Friday, January 07, 2011

Erie County Infirmary

The historic limestone Erie County building at 2900 South Columbus Avenue served as the Erie County Infirmary from 1886 until 1976, when the residents were transferred to the Erie County Care Facility at 3916 East Perkins Avenue in Huron Township. A history of the Erie County Care Facility and its predecessors is found on the Erie County web site.  The Infirmary housed individuals who were poor, unfortunate, disabled, or who were unable to care for themselves. Sixty acres of land were farmed on the Infirmary grounds. Residents capable of farming the land pursued this occupation as they were able. A hospital was located on the grounds to care for the sick. Over a seven year span, Katharyn Huss Wunderley produced a book which compiles information about residents who died at the Infirmary. She included obituary citations, references to local newspaper articles, and often indicated how long the person had made their home at the Infirmary. The book, entitled Erie County Ohio Infirmary, provides history of the facility, regulations from 1856, and a listing of the directors and superintendents.

The April 17, 1896 issue of the Sandusky Register ran a story about Jean Lafitte Johnson, who was buried at the Infirmary Cemetery, located just north of the Jewish Cemetery, on Columbus Avenue. Jean Johnson was said to have been the adopted son of Dan Rice, who had a traveling show. The “Great Quadruple Exhibition” featured circus acts and trained animals. Jean Johnson was a bareback horse rider who performed “unequaled feats of horsemanship.” Jean Johnson died July 12, 1895. A Mr. J. Killer died at the 1910, and was buried in the Infirmary Cemetery. He was afflicted with tuberculosis, and thought that if he lived in his covered wagon out in the open air, he would recover. He did not recover, and died in the wagon near Castalia. Robert W. Tavener (sometimes spelled Tavenor), known as the “Prince of Story Tellers,” became a resident of the Erie County Infirmary in 1918. He had been a colorful figure in Sandusky for many years. From 1900 – 1902, he operated a large bath parlor at the corner of Washington and Warren Streets. Mr. Tavener’s obituary in the February 21, 1919 Sandusky Register states that R. W. Tavener was a “globe trotter, medicine man, bath house proprietor, and finally porter in downtown cafes…” 

Read Mrs. Wunderley’s book, Erie County Ohio Infirmary, to learn more about the lives and deaths of many of the facility’s residents.

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