The complex that was once the Washington County Children's Home has been transformed over the years as different government agencies took up residence on its grounds and in its buildings.
The former dormitory off Muskingum Drive is now the county juvenile center. Ewing School, named for the home's founder, Catherine Fay Ewing, is located nearby where the home's Friendship School used to be. The WASCO complex is on the site of the home's cattle barns.
But on a hill overlooking these and other sites, one portion of the property of the first tax-supported children's home in the state maintains its original purpose as a final resting place for nearly 80 children.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Washington County Children Services director Dave Copen discusses the damaged fence around the former children’s home cemetery and the efforts nearly 30 years ago to erect a monument bearing the names of children interred there.
In 1982, the Washington County Children Services board fenced off the area and marked it with a monument bearing the names of 77 children who died while in the home's care.
"Weeds had grown over it," recalled Marietta resident Joe Wesel, a member of the board for 36 years. "We thought it would be the right thing to do to clean it up and put a reasonable monument (there)."
No other markers stand in the field, although a pencil drawing of the grounds on display in the children services office on Davis Avenue does show some on the hilltop at one time. Children Services director David Copen, who joined the agency in 1975, said he believes any markers that had been there were made of wood and have long since deteriorated.
What: Washington County Children's Home Cemetery.
Location: Atop a hill overlooking the Washington County Juvenile Center and Ewing School, where the children's home used to be located.
Interred there: At least 77 residents of the Washington County Children's Home.
The home was intended as a shelter for orphaned children or those whose parents could not care for them. It closed in 1976 as a result of budget woes and changing policies that emphasized home-based over institutional care, Copen said.
The monument lists the children interred in chronological order, starting with nine-and-a-half-month-old John Drake in 1867 and ending with 13-year-old Clyde Farnsworth in 1923. Wesel and Copen admit the list may not be complete, however.
"We researched it and tried to get all the names we could possibly find," Copen said.
During that research, he learned the causes of death of some of the children. While a number of deaths were due to illness, one child died after being injured by a horse on the working farm at the home and another apparently fell into a vat where soap was being made.
It's not just children who are interred in the cemetery. Some ponies and other animals from the home are also believed to have been buried there.
"Kids that were in the children's home, it was their animals and so they were buried up there," Copen said.
Today, the grass at the cemetery is still mowed but tree limbs and brush hang over the chainlink fence, which has deteriorated. The main gate is broken.
"The fence needs to be re-stretched and reset," Copen said.
Copen added that he hopes the county, which owns the property, would take on the project.
County Commissioner Steve Weber said the matter had not been brought to the commission's attention but he would be willing to consider it.
"If it's just typical fix-up things, we can have that done," he said. "If it involves thousands of dollars, then we have to look at it a little closer and see what we can do."