Person Scioto County Infirmary

Infirmary Grave #3: Elizabeth Colegrove

Background

In 2015 I began researching the Scioto County Infirmary Cemetery that sits adjacent to Earl Thomas Conley, on what was once the Scioto County Infirmary Farm. On a low rise, in the corner of a former milk cow pasture, are rows of freestone and marble grave markers. The earlier freestone grave markers occupying one corner and the later marble grave markers occupying the opposite corner. While these markers are physically different they are similar in that nearly all only bear a number.

My focus for these past five years has to been to be able to assign a name to each of these numbers as they were people despite the accepted terminology of “inmate” given to them when they were placed into the care of the County Infirmary. This work has included photographing and geolocating each marker, creating a map of the existing marked burials, collecting both primary and secondary sources to document both deaths and documented burials at the Infirmary, and finally to combine that data in a meaningful manner as to provide as much information about those buried at the Infirmary Cemetery.

This work is ongoing and continues to grow in scope. As originally stated the goal was to be able to assign names to numbered grave markers, but as my research continues it has become apparent that there are more than 83 persons buried within the current cemeteries bounds and that as of today that number is closer to 290 spanning between 1871 to 1954.

Today however, I would like to focus on Grave #3.

Grave Marker #3

This small freestone grave marker is broken near its base and lies flat to the ground as do several other nearby markers. Given the height of the marker (less than 1 foot) and its apparent lack of base, it may have been broken to remove it from its original base. Typical tablet markers such as these require support to remain upright; this is done by either placing a third of the tablet’s length beneath the ground and supported front and rear by rocks, or the tablet is fitted to a base that has a similar shape to an empty tissue box and then mortared in place. The former method is seen earlier and is more labor-intensive and requires a larger stone, while the latter method requires less stone and is easier to set without disturbing a grave.

However, if a cemetery is removed, or at least the headstones are removed to give the appearance of disinterment these slotted bases are cumbersome to move as their weight causes them to easily sink into the soil requiring both the removal of soil above the base and the base itself. Current methods often employ levers or tripods and slings to either set or remove a base. A more primitive method that achieves the same goal as the above is for a force to be applied high on the tablet to cause it to fracture at its base. Once the stone is fractured it is a trivial matter of pulling directly upward to remove the tablet. Other less nefarious reasons for stone fractures near the base include lawn tractor strikes or falling limbs from nearby trees, or vandalism. It is worth noting that in the above-stated causes that while the tablet is broken the base will remain nearby. If a base is not located visually or through probing it is highly likely that a broken tablet has become separated from its base and has been moved.

Possible Disinterment

Working with the below record indicates that the burial would have been made in 1871. Later documents indicate that the current location of this grave marker was not used for its current purpose and that the stone was likely removed from a previous burial ground.

The current Scioto County Infirmary Cemetery was not used as a burial ground until 1883 or 1884 as shown in the below news article.

Prior to this time an area several hundred yards west and across the former Buena Vista Pike, now US Route 52, was used as the Infirmary cemetery as illustrated in a map created by the Works Progress Administration in their efforts to locate military veterans’ burials within Scioto County.

Given the baseless condition of Grave Marker #3, its subsequent damage, and burial date pre-dating the burial grounds, it is likely that this grave marker has been either removed as part of a disinterment effort or removed by itself.

Other factors such as grave spacing (less than 3 feet between graves) and no ascertainable soil disturbance such as grave subsidence exists. These factors lead me to believe that while grave markers such as this may have been removed no disinterment effort was made. While ground-penetrating radar could disprove this theory it would not be able to determine if the numbered stone, name, and person beneath were all in agreement.

Inspection of Records

Moving forward under the premise that a disinterment and reinterment occurred and that it was done in a manner that would both co-locate the correct headstone to the correct person we may proceed.

Records pertaining to the Scioto County Infirmary were maintained by the Scioto County Commissioners, the Infirmary Board of Directors, or the Infirmary Superintendent. The scope of these records, their accuracy, completeness, and timeliness ranged greatly. The most complete record of a person’s admission and later death was maintained by the Infirmary Superintendent or Matron, but unfortunately, the accuracy of this information is within question as it was largely self-reported by those seeking the assistance of the Infirmary. Without additional sources to support the information therein such as complete name, age, and nativity, require wider parameters for research to prove the aforementioned information.

In the above image from the Record of Inmates, we can see that Elizabeth Colegrove, aged 25, and a resident of Harrison Township, Scioto County, Ohio, was admitted to the Infirmary on May 12, 1871.

On the following page, which is reserved for superintendent remarks such as their date of discharge, to whom they were discharged, or their death is noted the Elizabeth Colegrove died on August 3, 1871, and to the extreme right of the margin is the #3. In earlier pages of this record graves were recorded, but for only a brief period of time, and the condition of the document including missing pages further frustrates research.

While this is an easy “win” it is not still without its difficulties. While this record should be treated as a primary source it is necessary to validate the information so that it is useful for future genealogical research. Subsequent research of records held by the Scioto County Probate Court, namely death records provided detailed yet conflicting information.

As you can see from this record, Elizabeth Colegrove, aged 25 years and 6 months, was born in Ohio and died September 1, 1871, in Washington Township, Scioto County, Ohio. Additional information such as her marital status, single, can be derived. This conflict of these two records can likely be attributed to a lack of timely reporting. As this information held by the Court’s records would have been reported to them by either the Infirmary Superintendent or more likely, Board of Directors, the Court’s record should be considered second-hand knowledge with the Superintendent’s record being more timely and hence more accurate.

As Elizabeth was a resident of the County Infirmary at the time of her death the location of her death would have been detailed as Washington Township.

While the Court’s record may be less accurate in its date of death for Elizabeth Colegrove it is more complete in the information that it provides.

The following page of the record supports the Record of Inmates documentation that Elizabeth had formerly resided in Harrison Township and further reveals that her cause of death as a result of typhoid fever

To determine Elizabeth’s parentage and to prove out her name, age, and nativity the 1870 Federal Census was used. The below snippet of the document confirms the information in the two previous documents.

This census page was completed September 6, 1870, in Harrison Township, Scioto County, Ohio, and identified James Colgrove, aged 62 as the father of Harriet Colgrove, 26; Elizabeth Colgrove, 24; Cynthia Colgrove, 18; Susan Colgrove, 16. Forgiving the enumerator’s spelling error of the family surname all other information, aside from the cause of death, are proven. Block 18 of this census all states that Elizabeth was “insane” which may have also contributed to her admission to the Scioto County Infirmary.

Not demonstrated here for reasons of brevity is that the 1860 Federal Census further illuminates that Elizabeth’s mother was Deborah Bennet, who is believed to have died in 1862 in the Harrison Mills area.

Research Overlap

Research into Elizabeth Colegrove serendipitously overlapped with previous research that had been requested for her brother, Lt. Henry Lewis Colegrove. On the 1870 Census, we can see that brother Henry, a Civil War veteran, lived next to his family.

This research inquiry requested that the location of Colegrove Cemetery near Harrison Mills be determined and that a photograph of Henry’s military grave marker be made. Fortunately, a WPA map giving the approximate location of the cemetery survives in the Scioto County Recorder’s Office.

Once we were able to gain access to the cemetery’s location we photographed the grave marker of the late lieutenant and provide a 360° image of Colegrove Cemetery.

Lieutenant Henry Lewis Colegrave Military Marker
360° Image of Colegrove Cemetery

Conclusion

Through this exhaustive, yet rewarding process, we were able to determine that Grave #3 at the Scioto County Infirmary Cemetery belongs to Elizabeth Colegrave, a 26-year-old, single female. We can also derive that she watched her brother go off to war, the death of her mother, and the return of her brother from that great endeavor. And that young age she was admitted to the Infirmary never to return to the familial land in which her kin rest.

After nearly one hundred and fifty years Elizabeth Colegrove is a number no more.