Oswego County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

Caption below reads: City Alms House, Oswego, N.Y.

This photograph appears to be of a different facility at a different location. Apparently there was a city almshouse in one location and a county poorhouse in another.  But we would appreciate someone providing us with more information about these two facilities.

the Poorhouse Story

The notes below have been abstracted from the following reports.
To obtain further information on these reports click on the appropriate button.
(This will open a separate window so simply close to get back to this page.)

the Poorhouse Story

[The table which heads each county's section in this report was extremely illegible when we scanned it. However, there was very little information given in the table. It looks like only 2 of 12 communities even submitted a return; and one of those (Richland) was stated to have been unclear.  The report summary for OSWEGO County is keyed in verbatim below. For those who wish to try to read the poor scan of the introductory table, we have provided a link here. Our apologies for the poor scan. PHL ]


   The following is a statement for the last four years, of the taxes raised 
for the support of the poor, &c.

Expenses of constables, justices, overseers, examination, removal of paupers and of one appeal. Mainenance and support of the poor.
1819, $  183.25 $ 138.63
1820,      175.11    128.97
1821,      163.23    184.59
1822,      598.00     302.09
Total                 $1,119.59 $  754.28
   Thus it appears that the support of all the paupers in this county amounted to only $754.28, while the costs and expenses of justices, constables, overseers and of one appeal amounted to $1,119.59 !!!
   The clerk of the board of supervisors says, "I am not able from the documents in my possession, to make an accurate estimate for the years 1816, 1817 and 1818, but from my own knowledge upon this subject, I am of the opinion that the expenditures for the years mentioned, will average with those of 1819 and 1820.  Board of paupers per week, is charged at one dollar, and runs from that to $1.50, and in some instances $2 is charged.  The charge depends much upon the health and age of the pauper.  It is frequently the case that the pauper is sold out to the lowest bidder, to victual and clothe for twelve months, and this course is at present deemed the most advisable, permitting the purchaser to receive the labor of the pauper when in health.  It may not be  improper for me to remark, that the annual expenditures appertaining to pauperism appear latterly to be encreasing.  We have but few aged people in the county and none scarcely that are charged.  The admission of foreign poor and indigent persons from the British provinces, adds to the evil, and I believe I do not exaggerate in saying that half, if not two thirds, of our expenses is owing to that class of people!!" [Letter from the supervisor's clerk.]
the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted):  exempted
the Poorhouse Story

This house is located in the town of Mexico. It is an old structure, the main building twenty-five by sixty feet, of wood, two stories high, with a brick addition twenty-five by twenty feet, with a farm of sixty acres attached, yielding an annual net revenue of $300. The basement of the building is used for domestic purposes. There are nine rooms or wards appropriated to the use of paupers, and seven of these for lodging paupers, in each of which are placed from one to eight persons. Forty-seven inmates were found, being provided for. Twenty-three males and twenty-four females, three-fourths of whom were foreign, one-fourth native born, supported at a weekly expense of $1.08 each. The average number provided for in this house is seventy-five, and all placed under the care of a single keeper, who also has the care and management of the farm, the male paupers assisting in outdoor work, and the females in domestic duties, according to their several ability.

In this establishment there is but very little separation of the sexes, either by day or night.

Of the inmates seven are under sixteen years of age. It is the practice to transfer the children, on reaching the age of six or eight years, to the orphan asylum in Oswego, at which institution they are instructed and carefully cared for. The asylum receiving $1.25 each, per week, by resolution of the board of supervisors of the county at its last annual meeting. Previous to this no provision whatever existed for the instruction of the inmates, either religiously, or in the elements of a common English education. Nor has the house been visited by the board of supervisors during the past year, and the general appearance of the house and its surroundings would seem to countenance the idea, that it had not been visited by that honorable body for many years preceding.

The inmates are supplied with wholesome plain food, which together with all other stores for the house is purchased by or under the direction of the county superintendent, who also imposes rules regulating the diet.

In this establishment there is no room separate and distinct from the other, known and used as a hospital, nor is there a pest house.

During the year there have been five deaths and three births. A physician is employed by the year to visit the house and prescribe for such as need medical attention, once a week, and as much oftener as his services may be required, for a salary of $85.00.

There are no baths provided.

Eight of the inmates are lunatics--five male and three female, and all paupers; three have been admitted during the year, two have recovered, one improved and one escaped. They have no special attendants nor special medical attention.

Of the above number, two are constantly confined in cells, and one restrained by a straight jacket--hand-cuffs are sometimes employed.

There is no yard or retreat provided for the insane, and although the keeper thought the house admitted of their classification, your committee can hardly comprehend how such a result could be attained.

Lunatics are discharged by the superintendent only, or by his directions. No lunatics have been sent to the State Lunatic Asylum, at Utica, nor has any application been made for their reception during the year.

Four of the inmates are idiots, three male and one female, all over twenty years of age. The house is heated by stoves, and can be made comfortable at all seasons. It has no ventilation, and the ceilings of the apartments are low. Seven-eighths brought to this house come consequent upon habits of inebriation.

This house is wholly inadequate, in any just sense, to meet, in proper measure, the varied wants and necessities of so large a family. Here are gathered the aged and the young, the sick, halt and lame, the vicious, perhaps, and the unfortunate, the idiot, the lunatic: seventy-five in all, as an average, to be accommodated in nine apartments, and all to be cared for by one man and his pauper assistants. From these nine rooms take the dining hall, the sick room, the two rooms in which lunatics are constantly confined, and five remain for occupancy by the remainder of the inmates of both sexes. Whether this is to remain as the gauge and standard of the philanthropy and Christian civilization of the citizens of Oswego County is a question for them to answer. When the facts are fully understood by them your committee cannot, for a moment, doubt what their answer will be.

Transcribed by PHS-Volunteer, Cheramie Breaux in Louisiana
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

"The 'Poor House' Cared for Oswego's Less Fortunate" -- Article written by Sophie Welling,  published posthumously in The Valley News in 1997 and now on The Historical Society's portion of the  Town of Oswego website at http://www.bridgemicro.com/townofoswego/fallbrook/  


the Poorhouse Story

Microfilm Series A1978  Roll Number(s) 166-167  more information

Click here to read the full story of this donation!


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)

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about the poorhouse in OSWEGO 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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