The Poorhouse Story NEWSLETTER   3/10/2001 (Ninth issue)


Well, this newsletter is late also (like last time...sheesh!) -- but my Irish immigrant great-great-grandmother, Annie Tolly (who with her children can occasionally be found receiving "outdoor" relief in the records of the Overseers of the Poor in Washington County, NY during the 1800s) would be upset with me if I did not honor St. Patrick's Day. Hence the color change in the design theme for this month.  

I doubt very much that she would be "turning over in her grave" at the mention of having received assistance; she was too busy keeping her family alive! For which I, personally, am very grateful.

So...This one's for you, Annie! ... Thanks for prevailing. (Not to slight having coped so well with the Irish Potato Famine!)

One of the nice things about the internet is that it offers the opportunity to rewrite history! (No, not to enforce some notion of political correctness. But to correct the record.) So the GOALS & OBJECTIVES of The POORHOUSE STORY which we wrote for the last newsletter has been altered. They have also been posted to a page with a link on the homepage reading -- MISSION STATEMENT.  We reconsidered and discovered that there was one important thing which we had left out. It is discussed below ... 

[Special Note: The Poorhouse Lady will be taking a break from publishing this newsletter next month. This will me give me the much needed opportunity to get caught up with e-mail and the preparation of already submitted material for publication. It may also give me chance to get my Income Tax papers filed on time! <grin> So the next newsletter should come out sometime toward the end of April. Thanks for understanding and being patient.]


The introduction of students (kindergarten through high school and college) to genealogy represents a powerful tool for helping them understand themselves as cherished and valuable members of a multi-generational community of people who respect each other and who seek to communicate their history and traditions honestly. 

The POORHOUSE STORY will  try to provide teachers with tools which can help them offer this introduction to genealogy and local history (with an emphasis on local poorhouse history) in a manner which can teach and reinforce academic skills and strengthen social values. There is a special benefit to utilizing poorhouse study in such lessons -- Dealing with institutionalization and a population of people burdened with poverty in a respectful manner can help students whose families have experienced poverty or institutionalization (of whatever kind) feel less marginalized or less like "outsiders." The teaching of a history (especially a local history) which deals only with the Rich & Famous cannot do that!

Toward these goals, we have provided a new page called CLASSROOM CORNER.

We hope you will read and enjoy it and find many ways to utilize it! 
And we especially hope you will call it to the attention of any history/social studies teachers you know.



      Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED  to The PHS Website 

E-mail Subscribers to Monthly Newsletter
as of 2/09/2001 -- 446
as of 3/03/2001 -- 477
Here we are (for the first time) presenting a newer and more accurate detailed way of looking at the statistics regarding the volume of usage of The POORHOUSE STORY website. Click here if you would like to see an explanation of the wonderful reports which are being generated by our new server. (If you host a website, this could be very helpful to you! If you don't like unsolved mysteries, read this!)

Total Visits to The POORHOUSE STORY 
since 5/8/2000 --  77,157  (vs. the only 40,000+ currently showing on the homepage hit counter!)
since last newsletter (2/04/01-3/03/01)  --  12,273  (442/day)

(based on readers submissions)

Click here to see a scan of an original 1817 document: 
Articles of Agreement (which resolved an issue of
which county would be responsible for the support of two
specific individuals when Hamilton County split off from Montgomery County in New York State. (Page takes a while to load.)

The On-Line Edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (in its Metro section)
on 2/11/2001 carried an article titled:
Brown County Poor Farm to be demolished      
This article tells a very personal story from the point of view of the daughter of the last "keepers" of that poor farm. It is not a 19th century story, but rather the 20th century story of the type so familiar for the later period in poorhouse history. It is mentioned that there were residents there who were also from Blue Earth, Sibley, and Watonwan Counties.                                       PHL
(We didnít create them; we just show them!)

THE 19th CENTURY WORKHOUSE: A Personal Story
 by Loreley A. Morling

(from the website of the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations Inc. )  [This one is really fascinating! A good read for anyone.]

Article from The HOOSIER GENEALOGIST, 1989, "The Union County Poorhouse in the 1860 Census."    
[This is a very enlightening article about some of the realities of census transcribing which can help genealogists better evaluate the accuracy of poorhouse records in the census.]                             


Preservation Effort Succeeds!  

Ramsey County (Minnesota) Poor Farm Cemetery to be Converted into a Heritage Park! (Click on link to the left.)
HONORED STATES current OHIO! (see top of table of POORHOUSES BY STATE)
  previous Illinois/Kansas/Pennsylvania/Tennessee
Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations    
  AL Barbour
  IL Cook
  IA Lucas
  MA Essex
  MI Calhoun/Oceana
  NH Hillsboro (an old stereoscope view)
  NY Onondaga 
(a link to a website with a wonderful photo-tour)
  OH Allen
  PA Carbon
Notes from Readers/Local Notes     
  AL Barbour
  CA Mono/Stanislaus
  IN Grant
  MI Calhoun/Jackson
  MO Buchanan
  NY Onondaga
  PA Carbon/Franklin
From a  94 year old gentleman who was
kind enough to share his memories!
TN Marion
  VT Caledonia

Historical Documents     

MA scan of an 1826 receipt from the Overseers of the Poor from Newburyport in Essex County
  NY Click here to see a scan of an original 1817 document: 
Articles of Agreement (which resolved an issue of
which county would be responsible for the support of two
specific individuals when Hamilton County split off from Montgomery County. (Page takes a while to load.)

1836 Certificate of Removal to the Otsego County Poorhouse 

Historical Memorabilia MI Hillsdale (Commemorative Plate)
WPA Inventories
This is the largest project which the PHS Volunteers have undertaken yet!  They did GREAT! 
(Still some more counties to be posted later.)
To read about this program which was undertaken during the 1930s and 40s by the Works Progress Administration,
see these notes off the Ohio page.
    Previously Published: OHIO:Ashland/Athens/Belmont/Columbiana/Fayette
  OHIO Geauga/Knox/Seneca
Then ... it grew! 
Carolyn Feroben took up the effort and searched for such inventoried records in California .... by the way, not an easy state in which to find them. She is publishing them first on the CA-RECORDS e-mail list and then sharing them with PHS.
    Previously Published:
CALIFORNIA:  Santa Clara
  CA Fresno

Poorhouse Records

The Illinois State Archives continues to do a wonderful job of making poorhouse records accessible on-line! They have added name indexes to two more counties. >>> IL JoDaviess/Adams
  MI Calhoun
  VA Buckingham (Supervisor's Minute Book, 1870-1887)
  VT Rutland
Cemetery Lists    
  AL Barbour
  IL Pulaski
  IN Grant
  WI Milwaukee  [a new website ]
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
  1880 IL Franklin
  1870 IL Franklin
  1920 IL White
  1880 IN Union (see Featured Article item above)
  1880 OH Washington (note re: location in census report)
  1880 TN Lauderdale
The Poorhouse in Literature
The Witch Diggers
by Jessamyn West
Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1951

Jessamyn West (1902-1984) was an American author who wrote stories based on her Quaker ancestors.  Her most well-known book was 
The Friendly Persuasion which was published in 1945 and later made into a movie with Gary Cooper.

This novel is the story of the family of a man who idealistically leaves his law practice to become the Superintendent of a county poorhouse in southern Indiana. Set in the 19th century, the author develops the characters in ways that give us insight into the day-to-day lives of those who lived in poorhouses -- both the folks who are inmates, supervisors and visitors. This backdrop (which will be of special interest to readers of this website) is only secondary to the skillful telling of stories of the lives of these fascinating people.

Other BOOKS The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
by Charles E. Rosenberg
The University of Chicago Press, 1962 & 1987
ISBN 0-226-72677-0   LCN 62-18121

It may be hard to imagine,  but this exploration of the politics of public health (which can be horrifying)  is a real "page-turner"! A chronology of the evolution of  social attitudes and public policy dealing with a recurring and devastating contagion -- it reads like a combination multi-generational family saga and detective story. 

Why should genealogists read it? Because the three major things which pruned all of our family trees were war, famine and disease. And since it can be argued that the primary factor contributing to fatalities in both war and famine involve disease -- disease wins hands-down as the most significant.

Why should students of poorhouse history be concerned with this? Because cholera discriminated. It's rate of infection was much higher among those who lived in poverty.  And this examination of the treatment of cholera victims of necessity places attitudes toward the poor under a microscope. Additionally, in many communities the only "pesthouse" (or place where people with contagious diseases could be quarantined) was the poorhouse.

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)