WPA Inventory of  Fresno County holdings of Poorhouse Records

submitted by: Carolyn Feroben 

As early as 1850 the California Legislature made a provision that the court of session should "perform all acts necessary to the county welfare"(1) When the boards of supervisors were created in 1852 they were charged with rendering aid to the needy aged. (2)

The Political Code of 1872 contained a section which specified that the board of supervisors should provide for the care and maintenance of the indigent sick and the dependent poor of the county, and erect and maintain hospitals for that purpose. In connection with the hospital, the board was required to provide a poor farm and to draft regulations for its operation (3). A law of 1883 required the board of supervisors to appoint some suitable person or persons to take care of, and to superintend such hospitals, farms, and poorhouses. (4)

In 1901 a provision was made that every county should relieve and support all pauper, incompetent, poor, and indigent persons, including those incapacitated by age, disease, and accident, when they were not supported by relatives, friends, or by other means. Upon receiving any person, incompetent, poor, incapacitated, or needy aged, the superintendent of the county hospital or almshouse, or his subordinates, were required to make diligent inquiry into the ability of such person, or his relative, to bear the actual charges and expenses of his maintenance and support, and to report the result of that inquiry to the district attorney and the board of supervisors. (5)

In conformity with these provisions, the board of supervisors of Fresno County took measures for the relief of the needy aged and the general hospital was made to function as a home for such aged indigents. (6) An almshouse was established in 1907 (7). In 1915 the name of the "almshouse" was changed to that of "Old People's Home," which it bears to this day. Its budget in 1938 was $32,635. (8)

When the board of supervisors established the almshouse in 1907 it made the superintendent of the general hospital director of both the hospital and almshouse. His salary, for both offices, was fixed at $4,000 a year. (9). Other salary changes were: in 1921, $5,000 per year (10) In 1935, $355 a month (11); in 1937, $475 a month.(12)

At present, the office of the superintendent of the Old People's Home is separate from that of the hospital director. The superintendent's salary last year was $2,000 (13).

(1) Stats. 1850, pp. 210-211
(2)Ibid. 1852 , p.88
(3) Sec. 4046
(4)Stats. 1883, p.304
(5) Stats. 1901, p. 636
(6) Idem
(7) Minutes, 1907, vol. W. p.25
(8) Annual Financial Report, p. 131
(9)Minutes, vol. W. p 25
(10) Ibid, vol. 31, p.4
(11) Ordinances, vol. 3, p.10. Ord. #304
(12) Ibid., vol 3.p.53, Ord. #315
(13) Annual Financial Report. p. 129

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