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The Poorhouse Story  
21st issue)

I know, I know.  Those colors at the top are hot enough to scorch your eyes!  But that's exactly what the sky feels like here in Texas in the middle of July.  And the corn is not "as high as an elephant's eye."  But isn't that a gorgeous photo! Now you, well...most of you, can just scroll down a little bit to get that out of your eyes; but the only way I can deal with that hot sky over the next several (actually, way too many) weeks is to hide in the house with the air conditioning on high and the black-out curtains drawn. Sigh. Oh, well -- at least we don't get snowbound very often.  There's always a blessing somewhere.  But some are just much harder to recognize.



This month I am very happy to share you with you one of those "People Do The Nicest Things" stories that just cheer our hearts no end!  This one really made my day -- for a lot of days.

I fairly frequently (but not frequently enough, I'm afraid) make a systematic search of eBay looking to see if any poorhouse records or memorabilia are up for sale.  When I find the original (yup, the original old hand-written, nobody-else-has-a-copy and they-were-never-printed) records, it's a frustrating Good News/ Bad News situation.

Near the end of June someone put up for auction a volume called 
There followed many photos of the journal itself as well as several entire pages with some details shown in close-ups. 
(Click here to see eBay write-up.)
I stumbled upon this eBay item on July 3rd.  Only one bid was shown on it so far ... and that was likely the opening bid which the seller had posted.  The auction was due to end on July 5th. Now, I knew this was a wonderful chunk of history which would also contain tons of "genealogical gold!"  But it was a holiday weekend.  In situations like this in the past I had been frustrated when I would frantically try to locate and contact appropriate "official" local entities -- ie. historical societies, genealogical societies, local historians, librarians, state archivists, etc. etc. etc. --  and they would generally give me either the big ho-hum (after all, who is interested in poorhouse stuff, right?) or explain that saving such records for the public domain was really "not their job", or tell me there was really no money in the budget for such purchases. And that was before our current budget crisis in every state and county government in the country!

This time, I knew I couldn't afford to buy it myself ... as I was able to do once in the past when I contacted a seller who generously offered to sell it to me at his cost once he understood it's historic value.  He did that on condition that after I was through with it I would donate it to an appropriate archive...which I had the pleasure of doing.  (See previous story at )

I also knew there was not time (because of the holiday weekend) to contact local officials.

So, I did the only thing I could think of:  I posted an alert about this auction to the Rootsweb e-mail list for Oswego County NY.  (Drumroll, please!)  Wow! Did they ever respond. (Unfortunately they may have wound up bidding against themselves to the same purpose; but we have not yet figured out how to avoid that in such cases.)

At any rate, what resulted is a wonderful story.  Diane & Barry Colby are a "simple" (their word, not mine) married couple who live in Buffalo NY.  (That's not even in Oswego County! Don't ya just love the internet?)  

On July 5th, Diane excitedly posted the following to that list: "I just wanted to let you know that I bid on the Poorhouse Records from Ebay and WON! Instead of keeping the book, I would like to return the book to Oswego and was wondering where this book should go to???  Let me know what you think." Lots of folks made suggestions and Diane decided to donate it to the genealogical society and let them decide where to archive the journal.  

But I was very curious about how they came to make this purchase and donation. Diane simply explained: 

"My husband and I were married 33 years on the 4th of July and this is my anniversary present from him. When I saw the email regarding the book this is what I asked him for and he made sure that I got it!! Thank you Barry!

My reason for donating the book to back to Oswego instead of keeping it is: My grandmother was from Oswego and my grandparents met, fell in love and were married there. In fact I believe I still have family there."

And we all say, "Thank you Barry!"  (I checked the eBay results and the final price was about $241.00. It's pretty certain that not many official archives or historical/genealogical collections would have been able to pay that price.  I know I could not!)

I have done a little arm-twisting (these folks didn't do this for fame or acknowledgement) ... and Barry & Diane have agreed to let me write up a photo story about the saving of this journal for our next newsletter. The only thing that convinced them to let me do that was when I told them ...

I know you don't want to make a big splash. But I think what you have done so generously can help other people see how they could make a similar contribution. With state and local governments having such severe budget problems right now, I am afraid that it will only be private citizens (just simple people like you guys) who can step up and make the difference to help us preserve much of our history. Otherwise ... these kinds of records may be lost to the public if they are sold to collectors who may not know (or care) that they would be of help to many many other people. ...  Remember, this is not to praise you (which I think might embarrass you, even though it  is certainly deserved!) but to praise the IDEA of what you did -- so that it may catch on and others may become enthusiastic about saving history themselves.

Please consider this. It could make the good you have already done multiply ... by a lot.


This was a very good week.  Like I said --  "People Do The Nicest Things"

               Commentary  # 3 

                             Worthy or Unworthy

                                            (Is that really the question?)


Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED to The PHS Website

-- since last newsletter's stats (ended 05/10/2003) --
48,860  (775 per day
-- Total (as of 07/12/2003) since 5/8/2000 -- 659,766


We love seeing poorhouse history currently being told by local media!  

"Bonner County Poor Farm helped out many when needed" [Idaho]

from the Bonner County Daily Bee                                                   January 5, 2003
reprinted with permission
By Bob Gunter
Daily Bee Correspondent 

OK, Maybe 1998 isn't really current ... but

The MARION County Kansas Genweb site
recently posted a copy of a really fascinating article telling the then current history of both the Marion County Poor Farm and the current owner's attempts to restore and preserve this building. Marion County Record 1998

However, 2002 is fairly recent ... and we thank the reporter
for having thought to tell us (after a hiatus ... bet he wouldn't call it that! ... called up to military service)
about ...

"Effingham County's forgotten poor buried at airport" [Illinois]

Effingham County's forgotten poor buried at airport

from the Effingham Daily News  [Illinois]                                  January  2002
reprinted with permission

By Dylan Fenley


(based on readers submissions)

"ANDERSON County Historical Sketches"  
by the late Katherine Baker Hoskins, former County Historian
was published in 1987

Contains many articles about Anderson County Poorhouse history!
Lists many names of officials, etc.

These could be of interest to researchers anywhere in Tennessee.

List of articles  from this book which you can read here online.


(We didn’t create them; 
we just show them!)

This is a wonderful website which Peter created about the same time PHS was created.

It includes information about workhouses in: 
England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland

St Marylebone casuals' entrance, 1900. (c) Peter Higginbotham.

"Workhouse is a word that often conjures up the harsh and squalid world of Oliver Twist. The workhouse could be a grim and brutal place, but its story is also a fascinating mix of social history, politics, economics and architecture."  


There doesn't seem to be much that new going on in the way of poorhouse news.
We have no additional "News Alerts" at this time.  However, some of our ongoing stories about attempts to preserve poorhouse buildings or cemeteries or to recover or uncover or transcribe poorhouse records have activity simmering -- which we hope to report in our next newsletter.

HONORED STATES previous Illinois/Kansas/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Tennessee

We are now featuring a new state on our website.  TENNESSEE!   

In Tennessee there are libraries putting poorhouse records online, local newspapers publishing poorhouse history articles, a book of reprinted newspaper articles written by a former county historian which include fascinating facts about how poorhouses evolved in the state.  And GenWeb county websites are posting more and more information every month.        . 


We have now created separate pages for most of the counties in Tennessee.  

You will find that the counties for which we have poorhouse information have been underlined and link to a county page. 

Be sure to check out ANDERSON and SUMNER Counties!



Title: L'Hospice
From an original work 
by Belgian Artist Joseph Van Snick
Year Printed: 1893
Old women in an almshouse spinning.  

                            Click to enlarge >>>>>

previous Canada / England / The Netherlands
new Belgium

Belgian.jpg (52773 bytes)

Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations  
   ID Bonner
  KS Marion
     NH Merrimack
  NY Niagara / Steuben
Notes from Readers / Local/Historical Notes
  KS Marion / Sedgwick
   NY Niagara
  TN Bledsoe / Campbell / Overton / Perry / Rutherford/ Sevier / White
  VA Norfolk
  WV Mason

Historical Documents     

Historical Memorabilia



St Cross Hospital: England's oldest almshouse
Established in 1136, it was built by Bishop Henry of Blois, for the maintenance of 13 poor men. Nowadays, the inmates of St. Cross are aged men and wear distinctive caps, gowns and medallions of identification. One of the quaint medieval traditions that is still observed at the hospital, today, is available to all who apply. Any hungry traveller can still knock on the door of St. Cross and receive the Wayfarer's Dole, a sliver of bread and a glass of ale.


Poorhouse Records
  TN Sevier
Cemetery Lists (or notes)
  TN Bedford / Marion / Overton / Sevier
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
  1920 IA Polk
   1870 IL Crawford
   1860 NJ Middlesex
   1880 NJ Middlesex
  1850 OH Richland
  1870 OH VanWert / Greene
    1880 OH Highland
   1850 PA Philadelphia
  1850 TN Bedford / Overton
  1860 TN Bedford / Overton / Williamson
  1870 TN Bedford / Carroll / Overton / Sevier
  1880 TN Bedford / Sevier
  1890 TN Bedford
  1900 TN Bedford / Overton
  1910 TN Bedford / Overton
  1920 TN Bedford
  1920 TN Bedford
Recommended  BOOKS



HarryPotter.jpg (35444 bytes)  

 I started to tell a fib -- like " haven't had time to read anything new lately" -- but I have to confess:  I've been busy reading the latest Harry Potter book! (It's great ... and no, my face is not red!  Everybody needs to play sometimes.)
If you want to read this book now, before it comes out in paperback, but you don't want to go to the poorhouse yourself -- Costco has it on sale for $15.79.


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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(Note: Some of our most enthusiastic supporters came up with the idea of giving their friends
gift subscriptions to the Poorhouse Story Newsletter!  E-mail to let us know if you would like to do the same.)