Event Scioto County Infirmary

In Search of a Wife! At the Scioto County Infirmary

Scioto County Infirmary

“Andrew Jones is the euphonious patronymic of an aged gentleman who dwells at Lucasville in the neighboring bailiwick of Valley, who for some time has been afflicted with a desire to secure a partner to share his joys and sorrows, sew buttons on his shirt, and perform all and singular the duties that pertain to a true and faithful wife.”

“Sixty brief summers have passed over the head of the party of the first part, and although endowed with a good part of this world’s goods, he was until recently without the most necessary thing to a happy man -a companion. He gazed over his flocks and ‘cattle upon a thousand hills,’ his well-filled barns and granaries (if he had any), but counted them all a barren ideality and sham, unless he had a woman to share his heart and home.

The story of abduction of the fair Helen from her husband Menelaus King of Sparta, by Paris, the wayward son of Priam, the Trojan Prince, he rolled under his tongue as a sweet morsel, and although Andrew meditated no such thing as kidnapping, yet the fires of an unrequited love burned within him with a consuming power, and on Saturday last he set out upon his journey in search of a wife.”

“But where should he go? This was a question that bothered him greatly. There were none of his lady acquaintances who could be induced to join with him ‘for better or worse,’ for in this kind of a trade, as in all others it takes the assent of both parties to make a bargain, and in despair he turned the steps of his faithful horse toward the Scioto county Infirmary, that noble pile whose towering spires did erstwhile kiss the morning sun in his coming, a noble monument of the benevolence and charity of the tax-ridden people of Scioto county. (This picture is supposed to have existed before the fire.)”

Reining up his animal at the garden gate, he met Superintendent Cole, and with a sort of ‘got-any-such-a-thing-as-a-wife-about-here’ look, he told the kind-hearted custodian of the place his mission, and the whys and wherefores that caused him to make the trip, and summoning his wife, they determined to assist Mr. Jones all that was in their power toward securing the prize he desired. To this end they rigged up all the female inmates in their Sunday clothes, told them the object of Jones’ visit, and you ought to have seen some of them try to look their sweetest as they stood up in a row for the inspection of the party from Lucasville. They didn’t know who might draw the prize in the lottery.”

“Jones cast a critical eye along the line, and finally selected one Martha Barnhart, whom he thought would suit, and upon being interrogated she expressed an entire willingness to become Mrs. Jones.”

“She was a fair-looking woman about 30 years of age, an inmate of the institution since April last, had a rosy complexion, a wealth of golden tresses (don’t know where she bought them,) and altogether seemed good enough for Andrew. It was soon agreed that the wedding should take place on Tuesday, 8th inst., and the overjoyed Jones came to this city and purchased an outfit for his bride, consisting of a calico dress, new shoes, and the many other minor things that go to make up a woman’s wardrobe, sending them out to the Infirmary by Mr. Cole, and cautioning that gentleman to have everything ready for the ceremony when he should returning on the 8th. But poor, fickle man, he soon changed his mind. He couldn’t wait until the appointed time.”

“Returning home, he remained over Sunday, and on Monday the heavy rain kept him from his work. While sitting at home, unable to do anything in the fields, he cogitated over his proposed new departure, and bethought himself that why couldn’t he get married right away, why wait more than a week more? He couldn’t do any outdoor work on account of the wet weather, and he might save time by marrying.”

“The suggestion was at once acted upon, and on Tuesday morning he returned to the infirmary, and told Mr. Cole and his intended what he proposed doing. He did not bring the license with him he added, because he did not know the name of the woman who was to be his wife, but this was soon attended to, and parties were dispatched to the city for the necessary legal papers. The new dresses purchased by Jones had not been made up, but Mrs. Cole improvised a wedding garment, and fixed up Martha just too sweet for any use.”

Marriage license issued to Andrew Jones and Martha Barnhart on August 1, 1882.1

“After all the minor details had been arranged, the inmates were summoned to the lawn in front of the Infirmary to act as witnesses, and under the wide-spreading trees they plighted their troth. Boss Foster, Justice of the Peace, officiating as Master of Ceremonies. A marriage fee of thirty cents was placed in the palm of the Justice, and Miss Martha Barnhart, formerly of the Infirmary, was soon Mrs. Andrew Jones, of Valley township. They departed as a happy pair of turtle doves. Jones firm in the belief he had found a mascotte that would bring good fortune to his house, while the blushing bride showed her good opinion of the situation by the exhibition of a countenance roseate with smiles.” 2

Admittance entry of Martha Barnhart to the Scioto County Infirmary on March 24, 18823

Within the original volume of the “Commissioners Infirmary Record” is Martha Barnhart’s admittance into the Scioto County Infirmary at the reported age of 27 on March 24, 1882. The opposite page notes her departure from the Infirmary as, “Married under the apple tree August 1st 1882 and left Infirmary.”

Few records, aside from the above Infirmary records and Scioto County marriage license, were found while researching this story. Many records that are publicly available center on a Andrew Jones, of Otway, Ohio, and from Brush Creek Township, who originated from near Moore’s Chapel in Adams County, Ohio. However, this person was married at the time of this story and remained so throughout his life.

A later story involving Andrew and Martha takes place in Lucasville, Ohio, the following year.

“There has been no little excitement at Lucasville, this week, over an unfortunate scandal, in which Constable Johnson figures rather conspicuously, but whether rightfully or not, we are not prepared to state.”

“Some time last summer, an old gentleman by the name of Jones, from Lucasville, became possessed with a desire to have a wife to soothe him in his declining years. He went to the county Infirmary and poured his tale of sorrow and love for some unknown, into the ears of Superintendent Cole. The latter told him he thought he could fit him out. Mrs. Cole was instructed to dress all the female inmates of lawful age and marriageable inclinations, in their best bib and tucker, which she did, and somewhat after the manner in which Samuel chose David, Mr. Jones when told to take his pick, selected Martha Bradshaw, hailing from Tygart Creek, a woman past thirty. The twain were married and they lived and loved, for all we know, to their utmost bent.”

“Last Saturday, Mrs. Jones says, that Constable Johnson assaulted her with improper motives, and that she defended herself with vigor and a righteous indignation, until the arrival of her husband, when the amative officer vamoosed the ranch.”

“The officer narrates the story somewhat differently, saying that their little bout was only of a playful character, and that the presence of the husband at an inauspicious time, or words to that effect, accounts for the charge, which he indignantly denies.”

Visions of heavy lawsuits, double-barreled guns in the hands of the outraged husband, and other dire threatenings have made the atmosphere of Lucasville sulphurous, and to borrow a homely phrase, there was blood on the moon for a few days, but our special messenger, who was dispatched to the seat of war, last Thursday, brought back information that the matter had been amicable settled, and he heard the citizens putting $15 as the sum which appeased female wrath and tempered the passion of her better half.”4

Martha Jones December 7, 1883 admission to the Scioto County Infirmary
Martha Jones December 10, 1883 discharge from the Scioto County Infirmary

On December 7, 1883 a female by the name of Martha Jones, 27, of Bloom Township, was admitted to the Scioto County Infirmary. Except for the changing of the surname the details of this person are the same as Martha Barnhart. Throughout the story, either by intentional deception or lack of due diligence, there are errors of fact. Martha was reported as having been of 30 years of age, previously a native to Bloom Township, and a resident of the Infirmary for over a year, while the official record states that she was only 27 years old. A later reporting declares again that she was thirty and native to the area of Tygart’s Creek in Kentucky, and that her surname was Bradshaw.

It is completely possible by the age of 27 that Martha could have been previously married, living in Bloom Township, having been born in Kentucky. It was not uncommon for women to seek refuge in the Infirmary during times of domestic abuse, sickness, or if the husband became estranged, and there was no nearby family to provide support. This would also explain the lack of records located as her maiden name is not known.

Another possibility is that the admission information provided to the Infirmary Superintendent or Matron was a fabrication and while this would seem nefarious it was not unheard of.

What is known is that a man got on his horse and rode to the infirmary to be married, and married he was, beneath the apple tree.

  1. Marriage License of Andrew Jones and Martha Barnhart (Scioto County Probate Court August 01, 1882).
  2. In Search of a Wife! (1882, August 05). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
  3. Commissioners Infirmary Record (Vol. 1). (1882). Porstmouth, OH: Scioto County Infirmary Superintedent.
  4. Jones-Johnson Jamboree. (1883, January 06). Portsmouth Times, p. 2.
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