"CARE OF POOR STARTED 94 YEARS AGO IN ROCK ISLAND COUNTY"

Port Byron Globe
Dated 31 Oct 1929

Submitted by: Carol Beeding    cbeeding@msn.com 
Provided by: Rock Island Historical Society, 822 11th Avenue, Moline, IL  61265-1221
It was just 94 years ago this month that the poor were first taken care of in Rock Island County. The first order in relation to this class of people was in October 1835. It appears that a William Brewster was thrown upon the county for support, and Michael Bartlett was authorized to contract with some person to take care of him. Mr. Brewster survived but a few months and was buried by the county, the first burial by the county on record.

Prior to the purchase of the first poor farm, the county poor were cared for by overseers of the poor and boarded by the people who would charge the least for their keeping. The county Commissioner thought advisable to appoint an overseer of the poor for the entire county, the number of persons requiring assistance from the county being on the increase. 

Joseph T. Taylor was appointed by the Board at itís December term in 1839.
September, 1841, Miles Conway was appointed to succeed Mr. Taylor. He served until December, 1844, when he resigned and Thomas Bidderson was appointed his successor. He was empowered to enforce the vagrant act against all those who were liable to become a county charge. In September, 1850, Marcus Osborn was appointed to succeed Mr. Bidderson. Mr. Osborn was succeeded by C. B. Knox who in turn give place to S. S. Guyer December, 1852.

In January, 1853 the county court purchased of the heirs of Rinnah Wells, a house and tract of land to be used for paupers, paying a sum of $1.22 for it. It was located on the west side of the Milan road and occupied the land from the road to the bend of the river. 
It contained about 80 acres, was a two-story farm house and barn. This property was used for about ten years. Jonathan Whitman was appointed agent to keep the poor house at a salary of $150 per year with $1.25 per week for the board of each pauper.

In June, 1854, B. I. Cobb was appointed overseer of the poor. In March, 1855, Drs. Brackett and Buckley made a proposition to give medical attention to all paupers within 8 miles of the city of Rock Island for $100 per year, which proposition was accepted.

William Anderson was appointed in March, 1856, at a salary of $150 per year for services in keeping the poor house, and allowed $150 per week for boarding paupers. Dr. S. K. Sharp was appointed county physician.

In January, 1858, a resolution was adopted, setting forth that the county has been wronged by persons presenting bills for the care of paupers; and as a county poor-house had been purchased and was sustained at a considerable cost, and which was large to hold all the paupers of the county, therefore no bills of like character would hereafter be paid, unless accompanied by an affidavit, that the poor relieved could not be sent to the poor-house at the time such assistance was rendered.

In June, 1860, T. J. Robinson, J. A. Boyer and John M. Wilson were appointed a committee to make inquiries and report upon the pauper question. They reported that the expense of keeping the paupers of Rock Island County and was constantly on the increase; and that in 1859 they had cost upwards of $6,000; that the county poor-house was too limited; and recommended the sale of the house and the purchase of a farm of not less than 120 acres, to be known as the poor-farm where the paupers of the county could be kept and where they could assist in their own support. 

John M. Wilson, M. A. Switer [Swiler], Wesley Hanna, Peter DeMoss were appointed a committee to examine different localities for a farm and to ascertain on what terms the property then owned could be sold. The committee at the September session of the Board, reported that they had arranged to purchase a farm near Coal Valley, consisting of 180 acres for $3,000. The old poor-house they recommended to be sold at auction.

Wm. Sanderson served as Superintendent of the County Poor-house until in September, 1861, when Wm. S. Bailey was appointed at a salary of $800 a year.

In 1881 a two-story and basement brick building was erected. At this time and up until the State Hospital for the insane was erected at Watertown, now East Moline, the insane patients of the county were also cared for at the county farm, there being a separate building maintained for their use.

Those who have served the county in the capacity of Superintendent of the County Poor House since the time of Wm. Bailey and the order in which they served are: Mr. Carson, Asa Butman, J. S. Robenson, W. H. H. Dow, who served 12 years, John Swank, who served 15 years, and F. B. Wylie the present incumbent.

The present farm, purchased in 1860 has comfortable commodious buildings, together with a large barn, granary, corncribs, hay sheds, steam heating plant, steam laundry, bakery, etc. The farm and improvement have cost the county over $50,000. In 1903 a fire destroyed the main building, which was replaced by a much more modern one in 1904.
Mrs. F. B. Wylie is matron of the County Poor House. At present there are inmates, most of them able to help with the work, during the busy season.

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