A CRYING SHAME: An Open Letter to the People of Jefferson County
|from a then contemporary newspaper article publishing this letter|
|submitted by: Charlotte Maness CManess@Lescom.org|
said that the buildings looked bright and cheerful, but was from the
outside. There is no
plastering in any of the buildings, hence to keep warm during the winter
must be an effort for the unfortunate poor.
Yet the inmates spoke well of the treatment which they received
and they seemed to be content. They
said that the board was good, and plenty of it, and the ladies of the
party who dropped into the dining room at dinner time reported that the
food was plain but substantial and that there seemed to be a goodly
supply. One thing
noticeable about the inmates was their appreciation of our visit and
their unfeigned unselfishness, no one despairing to get more than
another everyone being highly satisfied with what he received.
our leave of this part of the farm we went to another building, entirely
separated from the others, and which is used for the mentally deranged.
Of all the sights which we have ever witnessed, this is the
saddest and most inhuman. It would be hard to find a more ghastly proof of the poet's
saying that "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands
mourn." In one room is
an idiot girl about 19 years old behind bars.
Her bed is scant indeed, no pillow, not even a bedstead, but a
dirty conglomeration of
something spread on the floor in the corner.
In the same room is an old lady of about seventy years who within
the past six months is showing signs of losing her mind.
We do not wonder at this. This
room has no stove and yet the idiot and this old lady have had to occupy
it during these cold nights. Friends,
this is cruelty, is it not? Just
across the hall in a room by herself, is a woman about twenty-five years
old suffering from a most loathsome disease and the babe on her knee
bore in a frightful manner the marks of the same curse.
The atmosphere in this room was simply awful, some of the ladies
having to go out immediately, and the poverty of the room was enough to
bring tears to the hardest heart. Dirt
abounds in every building. But
we are not through yet. More
awful revelations of shameless cruelty and unpardonable neglect were yet
to be visited in other apartments where these poor demented men, black
and white, do not receive as much care or consideration as the cattle of
the accommodations and order in the rooms were a disgrace to humanity,
the condition of affairs here I prefer to leave to your imagination.
We must drop the word "odor," for here it was an
abominable stench. That
place today is a veritable "chamber of horrors," a blot upon
creation and a stigma of shame upon the whole State of Missouri.
any one thinks that we are exaggerating, we respectfully refer him to
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, of DeSoto, of which Mrs. L.
MUMMERT is president, and who was one of the visitors on last Friday.
are not blaming any one in particular.
We are simply giving information from personal knowledge.
Yet we cannot refrain from thinking that the people who allow
their officials to let this farm to the lowest bidder are not
guiltless before God and man. Nor
can those officials whose duty it is to visit the county poor farm raise
their heads and declare their innocence.
have faith in the people and believe that all is necessary is
information to cause them to wipe out this disgrace upon our county. If more funds are needed a very small tax would cover it,
perhaps only the fraction of a cent on
the dollar. To have,
remained silent would have been cowardly.
subject was presented last Sunday morning in the Presbyterian pulpit of
this city, and measures have been taken to relieve the immediate wants
of the inmates of the farm, because it is not a time to discuss where
the fault lies, while the people are suffering.
If permitted to do so the churches no doubt would be glad to
furnish a number of these rooms. A
very small outlay would do this and make it comfortable for the
unfortunate, and the ministers will take turns in preaching there.
appeal to the commonwealth of Jefferson county, to investigate and
redeem themselves from this crying shame.
appeal to the Christian people of this county to not permit this outrage
to exist longer. Why the
county jail, which we visited the same day, is a paradise compared to
the "county farm," and surely the aged and the crippled and
the infirm and the insane, are worthy of as much sympathy and care as
Very Sincerely yours,
Pastor Presbyterian Church