the Poorhouse Story


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the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted):
the Poorhouse Story

This consists of a stone building seventy-five by forty feet, three stories; another thirty by forty feet, two stories; connected with a a farm of one hundred and twenty acres, yielding an annual revenue of $1,000. The basements are used for domestic purposes. There is no ventilation. It is heated by furnace and stoves. Shower bathing is practiced to a moderate extent. The number of inmates was seventy-eight--forty males and thirty-eight females; of these sixty-six were foreign and twelve native born, embracing forty children. The sexes are kept separate. They are under one keeper, who employs three assistants--two male and one female. On an average three paupers are placed in a room.

The average number of inmates is ninety-five, supported at a weekly cost of 50 cents, in addition to the products of the farm. The males who are able, work on the farm ten hours a day; the females are engaged in domestic matters. The house has been visited once during the year by the board of supervisors. It is also supplied with Bibles, and a Sabbath school is maintained during the summer. A teacher is employed most of the time to instruct the children, who also exercise a general and constant supervision and control over them, as to cleanliness, behavior & etc. The superintendents of the poor, through the keeper, procures the supplies, prescribes rules regulating the diet, binds out the children, and exercises the power of discharging lunatics. The fare of the paupers consists of plain wholesome food. A physician is employed to visit the house three times a week, at a salary of $250. Another physician is also employed, who gives special attention to lunatics. During the last year there have been five births and thirteen deaths.

The measles has prevailed among the children, three or four of whom died. This establishment is one of the few that has a pest house. Of the inmates nineteen are lunatics--six male and thirteen female---and all but three are paupers; of those three, one is a man worth from $6,000 to $7,000 placed here by his friends because they were denied admission into the State Asylum; another, a lady worth still more, placed here by her friends; and a third, a girl, placed here by her father. Thirty lunatics have been admitted during the year. They are under the care of a young physician, assisted by a female attendant. None are confined unless at night, and only one restrained (a negro) by shackles to keep him from running away; he is constantly employed on the farm, and is an efficient hand, and seemed happy. During the year five have been cured and discharged, and two much improved. It will be observed that in this house, as in all others where any proper attention is bestowed upon the insane, happy results follow. Four of the inmates are idiots, all males, two boys 12, and two 16 years of age; two are blind.

The house is well kept, and by the results proves, that as a question of economy merely, it is less expensive to maintain a good poor house than it is a poor one. The only form of punishment employed is the shower bath. The keeper says, "I know intemperance brings one-third of the inmates here, and I should think more than two-thirds.
Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

     I grew up in Lockport NY and the Niagara County Infirmary on Davison Road was always referred to as "the Poorhouse" when I was a child in the 1950's.  It did indeed house the poor as well as give medical assistance.  I don't believe anyone was there for medical care unless they were indigent.  They were often very elderly people.
     I have always been curious about what happened to the records for the small burial ground that was located at the Infirmary.  Were those bodies relocated?
Sharon Poole Sherrick 

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

List of Residents of the Niagara County Poorhouse from the 1860 Census 

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 143-150  more information
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about the poorhouse in NIAGARA county through the helpful participation of readers. All are requested to submit items of interest by sending e-mail to The Poorhouse Lady.

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