FAIRFILED COUNTY INFIRMARY
In the heart of Fairfield County, where the shadows of history loom large, there stands a structure that has borne witness to the passage of time and the haunting echoes of its past. The Fairfield County Poorhouse, known by many names, including the Fairfield County Infirmary and later the Clarence E. Miller Building, is a place that harbors secrets of a spectral nature.
This imposing brick edifice served the residents of Fairfield County, but its history is etched with sorrow and mystery. In the days before 1828, the destitute and the poor found solace under the care of township officers known as "overseers of the poor." Contracts with the lowest bidders provided the basics of life – food, clothing, and medical care. However, as the need grew, a more suitable haven was required, leading to the construction of a wooden building in 1828, a humble beginning.
But the demands of providence could not be contained within mere wood and nails. In 1840, a grander, larger brick structure replaced its predecessor. Expansions followed in 1865, accompanied by a menagerie of outbuildings – a laundry, tenant house, storage, and farming facilities. A farm sprang to life across the road to sustain those within its cold, unyielding walls. The year 1917 saw the infirmary farm thriving. The march of progress introduced natural gas lines in the same year, illuminating the dim corridors with flickering light. In 1926, water finally flowed through pipes, ending their reliance on a natural spring.
Electricity, that most modern of luxuries, didn't grace the infirmary until 1958, casting aside the age-old darkness that had clung to its chambers.
Within these walls, the population of the county poorhouse swelled in 1903, numbering 82 souls. These unfortunate souls sought refuge for a myriad of reasons – physical ailments, mental afflictions, and the curse of alcohol. Some were fated to spend their entire existence within these somber confines. As life teetered on the precipice of despair, death became an ever-present companion. While many met their end due to the ravages of time or illnesses, a few tragic tales haunt the annals of history.
One fateful day in 1929, the frailty of existence was laid bare when 73-year-old Jane Householder was consumed by flames. An accidental fire claimed her life, and despite the valiant efforts of attendants and a summoned doctor, she passed into the realm beyond.
Those unclaimed by kin were laid to rest in the pauper's cemetery, their final resting places marked by but a handful of solemn tombstones, while the majority lay in unmarked graves, their stories lost to time.
Yet amid this desolation, moments of solace and respite flickered like fragile candles in the gloom. County officials would grace the inmates with their presence, sharing dinners as brief reprieves from their somber existence. Lancaster residents, touched by empathy, bestowed Christmas gifts upon the "pathetic figures" who had severed ties with the world outside. Ice cream socials and melodious tunes from local bands and orchestras offered fleeting joy. But the shadow of madness occasionally descended, as seen in 1924, when a deranged inmate attacked the infirmary superintendent, an incident that seared fear into the hearts of all who called this place home.
Whispers of suicides, though unverified by documents, lingered like ghosts in the corridors. The infirmary's population dwindled, dwindling until just sixteen souls remained when it shuttered its doors in May 1985. These remnants of despair were dispersed to nursing and foster homes, leaving behind the hollow echoes of a bygone era.
Renamed the Clarence E. Miller Building in 1986, the old infirmary found new life as the county's health department. Yet time was unkind, and by 2011, the building teetered on the brink of ruin, its walls veiled in mold, and its once-sturdy bricks crumbling to dust.
However, even in abandonment, the specters of the past refused to fade into oblivion. The old poorhouse became the crucible of whispers and apparitions, where employees working through the night heard disembodied conversations in empty halls. "Willy," a spectral presence, wandered the second and third floors, his name a vestige of one of the few tombstones in the pauper's cemetery. A lady from a bygone era, her hair in a bun, graced witnesses with her ethereal presence. A spectral little girl stood in a doorway, vanishing into thin air when questioned. The attic bore an oppressive chill, and the second-floor women's restroom exuded an eerie aura that repelled the bravest of souls.
In the shadow of the Fairfield County Poorhouse, the past refuses to be forgotten, and the realm of the supernatural entwines with the echoes of history, creating a haunting and enigmatic tale that lingers, like the restless souls within its walls, for all time.