Friday, October 30, 2015

The Darke County Poorhouse Cemetery

The original infirmary c.1868
when Annie Oakley was a resident
The Darke County Infirmary opened in 1854. It was one of the many 19th century Ohio poorhouses that took care of the destitute (or just their children), mentally ill, and elderly. Residents were referred to as "paupers" in the register. Sometimes parents under financial burdens would send their children to places like this. Eight-year-old Ohioan Annie Oakley was sent to this infirmary by her widowed Mother and lived there for 2 years in the 1860's until she was hired out by a family to do chores. Annie never got paid by the abusive family and ran away. She returned to the home and was eventually reunited with her Mother by age 12. It's hard to imagine a life like that.
the second infirmary, from a 1915 postcard
The original infirmary building was struck by lightning on June 2, 1897. It burned to the ground and another one was built. It also was hit by lightning and burned. Since 1978 another Darke County Home still operates as a modern nursing facility. To my knowledge, it has not been struck by lightning.

The county home also had its own cemetery located to the east of the intersection of US-127 and OH-49 outside Greenville OH.

Most of the marble markers in the infirmary cemetery have no names, just numbers. I guess that cost extra and this was the poorhouse after all. There are records online that list the names and dates of the deceased although several are still listed as "unknown". Many of the markers with names seem to have been military veterans or recent burials. There are at least eight Civil War veterans and one WWII veteran interred in the cemetery. It's kind of sad knowing that some of our nation's veterans ended up in a place like this, alone or too ill to care for themselves.

When I was in the area geocaching on October 22, 2011, grave No. 26 happened to catch my eye since it was also marked with a name. James Perry was a Private in the 7th Independent Company, Ohio Sharpshooters mustered in on January 27, 1863, at Camp Cleveland, OH in the US Civil War. Records show he likely fought in the Battle of Atlanta, Peachtree Creek, and Kennesaw Mountain. Perry was buried here in 1917 at the age of 75.

But wait, there's more!

This post was originally going to end there. Then I learned a few sad stories as I looked through the online records.

George Henry Davis has several aliases listed. He was killed in 1936 during his attempted poolroom holdup in Greenville. His occupation is listed as "robber" and cause of death, "justifiable homicide". He was identified by fingerprints and was buried under marker number 104 which is now gone. It's almost as if he never existed.

unmarked, numbered gravestone
Katie Melissa McNutt was born at the home in 1911 and died 22 days later. Several members of the McNutt family are buried here.

Grave no. 139 is listed as "unknown". This was a child found in a ditch east of Castine OH in 1947.

Partheria Mullen lived at the home for 6 years. She died in 1909 at age 46 due to "softening of the brain". I had to Google that one. I think it is an archaic term they used for senile dementia caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. She was just left and forgotten. The records state that no one ever visited her during her stay.

But possibly the most tragic of all is the story of the Jane Doe buried here.
A nude body was discovered on October 11, 1970, in a cornfield in nearby Arcanum OH. The condition of the body was so bad that photos or fingerprints could not make a match to anyone. The identity of this young woman remained unsolved for 39 years. In 2009 DNA testing revealed this to be Jeanne Marie Melville, an 18-year-old missing person from Green Bay WI. Sadly, Jeanne's mother died the year before, never knowing what happened to her daughter. The murder case itself is still unsolved. Use the links for more info. It breaks my heart to look at this young woman's photo.

I'm not sure if this place is haunted, but it should be.

other sources:
- Records of the Darke County Infirmary
- Annie Oakley: Darke county’s favorite daughter
- Darke County Home Cemetery (more photos)
- This Dark County