The Wood County Home
- From 1869 to its closing in 1971, the Wood County Infirmary (also known as the county home) saw to the care of the county’s sick,
elderly, destitute, and mentally ill. The creation of an infirmary in Wood County was part of a national reform movement during the
nineteenth century. In the area of poverty relief, reformers encouraged the establishment of institutionalized poorhouses and farms. They
believed that the poor should be placed in institutions where work was compulsory. As historian Michael Katz summarizes, poorhouses
were promoted as humane alternatives that would serve as a “refuge for the helpless but also a deterrent for the able-bodied.” Above all, the
poorhouses would instill a work ethic in those presumed to be lazy, as “idleness and alcohol would be prohibited.”
Like many other rural poorhouses, the county home was a working farm of 200 acres. Able-bodied residents worked to make the institution self-sufficient, both inside and out. Men assisted with farm chores, while women and men physically unable to work outside helped with cleaning and cooking.
History of the AsylumIn 1884, the Superintendent of the County Infirmary, together with the Wood County Board of Commissioners, determined that there was a need for a new facility to house and care for the mentally ill. Construction of the new asylum on the infirmary grounds was completed in 1885 for approximately $1,700. In January 1886, the building opened its doors to eight patients. The building was often referred to as the "Lunatic Asylum" or "Jail House."
Description of the BuildingThe asylum originally consisted of twelve cells, four hospital rooms, one bathroom, and an attendant's room. Patient's accommodations were very basic - most likely nothing more than a bed an perhaps a small table. Heavy metal bars covered the windows and the doors locked from the outside.
AdmittancePatients were often admitted to the asylum by court order. If someone was determined to insane by the court system, a judge then decided to which institution the individual was sent. The institution could decline for certain reasons, such as overcrowding or understaffing, but generally the judge's decision stood. Between 1886-1902, the Wood County court sent 17 patients to the asylum at the Wood County Infirmary. Patients also arrived through family or self-admittance, police arrest, or transfer from another institution.
There is no evidence that individuals were treated poorly or inhumanely. However, since there was very little medical knowledge or understanding of the mentally ill at this time, few medical options for treatments or remedies event existed.
The asylum became more of a holding facility than a treatment center and patients were cared for in simple terms of comfort and safety.
The State Takes OverWhen Ohio became a state in 1803, there were no state facilities to treat or care for the mentally ill. People with mental illnesses were often cared for by their families. For those without familial care, begging and roaming was a way of life. Though they may not have committed any crimes, many were confined in prisons and treated like common criminals.
It was not until 1815 that the Ohio legislature passed a bill that made formal provisions for the care of Ohio's mentally ill. The following year, Ohio authorized its counties to construct poorhouses if the need was present in their community. All 88 counties in Ohio had a poor farm.
The government's push for appropriate mental health facilities took a new turn in 1898 when Ohio passed state legislation mandating that all patients with mental illness be transferred to state hospitals. County homes were no longer allowed to care for these individuals. Despite this mandate, records indicate the Wood County asylum building was used to house mentally ill residents until the 1920s.
TIMELINE OF MENTAL HEALTH
1752 - The first public hospital in PA, which contained a separate ward for mental patients.
1803 - Ohio becomes a state. There are no facilities to care for the mentally ill.
1815 - Ohio passed a bill that made formal provisions to care for Ohio's mentally ill.
1844 - Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions of the Insane (AMSAII) was founded.
1886 - The Lunatic Asylum at the Wood County Infirmary opened to eight patients.
1892 - The AMSAII name was changed to the American Medico-Psychological Association (AMPA).
1898 - Ohio passed state legislation that all patients weith mental illness be transferred to state facilities.
1902 - The Wood County Lunatic Asylum closes.
1921 - The AMPA name was changed to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
1954 - Department of Mental Hygiene and Crrection was established in Ohio.
1968 - Ohio House Bill 648 created a community-based system of county and multi-count boards to plan and coordinate care.
1992 - A survey of American jails reports that 7.2 percent of inmates are overtly and seriously mentally ill, meaning that 100,000 seriously mentally ill poeple have been incarcerated. Over a quarter of them are held without charges, often awaiting a bed in a psychiatric hospital.
2013 - The National Institute for Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association work together to expand scentific basis for psychiatric diagnosis and classificaton and publish the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
This online gallery is snapshot into the physical exhibit located inside the Lunatic Asylum at the Wood County Museum. This exhibit is open to visitors weekdays 10 AM - 4 PM and weekends 1-4 PM. The museum is closed on public holidays. Due to the COVID-19 virus, the museum is currently closed to the public until further notice.