Erie County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

Caption: Erie County Almshouse and Insane Asylum, 
Wm. Wischerath Keeper, Buffalo Plains, N.Y.

The notes below have been abstracted from the following reports.
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the Poorhouse Story
ANNUAL REPORT of the SECRETARY OF STATE                                         p 987-988
A TABLE showing the number of Paupers supported at the public expense in the county of ERIE during the twelve months preceding April 21, 1823, with other particulars, derived from public documents and reports furnished the Secretary of State.
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.
 Note: *** indicates "no return'
Amhurst  0 2 1 1 0 29.37 7.00  
Boston Not stated. Not stated.       30.00 30.00  
Collins Not stated. Not stated.       20.25 3.25  
Concord Not stated. Not stated.       8.25 8.25  
Eden Not stated. Not stated.       3.50 3.50  
Evans 0 3 1 2 1 73.00 14.70 3
Erie 0 3 2 1 1 44.00 13.00 3
Holland Not stated. Not stated.            
Wales 0 1 1 0 0 17.00 Not stated.  
   In the town of Amherst there is on hand a fund $113.08, for the support of the poor.  In the town of Boston, a like fund of $205.  In the town of Concord, a like fund of $140.  In the town of Evans, a like fund of $56.13.  In the town of Holland, a like fund of $54.86; and in the town of Wales, a like fund of $200.40.


   There is one important fact, that has come within my knowledge, as supervisor of this town, that is, poor persons have been and yet are confined by their creditors in the county gaol, under the control of the sheriff of the county, who is bound to keep them; and such persons have been in a very poor and suffering condition.  These persons are of course then, paupers of some town in the county; but the town where they belong, has no authority to take them from the hands of the sheriff.  Neither does the act for the relief and settlement of the poor, oblige the overseers of such town, to support them in gaol in another town, nor will any law draw from the state or county, any funds for the support of such poor  persons; nor does the board of supervisors of the county, think itself justifiable in auditing or allowing accounts for such support. [Letter from the supervisor of Concord.]


   I will answer the eighth question by asking one.  Please to set down in your mind the number of paupers generated by spirituous liquors in this state, and then combine all the misfortunes that human nature is subject to, and see what they will produce.  Strike the balance and see which is the most prolific in creating paupers.  I think it is a fact also, that there is a needless expense in examining paupers, as to their residence. [Letter from the supervisor of Eden.]

the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted): required
[Note: Despite the fact that Erie had only been formed as a state in 1821]
the Poorhouse Story
1857 INVESTIGATION:  This house is located within the limits of the city of Buffalo, but about six miles from the port, in a northerly direction. There are two buildings, one designed for use as the poor house proper, and the other for accommodation of the insane. They are constructed of limestone, quarried on the farm. The main structure is sixty-five feet front, octagonal in shape, with wings extending 225 feet. Attached is a farm of 153 acres, yielding a revenue of $2,700. The basements of the building are occupied only for domestic purposes. In the house are thirty-four rooms, or wards, occupied by the paupers, well warmed by stoves and partially ventilated. In some apartments as many as thirty are lodged. The number of inmates was 225, 150 males and 75 females. Of these eleven-twelfths are reported as of foreign birth. There is a partial separation of the sexes during the day, and a complete one at night. There are six keepers, three males and three females. The average number of inmates is 300, supported at a weekly cost of $1.00 each. The paupers who are able are employed on the farm and about the house. The house has been inspected twice during the past year by the supervisors. It is supplied with Bibles, but no provision is made for religious instruction. For the instruction of the young a teacher is employed the whole year. The school averages forty-five children. On arriving at the age of sixteen years they are bound out by the superintendents of the poor. There are now at the house, below that age, seventy-five children. The superintendents prescribe rules regulating their government and system of diet and furnish supplies which consist of plain, wholesome food. For medical attendance a physician is employed at a salary of $400, who visits the house twice each week. A student remains at the house and is in constant attendance. No arrangements are had for bathing. During the year there have occurred in the house thirty-four births and eighty-three deaths. No contagious diseases have prevailed. There is a pest-house connected with the establishment. Of the inmates seventy-one are lunatics, twenty-six males and forty-five females. All but four of these are paupers. Twelve of these lunatics have been treated at the Utica Asylum. Forty have been admitted within the year.

Apart from the main building has been erected one of limestone, sixty by thirty feet, two stories in height, devoted to the insane. Attached are ample yards for their use, and special attendants are provided. In the asylum are seventy-two cells opening on four halls. The structure seems well fitted for its designed purpose. Of the lunatics five only are of native birth. But one is constantly confined; the rest spend the day in the halls and yards, and at night are placed in separate cells. As a means of restraint they are often confined in a chair, and sometimes shackles and hand-cuffs are used. Six within the year have been improved and five recovered. They receive only such medical attendance as is provided for the other paupers. They receive their discharge from the superintendents, who are guided by the advice of the physician. This asylum is commodious, cleanly and well kept. The insane receive good care and are classified according to their different stages of insanity. 

In the poor house are eleven idiots, four males and seven females; three are under sixteen year of age; there are also three blind. It is estimated by the keeper that three-fourths of the paupers are brought here as the result of intemperate habits. Two years since the cholera visited the house and large numbers of the paupers were carried off. There was then no sewerage about the premises; the house was an old structure, and there were large and offensive accumulations of filth. Since that time all this has been remedied. The old house was burned down shortly after, and the present one, erected in its place, was completed only during the last year. This is kept in a clean and orderly condition.

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


Click here to read an excerpt about the history of the poorhouse  
Our County and It's People; a descriptive work on Erie County New York,
Thomas C. White, 1898


J.M. Kraus, M.D. was the informant who signed a Certificate of  Death for an inmate who died in the poorhouse in January of 1890; and the doctor's  residence or office was also listed as the Almshouse. (Submitted by Nancy and Ron Rose)

the Poorhouse Story

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 26-34
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the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

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