"The County Alms-House Its General Condition--
                           The Number and Character of its Inmates"

The Democrat
 2 Feb 1871

Submitted by: Dawn Bonney  debonney@yahoo.com
Provided by: Joan Keefer, librarian
from the Indiana Room of the Huntington Public Library, Huntington, Indiana.
Detailed description of the Huntington County Infirmary, including profiles of 13 inmates.
NOTE: What is amazing about this article is the degree to which very personal details of the inmates lives are recounted in such a public manner! We at first felt somewhat reluctant to even post this on the internet ... 130 years later!  But we decided it was important to the historical record to document and realize that poorhouse inmates were accorded so little privacy during that era. PHL
"We know of no subject that would be so generally interesting to the people of this county as that describing the condition of the institution which is maintained at their expense for the care of the poor and unfortunate who are without homes, and by reason of age and decrepitude, or incurable mental aberration, unable to provide for themselves.

The County Alms-House has been under the superintendence of Mr. Samuel Hagey for seven years. When he assumed control it was in a deplorably neglected state; the farm without suitable fencing, and the fields in a great degree without proper cultivation. The management throughout was marked by seeming indifference and neglect, and certain mismanagement. In the seven years during which he has conducted it, Mr. Hagey has developed the farm so materially that it is now one of the best improved in the county, and almost self-sustaining as a charitable institution.

At this time the live stock on the premises consists of five head of valuable horses; eight of sleek and well-fed cattle; thirteen remarkably fine sheep, and thirty-five hogs and shoats, of all sizes, and all in excellent condition. To this accumulation of stock may be added some twenty dozen chickens. When Mr. Hagey took charge of the place, two horses and sixteen head of hogs constituted the sum total of live stock.

During the past year the farm yielded nine hundred bushels of corn, four hundred and three of wheat, seventy-seven of oats, and twenty-three tons of hay. The farm embraces two hundred acres, of which eighty-five were reduced to cultivation when Mr. Hagey took charge, and twenty-one acres have been cleared and made tillable under his administration. He has put in eight hundred panels of new fence, and fourteen hundred of repairs. 

A plentiful supply of farming implements, comprising a McCormick Reaper and Mower, a Horse-Rake, a patent Hay-Fork, side-shovel and other plows, with all the minor farming utensils, farm and spring wagons, etc., etc., have been purchased in the last seven years, and are well taken care of in buildings kept for this purpose.

The number of pauper inmates at the Infirmary, at this period, is eighteen, of whom we present below some statistical information:

Adeline Cook, a young woman of 18 years, from Dallas township, slightly idiotic, has been an inmate for five years. Adeline holds the post of honor in the institution. That is, she is head cook and chief waitress, a peafowl was ever prouder of its gay plumage than is she of her exalted position. From the savory odors of the kitchen and the nature of her affection--she hasn't a care in the world, and is ten times happier than a big sunflower--she is becoming inordinately fat. Adeline is quite a help, and her services could not well be dispensed with.

Annie Mason, a cleanly and intelligent-looking child of eight years, from Dallas township, has been on the farm six years. She is, also, of considerable help in the kitchen and dining room. A modest little girl that some respectable and kind family should have the caring of.

Margaret Ferber, a young woman of infirm mind; about twenty-three years of age; went to the farm to lie in. Her child, a boy ten months old, is named Samuel Lee. Margaret is from Union township, and enjoys her otium sine dignitate [ease without dignity] as if she were the mistress of an East Indian nabob.

Hester Fletcher, a sprightly, gossipy, and rather prepossessing woman of about twenty-seven years of age, from Plymouth, has been an inmate eight months. She has two children--one a boy three years old; the other a girl, age [?] months. She went to the farm to lie in, and insists that her two children have the same father, which is not altogether improbable, yet considerably mixed.

Morris Lynch, a native of county Kerry, Ireland; sixty-nine years old; has been on and off the farm six years.

Joseph Trovinger, from Union township, sixty years of age, and five on the farm; earns all he gets from the county.

Solomon Kast, twenty-seven years of age; blind; has been at the farm two years; is from Huntington township, and was formerly in the employ of Fred Kopp, cabinet-maker.

Joseph Nedrow; 71 years of age; from Huntington township; three years an inmate of the asylum.

Daniel Ellers, from Dallas township; of unsound mind; age supposed to be about seventy years; an inmate since last July.

Tommy Karns, from the township of Huntington; eighty six years old, and five years an inmate; a native of county Clare, Ireland, and twelve years a citizen of the United States.

Jonas Hartsel, from Dallas township; an inmate four years; seventy-three years of age.

Willie Jackson, 3 1/2 years old; born on the farm. His father is said to be a well to do farmer of Jackson township. The superintendent is anxious to find a good home for this bright and intelligent little fellow.

Annie Ward, about thirty years of age, hopelessly insane; an inmate since last August last; perfectly harmless, and has not been heard to utter a word since she has had her abode at the Infirmary. Her alienation is of a remarkable type. The wild, vacant stare, and utterly woebegone expression of countenance, excite both fear and pity. When, after considerable effort, she can be made to fix her eyes upon the visitor, and to comprehend that there is a human object before her, her lips move as if she were expressing something to which the vocal powers refuse sound. This is a most pitiable case.

There are eighteen paupers at the Infirmary, ten or twelve less than last year, and they seem to be exceedingly well cared for. In Mr. Hagey the county has had a humane and efficient officer at the poor farm and his retirement therefrom in March will be generally regretted. It is to be hoped that his successor may prove equally competent and trusty in his administration."

Return to INDIANA      HOME