The 1920 Delaware County Home in Lima. This was the same location as it is today.
Note: The original county home was in Media, in the area of the elementary school on State St. When Media Boro was created in 1850, the county moved the home to it's current location in Lima.
The Delaware County Home in Lima 100 years ago.
The visit to the home was interesting, and the writer found many things of interest about the place, and he also conversed with the inmates, most all of them being happy under the circumstances, though some were found not so happy, but this was because they were ill, or were unable to leave their cots. After a careful observation of the buildings, the farm and the manner in which the institution is managed, the writer had an interview with Mrs. W. Irwin Cheyney, James J. Skelly, director of the poor, and J. D. Pierson, the steward.
It did not take long to ascertain that the time had arrived when old time methods of conducting a county home are obsolete; that the conditions of today demand more careful attention than ever; and that a constructive policy must be established, which will insure as near complete happiness and health for those who must spend their last days at the home, and that the present directors are doing this. The county home has two properties; the one on which the home and its buildings are situated, consisting of one hundred acres, and the Crooks’ farm of fifty acres which cost $18,000. The directors settled for this property on Wednesday. The purchase of the Crooks’ property was a fine piece of business strategy on the part of the directors. The home will need more land in the near future and the land values are continually increasing, but aside from this reason, the property is needed for a very important necessity which will be referred to in this article.
The main building of the county home, a stone structure was erected in 1856. Originally the county home was located where the present beautiful high school building of Media is situated but when Media was incorporated as a borough in 1849, Media could no longer be the county home site.
Aside from the main building there is another building built in 1873. This was the insane department, but it appears that there was some sort of trouble at the home a few years after the insane department was in operation, and this department was dispensed with, and since that time, the county has been sending its insane to either Norristown or to Wernersville asylums. In the two buildings referred to, are the directors’ and stewards’ office, quarters for the steward and his family, store rooms, bakery, kitchen, dining rooms for men and women, and sleeping rooms for men and women, as well as a heating plant.
The barn and other buildings are also an important adjunct to the place. At present about 80 acres of the land is under production and the crops are growing fine and the stock is in splendid condition. This year, Howard Hatton, the farmer, has produced an abundance of crops including a variety of vegetables which are being used to feed the inmates. Despite the fact that the present directors are making, and have made some big improvements to the exterior and interior of the main buildings, there are conditions which the directors must face and here is where the purchase of the Crooks farm fits in the problem. For a long time there has been a need at the home for the psychopathic treatment of persons who are often picked up on the streets by the police or are brought to the institution suffering from mental disorder. For instance it will be remembered how a beautiful young girl was picked up by the police at Boothwyn, taken to the county jail where she was detained until finally located by her family. This girl, it will be remembered, was not a subject for prison but for a place where her mental and physical condition could be observed.
The big Colonial house on the Crooks farm will be converted into a small hospital for the mental observation of indigent patients and also for the treatment of indigent inmates who cannot get the hospital care at the home. This colonial house will also have an addition built to it, and the plans for this important piece of improvement will be made by architects almost any time. It is estimated by the directors that the cost for making the alteration and addition to the Crooks house, will cost approximately $25,000.
When the hospital is built, Mrs. Cheyney and Mr. Skelly said, the County Home would then be in a position to treat its own indigent sick, place mental cases under observation in the psychopathic department which will be established, and in this way, not only would the sufferers get better treatment, but Delaware County will be saving thousands of dollars annually.
Mrs. Cheyney and Mr. Skelly both, declared that the county is forced to pay to Philadelphia County annually thousands of dollars for indigent sick who receive treatment in the Philadelphia General Hospital at the rate of 73 cents per patient per day.At the present time and for many years, those who are ill in the home have been treated by a physician who calls occasionally and who is often called to the home to visit the sick. At the present time Dr. E. Marshall Harvey, the county physician, looks after the physical welfare of the inmates, but Dr. Harvey is unable to give the medical are to those more seriously ill because of the lack of facilities. However, this condition will be temporarily remedied, because one of the large rooms at the home has been converted into a neat infirmary. The room will hold four beds at least, and has been painted white and a sanitary mineral floor laid. The room will be equipped for service by the early part of next week, and this infirmary will suffice until the larger infirmary has been built on the Crooks place. here has also been installed at the home a temporary infirmary for older men. This little ward is in charge of the wife of one of the inmates. She is giving her service gratis in order that she might be near her husband, who is an invalid.
NEW DINING ROOM – A new dining room has been finished for the younger women at the home, and their sitting room has also been improved by having the walls scrapped of the hundreds of coats of whitewash and painted in a bright color. The lounging room for men, several dining rooms and other rooms in the home, which have been brightened with a few coats of whitewash, a few days before the visit of the Grand Jury, have all been painted. It is said when the caked whitewash was scrapped off, vermin came with the scrapings. The old crude way of inmates to bathe their faces and hands by use of a wash basin has also been abolished. Stationary washstands have been installed in the different departments for both men and women. Some of the inmates who cannot help themselves are attended to by the nurses. The directors are not at all pleased with the present sleeping quarters for the men. So far as the women’s quarters are concerned, they are bright and clean and splendidly ventilated. But the men occupy rooms where one, two or four beds are located. The ventilation in these rooms is very bad, and the directors decided to make changes by adding large dormitories which will be light and ventilated. To do this, Director Skelly said, the directors plan to Alter the present sleeping quarters of the men which can be done without very great cost.
A SPLENDID FARM – The directors have a very fine farmer in the person of Howard Hatton. The farm is under heavy product ion, the old dairy has been disposed of, and a dairy of pure-bred Holstein heifers and a registered pure-bred Holstein sire are now on the place. The poultry is in fine condition as are the pigs and a very large crop of potatoes have also been raised for the year.
J. D. Pierson, the steward said that during the months of July and August, three quarters of the food product consumed by the inmates was produced on the farm. This included vegetables, milk, eggs, etc. Both Mrs. Cheyney and Mr. Skelly are very optimistic as to what the farm will produce next year. These two officials declare that with the extra fifty acres recently purchased, they hope to produce sufficient food products on the place to feed the inmates at the home during the year. Of course this does not include tea, coffee, flour, rice and meals.
INMATES WELL CARED FOR – There is no doubt that the inmates are being well fed. One only has to pass through the wards and loot them over to be satisfied. The representative of this paper went through the home unaccompanied and inquired of the inmates about their condition and how they were fed. Walking up to one man well advanced in years who was reclining in a rolling chair, he was asked if he got enough to eat. “Eat,” exclaimed the man, “I guess we all get plenty. I have been here for twelve years, but say mister, the eats here since the first of the year are the best we have ever had.” He also said the inmates get plenty of vegetables, meat occasionally and eggs, and remarked, “don’t forget, we even get better. Several other groups of men were visited and said that the food at the home was the best ever. The women inmates were also interviewed and they also declared that the institution was getting to be more homelike every day. They said that the food was better and more of it than ever, and they were certainly pleased with Mrs. Pierson, the matron, whom several old ladies declared was so motherly. “Yes,” chirped an elderly lady who was knitting. “Mrs. Cheyney is also a mighty fine lady. She often comes in and talks to us and makes us cheerful. Then Mr. Skelly,” continued the old lady, “he is really sunshine to us people. He always comes in with a smile and he makes us smile whether we want to or not. And so does Mr. Martin.". In another department were more women, and these were also contented and happy, and they did not forget to talk lots about the directors and Mr. Pierson. One old lady said she had been in the home for fifteen years, but that she is always happy if she only has a minute to talk with Mr. Martin, Mrs. Cheyney, or Mr. Skelly. This woman declared that the directors, all of them, are so sympathetic. On the trip through the home the reporter found a number of men, women and one boy who need medical attention. Some of them are incurables, and they are receiving the best care possible under the circumstances. Therefore, the directors are certainly showing progress in the right way by building a permanent infirmary where these particular unfortunates may be properly cared for from a medical standpoint. There are at present one hundred and thirty inmates in the home, which shows that it is a problem to give the care which they are entitled to.
HOSPITAL TOO COSTLY – The directors were asked if they thought it a good plan for the county to build an asylum. Both Mr. Skelly and Mrs. Cheyney declared it would not be economy for the county to have its own hospital, providing the State continues the present rate for keeping patients from Delaware County. These two directors pointed out that there are about 330 patients from Delaware County in Norristown and Wernersville hospitals, and that the county is paying about $45,000 per annum for their maintenance. These two directors also pointed out that to build a hospital and maintain such an institution by the county would entail a very heavy toll on the taxpayers.
The old system of giving outside relief by the individual directors has been abolished. The new system is where a case of outside relief comes to the attention of a director, Mrs. Sarah Kerlin, the field worker, makes a thorough investigation. She reports back to the board of directors and the necessary action is then taken. This method does away with giving relief on the outside to undeserving and unscrupulous persons.
The directors at this time are doing more than giving outside relief. Of course this kind of relief is more sought in winter months when it is hard to get employment. The directors are doing real constructive relief work. For instance, they are constantly in touch with manufacturers and employees of labor. They get employment for many who need relief.
In one case where a widow was receiving relief, her son, who was making but $6.00 per week, was found another position by the directors and it also helped the boy to forge his way ahead.
Another important thing which the present directors are doing is a new method of handling insane cases. The practice is to have every case of insanity investigated by the county physician and two other physicians. In each case, the residence off the patient is first established. If the patient is a charge of Delaware County, then this county cares for the patient. If the patient is a resident outside of this county, the patient is then turned over to the proper jurisdiction, thus relieving this county from paying for some other jurisdiction’s insane.
At the present time the directors are investigating twenty-five cases of persons who are in two State insane asylums from this County. These are cases where the directors believe this county should not pay for their maintenance because they believe that the patients are from other jurisdictions they will be deported.
Recently the directors caused to be deported from Norristown a young woman who was actually a charge of Camden County, N. J. This was a case where a woman had been an inmate in the Blackwood Asylum for the Insane in Camden County. This girl eloped with a man from the institution to New York ended traveled with him for two years. The man left the girl in Chester during the war. She was then committed to Norristown. The directors made an investigation and found that the girl was not a charge of this county. Camden County refused to accept her, but the matter was put up to the Attorney General of this State, whose opinion proved that Delaware County was not responsible for her and the girl was deported to Camden. There is not the slightest doubt as to the progress the present poor directors are making; the county home in the next two years will not be looked upon as a poor house, because the word poor house leaves a stigma which does not easily efface itself from the minds of unfortunates who are forced to live at the county’s expense. The present board of poor directors, the steward and others employed at the county home deserve commendation for the able manner in which the home is being conducted, and to the directors especially because they are using the keenest business judgment in the management of the home.
To be a poor director today one must have business judgment and be abreast with the conditions of today; a person who is kind, gentle and sympathetic, who has at heart the interest and welfare of those unfortunate persons who are forced to spend their declining days at the home.
In the present directors, Arthur Martin, the president of the board; James J. Skelly and Mrs. W. Irwin Cheyney, Delaware County has three directors who are thoroughly conversant with the needs at the County Home, and they are deserving of the commendation of the taxpayers for the interest they take in their work. In Jesse D. Pierson, the steward, the home has an able manager who has done much to bring the home up to the present high standard. Mrs. Pierson, the matron; Miss Cora Smith, the seamstress; Mrs. Sarah Kerlin, bookkeeper and field worker; Miss Bertha Gill and William Butler, nurses, also are efficient employees.