While searching my family tree and tracing my roots, I discovered an interesting fact.
My GGG Grandfather was an inmate at the Scioto County Infirmary. He died there in 1878 and is buried in the Infirmary Cemetery. So, off I went in search of my ancestor’s final resting place. The cemetery and land the Infirmary was located on is off US Rt. 52 West, at the Earl Thomas Conley Park in Washington Township. The Infirmary was built in 1847, destroyed by fire in 1882 and rebuilt in 1883. It continued in operation until a short time before it was torn down about 1970/75. Most of the (burial) stones have only a number inscribed on them. The cemetery is clean and fenced in (actually posts all around burial ground.) In the SE corner of’ the cemetery the remains of’ the Indians removed from the infirmary site were reentered July 17, 1987. A plaque has been erected that reads: KALANU CEMETERY TALIGE ALSILA ITAWA TALAGI AYLEI Remains of 47 Native Americans Reburied July 17, 1987.
In researching history of the old Infirmary – I discovered an article from the Portsmouth Times dated Saturday December 1, 1883. At the time of the writing a gentleman by the name of just Mr. Cole, was superintendent and there were sixty-four inmates at the Infirmary. It went on to describe that – “… a new and massive building is about completed, and the poor, distressed and displaced will have better shelter and be more comfortable this winter than it was possible to keep them last winter. The destruction of the old Infirmary by fire last year necessitated the crowding of the inmates in sheds, and it was a severe tax upon the superintendent and his family to give them that attention and care that can easily be given in the new house.”
The Infirmary had its own farm complete with livestock, barn and abundant crops. From the cows on the property there was plentiful milk and butter for the table. “On the whole the prospect is that the inmates will be well fed, and by the middle of the month, warmly housed this winter. The new building is being occupied, the dining room and kitchen being now in use.” (Times 1883)
Walking among the burial markers, I was taken by a feeling of sadness that my GGG Grandfather Peter Boldman born in 1803 at Oswego, Oswego County, New York who died on 15, Jul 1878 (aged 74–75) died and buried in the Old Infirmary Cemetery of Scioto County. The most unsettling feeling for me was that I didn’t know which of the visible markers was his. I wondered what had occurred on that July day in 1878. Was there a funeral service? I wondered were there any family members present? Why was he there? These are questions that someday I might uncover the answer to. As I strolled through the rows of stones – spying the numbers inscribed on them. The thought occurred to me – who were those folks buried there. Were they all forgotten – except for the neatly manicured ground that held their earthly remains – that was the only remnant of a memorial?
I found a list of inmates who inhabited the Infirmary and was surprised at the ages of those who resided there. I was amazed that a 2 month old infant died and was buried there with just a number on a stone marker (I wondered about the baby’s parents? Where were they?) There were teenage youths and young adults, as well as older men and women, who were in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, who had resided and died at the Infirmary. What loneliness and despair they must have endured.
I somewhat, got an answer to my thoughts of what a typical burial at the Infirmary was like. The Portsmouth Times on Saturday, March 17, 1882 printed an obituary. The deceased was, “Mary Gould, aged 19 years and died at the County Infirmary last Sunday. Her residence was Vernon Township and not being blessed with the comfortable and the necessary surrounding’s, sought the place for the helpless and there ended her days as an inmate. Rev. Donaldson, accompanied by the entire congregation, after Sunday afternoon services, attended her funeral in a body and interred her unfortunate remains in an appropriate manner.” (After all, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.”)
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: email@example.com