NOTE: These inventories were compiled in the 1930s and 1940s. Be sure to note when any given inventory was completed by returning to the list of inventories.  This is NOT current information. PHL
County Commissioners

   Besides providing for those who have violated the laws, the commissioners were given the duty of caring for persons who, because of poverty or physical or mental defects, became public charges.  Thus, county relief for the indigent, one of the most pressing problems of the twentieth century, was met in frontier Ohio.  As early as 1805 an act, modeled from the territorial law, was passed which was similar in all respects to the poor laws of seventeenth century England.  Under the early enactments the township trustees were authorized to appoint overseers of the poor.  In 1816 the county commissioners were authorized to construct “poor houses” for the care of the indigent of the county. As the system developed in succeeding decades the county was made responsible for those who had become permanently disabled, and for paupers who could not be satisfactorily cared for except at the county infirmary, now call the county home.  Since 1913 they have been authorized in any county containing a city which has an infirmary, to contract with the director of public safety for the care of the county’s indigent. 

   The township trustees and officials of municipal corporations were made responsible for providing temporary relief to needy residents of the state, or the county, township, or city.  In the event any person became chargeable to a township in which he had not gained legal residence, it was the duty of the overseers, later the township trustees, to remove him to the township where he was legally settled.  With slight alterations, the principles of this system continued until the twentieth century.

Public Welfare

   The administration of public welfare is one of the most complex and one of the most expensive functions of county government.  The administration of institutional and outdoor relief is delegated to eight boards and commissions operating independently and with little regard for efficiency.

   The administration of the county home is vested in the county commissioners and a superintendent appointment from a list of names of persons eligible under civil service regulations.  Employees are appointed by the superintendent.


   By the provisions of the legislative act of 1816, the county commissioners were authorized to build a “poor house,” and to appoint annually seven persons to constitute a board of directors.  This board, a corporate body, was authorized to make such rules and regulations as were necessary for the management of the institution, and to appoint a superintendent, who might receive only persons who had the required order from the township trustees.  He was directed to keep a book listing the name and age of every person admitted, together with the date of admission.  The board of directors, or a committee of that body, was required to visit the “poor house” monthly to examine the condition of the paupers and to make a report on such matters as the food, clothing, and treatment of the inmates.  Moreover, they were required to inspect the books and accounts of the superintendent.  The board was required to report annually to the county commissioners the “state of the institution” with a full and correct account of all their proceedings, contracts, and disbursements; and the expenses of establishing and supporting the institution were to be paid on the order of the county commissioners out of the money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated. 

   By a legislative act of 1831, the membership of the board was reduced to three.  This board, like its predecessor, was authorized to appoint a superintendent.  It was his duty, upon the order of the board, to discharge from the poorhouse any person who had been admitted because of illness when he had sufficiently recovered.  The directors were further authorized to remove paupers to their legal place of residence, and any pauper rejected by the board of directors could be turned over to the township overseers to be cared for by contracting with the lowest bidder. 

   In 1850 the name “county poorhouse” was changed to that of “county infirmary.” Fifteen years later, in 1865, the board of infirmary directors, consisting of three resident electors, was made elective by the voters of the county for a three-year term.  The board was still authorized to appoint a superintendent, and was still required to make inspection visits, and to report its findings to the county commissioners.

   Although reports had been required of the infirmary management in previous years, it was not until the decade of the seventies that the legislature enacted measures looking to really systematic management of this ancient institution.  Accordingly, in 1872, an act was passed which required each infirmary director, as well as the superintendent, to give bond conditioned for the faithful performance of the duties of his office.  Under this act the directors were required to report semiannually to the county commissioners the condition of the infirmary, the number of inmates, and such other information as the county commissioners believed proper.  Furthermore, the board of directors was required to file a full account “of all moneys received and paid out, together with the vouchers…from whence received, to whom and for what paid out” with the county commissioners, who, after examining it, entered the report in the minutes of their proceedings.  This report, as well as the vouchers, was to be filed in the auditor’s office, and must be “safely preserved” by that officer. 

   The county infirmary served also as a place for the confinement of children, the mentally ill, and persons afflicted with epilepsy.  Although the state assumed responsibility for the mentally ill in the early years of the nineteenth century, it was not until 1898 that it was made unlawful to confine the adult insane and epileptics in the county home.  Previously, in 1884, the legislature had prohibited the housing in the county infirmary of children who were eligible to the county children’s home or to some other charitable institution, unless separated from adults.  Exceptions were made, however, in the case of insane, idiotic, and epileptic children.  The latter provision is still effective in Ohio. 

   By an act of May 31, 1911, effective January 1, 1913, the board of infirmary directors was abolished and the powers formerly exercised by this body were transferred to the county commissioners and the infirmary superintendent.  The superintendent is still required to keep a record of the inmates, as prescribed by statute, and to report annually to the county commissioners.  This report, the acceptance of which is evidence by an entry in the minutes of the commissioners’ journal, is filed with the county auditor and by him preserved.  In 1919 the name county infirmary was changed to that of county home.

   The county commissioners still make provision for the establishment and maintenance of the county home, appoint a superintendent, and make regular inspection visits.  Since December 1, 1932, the superintendent has been appointed from a list of names of persons eligible under civil service regulations, and is authorized to appoint a matron and other employees.  Since 1882, the commissioners have been authorized to appoint an infirmary physician, who, like the superintendent, is required by statute to report to the county commissioners.  This report, made quarterly, includes such information as the nature and extent of medical services rendered, to whom, and the character of the disease treated. 

   Although there is some relation between the old age pension system and the county home, the newer form of aid is merely supplementary to the institution.  As always, the county home cares for those whose condition is such that they cannot be satisfactorily cared for except in an institution.
[Note: In most inventories, there followed material individualized for each specific county.  PHL ]
Note: Most of these inventories were heavily footnoted. We did not include the footnotes (which were usually references to other documents) here because we felt that this website is for general readers without a strong academic/legal need to see these footnotes. However, they are available upon specific request from researchers who e-mail us.
excerpted and transcribed by: Nancy Plain -- Dec 2000

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