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. 





  1. You have honored these people in the most appropriate way, you have given them purpose, and that is all we all need. True it is overwhelmingly sad that people were treated this way, but you have given them the dignity they deserve if nothing else. They have names, faces, lives, histories, jobs, children, parents, etc. They lived so that we might live today. What a wonderful gift!

  2. Thank you so much!These people were amazing. They accomplished so much with so very little. We all need to have the attitude and grit that they had.

  3. I am a volunteer at the CD dog pound. While put walking some of the dogs I stumbled upon the cemetery. I have always been fascinated by the county home but finding the cemetery real brought it home to me. Thank you for your work and for sharing the information you have found. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am anxious to learn more about the people who called the "asylum" their home.

  4. Thank you so very much. Much of the research I did by photographing the ledgers are indexed at the Columbiana County Archive and Research center. They spent countless hours indexing hundreds of photographs into charts.They are located in downtown Lisbon.