CITY of NORWICH, New London County -- Historical Notes re: Poor Relief
Submitted byDave Mathieson [dave@mysticseaport.org ]
Note: The following statements and quotes are made with the understanding that the reader understands the circumstances that surrounded the decisions made and the attitudes that prevailed at that time in history. Dave

 This information was extracted from, "History of Norwich, Connecticut: From its possession by the Indians, to the year 1866" - Frances M. Caulkins, Pub. 1866

The earliest record of the town caring for the poor was recorded in February 9, 1658-9.  ".....Katherine Duneffin to accounted two shillings per week ..... for the bringing up of the child for 2 years....." 

In 1723 the Town of Norwich was billed for 3 pounds, 5 shillings, 6 pence for the care of  Christian Challenge by Henry Wallbridge Jr..  A description of the reason for her care was, "this poor woman appears to have been a traveler, tramper, or transient person, as wandering beggars are indifferently called in New England who was 'rode over by Solomon Story on the Sabbath Day, either willfully or carelessly', and being very much hurt, was for some time a burden on the town".

In 1790 the first Almshouse appears although the approval by vote was given for this building back in 1767, some 23 years earlier.  The location of the Almshouse was on the Hazen farm.  This location was both inconvenient and expensive and it was not until 1800 that a permanent and final location was established next to the Episcopal Church.  This site was directly upon the street and became a spectacle of attention.  Their visual presence was too disturbing and after a few years a third house built further north on the West side of Yantic Cove.  This third house was opened to the poor in 1819.

The number of residence in this house seldom exceeded thirty up until the Civil War.

 In 1859 a new building replaced the 1819 structure with larger and better accommodations.  By 1863 the role of the inmates numbered 56.  In the 1860 census the town listed, "53 native-born Americans; 210 of foreign birth" who were accepting some form of relief but not in the Almshouse.  This, I assume, is some form of "outdoor relief". The term "native-born" is not clear as to it's meaning.  This may refer to American Indian or, those who were of European extraction but born in this country.  I have seen other references to "native" people in local burial sites that are Indian.  In a short six years from 1860 the numbers of people receiving outdoor relief tripled in size.  The numbers of poor, widows and orphans, increased considerably during the Civil War.
 

Current Note from Dave:

Located in a vacant lot on the west side of the Yantic River and about half a mile north on Asylum St. adjacent to Alms House Ln. is a memorial marker designating the spot of the Alms House.  About a quarter acre of land that this memorial sits upon is clear and kept.  This plot is located in a much larger parcel of land that is about 4-5 acres in size and that piece of land is unkept.  The memorial stone reads;

 In Memoriam

            This memorial is respectfully

             dedicated to the 212 men, women,

             and children who lived and died

              at the Norwich Alms House and

             were laid to rest here between

                   April 21, 1888

                      and

                   July 12, 1927

                "Blessed are the poor in spirit

               for theirs is the kingdom of

                               heaven"

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