Union Man Searches for Clues to His Past - The Missourian: Features People

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Union Man Searches for Clues to His Past

Former Resident of Poor Farm

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 6:32 pm

Union resident Milton Luttrell is looking for information on a local family and the Franklin County “poor farm” that they ran.

Luttrell, 85, said he has good reason for his search. The Dress family, who ran the Franklin County Infirmary, became his family.

The infirmary was located where Sunset Health Care Center now is at West Park Road and Memorial Drive in Union.

According to Luttrell, the original building went up in 1915 and the “poor farm” on Old County Farm Road was closed.

He explained that the Dress family was hired to run the facility. At first William H. Dress and his wife Anna M. Dress ran the facility, but William died and his son, Bill, ran the infirmary with his mother.

Luttrell said he knows nothing about the facility, or the Dress family, from 1915 to 1933, the year that he moved in.

“In 1933 a woman and three children were sent by the county because they had no home,” he said.

The youngest child was Milton Luttrell, who moved into the infirmary at the age of 2.

“They took a liking to me,” he said. “I became a member of that family.”

Although Luttrell’s mother did not give up custody of him, he was an unofficial member of the Dress family.

“He (Bill) was everything — brother, uncle, the whole nine yards,” Luttrell said. “She was Mom.”

Luttrell explained that doctors examined him at the request of the Dress family.

“They told them to give the kid (Luttrell) everything he can eat,” he said.

If he had not been taken to the infirmary, he may not have survived six months due to malnutrition, Luttrell said.

The Franklin County Infirmary was much smaller than the Sunset Health Care Center.

Luttrell said the previous facility was the only building of the infirmary. The large pillars are still there on the east side of the Sunset building.

He added that there was a long, wide driveway in the back of the building, and two houses northwest of the main building.

Luttrell remembers making apple butter in the rear of the building along that driveway.

“I was old enough that they let me put wood in the fire,” he said.

There was a barn on the south side of the building where a horse and cows were sheltered.

The cow was milked, and the milk was skimmed at the home for butter. The horse was used for plowing and raking fields near the infirmary, Luttrell said.

He added that Bill Dress plowed fields east of the building where a baseball field and the city pool are now located, as well as to the south where the Union City park now sits.

Luttrell said Bill Dress would rotate his crops while growing food for those who lived at the infirmary.

The Dress family also raised chicken to provide meat and eggs for the residents, Luttrell said.

In the rear of the main building was a smokehouse and a butcher shop, he added. Inside the infirmary, the family fed, clothed and cared for the residents.

“Bill and his mother made sure they (residents) all took their medication, made sure they went to bed and if they were sick, they took care of them,” said Luttrell.

He said the men and women were separated in the building, but there was a shared dining room. The Dress family lived at the infirmary.

Bill Dress had tried to sign up for the military during World War II, but he was denied his request to serve.

“Everyone went to the draft board, but he was told he was needed too bad here,” said Luttrell. “He was really disappointed. He wanted to go where his friends were going, but he was left behind.”

When Luttrell joined the Army in 1947, at the age of 17, he needed Bill Dress’ assistance.

Because he was not yet 18, a Franklin County judge made Bill his permanent guardian and Luttrell was able to sign up for the military.

It was in 1947 that the Dress family left the infirmary and another family took over.

Luttrell said that Anna Dress was in her 80s, and Bill had not yet married. He married five years later.

Although he knows some about the Dress family from 1933 and later, he would like to know more about them from 1915-33. He added that he also would like to see photographs from any time period that the Dress family ran the infirmary.

Luttrell welcomes calls from anyone with information. He can be reached at 636-583-5824.

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