Sunday, May 2, 2010

Washington County Infirmary

The Marietta Times, June 3, 1869

Last Monday afternoon, at the invitation of F. A. Wheeler, Esq., one of the Directors, we paid a visit to the Washington County Infirmary.  A ride of three miles brought us to the farm.  This consists of about 170 acres, the most of which was purchased thirty years ago, and it was then a worn-out farm.  The soil was light originally, and "washes" in a heavy rain.  This would suggest careful tillage to anybody who knows aught about farming; but it seems not to have had that effect on some who had managed the place, for, two years ago, the ground had got to be almost sterile.  Large quantities of manure are now hauled out from Marietta, and all that can be supplied by J. H. Dye's livery stable has been engaged.  The object is, to make the Infirmary a self-sustaining institution.  There are about five acres of old orchard trees; and sixteen acres of fruit trees more recently planted.  The probabilities are that there will be an abundant - if not an excessive - supply, this season.

Last year, eight cows were kept.  The product of the dairy was 1,000 lbs. of butter, of which 400 pounds were sold.  The inmates regularly have the morning's milk for their supper.

Of hay, the farm, for a few years prior to 1868, did not yield enough; but, last year, there was a surplus, which was sold for $146, and there is still about a ton left.

Mr. Gill, this year, will have pork enough he thinks; heretofore, there not being half the needed quantity derived from the farm.

Of potatoes there was a deficiency in 1868.  This year, the Superintendent has planted 6 acres, all looking well and thirty acres of corn.

The garden comprises an acre and a half.  Mr. Gill has newly fenced and enlarged it.  Last year, he raised eight hundred head of cabbages; 50 bushels of sweet potatoes; a large bed of onions; plenty of peas, and of several kinds of beans; and of beets, more than a sufficiency.  This year, he has set out fifty grape vines; none had been planted before, old as the place happens to be.  Not one of the paupers is a good gardener; an old German who was such, and who loved the employment, died about two years ago.

In the management of matters about the farm houses, Mr. Gill has no assistants other than his wife, his daughter, and Miss Julia Wheeler, a relative.  There are sixty-one inmates, and of these, thirty-five are "foolish," insane, or demented.  Forty eight take their meals in the common dining room; to the others, food is carried.  The victuals are wholesome, and enough is furnished.  We saw the paupers at their supper; and, judging from appearances, we think that extreme poverty has the merit of giving its subjects a better appetite than all the tonics known to the medical profession, and all the "bitters" ever advertised.

Two old women had attained an advanced age.  Mrs. Grant is 94.  She claims that her father was a relative of General Lewis Cass.  Mrs. Cole, another old woman, is 95.  In the nursery were three babies, two white, one colored, born there.  Illegitimate, of course.  One was but three weeks old.  Its mother was walking about, completely recovered, and quite at her ease.

In what is called the jail, several raving lunatics are confined.  One of them, a burly German, with the neck of a bull, was very noisy.  A poor woman, whose reason had been overthrown by abuse from her husband, was afflicted, in addition to other maladies, with the voracity ascribed to the shark.  If she could but get enough, she would eat till death choked her.  She lay on the floor, with her face pressed against the grated door of the cell, and stretched her hand through the bars as if piteously pleading.  Her whole demeanor was that of a caged animal, such as one may see in a menagerie.

To conclude with the Infirmary: Mr. Gill, as Superintendent, devotes his time to the strict performance of what he has to do, and he is plainly an improvement upon some of his predecessors.  Perhaps the farm - such as it is - may never be completely self-sustaining; but he is making it as nearly so as he can.  In this, he has the co-operation of the board of Directors, and without it, little, perhaps, could be effected.

It was after six o'clock when we left the Infirmary, and, at the request of Esquire Wheeler, we went up the Muskingum river road to the Children's Home.  This is now in charge of Dr. S. D. Hart, and his excellent wife.  They are assisted by three nurses, a cook, a dining room girl under the direction of the cook, and one seamstress, who is employed through the year, except when work presses, and then two are required.  The Doctor himself goes out to work in the fields, and he has one man hired to help him.  Eight boys, big enough to be of some use, are set at whatever they can do.

There are fifty four children in the Home at present; the oldest is 14 years of age; the youngest, an infant of seven weeks.  There are two other babes, each about a year old.  The ages of most of the children range between 2 and 6 years.  Nearly half are illegitimate.  Their mothers are not really able to take care of them, or else they are too shiftless and indolent.  We were shown through all the rooms, and found everything comfortable, and in order.  It was growing dark; the children were collected in what is called a school room; a hymn was sung; prayer was offered by Dr. Hart, and then they began to prepare for bed. 

Our little party, at the same time, set about returning to Marietta.  We had spent a thoughtful afternoon; first with old people whose lives were destined to end under the clouds, and then with young folk whose lives had begun under a cloud.  And yet, neither the aged nor the youthful unfortunates were exactly the most miserable folks we had seen on the earth.

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