West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls in Salem

 

Growing up in the Doddridge County community of Sedalia, I’ve always thought of nearby Salem as my hometown. I remember as a little girl wading in the creek behind the dugout at the Salem City Park while my brother played Little League baseball there. I was very aware that perched on the hill above me was the Industrial Home for Girls, a place that I found very mysterious. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I was definitely leery of it, maybe even fearful. My dad later worked there after it had become the Salem Industrial Home for Youth, and then eventually an adult facility. I want to share with you now the story of this once highly respected institution, as I’ve learned it from newspaper articles of the time.

 

In 1891 the state opened the West Virginia Industrial Home for Boys in Pruntytown. Industrial Homes throughout the nation were meant to keep youthful non-violent offenders off the streets and out of the prison system. The boys were sent instead to an Industrial Home where they received a vocational education and a heavy dose of discipline. But though West Virginia had the Home for Boys in Pruntytown, there was no equivalent institution in the state for wayward redeemable girls.

Jones Cottage built in 1899

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

by Jennifer Wilt

Originally published in The Doddridge Independent

Dr. Harriet B. Jones (1856-1943)

Harriet B. Jones was the first female licensed physician in West Virginia, and later was the first woman to be elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. She was an outspoken advocate for women's rights and social reform. In the early 1890s, Dr. Jones approached the West Virginia Legislature about funding an Industrial Home for Girls. There was widespread support for such a facility among the general populace, as we learn from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer of February 12, 1897:

 

"No false economy should stand in the way of the establishment of a home for girls at once. It would be money well invested from a humane and social standpoint ... We have provided a reform school for boys and its benefits have been felt all over the state. Surely, a similar institution for girls should follow.

 

"There is a strong sentiment favorable to the proposed institution, which is due largely to the untiring and unselfish agitation of the question by a little band of noble women. It is hoped that the efforts of Dr. Hattie Jones, who is now representing them at Charleston in behalf of the bill, will be crowned with success."

 

On February 18, 1897, after several years of lobbying, the State Legislature finally passed an act establishing an Industrial Home for Girls. However, the exact location was still to be determined. Before the act was passed, wealthy former Senator Henry Gassaway Davis offered to donate "$50,000 and suitable grounds at Davis or Elkins, for the State Industrial home for girls."

Dr. Harriett B. Jones

Harriet B. Jones Takes the Lead

When the new Home’s board of directors held its first meeting in July 1897 in Clarksburg, Dr. Harriet B. Jones was elected president. Dr. Jones and treasurer Stillman Young had traveled to Ohio and Michigan to visit other Industrial Homes and were happier with the cottage-style homes they found, as opposed to confining inmates in one large building.

 

The Wheeling Intelligencer of August 21, 1897 tells us that Dr. Jones and the other board members convened in Clarksburg to reach a final decision on the location of the Industrial Home. At that time Clarksburg was thought to be the likely choice.

 

“What is proposed," said Dr. Jones, "is not a jail or penitentiary. We want a place for young girls, who are uncontrollable, and those being at large a menace to society. Girls under fifteen years of age will be taken from houses of prostitution, or off the streets if necessary. Girl thieves, or girl criminals will be sent to the industrial home, instead of the penitentiary. Our idea is to have those girls feel that they have a home, have them taught what is right, have them work at appropriate labor, and then, when their time is out, leave respectable young women."

 

Salem a Surprise Selection

On September 24, 1897 bids were received at the Traders Hotel in Clarksburg for the erection of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls. We learn from the September 10. 1897 The Clarksburg Telegram that the Home would not be built in Clarksburg as expected.

 

“Clarksburg saw the Home for Girls slip away when there was no lack of interest on the part of the citizens. Our citizens did nobly when they agreed to guarantee a subscription of $5,000 for the institution and donate them a property of great value. But this was a case in which 'offers' did not amount to a fig. One member of the Board said that if Clarksburg had given a cash subscription of twice the value of the offer that was made, it would not have secured the institution.

 

“The committee were looking for a piece of ground that suited their fancy and value was not a quality to be considered. This being the case Clarksburg was never in it, even though she had 'offered property worth half a million,' as another member of the Board expressed it. Still the effort put forth by citizens of Clarksburg kept the institution in Harrison county, and we don't blame Salem for being proud of the recognition given her by the State."

 

Dream becomes Reality

Once the location was settled on, no time was wasted to built and open the new facility. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1898 “under the auspices of Salem Lodge No. 84 A.F. & A.M. and the Grand Lodge of West Virginia.” The contractor for the building of Jones Cottage was Andrew J. Watson (1856-1939) of Salem. He would later be awarded future construction contracts at the facility.

 

By October 28th of that year, according to the The Clarksburg Telegram, the first cottage was nearing completion:

 

“The building at Salem for the new West Virginia Industrial Home for girls is almost finished and it is stated that the structure will be ready to turn over to the board of managers in a few weeks. The building will cost about $8,000, but it is so arranged that additions may be made to it at any time the management may think necessary.”

 

The Industrial Home had its official opening in Spring 1899. At that time, the facility consisted of just one building, appropriately named Jones Cottage in honor of Harriet B. Jones. But judging from photographs and detailed descriptions of the building, the term “cottage” may be a misnomer. An article in the December 14, 1900 issue of The Clarksburg Telegram describes what the first “cottage” looked like.

 

"The present building, now consisting of a center and one wing, the latter containing a dining room sufficiently large to seat fifty girls, a kitchen and a laundry; on the second floor are bedrooms and bathrooms. The building is finished in natural wood, with hard wood floors. Each girl has her own small room, eight by ten, with a white bed, a small dresser and a chair. There is an excellent locking system by which every door on each side of the corridor can be locked or unlocked at once, so that in case of fire there is no danger. At the end of the corridor is a fire escape, kept open all night. Natural gas furnishes heat and light and there is an excellent well of water.

 

"In the cottage system a smaller number of officers are required, and no night watch is needed. The present cottage represents what the future cottages will be, with fifty or sixty girls in each under the care of manager, teacher and housekeeper. The home is in no sense a prison. No windows are screened except in a few rooms at the back of the wing which are used for incorrigibles and for new girls inclined to run away. …

 

“The girls soon learn to love the Home and are happy. The work is done in regular routine, and the girls have regular hours for play and recreation. They are dressed in uniforms, of blue calico dresses, with gingham aprons for work, and white aprons for school, their necks arranged with colored ribbons or white ties to suit the individual taste of the girl. Fifty girls have been in the Home: twenty-one counties are now represented, and there are sixty applicants awaiting admission."

 

At the time of the 1900 Census, the Home for Girls had 33 inmates. The Superintendent was Elizabeth Clohan, Lyna Rapp was a teacher, Ophelia Tripplett was the matron, and Sarah Maxwell was the seamstress.

 

The First Escape

As nice as a cottage sounds, apparently not all the inmates were happy with the accommodations. Shortly after its opening, two girls housed there made their escape from Jones Cottage, as we learn from The Clarksburg Telegram of May 26, 1899:

 

"Two of the girls committed to the Girls' Industrial school at Salem made their escape Sunday evening about 6 o'clock. Supper was on but some of the girls had not gone into the dining room, but remained in the sewing room. These two had, evidently, had a pre-arranged understanding and awaited only their opportunity to break from the confines wherein the purpose is to train them in the ways of noble womanhood.

 

“That opportunity came and they were swift to take advantage of it. They jumped out of the window for the sake of desperation, though they could have easily flown through the open door. … They were gone fully five minutes before their deserted companions informed the authorities of the escapade. To trail them was useless, as they had already been swallowed up by the heavy woods beyond. The telephone, however, was used with good effect and Collie Ford, who was at Long Run, was communicated with.

 

“Later in the evening the girls were cut short in their tramping career by being taken into custody in the neighborhood of Long Run. They were held over-night there and brought back to the home on Monday morning's accommodation, we imagine, thoroughly repentant for their rash act. …

 

"The grounds were unfenced and the matter of escape is easy, unless the closest vigilance be employed.

 

“A Sunday or two ago some Salem boys treated the girls to cigarettes, having induced them to evade the vigilance of the school authorities. Since then stricter rules have been enforced and notices have been posted offering a reward of $5 to anyone finding a girl off the grounds."

 

More to Come

The West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls in Salem still had decades of progress to make before turning into a maximum-security youth facility and finally a minimum-security adult correctional facility. Next week I’ll tell you how that all played out.

Salem Industrial Home for Girls - Part 2

Last week we left off in 1900, just one year after the opening of the state’s new Industrial Home for Girls in Salem. Essentially a reform school for delinquent girls, the institution included not only academics and home economics, but also a farm to be worked by the inmates. By all accounts the operation was an instant success, and it soon had a waiting list for new admissions.

 

Success Leads to Growth

In 1902, founder and president Dr. Harriet B. Jones asked the State Legislature to appropriate money to construct two more buildings, called cottages, to accommodate at least 100 more inmates. The Clarksburg Telegram of October 17, 1902 provides this overview:

Jones Cottage side view

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

“Dr. Harriet B. Jones …will recommend the appropriation by the legislature of money for two additional buildings, each costing not less than $25,000. One of these buildings will be to furnish accommodations for more white girls in the Institution as it now stands, and the other will be for the colored inmates. The home now has 100 more applicants than it can take. …

 

“Dr. Jones stated Monday evening that the home is in a nourishing condition. Her report will show the most gratifying results of the labors of the last two years. As a sample of the good results of the work of the girls, the little farm, which only covers about 40 acres made nearly fifteen hundred dollars during the last two years. They raise on it all the vegetables necessary in the home and sell what they do not need in the surrounding towns. …

 

“We find that in two years girls who were the most unpromising material have become accomplished in cooking, sewing, baking and the various requisites of a housekeeper. Many of them enter excellent homes or marry good men and enter the new life well equipped to meet its many requirements. …The home is well situated, on a beautiful elevation just outside of Salem. It is surrounded with well-kept lawns and just secluded enough to suit its ends. … “

 

The Home’s “little farm” was located where the Salem city pool used to be. It eventually extended all the way to the current baseball fields.

 

Oil Boom in Salem

I now need to back up and tell you briefly about one significant chapter in the history of Salem. When oil was discovered there in the mid-1890s, it brought about many changes to the small one-horse town. Oil companies quickly constructed office buildings and built houses to accommodate new workers and their families. Within a year Salem had become a very wealthy boom town.

 

But when over a dozen saloons quickly sprang up, clergymen and temperance groups immediately tried to re-charter Salem as a "dry" town. In retaliation, some supporters of continued alcohol sales started a fire in a local print house, resulting in the destruction of several city blocks. The Clarksburg Telegram of January 3, 1902 provides perspective on the situation:

 

"A fire loss of $400,000 in Salem, Harrison county, while a sad affliction, at the same time tells an eloquent story of the growth and regeneration of West Virginia. Six or seven years ago the town of Salem was quite an insignificant spot on the map of the state ...The discovery and development of oil in the vicinity of Salem worked wonders for the town; until just before the fire it was a thriving, bustling little city, containing business and other establishments as extensive and as well housed as any Wheeling can boast of. The extent of the fire loss at Salem has been a revelation to many who were not acquainted with its present importance and wealth."

 

Lincoln Cottage built in 1904

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Meanwhile on the western side of Salem, seemingly untouched by the turmoil taking place in town, the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls continued to thrive. In early 1904 its second building, the Lincoln Cottage, was finished. It was a three-story brick structure which contained school rooms and housed 35 girls.

 

Industrial Home Strikes Oil

In August 1904 oil was discovered on the property of the Industrial Home for Girls. By 1905 there was fear that the State would have to relocate the Home. It was hoped by the residents of Harrison County that the property could be developed for oil and the proceeds given to the Industrial Home. However, not everyone was happy with the prospect of oil wells on the grounds of the institution, as we find in The Clarksburg Telegram:

 

"The intention of the Industrial Oil company to drill oil wells in the lawns of the Industrial Home in Salem should be thwarted by force. ...Immediate action is necessary, as the stake was driven Monday for a location directly in front of the Lincoln Home and the building that was first erected, and the well will come directly between the main thoroughfare of the homes. ... The state property should not be despoiled in such a ruthless manner. More regard for the beauty of this property should be shown."

Drilling Frenzy Ensues

But those words were not heeded. In January 1905, the first well was drilled on the grounds of the Industrial Home for Girls. When it immediately produced 125 barrels of oil a day, the entire neighborhood soon joined in the drilling frenzy.

 

From The Clarksburg Telegram of January 27, 1905:

"Oil derricks are being built in the front yards and back yards, in the cabbage patches and in the streets in the western end of the town of Salem as fast as many workmen can construct them. The sound of carpenters’ hammers and the groaning of machinery is heard at all hours of the day and night, and the residents of that portion of the town are in a fervor of excitement.

 

"All this great hurry to dig oil wells is the result of the striking of the well on the State Girls' Industrial Home a few days ago. Every person who owns a town lot in that vicinity is either having an oil well rig and derrick placed upon it for the drilling of a well or making arrangements to have a well drilled as soon as possible. Fifteen derricks now spot the surface of the land in the western end of Salem and that district is one of the prominent residence localities of the town. Others are going up and the end is not in sight."

 

Scandal Rocks the Home

As successful as the new Industrial Home for Girls quickly proved to be, it’s not surprising that there were a few negatives that surfaced as well. The first real scandal at the facility would be equally scandalous by today’s standards, and it was widely publicized at the time. The following account appeared in the July 28, 1905 issue of The Clarksburg Telegram:

 

“Rev. Addison A. Kelley, the Salem minister who fled from Salem a few weeks ago, after having acknowledged that he had had criminal relations with Margaret Evans, a young girl in the State Industrial School for Girls, has been heard from. Kelley writes the following letter to the Salem Herald, which paper publishes the same this week.

 

“My Dear Sir: - Through the columns of your excellent paper I wish to say some things to the public of Salem. I am sure you were not more sorely shocked than I am grieved at my sudden departure from Salem and the revealed cause. My sin may be easily magnified, and I have no doubt is, yet my blunder is horrible. I am a ruined man and my anticipations for future years of usefulness in the W.Va. ministry are blasted. I have nobody to blame but myself. I am responsible. I can now see how ropes were laid for my feet by one who in childhood had learned how, yet I as a religious teacher and leader should certainly not have shown such inexcusable weakness and should have shown far more balance of character. The one fact which crushes me every time I think of it is, I never saw an institution I so much wanted to help as the W.Va. Industrial Home for Girls and I never tried harder to help anyone than the poor creature through whom I stumbled into ruin. My great mistake was in not putting the hell of temptation from me. ..."

 

As his letter indicates, Addison A. Kelley immediately fled Salem in disgrace. He left behind his wife Ella and four children, the youngest only ten months old. By 1910 he was a magazine salesman living in a boarding house in Seattle. Washington. In 1920 he was still working as a magazine salesman in Seattle. By 1930 Addison and his ex-wife, a Practical Nurse, were reunited and living together in Tacoma, Washington. Addison Kelley died in 1940 in Pierce County, Washington.

 

Growth Continues

By September 1906 there were 79 inmates at the Industrial Home, with girls from 34 of the state’s 55 counties, none from Doddridge. Their ages upon their admission to the Home ranged from 8 to 18, with 37 of them being 14 and 15.

Many Improvements

In 1908 there were many improvements made at the Industrial Home. The following article appeared in the September 10, 1908 issue of The Clarksburg Telegram:

 

"The state is taking a pride in making the Girls' Industrial Home at Salem an ideal home for poor, unfortunate, homeless and wayward children, and nothing will be spared to make this one of the leading institutions of the country.

 

"A new entrance is being erected near the Industrial B.& O. platform which will be one of beauty. It is made of Berea stone of twelve steps and three platforms. The lower step is 20 feet long, the copen gradually curving to the width of 8 feet. There will be two stone posts 2x2 feet at each landing, the two at the bottom seven feet high.

 

"At the last landing a walk will leave on either side to the Jones and the other to the Lincoln cottage. Masonry of the rarest sort will be the outcome of the state's most skilled workmen.

 

"A new dental chair has been installed and Dr. Wilcox makes visits to the institution when needed. New porches have been built and an addition to the officers' dining room in the Lincoln cottage were erected this summer.

 

“The new barn is a feature that directs much attention. It Is 31x38 feet with one box and 12 open stalls, feed and milk room, hot and cold water, with cement floor and mangers and a slate roof. It is up-to-date in every detail.

 

"A home of refinement, a school of science, a training of morality. They will prosper, for they live a God-fearing life."

 

The newly constructed steps have not changed since they were built in 1908, as evidenced in the featured photos.

 

The barn that was erected in 1908 was a cow barn, built on the hill near the cottages. Dairy products and produce grown on the bottom farmland not only fed the inmates but were also sold to local markets. In 1909 and 1910 the farm’s substantial production included:

 

2,286 heads of cabbage

225 chickens

661 dozen eggs

323 pounds of grapes

16,633 quarts of milk

226 bushels of potatoes

280 bushels of tomatoes

302 pounds of lettuce

 

Numerous news articles throughout the state extolled the virtues of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls in Salem. Its success was credited largely to the Home’s capable superintendents. The first two superintendents, Elizabeth Clohan Erskine (1899-1903) and Hilda M. Dungan (1903-1915), oversaw every aspect of running the Home. From reading their reports, it’s apparent that they had a genuine compassion for the girls. Next week we’ll meet two more excellent superintendents whose competent management helped the Industrial Home for Girls continue to flourish well into the 1940s.

Stone steps built in 1908

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Stone steps as they appear today

Industrial Home Farm

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Salem Industrial Home for Girls - Part 3

 

When we left off last week in 1910, Hilda M. Dungan was the superintendent of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls in Salem. At that time the institution employed seven female teachers, one farm supervisor (Floyd Nutter) and one engineer, all residing on the property. According to the 1910 Census, 74 of the 76 inmates were white and two were black, with ages ranging from 10 to 19.

At this time there were two residence halls for the inmates, the Jones Cottage and Lincoln Cottage, as well as a two-story brick school building. The cottages served as fully functioning homes, their architectural style and size belying the term cottage. Each contained its own parlor, laundry, kitchen, bakery, cellar, bathrooms and bedrooms. The two cottages operated as separate units where girls were assigned daily chores such as mopping, dusting, washing, ironing, baking, cooking and canning. Only during school hours did the girls from the different cottages interact with each other. School was in session nine to ten months of the year. The summer months were spent making baskets and working in the gardens and grounds.

Original School Building, built 1912 (burned 1914)

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Silver Hall, built 1914

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Foot bridge

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Silver Hall Cottage

In 1911 the West Virginia State Legislature appropriated $20,000 for the construction of a new cottage at the Industrial Home. It was to be named Silver Hall in honor of two men, Gray Silver and Septimius Hall, chairmen of the finance committees of the two houses. Silver Hall Cottage was completed during the summer of 1914. The 1914 Biennial Report by Superintendent Dungan provides a detailed description of the new building:

 

"It [Silver Hall] is a two and one-half story, fireproof, brick building. On the first floor is a large assembly room, small parlor, and a dining room for the girls, a small parlor and dining room for the officers, a large kitchen and three pantries. A hardwood floor covers the concrete in that part of the building. ...On the second floor there are twenty-five single sleeping rooms for the girls, four for the officers, and three large clothes rooms; on the third floor there are twelve large rooms. The laundry is back of the kitchen and connected by a covered concrete porch. Over the laundry are five bath rooms and a lavatory, all connected to the second floor of the main building by an enclosed passageway.

 

"The girls' rooms are furnished with up to date furniture consisting of a splendid bed, a nice dresser with a French bevel mirror 20x24 inches, a rocking chair, and rugs."

New Foot Bridge & Water System

In that same 1914 report, Dungan describes yet another improvement to the institution:

 

"A new bridge has been built over the ravine between the main buildings and the Lincoln Cottage to take the place of the old dilapidated one. It is a steel structure 307 feet long by six feet wide, resting on concrete base and is very substantial. This is a great convenience, especially for those living in Lincoln Cottage coming to school and chapel nearly every day of the year."

 

Earlier that year the state had purchased 11.1 acres of land known as the Maloney hillside from the heirs of Edward Maloney. Here was built a large 150,000-gallon water reservoir to replace the previous water tanks which were too small and had very low pressure. Large water lines were then laid to each cottage. This upgrade to the water system was largely to increase fire suppression capacity.

Edward Maloney (1828-1901)

Edward Maloney was an Irish immigrant who settled on Long Run sometime prior to 1857. The Maloney property abutted the west side of the Industrial Home property. It was situated entirely in Doddridge County. Here Edward Maloney and his wife, Sarah Ward, raised at least six children. One of their grandchildren, Sadie Judge, later became a matron at the Industrial Home. Edward and Sarah Maloney and most of their children are buried at the St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery on Long Run.

Life on the Farm

After the completion of Silver Hall Cottage, the enrollment at the Industrial Home increased to over 100 girls. An article in the September 14, 1914 issue of The Charleston Daily Mail describes that summer’s work and bounty.

 

"The girls have worked hard and behaved splendidly this summer ...and we think they have earned their winter's schooling. The Lincoln Hall girls, besides their regular duties, gathered more than 150 gallons of blackberries from the Maloney hillside, raised a fine garden on the Lincoln hill consisting of onions, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, early cabbage and cantaloupe. They also sandpapered the second, third and fourth floors of their building.

 

"The Jones Hall girls, besides their regular duties (which include bread baking, washing and ironing everyday), raised more than 300 young chickens, fed the pigs, cared for the blind girls and gathered the garden products.

 

"The Silver Hall girls have produced some excellent results in their regular and extra work besides having a fairly good garden and have done a good deal of canning for the winter."

Fire Destroys School House

That winter, in December 1914, a fire started in the two-story school building, caused by an overheated furnace. This building housed the domestic science department and chapel, as well as several other school rooms. The following appeared in the December 19, 1914 issue of The Daily Telegram:

 

"When the fire was discovered about 4 o'clock by Miss Woodworth, a member of the faculty, the building was a mass of flames, and before any firefighting could be done the rood fell in. There was no opportunity to save anything from the structure and all its contents were destroyed, including a large library, a piano, the entire domestic science equipment and a number of sewing machines."

 

Strong State Support

It is very apparent in newspaper articles of the time that the State was very proud of and indebted to the Industrial Home for the great work being done there. Thus far every monetary request made by the superintendent was not only met, but surpassed. Every recommendation made by the farm supervisor, engineer, superintendent and inspector was granted. According to an article in the February 28, 1915 issue of The Sunday Telegram, that year would see even more upgrades.

Domestic science class in the old school building, 1910

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

“The present legislature has been very considerate in its attitude toward the Girls Industrial Home ...and very liberal in its proposed appropriations [totaling $42,000]. A like amount is scheduled for 1916. The institution lost by fire the last winter one of its buildings used for a schoolroom and chapel. It is the plan of the board of control to replace this building. This will possibly be enlarged so as to give room for the domestic science department.

 

“One item in the expense…will be the proposed paving of a county road intersecting the main street of the City of Salem. ... to be paid by the state to the entrance of the Home grounds and to the railroad at Industrial station.

 

“The County Court will be asked to construct a small concrete bridge across the stream on the proposed road and maintain the road after it is permanently built.

 

“This permanent road will extend the paved road in the west end of the city, and will make, when completed....a good permanent road from Industrial to east of Bristol, a distance of five miles, that can be used by autos the entire year round."

 

This new paved road was meant to connect the Industrial Home with the town of Salem. I believe the road is either present-day State Street or Moore Street.

 

New Superintendent

In December 1915 Governor Henry D. Hatfield appointed Miss Jennie Sutton as superintendent of the Industrial Home to replace Hilda M. Dungan. Dungan had been ill for quite some time and died at her home in Ohio just two months later. Jennie Sutton, a native of Marshall County, had previously been the assistant matron at the Weston State Hospital.

 

In her 1916 appropriations request, Jennie Sutton explained the growing needs and demands of the Industrial Home. Her first request was for a "competent woman in the field to look after the paroled girls and to bring the new girls to the Home" Sutton also requested that a physician be placed in the school to ensure that "none having an infectious or contagious disease, no idiot, imbecile, epileptic, nor any one of unsound mind, or who has syphilis or who is pregnant" would be admitted to the Home.

 

Regarding the Home’s farm, Sutton said that an "up to date barn should be built to accommodate four horses, the feed and all farm machinery.… The population of the Home is steadily increasing, and more cows should be purchased. We only have six cows and these do not furnish nearly enough milk for our needs."

 

She also requested money for several boxcar loads of cut stone, a bigger chicken coop, fruit trees, 2,000 strawberry plants, more land for farming, a new car and a garage.

 

All of the above requests were approved and furnished to the Industrial Home for Girls.

Utilities & Upgrades

By 1916 the cottages and buildings were still being illuminated by natural gas rather than electricity. Additionally, several outdoor gas lamps had been placed around the cottages and sidewalks. That year also saw the installation of telephones in all the cottages, although the phones were not operational at night. Victrola record players were also purchased for all the cottages in 1916.

 

First Death at Home

Stated in every biennial report and inspection, one of the main attributes of the Industrial Home was its safe, clean and sanitary conditions. This was borne out by the fact that no death had occurred at the Home in its first 16 years. But a localized outbreak of influenza ruined that perfect record. The following article appeared in the February 9, 1916 issue of The Daily Telegram:

 

"Daphia Davis, an inmate at the Girls' Industrial Home, died Monday of pneumonia. She was 15 years of age and her home was at Davis, Tucker County. Her mother came here and accompanied the body home Tuesday morning.

 

" ...Davis' death is the first that has taken place among the inmates or teaching force of the Home. Considering the number of persons at the home during this time, and the surroundings and environments of some of the inmates committed to the institution, this is indeed a remarkable record, that there should be only one death in this time. The institution has been free from any epidemic of contagious diseases and the medical expense at the home has been a very small sum.”

Lakin School Building, built in 1917

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

New School Complete

In March 1916 the contract to construct a new school building to replace the one destroyed by fire was awarded to Longest & Tessier Co. out of Greensboro, North Carolina. The building, completed in mid-1917, was named the Lakin School in honor of John S. Lakin, President of the State board of Control.

 

According to the 1918 report to the West Virginia Board of Control, "This is a splendid red brick, fire-proof building, two stories high, 548 feet x 133 feet, with a rear wing 38 feet x 61 feet, containing two industrial rooms, two domestic science rooms, six school rooms, a library, lavatories, and a large chapel.”

We learn in that same report that the girls at the Industrial Home were also involved in the ongoing war effort, the United States having entered World War I the previous year. "The girls have been more deeply interested in the industrial affairs of the Home since the war broke out. A number have learned to knit very well, and the superintendent's report records that 65 soldiers' sweaters have been made, that they have taken old cotton, muslin and linen cloth and made 155 'ambulance pillows' and a large quantity of surgical dressings for the Red Cross unit at Salem."

 

More to Come

I’ll leave you for now in 1918. Next week I’ll tell you about the Salem Industrial Home through the 1920s, still early on its long path from a reform school for girls to a maximum security jail for youth, and eventually to its present incarnation as a minimum-medium security prison for men. As much as the Industrial Home was a source of pride in its day, some of the circumstances behind the change in its mission were not.

Salem Industrial Home for Girls – Part 4

Last week we left off with the girls at the Industrial Home making pillows for American soldiers during World War I.  By 1919 there were 115 inmates at the Industrial Home, none of them from Doddridge County. Every year many girls were either released or paroled, so there was a continual turn-over of inmates. Of the 67 new admissions to the Home that year, 29 were admitted for incorrigibility, 27 for immorality, 6 for vagrancy, 3 for larceny and 2 for murder.  

 

The Red Barn

The entire Industrial Home property consisted of approximately 61 acres, with the administrative office located within Harrison County and most of the remainder lying within Doddridge County. At least 20 acres were used for growing fruits and vegetables to feed the inmates. There were also chicken coops and a dairy barn situated on the hill behind the cottages. As farming technology progressed, there arose a need for a barn to store the farm’s equipment and machinery. The superintendent’s 1920 Biennial Report to the West Virginia Board of Control describes what this new barn looked like:

 

"A new horse barn was completed in November 1919 and is one of the best and most up-to-date barns in the county. It is a large frame building with asphalt shingle roof. There are feed, tool and harness rooms and large hay loft and the barn has an abundance of room for four horses, wagons, trucks and all farm machinery. It is fitted up with hay forks, little carriers and all modern equipment and conveniences. It has been painted inside and out; this work being done by the girls."

 

That barn still exists today, looking much like it did 100 years ago. It’s what most of us know as the Red Barn in Salem, located at the far corner of what used to be the Industrial Home farm.

Barn, built in 1919

(Picture courtesy of WV & Regional History Center, Morgantown, WV)

Reports Provide Insight

Another statement of interest in the 1920 Biennial Report is quite relevant to what we’re experiencing today with the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the Spanish Flu, the report says, "With strict quarantine and special care, we were fortunate enough to escape the influenza epidemic which swept the country during the past two years."

 

While reading these Biennial Reports, I cringe at some of the content that today would be considered offensive and politically incorrect. One example is an entry in the 1922 Biennial Report:

 

“Our most difficult and discouraging work is with the mentally defective girls, of whom we have a large number. This class of girls should never be admitted to the institution… Most of the weak-minded girls are moral degenerate as well. … About the only course left open is to return them to their homes where they become a menace to society, spreading disease and producing more of their kind. This class of girls should never be permitted to go back to society until they have passed the childbearing age.”

 

Disease & Pregnancy

In 1921 a State Senate Bill was passed that addressed a growing problem at the Industrial Home. This bill required that all girls be tested for pregnancy and venereal diseases before being admitted to the Home. Those with venereal disease were sent to Fairmont Hospital No. 3 for treatment. Once cured, they were returned to the Industrial Home. Pregnant girls were sent to the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers at Wheeling. After the baby was born, the courts would then decide if the girl should still be sent to the Industrial Home. 

 

Lincoln Cottage Renamed

In 1923 the Lincoln Cottage, built in 1904, was drastically remodeled and renamed Sutton Cottage in honor of Superintendent Jennie Sutton. By this time, the cottages were referred to as halls and dormitories.  As the cottages were remodeled to house more inmates, many of the quaint architectural features that made the cottages homey were replaced with straight box-like exterior walls.

 

Iodine Treatments

The 1924 Biennial Report brings to light a small piece of medical history that I found interesting. It states, "One death has occurred, which resulted from blood poisoning. This was the second death in the history of the institution. The County Health Officer examined all the girls carefully. All but 36 of the 113 needed thyroid attention. These are now receiving the iodine treatment, and decided improvement has been noted in health, disposition and work."

 

In the early 1920s it was discovered that iodine significantly reduced the incidence of goiters, an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland. Iodine quickly became the favored treatment for most thyroid problems. This is largely why we now have iodized table salt. According to Superintendent Sutton’s report, almost 70% of the inmates started feeling and acting better after receiving iodine therapy.

 

Segregation of Inmates

From its inception the Industrial Home housed both white and African American inmates. The 1899 biennial report stated, "The act provides as well for colored girls as white, and so far as practicable to keep them separated." In 1924 a sister institution, the West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Girls, was built in Huntington. At that time, all African American girls at the Salem Industrial Home were transferred to the new facility in Huntington.

 

Cars, Stills & Bootlegging

It was the Roaring 20s, and according to superintendent Jennie Sutton, the misbehavior of most girls could be attributed directly to automobiles and bootlegging. This excerpt is from a fascinating interview with Sutton in the January 12, 1925 issue of The Charleston Daily Mail.

 

"Automobiles have brought many girls to their misfortunes and they are quite frank in blaming them.  When I first came to the institution nine years ago, many girls blamed their intemperate parents for having gone astray. Now they blame the bootlegger folks in addition to automobiles.

 

"Many of them have learned to be quite expert in making moonshine before they come to Salem. In one case, we had three girls from one family who had worked with their father in the manufacture and disposal of liquor. It was a part of their job to bury the still after it was used, as well as the liquor."

 

Superintendent Replaced

By 1930 there were 176 inmates at the Industrial Home in Salem. In 1932 the West Virginia State Legislature cut the Home’s budget by $13,000, leaving the entire appropriation for that year at $43,500. The cuts were most likely a result of the Great Depression.

 

Superintendents of state institutions like the Industrial Home were political appointees selected by the governor. When Herman Guy Kump was elected governor in 1932, he wanted Jennie Sutton replaced as the Home’s superintendent. The following article appeared in the January 20, 1933 issue of The Charleston Daily Mail:

 

"Reported plans of H. G. Kump, Democratic governor-elect, to oust Miss Jennie F. Sutton, superintendent of the West Virginia industrial home for girls here, are opposed by the Salem Kiwanis club in a resolution which will be forwarded to the governor-elect."

 

Despite such local opposition, Kump prevailed in replacing Jennie Sutton. On September 1, 1933 Ava Belle Stanard was appointed the Home’s new superintendent. Stanard was the great-aunt of Doddridge native General Bantz John Craddock.

 

Federal Improvements

In 1935 the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, predecessor of the WPA, built a 1,200-foot stone retaining wall around a portion of the Industrial Home property. This stone wall still exists today. It can be seen at the base of the hill that leads up to the current facility and around the current city park and baseball fields.

 

At the time of the 1940 Census, the Industrial Home had 239 inmates ranging in age from 10 to 20 years. In 1942 a new dormitory was built to accommodate the occupants of the burgeoning institution. It was named the Stanard Building in honor of Superintendent Stanard.

 

Desegregation of Inmates

As a result of the groundbreaking Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Industrial Home for Colored Girls in Huntington was forced to close its doors. The state was no longer permitted to house and educate black and white inmates in separate facilities. In January 1956 the 24 African American girls at the Huntington facility were transferred to the Industrial Home in Salem.

 

Cruel and Unusual

In the 1970s there was a shift in public sentiment concerning juvenile incarceration. Across the nation, states started moving juveniles out of reformatory institutions and into community-based programs. Detaining minors for juvenile status offenses such as running away and incorrigibility was considered too harsh, and using prison tactics in juvenile detention centers was deemed cruel and counterproductive.

 

The release of a graduate study paper about juvenile facilities in West Virginia led to an investigation into questionable practices at the state’s two juvenile institutions, the Industrial Home for Girls in Salem and the Home for Boys in Pruntytown. According to the graduate study paper, the following is a list of rules and punishments administered at both Homes in 1973:

 

  • Both Pruntytown and Salem left us with the impressions that our state juvenile correctional centers are in need of immediate reform.

  • At Salem each girl is locked in her cubicle at night and must knock to be let out even to use the bathroom.

  • During bath time all but the three girls bathing are locked in their rooms.

  • Girls are to be silent on their way to and from school, during visits to the clinic, and during evening hours, except during TV commercials.

  • Anytime a girl hides from a matron, it is considered an attempted runaway.

 

The paper also pointed out that the following are forbidden at Salem:

 

  • Chewing gum, being barefoot, friends, piercing ears, loaning or borrowing anything, writing to anyone outside their immediate families, having more than three books in their room, needless talking, especially in dining rooms, and fixing each other's hair.

  • The isolation cell was without any lighting or windows.  The door has heavy bars.  The only fixtures were a bare mattress on the floor and a porcelain pot, used as a toilet, on the floor.

 

As early as 1978 there were discussions about releasing a large portion of inmates at both facilities and consolidating the two Homes. Finally, in 1983 the Boy’s Home in Pruntytown closed and the most incorrigible inmates were moved to Salem.  Pruntytown reopened in 1985 as an adult correctional facility. The Industrial Home for Girls was renamed the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth and became a co-ed detention center. 

 

Change of Mission

It appears that the mission of the Industrial Home changed at some point after this consolidation. It was classified a youth reformatory, yet it housed court-designated criminals up to the age of 21. It later became the state’s only maximum-security correctional institute for juveniles. There were separate buildings and wings for males, females and sex offenders. This was necessary because the facility eventually housed some of the worst criminal and sexually deviant juveniles in the state. Also, a large portion of the inmates were between the ages of 18 and 21, who needed to be separated from the younger adolescent population.

 

In 2012 the death of an inmate led state officials to once again reevaluate the propriety of incarcerating juveniles in a prison-like atmosphere. After an extensive investigation the West Virginia Supreme Court ordered the facility to transfer its inmates to other institutions and to permanently close its doors as a youth facility. In 2013 the maximum-security prison for juveniles was converted to a minimum-medium security prison for adult males.

 

For 114 years the Industrial Home served as the state’s youth reformatory. From its benevolent and illustrious beginning as a model of progressive nurturing and education to its eventual controversial demise, the Salem Industrial Home survived decades of political, economic and social changes.  In its heyday, there was little need for discipline. The girls had many privileges, to include being allowed to attend church and the movie theater in town, as well as to take certain classes at Salem College. They happily behaved themselves so as not to lose those privileges. But that changed over the years, as harsher discipline was implemented. Eventually, it seems, the institution, with its old buildings looming high over the town of Salem, became the scary place that every local kid thought it was. I was one of those kids.

 © 2020 Doddridge County Heritage Guild