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 
an original poorhouse cemetery
in pristine condition despite the development of a modern nursing home facility there. 

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   (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 Monthly Newsletter
as of 02/24/2002 --  721 
as of 04/26/2002 -- 759 (38 new)

-- since last newsletter's stats (ended 2/23/02)  
44,114  (700/day)
-- Total (as of 4/20/02) since 5/8/2000 -- 324,659


                              HEADS UP!!


Psssst.   Yup, they interviewed 
                         The Poorhouse Lady!

Stay tuned ... for a Minnesota Public Radio documentary 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.)

on-line edition of  The Times-Union  

"Dig at graves unearths clues to Albany's past."
04/18/ 2002

(City/County Almshouse Cemetery, Albany, New York)

on-line edition of The Philadelphia Enquirer   

"What to do about the historic remains that lie beneath?"
(Blockley Almshouse, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

(based on readers submissions)


These are the NAMES
of those buried 


People Buried at Albany Almshouse -- 1880-1930

(1800+ entries -- alphabetical)  


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



(This is an on-line excerpt from the book, "A History of
Philadelphia's University City" by Leon S. Rosenthal Esquire,
Copyright 1963.) 

This is a wonderful project (a  work-in-progress)  which has been created by the employees of Raytheon Company in  Portsmouth, RI. Their website coverage of the project  is very responsive  responsive to the planning, physical work on the location, and on-going historical research  they are doing. For that reason, the website is constantly changing. Currently it includes: the 1832 Act --  Establishing the Asylum, the 1838 --  "Rules & Regulations", the 1851 Statewide Investigative Report (documenting abuses & making recommendations for needed laws), excerpts from Local Records (i.e. inventories, production reports, etc.) ... plus ...many tidbits of information which will make  day-to-day life in the poorhouse seem real!   >>>>>>>>    

Kudos to Corporate America ?

You Bet ! 

 The "Portsmouth Asylum" 1833-1926 

Don't miss ... Picking Oakum!

NEWS ALERTS Published on March 21, 2001, Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
-- for previous treatment of this cemetery
-- waiting to see what response this community makes

"When 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.   PHL

also see Meet the Press (above) for updating newspaper article 2/24/2002


in The Albany City/County POORHOUSE CEMETERY ???  

summary of this issue includes the most recent newspaper coverage:

Dig at graves unearths clues to Albany's past
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
-- waiting to see what response this community makes

HONORED STATES previous Illinois/Kansas/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Tennessee
 Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations
    IN Delaware
   MA Hampden / Plymouth
     MI Allegan / Newaygo
  MO St. Louis
  ND Richland
  NJ Salem
    NY Orleans
     OH Green
  PA Philadelphia
  RI Kent / Providence
Notes: from Readers/Local/Historical
  AR Johnson
  IL Grundy
  KS Cherokee
  NY Suffolk
  OK Caddo
  OR Jackson / Lane
  PA Philadelphia / Worcester
  RI Newport (Portsmouth)
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
  VA Prince William
  WI Juneau (1888 newspaper article)
  WV Fayette

Historical Documents     



NY  Schoharie  (1857 Investigative Report)


RI Report on the Poor & Insane in Rhode Island -- 1851
Historical Memorabilia    
Poorhouse Records
  MI Allegan / Gratiot (poorhouse births & deaths)
  NC Nash / Wake
  NY Broome / New York / Schoharie
  OH Auglaize / Champaign / Clark / Darke / Greene/ Logan/
Mercer / Miami / Montgomery / Preble / Shelby
  PA Philadelphia
Cemetery Lists (or notes)
  IL Adams (Gettysburg) / Johnson
  KS Bourbon
  KY Larue
  MI Barry / Gratiot / Newaygo
  MT Lewis & Clark / Jefferson / Yellowstone
   NC Nash
    NY Albany / Delaware / Orange / Orleans
  PA Philadelphia
  WA Walla Walla / Clark/ Spokane
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
  1860 CT Litchfield
  1910 MI Allegan
     1900 MI Allegan
  1900 ND Cass
  1850 NY Cayuga
      1850 TN Blount
The Poorhouse in Literature
Didn't have any time to read any new books!   PHL
STATE ARCHIVES Holdings new  none added
  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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