29 July 2009

It is a very tragic story, with a bitter-sweet end

Rhoda was the youngest daughter of Jacob and Rachel (Bright) Derry. She was committed to a "Poor Farm". Then also known as "Almshouses." A term used to describe an asylum for the "incurable insane." In the late 1800's, there was no place for proper care of the mentally insane.

At the turn of the century in Illinois, the Peoria State Hospital was formally created. On 2 November 1902, Dr. George A. Zeller assumed the resposibilities of superintendent. Dr. Zeller understood the plight of those unfortunate beings languishing in the Almshouses. He wrote:

"...it is not until the almshouses are reached that the people begin to realize what a blessing this institution is to the State.It is at such time that the closets give up their skeletons and society for a brief moment again becomes conscious of the existance of individuals long supposed to be dead."

From the book, "Bittersweet Memories: A History of the Peoria State Hosptial" by author Gary Lisman.

"...While yet in her teens she was wooed by a son of a neighboring farmer. The young man’s family, however, were opposed to the match. In order to prevent the young couple from marrying, the boy’s mother visited the girl and threatened to bewitch her if she did not release her son from the engagement. The mother so wrought upon the girl’s fears that she became insane and strange to say exhibited all the signs of one possessed of an evil spirit. Shortly after the threat, Rhoda came home one night, jumped on the bed and stood on her head spinning around like a top. She declared that the “Old Scratch” was after her. For a time she was taken care of by her relatives, but was finally sent to the Adams county poor house. There she remained for forty years..."


If you dare read, Rhoda's story is told within the pages of the book, Rhoda, A Tragic & True Story of a Farmer's Daughter, where story, legend, and folklore, come alive. Click here.

D. Doc Derry

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