Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Jun 15

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Life at the Greene County Infirmary

Posted on June 15, 2015 at 5:31 PM by Alaina Coffee

"I, for one, have never in my life come across a perfectly healthy human being." - The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

In last week's blog post we explored what life would have been like in the County Poor-House. We learned of some residents who found shelter at the County Poor-House. It is important to note that the Poor-House also served as the County Infirmary. This week, we are going to look at some of the residents or inmates who wandered off the infirmary's property

Now when I think of an infirmary, my mind automatically reverts back to the literary tale of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain or the cult film classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

  Mann’s Magic Mountain takes place in a sanitarium in the foothills of the Alps before the outbreak of World War I. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stars a young Jack Nicholson playing an inmate in a mental institution. These fictional sagas serve as an imaginative basis for many people who have never been to an infirmary (including me). 

Photo courtesy of Archives New Zealand via Flickr

The Greene County Infirmary served as a place of recovery for those who were extremely ill. Let's take a look at some of the conditions of the inmates.
  Greene County Infirmary Admission/Discharge Records 1840-1876 (Notice one individual was returned by the Shakers and another was prostrated from eating opium).

Individuals  who were deemed "insane" or "idiotic" resided in a separate building on the infirmary's campus. The recovery process for some very ill inmates required extended stays. Looking through records, it seems a few individuals needed a brief moment of escape.

 I discovered a page from the Infirmary Daybook, describing persons who "STRAYED" off of the infirmary's property.

                        Written in the County Infirmary Day-Book
On the "Strayed" page there is a description of three girls who went missing. One of the girls was described as "A young redhead woman wearing a mother hubbard dress." It also stated she had "blossoms on the end of her nose (blemishes) and answered to the name Evaline."

A reward was offered when a black haired and black eyed 25 year old woman drifted off.

These are not the "strayed" women - they are Tahitian women wearing Mother Hubbard Dresses. Tahitiennes_en_robe_mission
                                 County Infirmary Daybook

What was one's punishment if they went off the grounds? Perhaps they were shackled in the Dungeon! (See Below)
The narratives and the rules that are listed above are from the earlier days of the infirmary. The infirmary directors issued strict rules as part of their administrative duties. They governed the affairs of the infirmary up until 1913. The County Commissioners then assumed the administrative duties - included examining the conditions of the inmates and the manner in which they were fed and clothed.

 What was the impression of the infirmary? Reading through the visitor's register, the infirmary seemed to be a clean and well-maintained facility.  
                Visitor's Remarks (Visitor's Register 1870-1914)

A doctor who was assisting with amputating a man's thigh and arm at the infirmary toured the facility afterward. Below are his observations of the infirmary and its inmates.
According to secondary sources, the infirmary had a sufficient number of baths and other conveniences for its residents. The facility was heated  with steam and during the summer months the large front lawn was carefully maintained with beautiful flower beds.

The grand three-story infirmary building stood for 108 years in Xenia (1869-1977). While you look at these photos of the infirmary, play the audio clip of the phonograph record (recently played and recorded at Greenewood Manor). Several different records were found before the building was torn down. They were given to Greenewood Manor. The Greene County Archives have some of these whimsical records.

Sit back, listen to Ella Fitzgerald and "dream a little dream" of what it would be like to be back at the infirmary. 

My apologies for the poor quality of this image. It is a copy from a scanned image.

          The Infirmary during the process of tearing it down in 1977.

Until Next Time!

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Charles Dickens
This Week's Trivia Question: What replaced the Greene County Infirmary/County Home?

- Broadstone, M.A. History of Greene County Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions, Vol I. B.F. Bowen & Company: Indianapolis, IN, 1918.


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