The Poorhouse Story NEWSLETTER   7/4/2001 (Eleventh issue)



Well, I got swamped by life and this newsletter is late ... again. (So what's new about that?)

Moving is probably nobody's favorite experience.  But for a dyslexic research junkie with a day job that requires lots of travel ... it is a nightmare.  I started moving into the new place on the 9th of June and didn't have to be out of the old place until the 23rd.  That was supposed to make it easy.  Never happened ... the easy part, that is ... !  I am out of the old place and in the new place; but most of my life remains in as-yet-not-unpacked boxes.  And I can't see any time in the near future when they may get unpacked. 

The upside of this may be that every single object in my personal physical universe has now been looked at, judged, and found either worthy of saving, wanting to go in the trash, or simply needing to be cleaned up. Plato said, "The life which is unexamined is not worth living."  Whew. Thank you, Plato.  And so ... a conscious move makes life worth living?  Right. Maybe ... after the ibuprofen kicks in and the boxes finally get unpacked.  And when all those new resolutions to live better ... resulting from those recent moments of  "What was I thinking/doing ?"  ... actually get implemented.

And speaking of What was I thinking? ... Last month I shared a rather private family story with the feeling that only those of you who read this newsletter were likely to read it anyway. Remember the little essay called "Funny-Looking Family Trees" which I mentioned I had posted on the CLASSROOM CORNER page?  Well, on Thursday (May 31st) it was mentioned in the Rootsweb newletter, Missing Links ... and about 3,000 people visited our website that day to read it! So much for intimate little shares on the internet. Yikes! (I will try not to let that kind of audience size get to me. Otherwise I may wind up like the centipede who, when someone called his attention to how many legs he actually had to move in order to walk, was paralyzed with confusion ... till he forgot about it.  I'm trying to forget about it.)

And some kinds of acknowledgement feel real good.  The print magazine (remember when we didn't have to make that distinction?) Family Tree Magazine in their August issue (which hit bookstores June 26th?) named The POORHOUSE STORY one of the 101 Best New Web Sites for Tracing Your Roots! [Click on that link to go see the rest of the list; there are lots of real goodies.]  The PHS wouldn't be on that list without the work of all of you volunteers who take time to locate poorhouse information and send it to us.  So ... pat yourselves on the back!


Enjoy your 4th of July!  (as you celebrate Independence Day)

Linda (& Maddie, too)



Freedom is an indivisible word.  
If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, 
we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, 
whether they are rich or poor, 
whether they agree with us or not, 
no matter what their race or the color of their skin.
                                                             One World, ch. 13

Wendell Lewis Willkie
1892 - 1944



On this holiday it seems appropriate to reflect upon our American respect for personal freedom and how that must be balanced with the best interests of all members of our society.  So, just for today, please allow The Poorhouse Lady  to "editorialize" a little.  Here I will offer my personal feeling about the poorhouse institution. 

Make no mistake -- Poorhouses were not charitable institutions.  They were supported solely by taxes and administered by public officials. They were, therefore, "civil"  institutions. 

Every law which was passed to require the establishment of public poorhouses states that the use of the institution was meant to reduce the numbers of people receiving "outdoor relief" 
[which had involved being able to receive from the overseers of the poor some money and/or goods for fuel or clothing or food or medical assistance ... while continuing to live independently or outside any institution.] In other words, as we would say today, it was a campaign to ... "get people off welfare." 

In most cases, the laws were intended to eliminate any other form of relief.  This made giving up all personal possessions (except those which might be carried in a battered satchel) and leaving the larger society to go and reside in a poorhouse the only alternative offered to those who could not support themselves without assistance. Also, in many cases, that required that families be split up ... with housing segregated by sex and with children removed from the company of their family members by being "bound out" as indentured servants or later sent to orphanages.  It was the intention of such laws that this would be the only recourse to poor people allowed by our society at that time.

Sometimes on The POORHOUSE STORY we get caught up in the personal stories of particular poorhouses ... where a more gentle human kindness prevailed in practice.  But in policy  the poorhouse institution was certainly the most restrictive alternative possible

It is my opinion that such conditions for the giving of what was persistently called (in the most  bizarre of euphemisms) "charity" certainly did not show much respect for the personal freedoms of  those  among us referred to with the shaming term "pauper."

It is my sincere hope that we will never again let considerations of  "cost effectiveness" ... or the attribution of  "character defects and bad habits" to those who are impoverished ... lead us to consider such measures good  "civil"(ized) measures in a society based on a respect for Freedom.



      Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED  to The PHS Website 

E-mail Subscribers to Monthly Newsletter
as of 5/14/2001 --  527
as of 6/30/2001 --  562
Here we are again presenting a newer and more accurate detailed way of looking at the statistics regarding the volume of usage of The POORHOUSE STORY website. Click here if you would like to see an explanation of the wonderful reports which are being generated by our new server. (If you host a website, this could be very helpful to you! If you don't like unsolved mysteries, read this!)


-- during 7 weeks since last newsletter's stats ( 5/12/01) --   27,003  (average =  551/day)
-- Total (
5/8/2000 - 06/30/2001)                                         -- 131,320  (average =  313/day)

(based on readers submissions)

The Wythe County [Virginia] Poor Farm (which is being lived in and preserved as a museum by Sarah & Abner "Junior" Graham) celebrated several milestones on June 16th. Covering the dedication of a highway marker noting the historic value of this poorhouse, and the dedication of a cemetery marker in a wonderful celebration ... complete with photo album ... was FUN!  It feels really good to be able to acknowledge folks who are "doing the right thing" instead of having to report on the loss of poorhouse history in some communities.

(We didnít create them; 
we just show them!)

History of the Muscatine County Home Cemetery --
  from the the original Muscatine Co IA Genealogy Home Page site. 
[Note:  These folks have done a wonderful job with their poorhouse records! This article is a fascinating account of the methods ... and the hard work and dedication! ... involved in compiling comprehensive records for this cemetery.  We have posted links to other pages from this site in our sections below which deal with RECORDS and CEMETERIES.  PHL ]

NEWS ALERTS Wythe County [Virginia] Poor Farm named to National Register of Historic Places
  previous Illinois/Kansas/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Tennessee
 Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations CT New London
  IL Cook(Dunning)/Iroquois/Lake/Warren
   IA Chickasaw/Jackson/Jones/Wapello
  KY Campbell
  MA Plymouth
   MI Tuscola
  NJ Union
   NY Madison
   OH Auglaize/Hardin
   PA Beaver/Blair/Clarion/Indiana
In 1882 the Newport Poor House and Farm on the 92-acre Coasters Harbor Island was donated to the Navy by the City of Newport and the State of Rhode Island on the condition that the site would be used for the training of recruits. [This postcard shows a row of canons along the water at that Naval Training Station at Newport, Rhode Island.]  RI Newport
Old photo of the clearing of the land for the 
building of this Forest County Poor Farm ... in a county which was appropriately named!
WI Forest/Winnebago
Notes: from Readers/Local/Historical  IA Wapello
  KY Carter
  MA Hampden
  WV Ohio/Preston

Historical Documents     

Ever wonder what an old time
Overseer of the Poor
and Superintendent of a Poor Farm 
looked like?

You've gotta see this! >>>>>>

Formal Portrait Photo & Obituary
Waldo Lamb

Leicester [Worcester County] Massachusetts

Historical Memorabilia IL Iroquois (commemorative plate)
 SEE THIS WONDERFUL PAINTING! >>> NC Entitled "Headquarters of Vincent Collyer, at New Berne, N.C.---Distributing Captured Clothing to the Needy" -- this is an illustration from 'The Soldier in Our Civil War' published in about 1880.
WPA Inventories
This is the largest project which the PHS Volunteers have undertaken yet!  They did GREAT! 
(Still some more counties to be posted later.)
To read about this program which was undertaken during the 1930s and 40s by the Works Progress Administration,
see these notes off the Ohio page.
  OHIO Previously Published: Ashland/Athens/Belmont/Columbiana/Fayette
  OHIO New addition: none
Then ... it grew! 
Carolyn Feroben took up the effort and searched for such inventoried records in California .... by the way, not an easy state in which to find them. She is publishing them first on the CA-RECORDS e-mail list and then sharing them with PHS.
  CA Previously Published:  Santa Clara/Fresno/San Francisco 
  CA New addition: none

Poorhouse Records

IL Iroquois
Cemetery Lists IA Muscatine
  IL Iroquois
   MA Hampden
This is not an interment list, but a very
helpful history and description of the cemeteries used by the poorhouse. It was sent by the Allegany County Historian.
NY Allegany
  OH Ottawa
  VA Sussex
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
  1910 IA Muscatine
  1880 OH Morrow
  1900 OH Tuscarawas
   1850 OH Washington
The Poorhouse in Literature
Didn't have any time to read any new books!   PHL
STATE ARCHIVES Holdings new  Bob Sherman, a professional historian who works for the Rhode Island Historical Society has provided us with a very instructive lesson in how to find poorhouse historical information and records throughout the state.   This is an extremely helpful and very specific document which lists the nature and location of many, many records
  previous Delaware/Illinois/Michigan/Minnesota/Ohio/Oregon
New York/Pennsylvania
Thanks for your continued support.
Linda Crannell                                                        
(aka=The Poorhouse Lady)

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