Saratoga County Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

Caption:  County House & Hospital, Ballston Spa, N.Y.


the Poorhouse Story

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the Poorhouse Story

In the town of Providence there is on hand a fund of $96, for the support of the poor, and in the town of Ballston a similar fund of $28, being a legacy left by a widow of the said town.

Sums of money raised by tax, in the county of Saratoga, for the support of the poor, in the years 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820, 1821, 1822.

In the year 1816, $3,650
1817, 4,900
1818, $8,290
1819 $7,100
1820 $5,601
1821 $4,358
1822 $4,575
Total $38,474

The board of supervisors, as well as others, have for years been anxious that some alteration should be effected in the poor-system, and would probably ere this, have adopted the plan by [of] Rensselaer county, [house of industry] had it not been for the prospect that something on the subject would shortly be done by the legislature. [Letter from the supervisor's clerk of Saratoga.]


We had no poor-house in this town until the present year, nor was there any general one in the county. An attempt had been made by this town and three others to enter into negotiations to obtain one, but the other towns in this county declined the proposal; and after two years fruitless attempts, it was decided at the last town meeting to hire a house, and ground adjacent thereto for one year, and place the poor of this town therein, for the same space of time, at labor, if capable of performing any. Since the above decision, we have entered into an agreement with the town of Milton, and hired a house in a central position in this town, in connection with them, for the accommodation of the poor of both towns; each town to bear their equal proportion of the expenses, in proportion to the number of paupers resident n the same, and the circumstances attending them respectively. They have an agent resident in the house, who keeps an account of all disbursements which he is to render to the overseers when called on. He also has a cook, who cooks the victuals and takes charge of the provisions furnished by the overseers. This cook is paid by the towns of Ballston and Milton, at one dollar per week. The expense of the agent and house rent for the year, is $1.25 per week; besides the expense of a garden spot if wanted. But as this mode of accommodating the poor with a residence, is not pleasing to them, they have as yet refused to enter the poor-house, so that should they persist in the refusal, the burthen of this town will be light this year; as there is but one occupant as yet from Milton, and none from here. The want of a house for the accommodation of paupers, has been felt in consequence of transient paupers coming in upon us, and no place of accommodation for them, and consequently we are compelled to procure a residence at some private house, which incommodes the family; and this expense is consequently incurred, which tended much to increase our expenses. Another great inconvenience arising from pauper cases is, that many of them are persons who come out of the other states, who have no residence here, and no right to send them where they belong, without incurring great risk to the person conveying them out of the state. I have given you a detail of what I deemed an answer to your questions stated in your letter of April 21, 1823, as nearly as information would permit. [Letter from the supervisor of Ballston.]


We have no county poor-house nor house of industry, nor any thing of the kind in this town, except that for this year the overseers of the poor, have hired a tenement, which is under their management for the accommodation of the poor, but its utility is not yet proved. [Letter from the supervisor of Halfmoon.]


We have tried the experiment of putting some of our paupers into a house of industry, but we could not maintain them so cheap as by proposals and contracts with individuals (vendue like.) Our paupers have generally been of that class who were unable to labor, and many of them require constant attention. [Letter from the supervisor of Providence.]


This being a watering place, pauper among others, crowd here for their health; and we should benefited by a revival of the old law, authorizing pass-warrants, by which we might send paupers to the place whence they last came without regard to their settlement. [Letter from the supervisor of Saratoga Springs.]


A dwelling house 24 feet by 30, with three acres of land contiguous, was purchased at an expense of $600, and in the liquidation of accounts of that year, it was found that the saving had been about one half. At this place the poor have been commonly maintained since at a decreased expense of more than one-half, very nearly two-thirds; and I have no doubt but by the continuance of the alteration from boarding them out, as was formerly done, and forming them into one family, and locating them as the poor-house, it is a safe calculation that two-thirds of the ordinary expense is saved. I would also observe, that in the year 1819, we raised $500 for the purpose of repairing and making some addition to the house, which increased the expense of that year to what it is rated. Previous to the establishment of the poor-house, the price of maintaining weekly, was from 2 to 3 dollars. In closing these remarks I would observe, that from fifteen years experience in the management of town concerns, having audited and examined the accounts of the poor-masters, witnessed the operation of our present system, and experiencing the exertions and expedients, to throw the paupers from the towns to the counties, under the above statute, and knowing from observation the habits and dispositions, views and wishes of the people, I am convinced the present law is defective; that its provisions invite to pauperism, and that the best, and perhaps only corrective of the evil, will be found in county houses of industry. We found an extensive advantage in a town poor-house, which would have been encreased, had suitable materials been furnished for the employment of the poor; and I have a right to consider this town an epitome of the state, and by an expansion of the plan to the state at large, that benefit may be generally enjoyed, of [which] this town, has only partially partaken. [Letter from the supervisor of Stillwater.]


There is no poor-house in our town, nor any county poor-house. I think it would subserve the cause of humanity, and be less burthensome on community to have the paupers supported wherever they might chance to be, as generally speaking, much of the expense attached to their support, &c. is paid in transporting them, and in appeals, &c. [Letter from the supersivor of Corinth.]


The greatest difficulty and expense arises from a clear definition of the law of settlements. I think a county poor-house, would remedy many of the evils of the present system, and would be a saving of expense. [Letter from the supervisor of Charlton.]
the Poorhouse Story
1824 LAW (required establishment of poorhouse vs. exempted):  required
the Poorhouse Story


The building of this establishment is a wooden one, 106 feet square, and two stories in height. Connected is a farm of 112 acres, yielding a revenue of $900. The basements are used as washing and eating rooms. Above are seventeen rooms, or wards, occupied by the paupers and warmed by stoves, but without ventilation. The number of inmates was 102, fifty males and fifty-two females. Of these one-third are of foreign birth and twenty-five under sixteen years of age. The sexes are separated at night. The average number of inmates is 137, supported at a weekly cost of ninety-three cents each. The paupers are employed, as far as able, on the farm and about the house.

The house has been inspected once during the year by the supervisors of the county. It is supplied with Bibles, and there are occasional religious services. A common school is maintained in the house during the whole year. The superintendent furnishes supplies for the house and prescribes rules for its government; binds out the children and exercises the power of discharging lunatics. A physician is employed by the year, who attends twice a week, and oftener if required. There are no facilities for bathing. During the year have occurred ten births and thirty-six deaths. During this time the small pox has prevailed, but no cases have proved fatal. There is a pest house.

Of the inmates ten are lunatics, three males and seven females. All are paupers. They receive no special attendance. Five are confined in cells, and some are at times restrained by shackles and hand-cuffs. The keeper reports that some have been improved. Lunatics have escaped from the house and not again been found. Eleven of the inmates are idiots, five males and six females; all are over ten years of age. There are three blind persons. Of 137 paupers sixty-three were brought here through intemperate habits.

This house is an old one and badly dilapidated. The rooms are low, sadly out of repair, and the air in the sleeping rooms is most foul and noisome. It is very well attended, however, by the present keeper, and is kept in as good order as possible. Corporal punishment is administered to men, women and children.
the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

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the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

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