|POOR HOUSE, OR INFIRMARY|
ON The 8th of March, 1831, The Legislature of Ohio passed “An act to authorize the establishment of Poor Houses” in any county in the State, at the discretion of the Commissioners of the County. In some counties the Commissioners , without delay, availed themselves of the provisions of the act, and in some other counties they never did.
In 1832, the Commissioners of Franklin County purchased the farm in the forks of Whetstone, some three miles above Columbus, now occupied by Robert King, Esq., and commenced the erection of a Poor House building, which was completed and ready for the reception of paupers on the first of February, 1833. The first Board of Directors, appointed by the Commissioners, consisted of Jacob Grubb, Ralph Osborn, and P. B. Wilcox; and they appointed Captain Robert Cloud, now
of Columbus, Superintendent, and Dr. Wm. M. Awl, physician for the Institution. The Superintendent occupied part of the building, and had the use of the farm, which he cultivated with his own team and utensils; and the Directors paid him a specified sum per week for boarding each pauper. Mr. Cloud continued this in charge of the Institution one year, when he resigned, and William King succeeded him as Superintendent, upon the same terms, and continued until October, 1837;* when the Directors, who at this time consisted of James Walcutt, George B. Harvey, and W. T. Martin, concluded to change the policy, and to stock the farm and pay the Superintendent a fixed salary for working it and taking care of the house and inmates. Accordingly, John R. Wright, an industrious man, and practical thus continued farmer and Superintendent until the
* In January, 1837, Mr. King reported to the Directors the names, ages, etc., of all the inmates—nine in number—amongst whom was “Mary Sours, aged about 93 years.” She lived and remained in the Institution until 1849, when she died; and must, according to the record, have been 105 years old at the time of her death. She just sank with old age,
“Till like a clock, worn out with eating time,
The weary wheels of life at length stood still.”
A good portrait of the old lady, taken by Mr. Walcutt, still hangs in the hall of the Institution.
spring of 1840. By this time, additional improvements being needed, the Directors (now consisting of Walcutt, Martin, and Wm. Domigan) and the County Commissioners seemed to all concur in the opinion, that the location had better be changed; it being too far from Columbus, from whence more than three-fourths of the paupers were sent; and it was both inconvenient and expensive, conveying sick and infirm persons to it; and sometimes in seasons of high water, it was inaccessible, there being no bridge over the creek. Though there was for a time a rickety wooden bridge across the Scioto, above the mouth of the creek, which however stood but a few years. Hence, in the fall of 1839, a five acre lot, on which the present poor House stands, was purchased by the Commissioners, and new buildings erected. The old Poor House farm was then sold, and the live stock and farming utensils were disposed of at vendue, in November, 1839; and the paupers were removed to the new Institution the first of May, 1840. Edward Hedden was now keeper or Superintendent, and Dr. Sisson, physician.
At the legislative session held in the winter of 1841 and '42, an act was passed requiring all Poor House Directors to be elected as other county officers–they having previously been appointed by the County Commissioners. In the fall of 1842, the first election of Di-
rectors was had. Up to this time, Walcutt, Martin, and Domigan, were continued Directors; and the successive physicians to the Institution had been, Doctors Awl, Sisson, N. M. Miller and Schenck. Mr. Hedden was continued as keeper until the fall of 1844, when Dr. Schenck was by the Directors appointed in the double capacity of keeper and physician, and was continued until the first of June, 1851, when Joseph McElavain was appointed to succeed him as keeper, and Dr. Short as physician. Dr. Schenck's administration of the affairs of the Institution was rather of a showy character, and generally well received by the public, but much complained of by the inmates. In December, 1852, Charles Jucksch was appointed to succeed McElvain. In December, 1853, McElvain was again appointed to succeed Jucksch. In December, 1854, Daniel Evans was appointed to succeed McElvain; and the first of March, 1857, Dr. L. J. Moeller, being one of the Directors and physician, was appointed keeper or Superintendent also, in place of Mr. Evans. The succession of physicians since Dr. Schenck's time has been Doctors Short, Moeller, C. E. Denig, Boyle, and Moeller again. The course of policy pursued by the Directors towards transient paupers, and poor families, needing temporary relief, has always been about the same. In fact, there has been no material change in any respect, since the removal of the In-
stitution to its present location; but a constant, gradual gliding into extravagance, with the changes of the times.
In March, 1850, an act was passed by the Legislature to change the name of Poor Houses generally to that of “County Infirmaries,” by which name they are now commonly designated.
In 1844, the Commissioners purchased six acres more of land adjoining their other five acre lot, so that there are now eleven acres of the Infirmary grounds, in the south-eastern corner of the city limits. On this six acre lot the City Council have erected a City Hospital, and furnished it for the reception of transient persons who may be infected with contagious diseases. This hospital has, however, always been under the care and management of the keeper of the Infirmary.
In 1854, the County Commissioners seemed to entertain an idea of removing the Institution again to a farm; and accordingly, purchased a farm of over a hundred acres, on the Groveport turnpike, about two miles east of the Court House, for which they paid between thirteen and fourteen thousand dollars. The have not, however, yet made any move toward erecting buildings, or preparing it for the purposes for which it was purhased–and it is quite presumable they never will; for it is quite certain that, with the pauper labor there can-
not be one quarter of the ground cultivated that is already connected with the present building.
The keeper or Superintendent in his report for the year ending first of June, 1856, says:
Names and times of election of Directors since they were made electable:
Present officers of the Institution (1858) and their salaries as fixed by the Board of Directors:
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