Boys Industrial School

Boys’ Industrial School AL00342
The Ohio Historical Society hosts an online index of Boys Industrial School inmates’ case records to improve access to this resource for genealogical and family history research. Currently, this database indexes the admission records from 1858 to 1944. The web address is

BIS_Log_20703The establishment of the Ohio Reform Farm (or School) was authorized by the Ohio General Assembly on April 7, 1856. A law enacted April 17, 1857, outlined in detail the organization of the institution. Located on 1,170 acres five miles south of Lancaster, Ohio, the Ohio Reform Farm was the first institution in the United States to be operated on the cottage or “family” plan rather than the “big-house” system. Each “family” of 40 boys, who ranged in age from ten to eighteen, was supervised by an “Elder Brother.” The Boys Industrial School was governed by a Board of Commissioners until 1911. At that time, control was given to the newly created Ohio Board of Administration, which in turn created a Bureau of Juvenile Research in 1913 to “test, examine, and evaluate delinquent juveniles entrusted to its care.” In 1921, this bureau was transferred to the Ohio Department of Public Welfare. The Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Correction began overseeing the Boys’ Industrial School in 1954. In 1963, the Ohio Youth Commission was created and assumed control of the Boys’ Industrial School. The institution ceased to operate as a juvenile reformatory in July 1980. The campus was converted to a medium security prison (Southeastern Correctional Institution) for adult offenders under the supervision of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Early records consist of a double page spread is divided into six columns: Name and Parentage BIS_Log_20702 (birthplace, date received, parents’ names and nationality); Commitment (offense, by whom committed); Education (including Sunday School for some years); Health and Special Marks; Employment (including parents’ occupations for some years); and Miscellaneous (bad habits such as tobacco, profane language, intoxicants, truancy; and remarks on discharge). Beginning in 1913, the form of the entries changed to one page per boy, and added more information, such as previous commitments and family data.
The Industrial School trained young men to specific trades and then placed the youth outside of the institution to work in these trades. In some cases, these placements were not successful, and the boys were re-committed to the School. Each time a youth was committed to the School, the original Inmate Number was used. Thus a name with multiple entries will have multiple commitment records.

You may use this index to obtain information about any admission records that you wish to order. You may use the microfilm containing the original inmate case records free of charge in the Microfilm Reading Room at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, and make copies there for a nominal fee, currently 25 cents per page. If you wish to mail in your request, Research Services staff will make uncertified copies and mail them to you for $7.00 per record.

This entry was posted in Incarceration Records, Research Tools, State Archives. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Boys Industrial School

  1. Jane Petro says:

    I know that Bob Hope spent some time at the Boys Industrial School but when I searched the online index for him, I couldn’t find him. Was he in under another name?

  2. Jane,
    Yes, Bob Hope did spend time at the Boys Industrial School. His given name was Leslie Townes Hope, but he appears in the records under the name Lester Townes Hope.

  3. Mary A. Powell says:

    Where do I find the online index for the Boys Industrial School?
    Is there one for the Ohio Penitentiary?
    Thank you.

  4. Mary,
    The Online Index to the Boys Industrial School records can be found in the text above or by going to

    The Ohio Penitentiary Records that we hold are currently not indexed online but we are going to start this project in 2008 so stay tuned!

  5. kim says:

    i have recently learned as a young teen my father was incarcerated at The boys industrial school in Lancaster probably in the 1960″s not sure but how do I find his records?

  6. Kim,
    We hold some records for the Boys Industrial School for the 1960’s. You can see what we hold by going to our catalog at and doing an author search for “Boys Industrial School” However, where our records stop may overlap the period you are interested in, so you may need to contact the Department of Youth Services for more information. They are the state agency that was responsible for the BIS during the 1960’s. Their website is

  7. Butch says:

    My uncle was there in 1949 or 1950. How do I find him on record?

  8. Butch says:

    Do you have listings of the big prison in Columbus where many famous people were?

  9. Dennis Cochran says:

    I am trying to find information about my maternal grandfather, Glen Defoe (not sure of last name spelling). I recall that he was on staff at BIS, and remember staying overnight with him in what I believe would have been the 1950’s.

    Denny Cochran

  10. Anita says:

    My brother was here in the late 50’s would love to get information on it I remember visiting him when I was a little girl. His name was Jerry Polakovics.

  11. Michael Edwards says:

    I was told my great uncle William Lester Edwards ran the Boys Industrial School for a period of time. Family fork lore says at one time he was kidnapped by some boys and driven to Cleveland where he over powered them and drove them back to Lancaster. My dad also tells when he was a little boy of visiting his uncle and some of the boys pushing him in a wheel barral teasing they were going to escape. Do you have a record of the first insident and do you know when he was at the facility?

  12. Bill pernell says:

    i was there in 1958 and 1959 belive me it was a mean place . they were very mean to us all the time beat u 4 nothing and enjoyed it

  13. Kathy Shelton says:

    That’s sad to hear Bill. I have a cousin that I believe was there in 1917. I am trying to find a roster. There was one online years ago, but they have taken it down.

  14. john butler says:

    I was there in 74-75 and it was a rough place, I hope places like this have changed for the better. I’ve talked to people that have been in several prisons and said this place was worse than all of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s