COUNTY HOMES

The Ohio General Assembly authorized boards of county commissioners to construct a county poor house for the care of paupers and to appoint a seven member board of directors to oversee its management, and to appoint a superintendent. The expenses were to be paid by the county. In 1831, the number of board members was reduced to three, and the board was empowered to remove paupers to their legal places of residence, if outside the county. In addition, the board could reject the application for admission of any pauper, who would then be turned over to the township overseers of the poor. 

The Poor House in 1850 became the county infirmary through legislative enactment, the name reflecting its change in emphasis. Now besides caring for the adult poor, the county infirmary served as a place of confinement for the needy sick, the mentally ill, and epileptics. In 1884, the General Assembly prohibited housing children in the infirmary who were eligible for admission to children's homes, unless separated from adult inmates. Fourteen years later, it became unlawful to confine the insane and epileptic there. Finally, in 1913, the board of infirmary directors was abolished, and their powers were transferred to the county commissioners. 

In 1919, the name was changed again for the final time. Now termed the county home, its new name indicated its new emphasis on care for the county poor, aged, and infirm that required institutionalization. The board of county commissioners today appoints a county home superintendent who is required to keep a record of inmates, submit an annual report, and may require inmates to perform such labor without compensation as may be suited to their age and strength. The commissioners are required to make inspection of the home including an examination into the care and treatment of patients.

Today county home operates much as it did in 1919. The only significant change came in 1929, when the General Assembly made provisions for a county to close its home when the physical plant became unsuitable for habitation or when the population of the home had become too small for efficient and economical operation. In such cases, the commissioners are required to contract with another county home or private facilities. When a home was closed in one county, the commissioners might join with another county to form a joint board. When a home is closed, its records are usually found in the commissioners' office.

In 1883, the Board of State Charities published its annual report for the year 1882, showing the statistics concerning the operation of county homes throughout the state. That report is shown on the next page.

An attempt has been made to preserve the records of these various county homes, which may contain genealogical material of value. Patient registers, or inmate registers, are likely to contain information relating to the patient's age, place of birth, marital status, illness, and dates of admission and discharge, or death. In many cases, each county home maintained its own cemetery and inmates without families could be buried there--usually without a headstone of any kind. Inmates with families were usually taken to another cemetery for burial, perhaps in a family plot. In any event, the information may be of value genealogically.

This is from p. 47 of OHIO GENEALOGICAL GUIDE,  by Carol Willsey Bell.  Published by Bell Books, Youngstown, OH, 6th edition, copyright 1995. Mrs. Bell can be reached at this address: 10460 N. Palmyra Road, North Jackson OH 44451-9793.


Ohio Poorhouses