Clinton County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

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the Poorhouse Story
ANNUAL REPORT of the STATE BOARD of CHARITIES                                         p  976-977
A TABLE showing the number of Paupers supported at the public expense in the county of CLINTON during the twelve months preceding April 21, 1823, with other particulars, derived from public documents and reports furnished the Secretary of State. [*** Indicates "No return (filed)" ]
TOWNS Total number of paupers
supported during the
whole of the last year.
Total number relieved
during a part of the last year.
Total expenses of supporting and relieving paupers (including fees and expenses of officers, removals and appeals) for the last year.

Dolls.    Cts.

Expenses and cost of officers and appeals during same period.


Dolls.   Cts.

Number of paupers removed during the last year.
Beckmantown 1 0 1 0 0 45.15 6.25  
Champlain ***                
Chazy 3 0 2 1 0 280.90 4.00  
Plattsburgh 14 Not stated. 8 5 720.75 97.67 3


   There is no poor-house or house of industry, but the authorities of the town have for four years past, at the annual town meetings, sold at public sale all the poor of the town; this mode of proceedings, has been the means of lessening the expenses for the support of the poor, from the year 1817, at least two-thirds.  For none, except those that are objects of charity, will apply to the town for assistance, and be exposed for sale and liable to labor.  The poor in this way are provided for much better, as the person who bids them in, gives bonds for his faithful performance.  In this way, there is no expense charged to the town for services, as the poor masters and justices have nothing to do but make out the bonds.  The amount of the services of the overseers of the poor, charged to the town, does not exceed four dollars for the last year.  The greatest number of poor on the town and county are foreigners; this part of the country has suffered from that class of people, particularly this town, owing to its situation being so near Canada.  [Letterr from the supervisor of Chazy.]


   We have a poor-house and three acres of land which was purchased in 1818; there was raised bor that purpose the sum of $600, and the poor were removed to the said house in the spring of 1819.  The lot is occupied as a garden, and the male paupers are kept at work in the same, as far as they are able.  The females are employed in knitting, sewing and any other work which they are able to do.  A female is employed for the purpose of cooking, washing, &c., and is paid wages for the same.  The poor masters have the whole under their immediate controul (sic) and superintendence.

   It is believed the best mode of supporting the poor, would be for each county to purchase a farm and hire a man to take charge of it and the paupers.--As the number of paupers in each town is so small, that it would not be advisable to buy a farm and pay the wages of an overseer, but if each county would do as the above town has thought proper, then as the number of paupers should increase, the expense would diminish.

   Amount of money expended as follows, [in Plattsburgh.]

           Town paupers in 1817,                   $440.56
           County  "                                          448.29

           Town paupers in 1818,                   $483.44  
           County   "                                         437.65

           Town paupers in 1819,                   $309.48
           County   "                                         573.88

           Town paupers in 1820,                   $270.04 
           County   "                                         380.79

           Town paupers in 1821,                   $170.34
           County  "                                          197.72

          Town paupers in 1822,                    $292.16
          County   "                                          428.59

[Letter from the supervisor of Plattsburgh.]                 

the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted): required
the Poorhouse Story

This house is located four miles from Plattsburg. The building is an extremely old one, of stone, sixty by thirty feet, two stories high. It has been built twenty-eight years, and is very much dilapidated. Attached is a farm of ninety acres, yielding a gross revenue of $800. The basements are occupied for domestic purposes. In the house are fourteen rooms or wards, indifferently warmed by stoves, but destitute of ventilation, except what may be afforded by the cracks and crevices of the walls and ceiling. The ceilings are very low, and the air close and bad. In the winter water freezes in the rooms, and the snow blowing through the crevices forms banks. Sometimes twenty paupers are placed in a single room, usually as many as it will hold.

The number of inmates was forty-eight--thirty-two males, sixteen females. Of these, three-fourths were foreign born, and eleven under sixteen years of age. The sexes are not separated either day or night, but mingle promiscuously. There is one keeper assisted by a man who works the farm. The average number of inmates is sixty-five, supported at a weekly cost of $1.00 each. The males are employed on the farm, and the women about the house. The supervisors have visited the house once during the year. There is no religious instruction furnished except through an occasional funeral service, which is performed whenever the dying pauper particularly requests it: neither is the house furnished with Bibles. There is no provision made for other instruction; the district school refuses to receive the children, and they were at large. At sixteen years of age they are bound out by the superintendents. The superintendents regulate the government and system of diet, and furnish supplies. Since the first of March last, a plain, wholesome diet has been furnished the paupers. At that date the present keeper took charge of the house. Prior to that time their diet is reported to have consisted of pea and bran soup; Indian pudding and sweetened water. They used no knives and forks. The new keeper found every one of the inmates ailing, and most of them confined to their rooms and beds. Besides this, the rooms were so filthy, the air so impure, as to immediately sicken a healthy person entering them. From the present appearance of the house, improved as the keeper reports it is, the committee find no difficulty in giving credence to the foregoing statements. The water is obtained from springs located at the foot of a slope, which is the focus of drains from the barnyards and privies of the establishment; as a consequence the water is extremely impure and unfit for use. A physician is employed at a salary of $75 per annum, who attends whenever called. During the year have occurred three births and six deaths. No pestilential disease has raged. No pest house is provided.

Of the inmates six are lunatics, one male, five females, and all paupers. Two have been admitted within the year. They have no medical or other special attendance. Two are confined the whole time in cells, chained to the floor, with straw for a bed. Two others are confined, but only at night. As a mechanical restraint the ball and chain are used. The cells are without ventilation and exceedingly filthy. One lunatic has escaped since March last, and no intelligence has since been received regarding him.

The construction of the house is not such as to allow of classification. The superintendents alone exercise the power of discharge. Ten of the inmates are idiots--eight males, two females. But one is under twenty years of age. There is one blind. As a means of punishment, paupers are shut in dark cells, and a rawhide is sometimes used.

Intemperance is here reported as the direct cause of one-half the pauperism.

This house is a very poor one, indifferently kept, and a disgrace to the county in which it is located.

Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 19-21  more information
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

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