Wood County Infirmary
|Wood County Infirmary|
|Location||Bowling Green, OH|
When boards of county commissioners were instructed by the Ohio General Assembly to designate a portion of taxpayer funds for the construction for poor houses, little was realized about the depth of knowledge needed to maintain a public charity building and those that inhabited the structure. Although Wood County was incorporated in 1820, it was not until 1863 that county commissioners entertained the idea of constructing a building specifically for community members who required permanent public charity assistance.
Wood County is divided up into nineteen townships. People needing public charity relief filled out an application for relief with their local township trustee. To qualify for relief an applicant was required to live within the county for one year. If the applicant did not live in the county for one year, the legal county of residence was determined and required to reimburse the contributing county. Applicants needing temporary help in the form of money to pay medical bills, buy food or clothing, pay for burial, or obtain other necessities of life were awarded outdoor relief and did not live at the county managed infirmary. If an individual or family required relief considered permanent, then township trustees would discontinue outdoor relief and grant indoor relief or admission to live at the county poorhouse.
Opening in 1869, Thomas C. Reid managed the infirmary until 1877 when E.M. Jenkins assumed the role of superintendent. Jenkins position was short lived and in 1878 the county commissioners hired Edwin and Charlotte Farmer to manage the poorhouse. Over the course of 26 years, Edwin and Charlotte raised their four children: Alfred, Warren, Lottie, and Rose, at the infirmary. In 1904 when Edwin died suddenly, their daughter Lottie and her husband Frank Brandeberry took over as Superintendent and Matron until 1949 when age and declining health forced the couple into retirement. The Farmer and Brandeberry families managed the Wood County Infirmary for 72 out of the 102 years the original site of the poorhouse cared for the counties indigent.
Built in 1885 for $1,700.00, the Lunatic Asylum was designed to house mentally ill male residents. The first eight patients were transferred here in 1886 from the Perrysburg Insane Farm. By 1900, Ohio legislation mandated that all mentally ill patients transfer to state hospitals, which changed the focus of the facility to dormitory space for trustworthy male residents. Evidence of remodeling occurred between 1925 and 1940, most likely to accommodate more residents as a result of the Great Depression
A majority of recommendations made by the Ohio State Board of Charities occurred during the Farmer/Brandeberry years of service, making their story the focus of this chapter on Wood County, Ohio. The original infirmary building closed in 1971 and the site reemerged in 1975 as the Wood County Museum. The Wood County Historical Society maintain institutional archives related to the former county infirmary.
The Ohio State Board of Charities recommended all county infirmaries set aside at least an acre of land for pauper burials. The Wood County Infirmary Cemetery was used from 1870 until the late 1940s. In 2019, the Wood County Museum, with the help of the Wood County Genealogical Society, identified 252 confirmed burials and dedicated a monument noting the people buried in the cemetery. Additional identifications of the deceased continue to be located and are documented. Records of those who either died at the county home or, due to financial circumstances, were place in a pauper grave do exist and are stored in the archives of The Wood County Museum.
The property is now home to the Wood County Museum. Museum website