Understanding the Athens County, Ohio Infirmary / Poorhouse
About the Infirmary
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Transcriptions are shown in the order
in which they appeared in the original books. Most are
chronological, but a few appear out of that order for some reason.
Can you TRUST
Basically, yes. Some of the information is
an out-and-out lie, but the records show that, and the person usually is
dismissed. The most common lie is residency. The reason is simple. Without
a qualifying length of residency in the township/county, a person
was not eligible for the aid.
Sometimes the potential inmate gave the
vital information for the paperwork, and sometimes it's obvious someone
else gave the information. The records do not indicate from whom the
information was obtained. It could be the inmate himself/herself, Trustees
of the township, family members, neighbors, etc. **Do not
discount the validity of an entry because of the "neighbor" reference.
In the time frame given, one's neighbors would know considerably more
about you, your life, and your circumstances than one's neighbors in
See each explanation to determine the
possible validity of your particular entry in question.
It also seems that some amount of research
was done on the inmates of the infirmary. It was discovered that Inmates
lied about residency; they were sent to
appropriate County's Infirmary or returned to the proper County's
ran away from other Infirmaries, they
were then returned
gave false names, corrected names are
gave false ages; this applies primarily
to unwed mothers, and is usually discovered when the inmate returns at
a later date.
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How a person came to be at the
infirmary / poorhouse -
Admittance papers - Persons sent to the Infirmary usually
came with "papers". These papers were apparently drawn up
by the Trustees of the Township where the person resided. (There are
exceptions, see Residence below). The "admittance
papers" all contained the same basic information: Name, date of
admittance, Township, Age, Length of residence in Township or County
(see Residence below), previous habits, present condition,
and dismissal notes, death of date, or in the case of some children:
the name of the person the child was bound out to, the date of such
event and the location of the adult accepting the bound child.
Reasons for admittance
or "Present Condition" - First it's important to remember
the structure of the family unit during the time frame. If the
"breadwinner" was ill or unable to provide, the entire family
usually went into the Infirmary with that person. They had no other means
of support and had little choice. If the Woman of the house was admitted,
her children usually went with her; even if the husband or other adults
stayed at the home. With that in mind, here are the basic reasons a person
or family was admitted.
Destitute - poor, unable to
provide & support themselves/family, or unable to be supported by
their family: the latter pertains to children and the elderly mostly.
Sick - Too ill to care for
themselves/family, or too ill to be cared for at home; no one to care
for them while ill.
Pregnant - this usually applies
to unwed mothers
Orphan - no family left, able or
willing to take the children in
Insane - This seems to have a
much broader meaning than it would today in 2003. Some were back and
forth between the Asylums and the infirmary, other were
"cured" and dismissed
Fits / Epileptic - I am unsure
of what exactly constitutes "fits", but it seems to be interchangeable
with epileptics at times. It is also used to term persons who have
neurological disorders and also drunken 'fits". I am searching
for a more concise definition and will post it here when obtained.
Transient - homeless and/or
traveling from one place to another.
Old age - the infirmary served
as a nursing home of sorts to many elderly persons who had no way to
support themselves and no family that could or would take them
Neighbors & or Family members
sometimes took matters into their own hands and wrote to the infirmary or
trustees asking that a person be admitted to the infirmary. Said person
was usually considered by the neighbors to be a threat, a nuisance, insane
or in a state of great need of assistance.
Self - Sometimes the entries state
that the Inmate himself/herself, has requested admittance.
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Residency is given two
Township admitted by - It
seems that the Township Trustees were responsible for the paperwork
sent with each Infirmary Inmate. By noting what Township's Trustees
were directing the admittance, one can determine what Township the
Inmate was residing at that time. NOTE: Occasionally one township will admit someone from another
township within the County, but the record is
usually noted as such.
Length of Residence -
The length of residence given is typically for the amount of time
the inmate has resided in that particular TOWNSHIP. When the length
of residence is given for time in the COUNTY, it is noted as such.
Some records note the length of residence in the County as well as
the township. When no specification is made, the reference of time
is for the TOWNSHIP.
It is obvious from the records that a
certain length of residency was required in order to
be admitted into the Infirmary. I do not know that exact amount of
time. The length of residency may also have changed over time to
allow shorter residencies, or require longer residencies. That
information is not yet known to me. For the most part, it seems that
two months is not sufficient, yet six months seems to
be permitted. Person's not meeting the required residency were
either dismissed from aid, or sent to their "proper
residence", which was usually another County or County
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Indolent - (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) 1.a: averse to activity, effort, or movement : habitually lazy b : conducing to or encouraging laziness
c : exhibiting indolence
Intemperate - (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) not temperate <intemperate criticism; especially : given to excessive use of intoxicating liquors
Destitute - (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) 1 : lacking something needed or desirable <a lake destitute of
fish. 2 : lacking possessions and resources; especially : suffering extreme poverty
Infirm - (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) 1 : of poor or deteriorated vitality; especially : feeble from age
2 : weak of mind, will, or character : IRRESOLUTE, VACILLATING
3 : not solid or stable : INSECURE ; synonym see WEAK
Transient - Persons in transit from
one place to another. OR Homeless, or with out a
settlement of their own.
Pauper (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) 1 : a person destitute of means except such as are derived from charity; specifically : one who receives aid from funds designated for the poor
2 : a very poor person
Temperate - (from Merriam-Webster
Dictionary) 1 : marked by moderation: as a : keeping or held within limits : not extreme or excessive : MILD b : moderate in indulgence of appetite or desire c : moderate in the use of intoxicating liquors d : marked by an absence or avoidance of extravagance, violence, or extreme partisanship.
Bound Out - Indentured, or
similar to indentured. Also similar to present day foster care. There were
legal term set on the conditions of the "bound" person as well
as the person accepting them. Terms might include such things as length of
time to be "bound", payment to the person accepting the
"bound" individual, "Items that may be 'paid' to the
"bound person upon completion of their term, etc. (from
Merriam-Webster Dictionary) 1 : placed under legal or moral restraint or obligation.
Medical terms found in the transcription
Ague - This
was an all-encompassing term for symptoms of fever, chills, aches and
pains, nosebleeds, and a cough. What people
had was Malaria. Malaria was spread by
and caused severe fevers, chills, and weakness. Victims suffered
outbreaks of the condition throughout their lives, and were vulnerable to
numerous other potentially deadly diseases.
sudden diminution or loss of consciousness, sensation, and voluntary
motion, usually caused by extravasations of blood or serum into the brain
or spinal cord. 2. The condition of any
organ or tissue marked by an effusion of blood into its substance as in of
the lung. Cerebral: disturbance of brain circulation as by hemorrhage,
embolism of thrombosis.
- An inflammatory affection of any mucous membrane, in which there are congestion,
swelling, and an alteration in the quantity and quality of mucous
secreted. In America, especially, a chronic inflammation of, and hyper secretion
from the membranes of nose or air passages. in England, an acute
influenza, resulting from a cold and attended with cough, thirst,
lassitude and watery eyes; also, the cold itself. Catarrh Pneumonia is
an inflammation of the lung tissue associated with catarrh and with marked
evidences of inflammation of the bronchial membranes - often chronic.
Clap - Gonorrhea
Cholera - an acute,
infectious epidemic. There were different types of cholera, but all
were highly contagious, and all had severe symptoms of nausea, vomiting,
spasms, chills, and thirst. Cholera was caused by bacillus, often
which had contaminated water supplies. In the early 1800s, doctors
tried to treat cholera by bleeding, blistering, or cupping, or they
suggested that feeding milk to patients would cure the disease.
Merriam-Webster defines as: a progressive wasting away of the body especially from pulmonary
Dropsy - An unnatural
accumulation of serous fluid in any serous cavity of the body, or in the
subcutaneous cellular tissue. The various forms of dropsy affecting
different parts of the body are designated by specific names. Often
associated with the heart.
Fits - A sudden violent
attack of a disorder; a stroke of disease, especially epilepsy or
apoplexy, which produces convulsions or unconsciousness. Fits were also
sometimes caused by excessive alcohol or detoxification from alcohol use.
Grip - a spasm of pain.
Also see GRIPPE, in case of recorder's misspelling.
Grippe - The influenza
or epidemic catarrh. (see Catarrh above)
Infirm - Infirmed is
not a medical term meaning not firm or sound physically; it means weak;
frail...especially as a result of age.
Insanity takes so many forms that a satisfactory rigid or narrow
definition can not be made. It may be congenital, as idiocy, or acquired.
It does not include certain states of transitory mental disorder, such as
trances, epilepsy, hysteria, delusions, etc. insanity may be due to
defective development, acquired disease or natural decay. The term
"Insane" was used to describe permanent AND temporary
conditions. The Transcriptions shows that people termed "Insane"
were dismissed after being "cured". It is also used to define
depression and melancholy.
Rheumatism - A constitutional
disease, which may be acute, sub acute or chronic manifesting itself in a
variety of morbid states and characterized by pain of various types.
Objective symptoms may be fever, local redness, and swelling when
acute,...great deformity may result. The disease attacks joints, muscles,
or serous structures.
Syphilis - a venereal
disease that often was the cause of "insanity" since it tended
to affect the nervous system of the body and brain.
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