The Poorhouse Story NEWSLETTER   07 /02/2002 (Sixteenth issue)
Have a Safe & Happy 4th of July!

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that." 
               The Queen [Alice's Adventures in Wonderland]

 "Amen!"  PHL 

Well, I don't really want to get anywhere else; but I do want to get caught up.  So I am going to disregard the Queen's advice.  Instead of running faster I am going to slow down.  Over the next couple of months I will be concentrating on getting caught up on responding to e-mail which has piled up over many many moons, working on postponed projects, completing things that seem to have taken up permanent residence on the back burner.  Update some pages like the Cemetery and Records pages (which have not been updated since my friend, Brenda, helped me out almost a year ago. Sheesh!)  You know ... get organized.  Those loose ends tend to get lost; so if you have e-mailed me and not gotten any follow-up ... you may hear from me in the next few weeks. may not be seeing as many announcements of the posting of new material for a while. But don't think we have shut down; this is just maintenance time. And please feel free to keep those e-mail tips and submissions coming.  Hopefully they may get answered soon.  

Have a Great 4th of July and a Wonderful Summer!


Okay, okay.   This one really does read like a sermon.
So if you are more into great stories and statistics, rather than sermons -- just scroll down. 

"the Poor always ye have with you" John 12:8
How I cringe whenever I spot that quotation in 19th century (or even sometimes 20th century) political writings about poverty!  It is almost always quoted out of context to defend the status quo and to argue that that the alleviation of poverty should not be considered a legitimate concern of government or society.  The implication always seems to be that Jesus' statement above somehow  placed an imprimatur on poverty -- as though poverty were to be regarded as merely part of the natural order of things in the world as God created it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Sound bites" seem to be the curse of authentic communication!  If we read the record of what was going on when Jesus made that statement we realize that he was not preaching about poverty; he was not preaching at all! It was one of those rare and precious moments when he took time out from his official ministry to enjoy the companionship of cherished personal friends. Early in the week before Passover (shortly before he was to be crucified) he stopped to have dinner and visit in the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. While Mary served dinner, Martha washed Jesus feet -- a common custom of courtesy to road-weary travelers who likely wore sandals as they traveled dusty roads. But this time she also anointed his feet with a rather expensive perfume or ointment.  Judas -- whom it is said is the one who held and kept track of  the funds used by Jesus and his disciples, and who may have wished to have more money in that fund because he used to steal from it !-- objected to what he considered the extravagance of that expense and suggested that the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus supported her and affirmed the value of her use of the ointment in this ritual. He said, "Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."  

This was no defense of the continuation (or spiritual value) of poverty in the world. Instead, it might more appropriately be considered a disavowal of the giving of alms or charity as the only or best way to assist the poor. Perhaps there are two things -- both of which Jesus strongly affirmed -- the value of fellowship in building a strong sense of the community of all people (actually viewing others "as" ourselves), and the importance of  spiritual (rather than only  material) values in life -- which can most help us create a world in which poverty will not be complacently accepted in an economy which we consider good.  For when we experience no difference between  "others" and  "us" -- as Jesus experienced no difference -- we will no longer consider poverty acceptable.  

Once when Jesus was deliberately teaching/preaching ( Matthew 25:35-45) he spoke of having been hungry, thirsty, naked and even in prison. His disciples, having never known him to be in such circumstances, asked him what he was talking about.  His response was a much more true measure of his attitude about the need to offer relief from poverty than was the phrase quoted in the title above.
        "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."



Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED to The PHS Website

E-mail Subscribers to Monthly Newsletter
as of 04/26/2002 -- 759 
as of 07/01/2002 -- 780 (21 new)

-- since last newsletter's stats (ended 4/20/02)  
50,352  (719/day)
-- Total (as of 6/29/02) since 5/8/2000 -- 375,011

If you think today's press is sometimes intrusive ... take a look at this 1871 newspaper article!!

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

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

The Democrat
 2 Feb 1871

Detailed description of the Huntington County Indiana Infirmary, 
including profiles of 13 inmates.

This is exactly the sort of (not uncommon)
inhumane treatment of the mentally ill which motivated Dorthea Dix in her reform efforts.

...  "A great moral responsibility attaches to some one for this crime against humanity.  We will not stop to discuss now the policy of keeping the insane at home instead of in state institutions.  It is sufficient that they were kept on the poor farm.  Why were they not cared for?  Who is to blame for the shocking barbarity of leaving nine unfortunate human beings unable to take care of themselves alone in a building to perish like so many rats?" ...

"Eight Persons Cremated"

A Sickening Tragedy

name of newspaper not known
January 1894 

Disaster at the County [poorhouse] Insane Asylum.

Boone County, Iowa

This article about the Clarke County [Iowa] County Poor Farm includes a biographical sketch of an inmate which tells a story that is -- sadly -- not uncommon in poorhouse annals.

See excerpt below.

Newspaper article 
from The Osceola Democrat --  January 16, 1908 

Source: from reprint of "Clarke County History", Lewis Pub., Chicago, 1886. p. 266.

"Probably the most interesting character among the inmates at the Poor Farm is the venerable James Madison Walters, who has made his home there for the past 5 years. Mr. Walters is now 88 years old, is tall, erect, and vigorous in body and intellect. His history is an interesting one ...  In portions of his life he has had wealth, friends, political influence and official rank and prestige, yet he is spending his declining years in the poor house, waiting for the grim reaper.

Sixty-five years ago Mr. Walters settled on land in Marion county, Iowa, which he secured from the government. The early settlers of that time and vicinity selected him for his intelligence and enterprise as their first Justice of the Peace, and he exercised jurisdiction over a vast territory. When Marion county was organized, he was elected the first Sheriff of that county and served two terms. Afterward he was made postmaster at Knoxville, in which office he served several years. Subsequently he was sent for two terms as representative in the legislature from Marion county. Afterward he pursued a varied business life, at one time having considerable wealth. In later years he came to Clarke county living near Murray. One evening about five years ago he came walking to the poor house and asked for admission. He was an old man, then 83 years old, and he announced that he was through, was destitute, and must make that his home. From that time he has remained an inmate of the place. He keeps neatly dressed, is a ready and willing conversationalist, of intelligence and culture. With various old time acquaintances and with his few relatives he maintains regular correspondence. The success of no man's life can be accurately measured until its close."

Press Republican Online   4/20/02

NOTE:  We considered referring to this merely as "a web page" with no link or credits -- as they did when quoting extensively from material we had previously posted. But we decided not to be as tacky as they were.  Sigh.  PHL    >>>

OLD COUNTY HOME Partially Collapses ... 

We lost another old poorhouse building
with this collapse in Franklin County NY

(based on readers submissions)



We were delighted when Dr. Marc Alan Peterka wrote to tell us about his mother ...

      The Poorhouse Keeper's Daughter ...

"My mother, an only child,  was raised on a poor farm.  Later known as the Richland County Farm, it was in Wahpeton, North Dakota. She moved there when she was 5, in 1921.  Her mother died there in 1936, and her father, some time later, retired to an old folks home in Devils Lake, ND, and passed away in 1953..  John Mathiesen and Lena Olson, her parents, were both Norwegian immigrants who met in Wahpeton.   Corine failed first grade, as she only spoke Norwegian.  She later skipped 3rd, 5th, and seventh grades, and graduated as Miss Wahpeton High School, and was class Valedictorian.  My father, Paul Peterka, captain of the state championship football team, used to pick her up in a Buick Touring Car, with heated bricks on the floor for warmth.  They married in 1936, shortly after her mother's death.  She and Paul later had 5 children.  My mother, Corine, wrote
 a short Christmas story about life on the 'county farm' a few years before her death in 1999, which was given to friends as a holiday greeting."         Photos



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


Here we have scanned the pages from this 1911 publication which deal with the history of the following related institutions:

  • The [Blair County] Almshouse

  • Children's Industrial Home

  • Blair County Hospital for the Insane

    This section contains a very richly detailed description of the day to day operation of these facilities which paints a very vivid picture of what life must have been like as an inmate during the early Twentieth Century.

    Click on the image to the right to read the story. >>>


 Nothing new reported recently.

HONORED STATES previous Illinois/Kansas/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Tennessee
 Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations
  IA Cedar
     IL Coles/Henry/Stephenson/White
  KS Decatur
      MD Kent
   MO Marion
   ND Walsh
     NY Dutchess/Franklin
Notes: from Readers/Local/Historical
  IA Clarke/Lee
  IL Coles/Rock Island
  NE Nemaha
Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors
and more!
NY  Dutchess
  OH Meigs
  PA Blair
  WI Fon du Lac

Historical Documents   


Note: We are no longer including poorhouse information for Nebraska on The Poorhouse Story website. Instead it can be found on the GenWeb Nebraska website in their Resource Center . This was necessary because so many members of this community considered it spamming to post announcements of additional poorhouse information to their e-mail lists.  PHL

 NEBRASKA "HOMES OF THE POOR" Article describes these counties:  Adams/Antelope/Boone/BoxButte/Buffalo/Burt
Historical Memorabilia
Coin_IronmongersAlmshouses_back.jpg (29429 bytes)

click to enlarge

"The Geffrye Almshouses [London, England] were built in 1715 by the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, with funds bequeathed by Sir Robert Geffrye, former Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Company. The fourteen houses and chapel 
provided pensioners and widows with retirement homes over a period of almost two hundred years. In 1912, the buildings and gardens were sold by the Ironmongers to the London County Council, who at the time had not determined a use for the site. After much debate and a petition signed by members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a decision was made to convert the almshouses into a museum ... "

from the website of the museum

Poorhouse Records No new ones added recently.
   Special Request of New York researchers
(feedback needed from you)

The NYS Archives are having difficulty meeting the demand for access to these records; we would like to find a way to help improve the situation.  PHL

We would like to hear from those of you who have had experience requesting the use of the microfilm series Series A1978:

Please e-mail us to let us know how your request was handled.
Cemetery Lists (or notes)
  IA Lee
  Seasonal Update!  Photos IL DeKalb
  MO Harrison
  PA Blair
  WI Fon du Lac
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
   1880 IA Buchanan
  1880 IA Boone
      1856 IA Lee
   1880 IA Lee
  1880 IL Jackson
  1790 MD Frederick
   1870 NC Polk
  1910 NE Nemaha
   1880 NJ Newark City Almshouse
  1850 NY Dutchess

Recently I really DID take time to read -- not one book but two!   PHL

While these may not be books about poorhouses, they are on a subject important for understanding the poorhouse era. In 19th century America a defining demographic was the Irish immigrant.  And in 19th century Ireland, second only to the church, the defining institution may have been  the poorhouse. (The defining event undoubtedly  was the Great Famine.)

The books are in a somewhat new genre -- creative non-fiction.  They are novels about the Irish struggles for independence.  Each book starts with a list of characters -- divided into historical characters and fictional characters. The fictional characters carry the plot and provide an opportunity to personalize or "flesh out" the varied ideas and beliefs of the participants in these historic events.  But the integration of the historical characters allows their actions and words to inform that wonderful rarity -- a really great historical read!!!



A Book of the Irish Century

1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion

1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion  

Note: If you purchase either of these books from our affiliate Barnes & Noble online after clicking on the images above, 
The POORHOUSE STORY will receive a commission to support the continuation of our work. And if you purchase both books -- the shipping may be free!  PHL
STATE ARCHIVES Holdings new  none added recently
  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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