Person Scioto County Infirmary

Gladys & John: They Eloped from the Infirmary

“John Wamp and Miss Gladdis, of the County Infirmary skipped out Wednesday night. From the County Infirmary there comes a great tale of an elopement that is truly a corker. The parties to this deal in high life are John Wamp and a young woman who goes by the name of Gladdis. Wamp will be remembered by many persons about the city, and worked for some time for a lady living on the Chillicothe pike just out of town. Misfortune overtook John and he sought shelter from the persecutions of a cruel and unfeeling world inside the walls of the County Infirmary.”

“All went well until some six or eight weeks ago when there came to the infirmary one day a rather good looking, middle-aged woman, who gave the name of Gladdis. She winked at John and John winked back, and so on and so forth until they got downright spoony. This billing and cooing reached a climax Wednesday night when these two ‘folded their tents like the Arabs and silently stole away.’ in the darkness, leaving no trace behind them.”

“The infirmary authorities investigated but could learn nothing of the couple’s whereabouts.”1

A search of the Register of Inmates shows that John Walk, aged 23 years, from Wayne Township (Portsmouth, Ohio), was admitted to the Scioto County Infirmary on January 21, 1895.

The subsequent page of the register notes that he ran away with Gladys Renzie on February 17, 1895.

The Register of Inmates shows that a Gladis Renzie, whose prior residence was Valley Township, was admitted to the Scioto County Infirmary on January 10, 1895.

The following page, reserved for discharge remarks, notes that she ran away with John Walk on February 17, 1895.

The Marriage of John Walk and Mrs. Gladys Colley
Marriage license for John Walk and Gladys Colley2

Held in the records of the Scioto County Probate Court is the marriage license issued to John Walk and Gladys Colley by Probate Court Judge George M Osborn and Deputy Clerk Susie Dawson on March 21, 1895. The wedding was conducted by Reverend John Floerke. Strangely enough, the document was sworn and signed by William S Moore, and Gladys and John not present. The relationship between William S Moore and John or Gladys is not currently known. What is known, is that just beneath, the Walk marriage license is the license for William S Moore and Josephine King which was issued the same day. However, the Moore-King wedding was held on March 30th by Justice of the Peace Daniel Shakespeare.

Thankfully, the clerk provided additional information that gives us clues to further research John and Gladys. Written beside their names, at the top, are their ages, not just the standard ‘above 18 and above 21′ statements found in the body of the form document. This information helps better establish their dates of birth, with John being born about 1871 and Gladys about 1866. Gladys’ birth year is additionally supported by later documentation.

We can also see that Gladys was admitted to the Infirmary under what is presumed to be her maiden surname Renzie. As she is being married to John Walk under her married name Colley and with the prefix ‘Mrs.’ it would be logical that additional records exist to support the divorce from her previous husband or his death.

Genealogical Data Prior to 1900

Searching available information prior to the 1900 Federal Census has proven difficult as typical genealogical roadblocks are at play, namely name spelling variations, wide and changing date ranges for birth, and also the availability of records.

The 1880 Federal Census3, enumerated a widow Emaline Rensey, aged 51, and her son Theodore Rensey, aged 17, living in Scioto County, Ohio. This uncommon name, particularly for this county, is a spelling variant for Renzie. However, in 1880 Glady’s would have been approximately 14 years of age. It is possible that she was working and living with someone else, her surname being omitted or incorrectly entered. The 1890 Federal Census was almost entirely destroyed and is no longer available for this area to provide much-needed information which may have included not only her but the name of her first spouse as well. Lastly, probate records pertaining to the infirm and insane. These records are not currently publicly available and are only released from the court by order of the probate court judge with jurisdiction over them.

As Gladys was admitted to the infirmary and left without permission it is with certainty that she was not there of her own volition and that accompanying court documentation exists that could provide more insight into her past and provide further context to the following story.

The 1900 Federal Census
The 1900 Federal Census4

The 1900 Federal Census shows John and Gladdis Walk living at 21 East 14th Street in Portsmouth, Ohio. John is detailed as having been born in Ohio about December 1867 and both of his parents being born in Pennsylvania. At this time is working as a day laborer who can neither read nor write and was employed only six of the twelve months prior to the census. Gladdis is detailed as having been born about August 1866 in Virginia, the same state as both of her parents. The record also shows that during the five previous years of their marriage they have had no children.

The 1910 Federal Census
The 1910 Federal Census5

The 1910 Federal Census is a remarkable find in that we have a John Walk, a 40-year old laborer living with his 39-year-old laundress wife, Gladys, at 1522 17th Street, an area noted as “le hill” by the census taker.

Approximate location for 1522 17th Street.

It should also be noted that they were not the primary head of household, but rather were renting their home from the owner-occupant Henry Gray, railroad fireman, and his wife Vena Gray. We can also see from the Census that of John and Gladys’ union no children were yet conceived.

A Crime of Hardship

“Three ‘coal merchants’ were arraigned before Squire John W Byron Tuesday morning. George Humes, John Walk, and James Day were each fined $5 on a charge of stealing coal from the Norfolk and Western railroad. The fines against Day and Walk were suspended.”

“The men were arrested by Detective Andy Leslie.6

The Death of Gladys Walk

“A message was received today by John Walk, of Fourteenth street, informing him of the death of his wife, Gladys Walk, 45, at the Athens State hospital last night. She was committed to the Institution by local probate court about two months ago on account of her mental condition.”

“For many years previous to being sent to Athens, she was addicted to the use of drugs, it is said. On account of the poor financial circumstances of the husband, the body was buried at Athens.”7

Gladys Walk Death Certificate
Death Certificate for Gladys Walk8

The death certificate for Gladys Walk, issued by the Athens State Hospital, states that she died on June 12, 1919, not June 19, 1919, as suggested by the Portsmouth Weekly Times. Her cause of death was listed as inanition, exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment.

Sometime after the opening of historic Ohio asylum records in 2005, Terry Gilkey, an Athens cemetery researcher, compiled a short alphabetized index9 to the graves with one line for each individual for those buried at the Athens State Hospital cemetery.

She was interred at Ridges Cemetery, Cemetery #2, Grave #440.

1920 Federal Census
1920 Federal Census10

The 1920 Federal Census shows John, now a widow, aged 50 years, living around the corner from his previous residence at 1410 Kinney’s Street (known as Kinney’s Lane), and working as a delivery man for a local grocer.

Approximate location of 1410 Kinney Street

After the 1920 Federal Census, John begins to fade into obscurity. He is not found in either the 1930 or 1940 Federal Census. His name was not located in local newspapers again until 1946.

The Death of John Walk

On December 16, 1946, the Portsmouth Times ran the following obituary for John Walk.

“John Walk, 79 of 617 1/2 Chillicothe st, who died at 8:30 PM Saturday in Portsmouth General hospital following a three-week illness, will be buried Tuesday afternoon in Greenlawn cemetery. Interment will follow rites to be held at 2 PM at Piatt funeral home, where the body now may be viewed.”

“Mr. Walk, a native of Scioto county, spent the last 25 years in Portsmouth. He was an employee of Bagby’s grocery for 15 years.”

“In March 1895, he was married to Glady’s L Colley. She preceded him in death in 1925.”11

The above obituary provides information that supports other previously known information such as employment, but if used as a single source it could be misleading. The particular section providing the year of Glady’s death being the most egregious error.

The following day a more succinct obituary was printed by the same newspaper.

“Last rites of John Walk, 79, of 617 1/2 Chillicothe street, who passed away Saturday, were to be held at 2 PM today at Piatt funeral home with Adjutant Arthur B Hill of the Salvation Army officiating. Burial was to follow in Greenlawn cemetery.”12

Greenlawn Cemetery, in Portsmouth, Ohio, logs the burial of a John Walk in its cemetery on December 17, 1946. This individual is buried in Section 22 Block West 1/2 Lot 90 Plot Division E.

Conclusion

Who John and Gladys were before they met is still a mystery yet to be solved. Fortunately, it is only a matter of time before additional records are made public and will be available to fill the gaps in our knowledge of these two people. What it is known, is that they lived a life of hardship, each with their own burdens. We know that despite these burdens they remained with each other from that night on February 17, 1895, until the end of their days.

  1. They Eloped. (1895, March 2). Portsmouth Times, p. 3.
  2. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6Q67-KVC?i=239&cc=1614804&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AXDKT-7YD
  3. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YBX-9QTQ?i=10&cc=1417683&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AM8SG-HQ1
  4. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DYJ9-MT7?i=34&cc=1325221&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMM61-YVH
  5. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJ6-D7B?i=48&cc=1727033&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AML6N-XC5
  6. Court House. (1917, January 23). Portsmouth Daily Times, p. 4.
  7. Mrs. John Walk. (1919, June 20). Portsmouth Weekly Times, p. 9.
  8. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X828-LYL?from=lynx1UIV8&treeref=GH5V-3TC
  9. McCabe, D. E. (2013). Athens Psychiatric Hospital Cemeteries Index [Pdf]. http://namiathensohio.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/AthensPsychiatricHospitalCemeteryDirectoryWebIndex.pdf
  10. FamilySearch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJV-WKT?i=42&cc=1488411&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMDRN-DPN
  11. John Walk. (1946, December 16). Portsmouth Times, p. 14.
  12. John Walk. (1946, December 17). Portsmouth Times, p. 12.
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