Greene County Almshouse
|Greene County Almshouse|
|Building Style||Single Building|
In 1861, the county of Greene acquired a large farm in western Franklin Township upon which stood a 12-room farmhouse built in 1857 by the Rinehart family. The structure was a large Georgian Revival with a center hall and finely decorated rooms, an extravagant home for the time. This home and farm was to be the site of the Greene County poorhouse. It didn’t take long for construction of a new wing to begin. The original house was used as a residence for the steward of the poorhouse, and the new two story wing, expanding straight out of the rear elevation of the house contained a long hallway with ten rooms running along the hall on the first floor, and an identical configuration on the second. Early in 1862, the county approved measures to install a new public roadway that would run in front of the facility. This roadway became Rt. 21, later be known as Old 21, and is now Rolling Meadows Road.
Issac Pipes was the first inmate to live in the facility, having been admitted on the 2nd of June 1862. Pipes was 40 years old, and formerly resided in Franklin Township. The records indicate that he had never held a job or an occupation of any sort, and his reason for admission was “crippled”. In 1881, a lengthy article written by a Mr. Ourt about poorhouses and almshouses from across the country was featured in Atlantic Monthly criticizing the living conditions of the Greene County poorhouse, and that prompted construction of a new wing in 1886. The new wing contained twelve new dorm rooms and a bathroom facility on each floor, and a basement of a similar layout. When the new wing was constructed, the 1861 wing was reconfigured, and five of the rooms on the first floor were converted to a large dining facility. This brought the total number of dorm rooms in the building to 38, for a total of 50 rooms in the facility, including the rooms in the steward’s home.
During this time period a new steward came to the facility: William B. Cage, by many accounts a cruel and sadistic man. The Waynesburg Republican published several articles about him in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s. A very concise report appeared in 1890 that detailed many of his inhumane treatments. He was known to use the food set aside for the residents to throw lavish parties in the “front of the house” – or the stewards residence – while leaving only scraps and leftovers for the inmates, he was accused of chaining individuals up in the basement rooms of the newest wing and allowing them to starve as punishment for minor infractions, and forcing the residents to bath in the creek behind the poorhouse in the icy cold winter months. He was known to have a cane with which he commonly beat the residents. It was even reported that Cage staffed the kitchen with a head cook who was blind, and that as a result the food consumed by the inmates was generally undercooked, and filled with flies.
The 1900’s brought a renewed sense of peace and happiness to the poorhouse and with the removal of Cage, new stewards were hired and living conditions improved. There are letters archived from inmates who were transferred to other institutions throughout the state, begging to return to the kind treatment they had grown accustomed to in the Greene County poorhouse, or as it was then called “The Green Hills Farm.” In the early 1960’s the old poorfarm had morphed into a retirement home for the aged of the Community; it was soon replaced by the Curry Home built across the road. The old house and grounds of the farm sat vacant for a few years before being taken on by the Greene County Historical Society in 1971, where they began to operate a local history museum that is still in existence.