The Poorhouse Story  
22nd issue)

Well, it's that time of year again.  Kids are moaning and groaning about the end of their vacation from school while secretly welcoming an end to boredom and a chance to actually see their buddies every day...instead of just talking to them on the phone 
(cell or otherwise).  Parents are trying to be not too obvious about their relief at the return to something like normalcy in the schedule of their own lives. Retailers are less restrained in their glee at the arrival of the second largest selling season of the year! 

But there are two groups of parents with an ill-disguised glint of tears in their eyes.  Ironically, those are parents with children at both ends of their public school years.  Those are the ones sending their "babies" off to school for the very first time ... and ... those whose big kids have seen public school for the last time. For the latter group (for those fortunate enough to have seen their big kids stay in school through high school ... and those are sadly way too few) history is likely repeating itself.  

The mixed tears of joy and trepidation are now for sending the kids off for their first days in "school" in the bigger world beyond their neighborhood elementary and high schools.  Whether you are sending yours off to college (in days of soaring tuition), or full time jobs (in a really tough employment market), or to the military (in really scary times) ...  you have our prayers and our best wishes. And for those of you unexpectedly welcoming them home again for refuge one more time ... you (and they) have our sympathy and hope that better times are just around the corner.  We wish for all of you the poignant satisfaction of  "empty nests" to which our kids can return only occasionally ... by choice and  with much to celebrate.



Who ARE those people?
And why is this picture here?

Well, duh! 
Click on the photo 
to see glorious 
fall foliage
And look at REFLECTIONS 
below to get the story.


Gee, that greeting turned somber on me.  I started out to write something light-hearted and wound up really reflecting on how life is these days. But irony seems to be lurking everywhere now.  Here's another example. 

In the last newsletter I shared one of those "People Do The Nicest Things" stories  -- about how Diane Colby and her husband (who gave her one of the world's most unusual anniversary presents ... a book of old poorhouse records!) donated those records to the Oswego County [NY] Genealogy Society for archiving in The Oswego County Records Center.  (Pssst!  The mystery couple in the photograph at the top right of this newsletter is The Colbys.)  

Diane and Barry had researched which facility would be the best one in which to archive the book -- a facility which was well organized and very accessible to the public with the services of competent professional staff to assist people in understanding the context of the records in which they were searching.  They felt very assured that County Historian Barbara Dix would be able to do an admirable job of that.  And so they made the donation which was celebrated on July 28, 2003. (See photos below)

Here's the irony!   Skip below the photos to read the rest of the story!

from the Photo Gallery of the Oswego County Genealogy Society


NY_OSWEGO_Colby_Dix.jpg (39296 bytes)

Pictured is Barbara Dix accepting the Poorhouse Journal from Diane Colby.  This journal covers the years 1903-1914 for the Alms House (Poorhouse). The journal will be kept at Oswego County Record Center and is open to the public.

NY_Oswego_GROUP_donation.jpg (35076 bytes)

Pictured from left to right are 
Barbara Dix
, O.C.G.S. Advisor, Lee Riggio, President, Diane Colby, who donated the Poorhouse Journal, and Marilyn Dirk, Vice President.

NY_OSWEGO_ColbyPlaque.jpg (84677 bytes)


Barely two weeks later, on August 14th, Oswego County legislators voted to eliminate the job of County Historian as part of measures to offset a county budget deficit
The announcement that this might be done elicited a HUGE protest ... much of which was carried out online (see e-mail list threads of protest) ... but to no avail.

The letters to editors, letters to county legislators, and e-mail posts gave ample testimony to the good job Barbara had done as well as the importance of that job.  (Read an outstanding letter reviewing her accomplishments which was published in the Oswego Daily News. It includes the fact that during the past seven years she has delivered more than $600,000 to the county through grants that she wrote and presented, and that she was recently told she was going to be honored with the title of "Historian of the Year" for New York State.) 

But never fear ... it ain't over 'til it's over.   Well, the county historian's job is likely over ... for the time being. 
Barbara's last day on that job is supposed to be September 30th.  But she may win a new one! 
She is going to run against one of the board members who voted to eliminate her job. She has gotten the necessary signatures to have herself put on the ballot.  Way to go, Barbara!

Almost every aspect of this story (except for the entrenched attitudes of  "the establishment") has been facilitated by the ability of ordinary people who live in widely differing locations but who share common interests to be quickly informed of issues and to rapidly mobilize a response.  The internet shines a light into those former dark halls of closed deliberation and forces people with power to be more accountable to the public interest.

The Internet -- Ya gotta Luv It!  (or not ... but we sure do!)

   Commentary  # 4


(Or Modern Indentured Servitude ?)

If you think everything is fair and equitable in our country right now, and that unemployment is only the fault of those too lazy to work, then you might want to skip this.  PHL

Villain_Tracks.jpg (97725 bytes)


Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED to The PHS Website

-- since last newsletter's stats (ended 07/12/2003) --
45,193  (717 per day
-- Total (as of 09/13/2003) since 5/8/2000 --


Now poorhouse history has made it into the mainstream -- 
a popular magazine at your local bookstore!

click picture to learn more 

In the September 2003 issue 

The Poorhouse 
in the Land of Plenty:

Guylaine Spencer chronicles the development and decline of the American poorhouse.

pages 41-44

An excellent overview!
She even mentions

(Too bad they didn't get our URL correct. Sigh.  How come the print media either ignores websites or gets the addresses wrong?) 

Oh, well ... this is a good one!   PHL

AND in a wonderful genealogy journal ...

Swedish American 
has generously given us permission to copy an excellent article from their June 2003 issue.

"The Poor You Always 
Have With You

by Elisabeth Thorsell

pages 124-126       The poor-house at Turinge in Sodermanland.

But we still love seeing poorhouse history currently being told by local media!  

A journalist named Anthony Farmer with the Poughkeepsie Journal  in NY has become the champion of the value of making  poorhouse records readily accessible to the public. (Previously we think Ginny Buechele had felt like a lonely Don Quixote tilting a huge bureaucratic windmill!) Anthony's articles relate to Dutchess County. However, we think they have wider relevance. 
The paper has generously given us permission to copy and post his recent articles.

"Some find dead poor 
more than a number

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Ledger to identify graves missing

Bureaucratic mystery over where the old infirmary records are currently to be found is explored. 

(Note: The records were subsequently 
found and are now in the custody of the county agency which had transferred them to the county historical society which was not allowing public access to them. They are now being used by a research team to further investigate and document the cemetery.  PHL )

  "Ulster archives has data to 1600s"
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Showcases the value of having county historians and county archives, and compares the situation in Dutchess County with a model like Ulster Co.

"Woman has records 
for some poorhouse graves

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Ledgers copied of deaths from 1934 to 1955

Interviews: Ginny Buechele, a Town of Poughkeepsie resident and genealogist who has led efforts to save the old cemetery and has searched for the records to help people researching their family history. Sue Blouse who came forward with records copied a decade ago while doing research on the poorhouse for a college paper in the early 1990s. Though she didn't need it for her report, she photocopied the 38 pages that show people who died at the poorhouse or were buried at the cemetery there. 

Previous Press Coverage

"Infirmary plan eludes committee"
August 31, 2002

Reviews debate over what to do with the old county infirmary building and grounds.
Included in the dispute is a proposal to sell the property for development.

  "Plan needed for infirmary"
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Notes the closing of the former Dutchess County infirmary forty-four months earlier, and urges the county legislature to come up with a plan for the use of the old building.


(based on readers submissions)

  Whoops!  We were too busy working on creating a new Texas page.

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



Compiled by:
Janet Clayton GARDNER

Featured on the TXGenWeb site for BELL County This book includes an extensive history, poignant photographs, interviews with people who recalled their time living or working at the home.  There are also maps and an indexed list of inmate records

It is excellent!  
And it is rare for Texas. 

How's this for irony!  

That pauper cemetery in Hudson County NJ -- remember?  Well, their attempts to do the right thing were further thwarted when they totally unexpectedly stumbled across unmarked graves -- not again! -- at the location where they were ready to place remains transferred from the old poorhouse cemetery. 

"A startling find at cemetery halts reburial" 

Thursday, August 7, 2003

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

We are now featuring another new state on our website. The PHL's own state!  TEXAS!   

In Texas there are Pioneer Days going on in an old poorhouse which has been preserved, a small local poorhouse museum being planned, a recently
rediscovered poorhouse cemetery being studied (with plans for a historical marker, very respectful treatment of the remains, and serious attempts to locate descendents), a great publication transcribing an old poorhouse record book (a rare find in Texas), an invitation for The Poorhouse Lady to speak to a local historical society ... and much, much more.  Last but not least -- current research into the location of former poorhouses progresses! 


We have now created separate pages for several of the counties in Texas.  

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

There is also a full state map showing the pattern of establishment of poorhouses in the state.

Be sure to check out BELL, CASS and KAUFMAN Counties!



"Two bewildered old ladies stand amid the leveled ruins of the almshouse which was Home; until Jerry dropped his bombs. Total war knows no bounds. Almshouse bombed Feb. 10, Newbury, Berks., England."
Naccarata, February 11, 1943.

Photo is reprinted from original United States government photographs provided by the US National Archives located in Washington DC.

Some things never change.
War is hell -- especially for the helpless.  PHL

previous Belgium / Canada / England / The Netherlands

And from an earlier time >>>>> also new Paris

salpetriere-paris-.jpg (66969 bytes)

Hospital de la Salpetriere
     and another! also new England

INTERNATIONAL_ENGLAND_Worcester_AHpc.jpg (25002 bytes)

Trinity Almshouse
built by
Queen Elizabeth
Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations  
  IA Clinton
  IL Iroquois
    MO Jackson / Nodaway
  NY Columbia
   PA Northampton
Notes from Readers / Local/Historical Notes
  IL Effingham
  MN Lac qui  Parle County
   MS Jones

Historical Documents     

Historical Memorabilia  
Poorhouse Records
  NY Oswego
  TN Sevier
  TX Bell
Cemetery Lists (or notes)
  TX Bell
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
   1930 TX Cass
Recommended  BOOKS


I guess my only excuse is having been very happily busy reading the newspaper and magazine and journal articles mentioned above.  No time for books.  Sigh. PHL
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.)