|The Poorhouse Story NEWSLETTER 04/26/2002 (Fifteenth issue)|
My experience of the last two months has been really wonderful. We seem to have reached some new dynamic in the evolution of this clearinghouse. I've mentioned before that writing, even website writing, can sometimes feel a little lonely. No more! Instead of struggling to call attention to poorhouse history, it is beginning to feel like we are now part of a large community of caring people who are flooding us with things to share on The POORHOUSE STORY. It's a very good feeling -- a little bit overwhelming at times. But it grows much more enjoyable as we have so much fellowship with those of you who write and volunteer to spend time researching, photographing, scanning, writing ... and producing material which helps us realize huge chunks of our mission.
Now that we don't have to do much "digging" for poorhouse material, our hope is that we can devote a little more time to helping those of you who want to raise consciousness about the value of poorhouse history in your local communities. We had an opportunity to do that when folks from Albany, New York wrote about the controversy over how their city and county could best deal with the threat posed to their poorhouse cemetery.
A major factor in helping a community discover how to do this seems to involve making those who lived and died in any given poorhouse less anonymous. Someone working on the archaeological cemetery project in Albany discovered the original list of those interred in that cemetery in a local archive and contacted us about publishing those names. The original public notice about the proposed disposition of the remains had made no reference to the availability of the list and gave no names. It was a situation which begged to be rectified in the interest of the public who had not been provided with this information. You can read below about the POORHOUSE STORY project which resulted.
It was also a real honor to be asked to consult on the development of a website for the preservation and interpretation of the history of the poorhouse located on the property of Raytheon Company in Rhode Island. And it was a joy to realize that even in the corporate environment of "big business" the consciousness of the value of this history is being recognized!
Let's keep up the good work ... together!
Whatever Happened to "Ivory Towers"?
There is an element of rather dark irony in the pattern that seems to be emerging as we post News Alerts about the disregard shown for the history of our old poorhouses and severe disrespect for those who were buried in their cemeteries. The irony involves the fact that so many of them involve state college and university systems. Both News Alerts being announced in this newsletter (below) involve such campuses in Pennsylvania and New York. But those are not isolated examples of an uncommon policy.
After the acquisition of the former poorhouse property by the Faculty/ Student Association of the State University at Delhi, in Delaware County, New York, the poorhouse was demolished and the cemetery was severely neglected until a local newspaper and private citizens pressured the community to rectify the situation. Subsequent to the donation of a memorial marker by a private citizen, the grounds, part of a section utilized primarily as a golf course, reportedly are currently well cared for and not trampled or used in any way.
Local governments, town and county,
have consistently been the worst offenders. Milwaukee,
Wisconsin had plans to build a water detention pond over their poorhouse
cemetery until public protest stalled those plans ... at least
temporarily. A public park was built over the cemetery in New Paltz, New
York. We are accustomed to the pressures on local governments to make
decisions which are cost-effective for taxpayers. Sometimes that has
involved controversial disposition of old poorhouses and their cemeteries.
Too often, however, that is done with little public attention to the
issue. But many communities like Washington County, New York have managed
to continuously retain
But institutions of higher learning are traditionally associated with a higher standard of values -- like respect for history. Instead, they seem recently to be engaging in cooperative ventures with private businesses whose concern for the "bottom line" often runs roughshod over that history and any concern for the dignity of people whose lives have been discounted as not worthy of record for the future.
Here is the culmination of this irony. For demonstrations of these higher values we are more and more having to turn to private individuals and even businesses and corporations in the private sector. One example is in Alabama, where Mr. and Mrs. Kelley own the property on which a former poorhouse cemetery is located. Mrs. Kelley's telling of their efforts has been recorded at ftp://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/al/covington/cemetery/jorda.txt (along with the best partial list of interments that could be reconstructed.) She simply says, "[When] we came to Andalusia in 1932 ... we purchased the land ... . The cemetery was in dreadful shape, we cleaned it up the best we could. Floods and hurricanes had destroyed most of the markers. My husband did some research on the families buried there. He made this list from the information. ... My son works for the monument company, and he brought squares of marble home and marked each grave site." And for a corporate example, just check out the work that is being done by Raytheon Company in Portsmouth, RI. which we introduced in our Featured Articles below.
However, even when there has been neglect and disrespect in the past, a public acknowledgement of the error and accurate telling of the poorhouse history along with creative memorials to those who died there have been accomplished in many communities. A small but beautiful memorial "garden" containing a large stone monument on which the story is told bears testimony to this in Erie County, Pennsylvania. (This could provide a great model for communities who deal with the same situation in the future.) Some, like DeKalb County, Illinois, have even incorporated the names of those interred in the cemetery into the memorial itself.
It would be wonderful if we could act proactively to prevent disrespect and disregard of history in future use of the sites of former poorhouses. So ... here is an invitation to inquire in your own community. (Especially if it is the site of a college or university campus on former county property.) Let's see if we can prevent such abuses ... or act to correct them.
What seems to be required is the stimulation of a community conscience which can over-ride the value lapses of officials who are unduly influenced by material concerns. And you can effect that! Please keep us posted.
Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED to The PHS Website
|E-mail Subscribers to
as of 02/24/2002 -- 721
as of 04/26/2002 -- 759 (38 new)
Visits to The POORHOUSE STORY
|MEET THE PRESS|
Stay tuned ... for a Minnesota Public
on poor farms coming this summer!
We are not yet certain when the documentary will be broadcast in Minnesota. And we don't know how many other public radio stations may pick it up. But we will send you a special mailing once we have the information.
All the information, including the audio broadcast, will be on their website. (Which you may want to check out now to see what they have already done with other topics.)
at graves unearths clues to Albany's past."
to do about the historic remains that lie beneath?"
(based on readers submissions)
BLOCKLEY "THE MEMORY LINGERS ON"
(This is an on-line excerpt from the book,
"A History of
on March 21, 2001, Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
PENN UNEARTHS CEMETERY
-- for previous treatment of this cemetery
-- waiting to see what response this community makes
a construction crew struck human bones on a parking garage site at the
University of Pennsylvania, they immediately shut down the backhoe and
sent for campus police.
But what they found wasn't the grisly aftermath
of some modern murder. They had dug into a 19th-century burial ground
that may give archaeologists clues about the humble people of that day.
Whoever they were, these people were decently -
but perhaps anonymously - buried."
NOTE: The rest of this on-line article is
available only for a fee on their archives.
But what they found wasn't the grisly aftermath of some modern murder. They had dug into a 19th-century burial ground that may give archaeologists clues about the humble people of that day.
Whoever they were, these people were decently - but perhaps anonymously - buried."
NOTE: The rest of this on-line article is available only for a fee on their archives. PHL
also see Meet the Press (above) for updating newspaper article 2/24/2002
WILL ALBANY NEW YORK SHOW RESPECT FOR THOSE
in The Albany City/County POORHOUSE CEMETERY ???
summary of this issue includes the most recent
TIMES UNION First published: Monday, April 8, 2002
"Albany -- Century-old bones found at location of new research facility "
-- for previous
treatment of this cemetery
|MA||Hampden / Plymouth|
|MI||Allegan / Newaygo|
|RI||Kent / Providence|
|Notes: from Readers/Local/Historical|
|OR||Jackson / Lane|
|PA||Philadelphia / Worcester|
Did the writer actually find herself able to lead
a life of leisure as the wife of the keeper of a
poorhouse? I don't think so! PHL
|TX||Grayson (This 1880 personal letter is amusing.)|
|TX||Comanche / Galveston|
|WI||Juneau (1888 newspaper article)|
|NY||Schoharie (1857 Investigative Report)|
|RI||Report on the Poor & Insane in Rhode Island -- 1851|
|MI||Allegan / Gratiot (poorhouse births & deaths)|
|NC||Nash / Wake|
|NY||Broome / New York / Schoharie|
/ Champaign / Clark / Darke / Greene/ Logan/
Mercer / Miami / Montgomery / Preble / Shelby
|Cemetery Lists (or notes)|
|IL||Adams (Gettysburg) / Johnson|
|MI||Barry / Gratiot / Newaygo|
|MT||Lewis & Clark / Jefferson / Yellowstone|
|NY||Albany / Delaware / Orange / Orleans|
|WA||Walla Walla / Clark/ Spokane|
Resident lists from CENSUS
(new material or off-site links to the web)
Poorhouse in Literature
||Didn't have any time to read any new books! PHL|
|STATE ARCHIVES Holdings||new||none added|
|Thanks for your continued support.
(aka=The Poorhouse Lady)