilck, died May 6th 1905 of Pneumonia, born in Inverness
(near Wellsville Ohio), he was 8 years old. 

Tayler Crum (African American male) died September 23rd 1900 of the "Fits", age 7.

Crum (African American female) died February 22nd 1903 of heart failure, she was born and died in the same day.

John Russ, died February 21st 1872 at the age of 26 from a contusion,born in Australia, he was a miner. 

Henry Brooks, died February 4th 1892 at age 50 from Consumption, he was born in England, he was a laborer. 

R.C. Donally died in February of 1903 at the age of 56 from Pneumonia, born in Stark county, he was a blacksmith.

William Dickson, died April 13th 1897 from old age, single, born in Scotland, he was a miner.

Jonathan Whetzell, died July 21st 1884 from unknown, born unknown, he was a resident of Center Township.

Tobias Andrews, died October 24th 1884 at the age of 55 from insanity, born in the United Kingdom. No occupation. 

James Martin, died May 14th 1908 from asthma at age 67, he was a widower, born in England, he was a potter. 

Samuel Shuster died September 13th 1905 at age 40 from Typhoid Fever. He was born in Romania. 

All lived their lives in our county and are presumably buried on the poorhouse property unless a family member claimed them which is very unlikely.

Some say that America is a melting pot. I have always felt that we didn't melt into a new breed of people but rather we came together from all over the planet with one goal. That goal was to live free and pursue our dreams. To live and work at whatever we wanted to become. Nowhere in history had this ever occurred...this idea, this opportunity. Of course we all had different backgrounds, different histories, different traditions but we all had the same desires...and that was to be free. Free to work, free to play, free to dream. This freedom of course came at a bloody cost. The darkness of slavery and the resulting war that nearly destroyed our young nation was more bloody than our own birth as a country. We haven't always gotten it right but I can think of no other country on the planet that people want to come to and live out their lives and that includes our county... a county that held opportunity. 

By 1880 our nation had nearly 7 million people coming here from other countries. Keep in mind that there were over 50 million people in our nation then. So roughly one out of every seven people came from another country. I can name seven people that I know pretty fast, can you? Can you say that one of those seven was from another country? These concentrations may have been more noticed in bigger cities like New York but was certainly being realized in our county. Our county had work, had opportunity, and it was a pretty nice place to live out our dreams. A beautiful place, with land to farm, rivers and streams to wade in barefoot and like minded Americans for neighbors. It was a safe place to raise a family. Families that were born here as well as those that came here from another nation.  

The list above was taken from Caroll Bell's research. All I have is about twenty typed pages and some hand written notes detailing some of the people that lived at the poorhouse and infirmary, some dating back to 1830. She went through some court records and death certificates to establish where these people came from and who they were. She did this work decades ago. Although the county ledgers are important they do not always give details of each person. That takes a lot more digging. She must have poured a tremendous amount of her time into that. I never knew her but am so grateful for what she did. Sometimes you start something but never finish it. It is interesting to someone else and they run with it. As time goes on it may never get completed but it ends up growing into something bigger than you ever imagined. It would take multiple lifetimes to research every single person that went through this system.. that's just what this is multiple people getting interested. Years from now somebody else will run with it when I am long gone. It's just something you begin to realize.

Joseph Beans, departed this life October 11th 1830. No other information is known.

Amos Harris, Departed this life July 3rd 1835. No other information is known.

Jacob Taylor, died December 20th 1894 at age 92, he was married, born in Columbiana county. He was a shoemaker.

James Woods (African American), died November 2nd 1888 at age 18 of the "Fits", born in Pennsylvania, he was a laborer.

Elizabeth Ward, died March 28th 1895 at 72 from old age, born in Ireland, she was a housekeeper. 

Sandy Davidson, died July 31st 1885 at age 37, born in Scotland. He was a stone mason.

David Johnson, died November 13th 1892 at the age of 87 from old age, married, born in Liverpool township. He was a farmer.

Elwood Lewton, died January 17th 1896 at the age of 35 from Consumption, born in Wellsville. He was a cigar maker.

Nathan Heald, died September 15th 1899 at the age of 72 from old age, born in America. He was a carpenter. 

Edward Beeson, died June 25th 1893 at the age of 75 from cancer, born in Salem township. He was a stone mason.

James G. Trytholl died March 29th 1906 at he age of 69 from old age, he was single, born in Wales. He was a miner.

D. J. Alibaugh, died January 2nd 1908 at the age of 68 from paralysis. He was a printer. 

Anna Riesen, died July 13th 1899 at the age of 30 from heart disease, she was single, born in Switzerland. She was a domestic 

They came. They lived. They were our mothers and fathers, they were our grandmothers and grandfathers, they were our history. They built our covered bridges, our churches, our courthouses, even the famed Sandy Beaver Canal. They managed to build our entire county. They gave up their life in another country and gambled. Some were born here but most came here with hope and faith. Unknown to them their faith paid huge dividends. These people had no idea what their efforts would yield. Their offspring, their children's children. They poured themselves into their work. They worked hard at building their families and their communities. If you get anything out of these articles I want you to understand this. It didn't matter that these people ended up in these institutions. It was the only way to take care of those that fell on hardships and had no other family. Most of these people had very successful lives but just grew older. This was truly the best place they could have gone considering their situations. What matters is that each one contributed to me and you. We just did not know their story. In some way every person there had a direct effect on me and you. They made our county a better place. They changed it. They built towns and roads, they built schools and stores. They tried, they hoped, and most certainly they worked hard. They survived and had a survivor's attitude. They all had a common thread. They wanted freedom. They wanted a better life. They wanted more for their children. Just like you and me. There is no question that these people were successful, they absolutely were. You can not gauge that success by where they lived their final days. 

Joseph Betz died on March 26th 1907 from Pneumonia at age 72, born in Ohio, widowed. He was a butcher.

Elizabeth Goodwin died February 10th 1898 from heart disease at age 58, born in England, widowed. She was a potters wife.

Thomas Themas died November 8th 1903 from old age at 73, born in Wales. He was a laborer.

Henry Hewiser died February 14th 1886 at the age of 68 from blood poison, born in Germany, a resident of Center Township. He was a tinner.    

John McFate died October 1st 1869 at the age of 54 from inflammation of the lungs, born in Ireland. He was a farmer.

 Marchel Sears died May 14th 1872 at age 21 from drowning, born in Kentucky, he was listed as a peddler. 

John Croft died May 26th 1893 at age 50 from consumption, born in Germany, single. He was a tailor.

Errick (male) died May 25th 1886 at the age of 2 months and 10 days of premature birth. Born at the infirmary, Mother was Mattie Errick. 

As you can see death had no favorites. It breaks ones heart to run across these entries. Sometimes a life lived to the fullest and sometimes a life cut way to short.  Of every possible way a human can die it most assuredly happened at the county home. 

Orinda Albright died February 13th 1872 at the age of 23. Born in Elkrun Township. She was listed as burned to death. 

Issac Fairfax died May 4th 1881 at age 50 from Syphilis. 

Peter Ream died October 13th 1882 at age 19 from Malarial Fever. Born in Liverpool Township. Single. 

Joseph Firestone died March 1st 1888 at the age of 49 from insanity. Occupation none. 

William McIntosh died February 7th at the age of 70 from freezing to death (possibly running away). Widowed. He was a carpenter.

Belle Brooks died May 14th 1888 at age 60 of suicide. Occupation none.

Henry Mertz died April 6th 1906 at the age of 44 from suicide. He was born in Pennsylvania. 

David Stevenson died December 31st 1907 at the age of 68 from suicide. Married. He was a miner. 

Suicides were not unusual here. In fact in the attic of the men's dormitory there are names painted in whitewash across some of the beams. Some have dates beside them. As I have suspected these names were those that more than likely ended their time there early and not those that had just stayed here and moved on. A place that I do not understand but also know how sacred it is and have avoided photographing. Others came into the institution at a very young age and lived their entire life there. Here are some greater details of those there...

Alice Weitzel, formerly of Elkrun Twp, age 63, an inmate of the county home for the past 30 years, died at that institution last Wednesday from an illness suffered the past two months. The oldest inmate in point of residence. Miss Weitzel will be missed greatly by the officials. Although she was in some respects feeble minded she had responded to kindness and had learned how to perform certain duties with care and dispatch, a fact of which she was very proud. An effort is being made to locate relatives in Elkrun Twp. and if this fails, the body will be interred in the cemetery at the institution. When the deceased was received 30 years ago, she was accompanied by her infant son, who was later place in the Faimount Children's Home. He was afterward adopted by some parties but all traces of him have been lost.
( Lisbon: Buckeye State, 24 August 1911)

Mrs. Ellen Welsh died Monday at the county infirmary aged 89 years of Pneumonia and the body was interred in the infirmary burying ground Monday evening. Mrs. Welsh came to the infirmary from Leetonia 24 years ago and has since been an inmate. She is survived by one son who is in Alaska and whom she had thought dead for years until she received a letter from him this winter.
( Lisbon: Buckeye State, 3 February 1916)

Silvia Laccava  Inmates at the county home this morning were thrown into a panic to hear a heavy thud on the sidewalk surrounding the building and groans and cries for help. Attendants rushed out and found that Silvia Laccava in attempting to escape, had fallen from the third story of the main building to the concrete side and was so injured he died an hour later. He had been received on March 9th of this year from Pittsburgh, the authorities claiming he was a resident of Wellsville. Twice during his stay he has tried to kill the attendant and the matron. Mrs. E.R. Riddle ask that he be subjected to an inquest for lunacy. He pretended to be unable to understand the language and refused to learn it. Superintendent Riddle reported the mater to the coroner and an inquest will be held. The man will be buried at the institution as none of his relatives have been located at Wellsville.
( Lisbon: Buckeye State, 19 October 1911) 

Henry Lessier, served in the French Army here for our nation's freedom. He was born in Poland in 1748 and died at the county home February 11th 1845. 

Joseph Applegate born on March 17th 1761 and died at the county home on February 4th 1836.

Although I am positive that many veterans went through this institution in the 146 years it was operating so many were never noted in the ledgers. In 1999 the late Joan Witt compiled a small book of Revolutionary war solders for the DAR. She went through cemetery records and the recorders office to list the ones buried in our county. A copy of the book is on file at the Carnegie Library. Two for sure are buried somewhere on the county home property in unmarked graves near the old farm. Some others are across the road on the hill in the formal cemetery. To this day those graves are maintained and taken care of. There are some veterans here from both world wars. 

This is the Poorhouse cemetery as it sits today. There are about ten veteran graves marked out in flags.  

This is humbling to me. These people that were willing to give up everything they had for the birth and protection of our nation. Even though we have just a few markers to go by we know that there are probably countless other veterans buried here but the research hasn't been done yet. I am grateful that these few veteran graves are respectfully maintained though.

Tim Brooks passed along some research he did on a Civil War veteran. David McQuilkin from Lisbon enlisted in August of 1862 for three years at the age of 22. He fought in four battles and was severely wounded at Stone River Tennessee November 25th 1863. Due to injury he had to have his leg amputated while he was a prisoner of war. If you can imagine any prisoner of war probably did not receive the most hospitable care. The use of any thing other than alcohol for an anesthetic then was unheard of. After all a living Union solder could be exchanged for a Confederate one, but one with an amputated leg most likely wouldn't be back to fight. Decisions to amputate were very common at that time and even more so at our own county infirmary. He was discharged in August of 1864 and exchanged to the north. Due to his excruciating pain he was taken to a hospital. Most of his physicians agreed that his leg probably would have survived the injury and was unnecessarily amputated. After some time there he came home and resided near Millport in our county. Later on he began to teach school as his new profession. He was a radical anti slavery man often writing letters of discontent to the local papers challenging those of the opposite opinion to meet him and other discharged soldiers to debate such issues at local churches or schools. Although these young men probably were not going to debate with mere words for very long at these meetings. He also presented articles periodically for publication to The Buckeye State.

One Saturday he came to downtown New Lisbon and just had a total breakdown. One so severe that he had to be taken into custody. He was sent to the county asylum where he remained confined. His name is listed in the ledgers as being admitted in April of 1866. There is no record of discharge. He may have been sent on to one of the state's mental hospitals. He is listed as dying in Franklin Twp Columbiana county in 1868 on Ancestory. He is buried at Bethesda Cemetery.

There is no written record of when the cemetery was started at the county home. My best guess is that a formal area across from the home up on a hill probably was started in the late 1870's. Up until then inmates were buried in five dollar coffins around the property of the farm. A lot of people died there between 1830 and 1870 and were never noted as being buried in a specific place. Even more died there between 1870 and 1976. After the late 1870's it was noted that the county home cemetery existed. If nobody claimed the body they were buried on the hill in a pasture across from the farm. This was the official cemetery.

In 1995 when the new jail was being built on the property construction crews digging near the edge of the treeline uncovered one of the graves of an inmate. Part of an old box and some bones were seen by a worker. They carefully dug it up and called the county coroner. Worked stopped for a short time until the mater was investigated. Up until then nobody had realized how close people were buried near the farm until a formal cemetery was started.


Photos courtesy of McCoy Construction. 

There was a small granite marker installed in 1969 noting the county home cemetery. A plywood memorial stands in the distance with some names lettered in black paint. It was built as part of a project by the local scouts I believe many many years ago. The number of names don't even come close to the amount of people buried on this hill and surrounding pasture. It is clearly one of the saddest cemeteries that I have ever seen. Sad but incredibly peaceful. It's still surrounded by farms to this day. It's quiet there with only the sounds of the local cattle and the traffic of 172 off in the distance. Aside from the traffic it probably has sounded the same since the beginning. Whats left of the old institution can be seen at the end of the dirt road that leads to the cemetery.

I know these stories are overwhelmingly depressing.
One could say there is no joy here. That could be true but among the many stories that occurred over the decades here you can't help but notice the fight that these people had. Above all they were people of resolve and character. They had joy me and you could have never known. Waking up on a summer's day milking the cows, or plowing a field to feed the many in the institution. Friendships that they made while there. They did the right thing and had the clear conciseness of a days hard work. They persevered at what life had thrown at them and managed to make it into something good. Even in this place. There was joy. Human nature makes the best of a bad situation. The nature of putting ones self behind and putting others needs before yours has always brought unspeakable joy. A very good friend told me that if we only saved and remembered the good things in history that nobody would ever know about the bad. We have to remember the bad. It's not easy but it gives us the perspective to make things better.        

In an open field, surround on it's edges by some trees there sits an empty grass area with very few markers, a makeshift plywood memorial, no grand stone monuments, and certainly no iron cannons or gates at it's entrance. Beneath the grass though lies the solders, carpenters, stone masons, potters, miners, housewives, seamstresses, bakers, and the many generations that built us. The only thing that tells the story of these amazing people is somebody's research papers and old ledgers tucked away in cardboard boxes somewhere in Youngstown that explained who is here and who our people were. He wasn't just a farmer...she wasn't just a housewife...

In the next article we will take a look at the people and groups that helped bring this story together. Also some more photos and stories about the county home. 




Saturday, June 25, 2016

Poorhouse...the story of Columbiana County Part 2

Present day view of what was once the house for the insane later converted to a woman's dormitory in 1960.

A photo taken around the turn of the century of inmates taken in front of the men's dormitory. Courtesy of the Lisbon Historical Society

As these articles proceed I would just like to say that these stories can be pretty bleak. Our nation tumbled into madness in the era up to and after the Civil War. These were also dark times for our county. I in no way wish to sensationalize this time period of the poorhouse but also realize that it is part of it's history and plays an important role of who these people were and their story.

In 1860 the board of directors authorized a contract for the now named "County Infirmary". A new building was built for a new men's dormitory. It had a full basement and was two stories tall. It was completed in 1864 at a total cost of $12,570.00. This is the main building of the three that you always see in photos. Ironically this building was later added onto making it a "T" shape to accommodate more people in later years. Almost ten years to the completion of that building, another building to house the mentally insane was built at a cost of $8,000.00. It was three stories tall.  The three buildings as they are seen today are (from the left) the insane asylum (later converted to a women's dormitory), the men's dormitory, and the superintendent's living quarters. All three used the same red brick. The thing about the superintendent's house that has always bothered me is that it has the same sandstone foundation and the same red brick the other buildings do. I think the original farm house used in 1830 probably was torn down after it was used for the farm in some manor. I could never find any record of that though. In some of the old photos of the whole farm a wooden structure can be seen along with chicken coops and various farm sheds. I suspect that the original farmhouse was probably converted to a shed when a bigger home was built. The newer Superintendent's house had a full kitchen in the basement that was used to cook the meals for the inmates.
 The term "Inmates" has always been used from the earliest of entries in the books. All that it took to be "committed" was a recommendation from a family member with a doctor or a local judge and or a prominent public figure. Once on the farm they lived there until they died or were sent to live with other relatives that would claim them. Some of them however would just up and leave or runaway if they were able. The mentally disturbed and some of the handicapped however were kept under lock and key and usually never left the institution. People with what is now known as Epilepsy that suffered from violent and severe fits were kept in the asylum. The same goes for the mentally handicapped. If they were at all a danger to themselves or to others they were separated and locked down. The terms that the ledgers used to describe these poor souls were pretty crass by today's standards. The epileptic were described as having the "Fits" while the mentally handicapped were listed as "Idiotic". Well into the 1880's Epilepsy was still considered a mental illness. An illness that was also treated by dosages of Mercury which was a common treatment at the time. Over and over in these ledgers thats how people were described. It wasn't a lack of compassion it was just a total lack of understanding and most likely a tremendous amount of fear as well. 

Nothing about the the insane asylum was pleasant. It was not a treatment center but a warehouse to keep the insane and the handicapped. It was built primarily to separate the paupers from the people who were genuinely mentally insane, unfortunately those that were not insane but suffered with afflictions they did not understand were kept there too. The mentally ill often scared the regular paupers so a means of separation was necessary.

 The treatment of the insane in 1864 was pretty crude. In the bigger cities and state run institutions leaches, bloodletting, and the boring of skulls were commonplace as acceptable treatment. Thank God these practices were never practiced in our county ever. In fact many people that were dangerous or uncontrollable were shipped out to a state institution in a bigger city. The popular "Idea" at the time was a term called "Alienation". This idea suggested that the reason people were having mental issues was the cause of an advancing society. The inventions of steam engines, light bulbs, and countless other gadgets that transformed villages into cities in a short time contributed to the overall stress of mankind. Thus asylums and institutions were built in the rural areas to return the "patient" to a sense of calm. 

Since the very beginning the infirmary/Poorhouse had always had patients that were insane. With the Civil War ending in 1865 though the amount of people in need of mental health care exploded in the county. Everyone from surviving widows and children to solders with extreme post traumatic stress disorders. They were simply kept from hurting others and hurting themselves. Thus the new building was built with ten by ten "cells" to lock them down. Cell doors were solid with one small window that was barred and the doors were locked with a hasp from the outside. Each cell had  an outside window for light that in later years had to be latticed with iron because of inmates jumping out of them. Indoor plumbing ( running water, indoor sewage) would not happen on the farm until the 1930's ( almost seventy years later). Chamber pots were common at night and during the day for the confined. Early newspaper accounts and state reports relate raw sewage running near the old well pump in a trench that emptied into a nearby creek across from the farm. Many many years later a bath house was added to the basement floor. Paupers and the insane were usually bathed once a week. By bathed I mean about four at a time in a very large round cast iron tub.This was the standard for institutions across the state at the time. There was also a group indoor restroom that would accommodate up to ten people side by side on a long bench.

 At night it was a different story. It was not uncommon for inmates to be locked up inside their cells, four people in a 10' x 10' room (with some tied to their beds) unattended with the windows shut until morning. Imagine this in the summer? Take a minute and think about this. Imagine being committed here.. by a judge... by a husband.. for being "insane". As a women you could have been suffering from mere menopause or postpartum depression. I have ran across both as actual reasons for commitment. As a man you could have been suffering from PTSD occurred from the Civil War. Diseases such as Syphilis would cause insanity if left untreated long term. There were many many cases of that at the time. All were treated the same. There was just simply not enough help or money to provide 24 hr care for these people. It was the lack of understanding that doomed all unfortunately, and really what could ever be expected of that era? It was the beginning of mental health care for our nation. Nothing was understood and treated...just observed and noted unfortunately. These were people that most likely could have been helped by today's medicine and practices, but were simply warehoused.. kept away from the sane so they wouldn't "harm" them. How many were geniuses? How many were like Eisenstein? These are the things I think about when I read these ledgers. We will never know the greatness of these people, what they might have accomplished had they have gotten the treatment they actually needed. In a dark way they were the great ones, unfortunately they were the ones that paved the way for modern medicine. Paved the way for better and safer institutions. Their mistreatment and suffering should never ever be forgotten.

A cell as it is today. Complete with a barred door. The paint may be flaking but the size of the room has never changed in the last 152 years.

   A "barred" window of a cell.

This is the view of the 2nd floor of the "Insane Asylum". It's still there.. It adds credibility to the stories in the ledgers.. disbelieve, horror, and hope.. there is always hope... Twenty five years ago I drove by graffiti on an old bridge underpass in Cleveland that read.."Revolution is the Hope of the Hopeless".... I personally have never forgot this...ever. Sometimes recalling or discovering history is just that.. It's a revelation that starts a revolution. 


Early reports of the Ohio Board of State Charities, an inspection arm of the state, were developed to spot check these institutions for abuse and safety infractions. They would reveal problems in a yearly journal that was published for the public. Most of the poorhouses around the state would get an unannounced visit by an inspector. The inspector would note infractions and recommend solutions for each place. Everything was published both good and bad. Oftentimes the inspectors would just look at the surface and move on. As long as the sheets were clean and the rooms were in order all was well.  These same inspectors would also inspect city jails as well. These reports could be trusted as an honest third party objectionable view of the conditions at these institutions. Many times though things were missed. 

Local newspapers on the other hand were a lot different. Most of the stories were sensationalized to work up a frenzy with the public. Some reports tugged at the heartstrings of the public to cause anger against a superintendent that clearly the paper did not support. Although these reports always had some truth to them you had to take them for what they were sometimes. Here are two examples:

From the Ohio Bulletin of Charities and Correction April 1897.

Monday, April 27th, visited Columbiana County jail and Infirmary- the later institution in company with Dr. Moore, of the board of county visitors. At the infirmary I found two of the directors. The condition of this institution is vastly improved since my last visit. Suggestions made at this time in relation to the care of clothes of inmates and bed clothing have been adopted and as a result there has been a decided improvement in the appearance of the sleeping rooms. Formerly the clothes were hung on the walls and behind the doors and the rooms were further littered by the presence of trunks and boxes. Now all of these impedimenta are removed to the clothing rooms provided for such purposes. White bed spreads have replaced the dingy blue check gingham sheets formally used, the beds of the male inmates as well as those of the other sex have benefited from the change.
The infirmary buildings are old and infirm like so many of the inmates. They are as poorly arranged as could well be imagined. No amount of care on the part of the officers will be able to enforce the separation of the sexes. Everything that can be done to further this one of the essential considerations of the infirmary management is being done, but with no certainty of success, as is shown by the condition of one of the female inmates, a feeble minded women who at the time of my visit was enceinte (pregnant), the father of her unborn child being an inmate also of the infirmary....

Some of the earlier reports called out unsanitary conditions at the farm, the use of ropes being too tight that held the insane to their beds, and the lack of sufficient help. There were good reports as well, especially with some of the better superintendents that were hired in later years. Reports of a clean and well run farm and infirmary were common in these years. 

Here is a report from The Ohio Patriot paper in New Lisbon that ran in 1867:

Joe Bratt, a demented East Liver-poolian, escaped from the infirmary last week by tying his bed-clothes together and climbing down from the window by the improvised rope. He was, however, recaptured before leaving the grounds. Joe says his only purpose was to come to Lisbon and aid the editor of the Patriot in his crusade against the neglect of the superintendent to provide the inmates of the infirmary with butter on their bread...

As you can plainly see that yes an escape attempt probably happened,  but one can doubt that "Joe" was on a mission for the just cause of butter... let alone being a weekly reader of the Patriot...

There are so many stories and reports of mistreatment and abuse left to tell. It is incredibly sad. Sadness enough to last several lifetimes. Like I have said before though, this is only a part of this history.. I do however want to leave you with this final story.

From the same Ohio Bulletin Of Charities and Corrections report in 1897 was this entry:

There was also in this infirmary an exceedingly bright faced and intelligent Negro boy- about twelve or thirteen years of age sadly deformed. He had had the care of the children's home at Alliance for some time but was returned from that place several years ago to the poorhouse. This method of caring for homeless or dependent children who are further handicapped by disease or deformity, the denying to them of privileges granted to sound and healthy children, is pernicious. The time must come when the " Melancholy Residuum" as they have been called, those unfortunate children, mentally sound but weak or deficient physically, who are not wanted, either in private or public homes, and who if admitted to the latter must be discharged there from to go whither they may or to the county poorhouse, the time must come, I say, When this class will be given suitable protection that will supply as far as may be the natural advantages of which they have been deprived from the accident of birth or misfortune. At my request the clerk of the board of the infirmary directors of Columbiana County, C. D. Filson, has furnished me with a short history with the boy alluded above...

Andrew O. Bowles was born in Salineville Columbiana County. He was crippled in his limbs from birth but of sound mind. He was sent to the children's home in Alliance. The officers there would not keep him because they could not place him in a home on account of him being a cripple. He was returned to the infirmary on Sept 5th 1892 aged ten years. Since coming here he has learned his letters, music and fancy knitting, so you will see that he is capable of receiving instruction. It does seem to be a wrong thing to keep such children in the infirmary. His parents are dead.

If it wasn't for Caroll Bell and her research I would have never had known anything about this young man. His name jumped out at me on a page that she compiled detailing the deaths that occurred at the infirmary. I shared this story with my good friend Craig Wetzel. He did some research on Andrew's family and this is what he found.

Andrew's mother (Laura Lee Bowels) was born on September 4th 1856 in Berkeley County West Virginia (then Virginia). The 1870 census described her as a "Mulatto" (part African American part Caucasian). She was thirteen and listed as an Indentured Servant to the white family of Samuel Hopewell. Samuel was a prominent barber at the time. She was probably a debt that needed settled by her family and given up for this service. 

Andrew's father's history was a little sketchy. He was listed as being born in either Kentucky or Virginia in 1852. He was listed in the 1880 census as a black barber. Although other reports list him as a coal miner from Kentucky that moved to Ohio looking for work. They met and married in Hancock County WV. on May 13th 1875.

I don't care where you are from or where your background took place, (at any point in history). Undeniably the most powerful force in the universe has always been love. It doesn't reason, it doesn't think, it doesn't care about nationality or race..  it just happens.. It survives wars, it survives injustice, it surpasses all human reasoning.. and looking back into history it has always had a purpose...

By 1880 they moved to Salineville Ohio with two children, a boy named George (born in 1876) and a daughter named Martha (born in 1878). They also had two other children while living in Salineville, a son named Walter (born in 1880) and of course Andrew who was born on May 22nd 1882.

Andrew unfortunately was born deformed in his legs. No other explanation was ever described. Two years later his mother Laura died of heart failure from a hemorrhage on March 8th 1884 at 27 years of age. Soon after, their father placed all of the children in the Fairmount Children's home in Alliance Ohio. He apparently died a short time later from a coal mining related illness. 

So here we are a broken family not allowed to survive... but survival has so many different forms..things that we don't ever see coming..

 The son George was reported to have died in the children's home a few years later. Martha went on to be indentured by the home to a family in Cleveland. Later in life she became an educator in Ohio until she passed away. Walter somehow survived by being fostered out and grew up. He moved away to Detroit Michigan in his teen years. He worked as a chauffeur for a white family. While there he fell in love with a German immigrant woman who worked as a domestic (cook /maid) named Lydia and married her in Canada. They remained residents of Michigan until their deaths. They had three children and operated a successful auto mechanics business in Detroit. 

Andrew was different. He was handicapped, and not easily adopted out in those times. Though he hung on he was never to have another family. He was eventually sent to our county poorhouse because of being unable to be placed into a foster home by the orphanage. This is where the state inspector saw him and documented him in his report in 1897. Over one hundred years later Carroll Bell would list him in the Infirmary records that she had spent years going through compiling them from death certificates. The details of his death and occupation would eventually jump out at me decades later...

Andrew O Bowels.. passed away at the age of 26 on June 25th in 1908 from Pneumonia. He was documented as being colored and single. He is buried somewhere on the poorhouse property. What jumped out at me was his occupation. He was a barber.

He wasn't a war hero or a pottery owner. He wasn't a political statesman or a prominent community leader. He was a barber. He cut the hair of his "family" at the poorhouse.

 The definition of dignity has always been measured by character. Character has and will always be the cornerstone of dignity. Here is a young man that overcame emotional and physical problems all of his lifetime and served others. He chose to serve others.. his choices gave him his purpose. 

I can't think of a more dignified and humble example of a human like Andrew but there are hundreds more just like him. These were the men and women that somehow found themselves living in a poorhouse. People of resolve, people of character, people of perseverance, men and women that came from and impacted our Columbiana County. 

In the next article we are going to find out where these amazing people came from. 



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Poorhouse...the story of Columbiana County

Above is a single panorama 17 inches long broken into three parts left to right of the inmates at the county home in 1914. Courtesy of the Columbiana County Archive and Research center. 

A view of the farm dated "Late 1880's" on the back. Courtesy of The Lisbon Historical Society.

The men's dormitory as it looks today.

For probably the last 8 years or so I have become strangely fascinated with the County Poorhouse in Lisbon. I can remember exactly the first time I drove by it. The red bricked structures just looked sad, like something that was intentionally forgotten and left to die. I will never forget that. In a sense maybe they were left to die. From then on I began to do research on the internet about county poorhouses. I searched county by county but it seemed that there was so little information about the one in our own county. I knew that these were institutions and probably places of despair from what I was researching. After very limited internet searches I knew there had to be more information available somewhere. A number of years later I was pointed in the direction of the Archive Center in Lisbon. That is where things really took off. The good volunteers there had the same fascination as I did about our county home and began locating old photos and the late Carroll Bell's research work for me (which by the way is awesome). From that I was able to finally track down what was left of the handwritten original county home ledgers dating back to 1830. Nobody had known what happened to them. They were listed as being stored in Columbus but a small footnote listed two cardboard boxes in storage at the Youngstown Labor Museum. Part of these records were microfilmed back in the early seventies but the film was almost impossible to read. Unbelievably they turned up. After many phone calls and a visit to The State of Ohio Research Center in Youngstown, the gracious director there allowed me to go through and photograph everything they had in those boxes page by page with no restrictions. Keep in mind that these were documents that were over a hundred and fifty years old and very fragile. I would go over once a month and spend a Saturday afternoon going through each book. I then edited it and organized it for the center in Lisbon. The Lisbon center indexed everything and made books of the information. There were a tremendous amount of hours volunteered by many of us to make this information available for genealogical research. A vast amount of information has been uncovered about the County Home. Not everything was originally microfilmed. Every aspect from how it operated to the history of the people that lived there was documented. It wasn't a place that you wanted to end up at all. In fact the very mention of the word "Poorhouse" seems to draw an unfavorable response in any generation especially the older generation. Any mention of the poorhouse usually brings a strange look to their faces. 

 This is the beginning of a series of articles about our county home. I will start with a brief history of the buildings and move on to the people that lived there. That is the story I really want to tell. Even today the Poorhouse still carries with it a stigma, a reaction,  God forbid our relatives were committed there. There is a "hope it wasn't my ancestor" reaction when you talk about it to other people.  It shouldn't though. We all came from our past no matter what. I want to know where I came from and so should you.  I will use names and photos unrestricted because there is no shame in what these people went through and no shame from where we came from. With my rough estimate of well over 3000 people buried in unmarked graves at the property, I think that their story needs to be told above all else. Most of the stories are sad but some are just truly amazing. These were the people that built our county and produced many generations to follow but somehow slipped away from our memory or public record. Over the next few months I hope that we are going to take a look at who they actually were and tell their story. I think that you will come to the same conclusion that I have. That every human life lived had a purpose no matter the despair or success. Even if that success is forgotten and comes 186 years later.. 

In the very early years of our county there was a need to handle the very unfortunate that lived among us. People that had nobody and very little means of supporting themselves needed help from those that lived here that could ease their burden. Some were sick or deformed and could not work to support their families. It was a very different world back then. There were no social safety nets so to speak. People had to look out for one another. Early on the state recognized this need and developed a system roughly modeled after the workhouses of old England. Basically a place where the impoverished could have a place live but had to work to maintain living there. Poorhouses or farms where people lived as their own community so to speak. The able bodied were expected to work to sustain a living at these houses and the sick relied on care paid by the county taxes. These houses or farms were normally overseen by an appointed director (and his wife) who then hired help to take care of what the inmates couldn't. Most of the time the inmates did the farming, cleaning, and the cooking. These were self sufficient places to a certain degree.
Ohio poorhouse laws date back to 1805 but after a slumping economy caused by the war of 1812 changes were made in 1816 permitting county commissioners to build and operate poorhouses.

The original county home was roughly 1 mile south of the present county home structures. This would have put the original farm house near the current day Robert Bycroft school.  There is no clear record of how long this farm or the farmhouse on the property was used as such though. There are no records prior to 1829 on the property being used to house people. The record shows however that there were at least 9 people moved to a 200 hundred acre farm with one farmhouse that was bought for $3,100.00 at the present site it is now. By now the state made all counties have a board of directors to make purchases and decisions about their poorhouses. This farmhouse was renovated by Andrew Scott for $92.00,  paid for by the county. They were also ordered to dig a new well or "wall the inside" of the old one by these same directors. Once the commissioners were in charge impeccable records were kept by the directors in cash books. Everything from shoes being made to cattle being purchased was recorded.

Andrew George dug the well by hand. Very dangerous work that took him several months to do. He was paid $68.50.

Photos of a cash book and the entries made. 400 feet of oak probably used for flooring and a record of the first superintendent's pay for the care of the paupers.

These were the very early days of poorhouse. As the years went by the number of inmates increased. Of course the need for more buildings were needed. Ohio legislature changed the name from "Poorhouse" to "County Infirmaries" in 1850. By 1919 they changed them to "County Homes".  Attendance here was rather small. For many years as the farm expanded their farmed acreage did as well. We are talking a garden to sustain a few dozen people to now growing feed for the cattle. During the upstart of the home many other people were taken care of off of the farm. Known as "Outdoor Paupers" these were indigent people in the many towns across the county. Normally each town had a liaison, a business owner or clergy person who knew the needs of the unfortunate. These problems could range from children being raised by a widow to a neighbor or family member taking care of a disabled child. Most of the time food or goods were donated at the discretion of the liaison. The county would receive a bill or receipt for the cost of the help. A lot of these expenses listed are for the care of the Outdoor Paupers, even the burial expenses if they had no next of kin. Money was paid to transport paupers to the poorhouse from the outlying cities and townships. In later years train fare was paid for paupers that were discharged to go to live with a family member further away than Columbiana county. The county didn't always shoulder the cost though. Many prominent business owners provided the charity out of their own pockets and never billed the county at all. 

A written report in 1835 to the commissioners and published on June 12th 1835 in the Ohio Patriot read as follows:


House repairs: $135.02 1/4

Clothing and bedding for paupers: $158.10

Provisions: $216.06 1/4

Labor and Maid hire: $100.50

Stock purchased for the farm (animals): $106.40

Household and kitchen furniture: $60.13 1/2

Funeral expenses and coffins (made in house): $16.72 1/2

For removing and transporting paupers to poorhouse: $7.17

Superintendent's salary: $192.00 (year)

Stationary (ledgers):  .72¢

Dr. George McCook (more on him later) 4 amputations and 

39 visits :  $120.00

Dr. Leonard Hanna (consultation fees in two cases) : $15.00

Raised on the farm:

107 bushels of Wheat
300 bushels of Oats
325 bushels of Corn
180 bushels of Potatoes
1900 pounds of Pork
300 pounds of Beef
   5 bushels of Onions
12 bushels of Beets
300 heads of Cabbage
75 pounds of Wool
  8 tons of Hay

Manufactured on the farm:

62 yards of Linsey (Woolsey)
42 yards of Linen

As you can see if it wasn't made on the farm by the inmates it was made by the local people of New Lisbon. Everything from wooden combs and buttons to a Blacksmith going out to the farm. Everything was done in house or made by the villagers. Goods raised on the farm were traded for things that could not be made by them.

       This 1860 map of Ohio shows the poorhouse and infirmary property outside of Lisbon.
        Courtesy The Library of Congress.

Sometime between 1830 and 1850 there became more of a need for the poorhouse to keep the sick and mentally handicapped. With the local population growing more and more people were winding up at the poorhouse. Keep in mind in those days mental retardation and epilepsy were not very well understood. Often labeled "Idiotic" or "Insane" adults as well as children were sent to the poorhouse because of these ailments. All were kept together. Local doctors could tend to the sick there ( ones with fever or consumption) a form of TB which at times ran rampant through the county. The treatment of mental handicaps and or illness was usually crude. This created a problem of overcrowding and under staffing. On top of this local newspapers sensationalized everything they could for political purposes. Depending which board member they backed or the current superintendent that was in charge dictated how they would report the conditions at the farm. When people died there if there was no next of family (Usually not) they were buried on the property. Given the lack of a formal graveyard (until the 1870's) paupers were just buried around the farm itself. Almost always in unmarked graves.

 In this report from 1860 each column shows the number of admitted and discharged for the year. Totals for men and women with how many died at the institution that year are also shown. The most staggering number though is the second to last. It was the total number of minors kept there month by month. Roughly at any given time there were up to 13 children housed with the adults in the poorhouse/infirmary.

The totals of what the farm had and produced for the same year. As you can see the amount of livestock on the farm greatly increased by hundreds. Also note the clothing and bedding that was made for the inmates there. Other cash books from that year show private individuals that worked making these items and what they were paid. Not everybody on the farm could sew or make shoes. Most of the time people from New Lisbon were paid to make those things. Locals also sold and or traded cattle to the poorhouse.

So in the early years of the poorhouse things seemed to run fairly smoothly. Although there was no running water or indoor plumbing the very few people that were there made the farm work as the state intended. The farm was able to self sustain itself to some degree. They started out with roughly 9 or 10 people and after twenty years the population grew to 80 to 90. In the next part we will take a look at the growing need to handle the sick and mentally disturbed of our county and the problems created by this growing need. The confined space and the overwhelming lack of knowledge proved to be too much for the poorhouse to handle.