Excerpts from Wood County Court Records:
May 10, 1864, Order Book #1 - Edward Tracewell, Harry Beeson, Thompson Leach and Lysander Dudley were asked to seek out a suitable farm for a "poor house."
July 5, 1864 - It was agreed that a suitable farm or piece of land be purchased for the better and more economical keeping of the poor of the county.
Photo provided by Bob Enoch
Completed in 1917, the new, 65-room Wood County Infirmary at Cedar Grove was a showcase compared with the hovel inmates had resided in since 1867. In February of 1950 the building burned to the ground, resulting in the death of Lewis Coffey, an inmate of the institution. A smaller, one-level building was soon built; shortly thereafter care of the poor was turned over to private enterprise.
Aug. 13, 1864 - "Resolved to purchase the "homestead" farm of T.H. Bartlett on the Staunton Pike. A bond was issued to Bartlett for $6,000, payable in 5 years with interest. In 1799 this 200+ acre tract was patented to Daniel Kincheloe, Sr. Upon his death in 1834 the property was willed to his son, Daniel Kincheloe, Jr. It was then that the area reportedly became known as "Cedar Grove" from its verdant forest trees and the beauty of its approach and surroundings.
April 2, 1869 - G.M. Riddle, keeper of the poor house, was ordered to cause the log house in the orchard on the poorhouse farm to be fitted up comfortably and Dr. Barnes, an inmate of said poorhouse to be removed to said house and taken care of until further notice.
July 14, 1869 - G.M. Riddle was given the right to pass "toll free" on the Staunton Turnpike.
Oct. 6, 1869 - "On petition the following rates of ferriage was established at the ferry at Claysville in Wood County: for each foot passenger, 5 cents; for a man and a horse, 15 cents; for two horses and a wagon, 25 cents; for each additional horse in a team, 10 cents; cattle per head, 5 cents; sheep, 2.5 cents per head; hogs, 2.5 cents per head.
March 1, 1870 - G.M. Riddle was awarded the Superintendents job at the poor farm. Riddle had 7 votes, H.S. Dye had 3 and J.M. Smith had 1.
Shedding light on a dark subject
In the June 17, 1901 edition of the Daily Morning News (Parkersburg) a lengthy article by Will J. Cooper gave an eye-opening description of the poor house and its inmates. Part of the headline read: Conditions that should be investigated. Some pitiful cases - lack of medical attention - children in the institution.
His first paragraph reads: "A community of any considerable size in which there are no paupers, or others dependent upon the common support is probably not to be found on earth today. It is a dream of the idealist which may be realized in some future age, but which under present sociological conditions cannot be hoped for. The most that is being done at present, is to relieve in as great a degree as possible, the sufferings of the unfortunate who claim our charity, and it is along this line that philanthropical persons and societies are working."
Will Smith's article offered a vivid description of life, or perhaps existence, in the County Poor Farm. Though the article did bring some much needed relief for the inmates, it wasn't until 1917 that the above pictured, modern building was built.
Died in Infirmary-Oldest inmate succumbed to the ravages of age and disease
Overseer of the Poor J.H. Crippett received word this morning from the County Infirmary to the effect that George Forester, about whom much was printed in the papers a few weeks ago, was found dead in bed this morning. While it is not known just when he died, it is supposed it was about midnight.
The deceased was about eighty-four years old and was born in Connecticut. He was buried today in the cemetery in connection with the county farm. He had been around here for several years, much of the time sleeping in the open with a pack of dogs, which followed him from place to place.
The Parkersburg Sentinel,
July 16, 1910
The Wood County Historical Society works to preserve yesterday for tomorrow. For more information, contact P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102