Many types of aid
This is the 151st in a series of historic articles about Anderson County presented as a part of the county's participation in the American Revolution Bicentennial and the county's 175th anniversary. September 23, 1976
By Katherine B. Hoskins, County Historian
Part I p. 155-156
A brief study of Anderson County aid to indigent reveals various types of
assistance, with periodic changes in the kind of aid given and the manner
in which it has been administered. These changes have been necessary
in order to keep pace with changing times and modes of life in the
county. In addition, there have been, from time to time, new laws
enacted and amendments made to existing laws.
In the beginning, when the state was about a year old, and before the creation of Anderson County, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law whereby each county in the state was "required and empowered to take cognizance of all the poor persons in the county, whom the justices or a majority of them might adjudge proper to be supported at the charge and expense thereof." No person was entitled to this assistance who had not been an inhabitant of the county, by actual residence, for one whole year.
Section 2 of the Act provided authority for the justices of each county, or a majority of them, to assess and levy a tax, if necessary, on the taxable property and polls, for the maintenance and support of such person or persons. This was in 1797.
The sheriff in each county was to collect the tax, the justices were to determine who should receive this assistance (to be done only when a majority of the justices were present; and the trustee paid the money to the persons and in the amount determined by the justices. Both the sheriff and the trustee received 2.5 percent commission for handling the money.
For a long time Anderson and other counties simply provided small amounts of money to be paid the head of any household who would take into their home and care for needy and disabled persons who had no means of livelihood. This was voted upon at regular meetings of the Quarterly Court, following the report of a committee which had previously been appointed to investigate the circumstances of each applicant for assistance. In the early days of Anderson County the usual amount paid to a household for feeding, clothing and housing a needy child was $5 a quarter year, and slightly more for an adult. It was also before the day of aid to the blind, mental health care, or rehabilitation. Thus some of the court records of necessity mirror the kind of thing which evokes sympathy after more than a century and a half. For instance, there were entries where $5 was awarded a family in payment for three months care for a "crazy girl" or a "blind boy."
On the other extreme, there were difficult decisions to make when it was felt an adult applicant should be turned down because he or she was really able to work for a living.
There came a time when it seemed there should be some centralization of the county's efforts to care for those who needed help. So new legislation was sought.
"The County Court of Anderson County may, at their first or second session after the first day of January next, a majority of the justices being present, lay a tax on taxable property in said county, not exceeding the amount of state tax for the year 1824, and continue said tax as long as necessary to raise funds for a site, and to erect the necessary buildings for the accommodation of the poor of said count ... "
This was called the Poor House Act, which further provided that three commissioners should be appointed by the County Court, with one designated as treasurer. The commissioners were empowered to select a site, buy the land and contract for the erection of suitable buildings. The property was to be conveyed to the commissioners or their successors, for the use of the county.
The Act was passed Nov. 29, 1826, but it is not know exactly when the first county Poor House was built. So far as has been determined, it was between the date of the Act and 1856. A deed of record was found, dated Nov. 21, 1856, in which Mary Ann McAdoo described a tract of land as being "between the Jacksboro Road and the Poor House Spring branch." The Jacksboro Road is now Highway 25-W, and the Poor House Spring branch is located in Pop Hollow (Now Spring St.). This large spring has been known as the Poor House Spring for generations. It is sometimes called Raines' Springs because William Raines lived on the property and cared for the persons who were deemed by the Court to be eligible for county assistance. The facilities consisted of several small cabins, and a larger house where cooking, eating, sewing, canning, laundry and other necessary things were done.
In earlier years, the institution was generally called the Poor Asylum, being also a place of refuge or security for the mentally afflicted and mildly insane persons who had no one to look after them, if they were in need of food and shelter. Apparently they were not confined, because stories have come down through the years about some who daily roamed the neighboring fields and roads, harming no thing or person, but mentally living in a world which they alone knew.
Records show that in the 1860s, 70s and 80s William Raines was "keeping paupers." He died Aug. 6, 1888. He had been in ill health for some time and the buildings had fallen into bad repair. Too, it was decided to buy a larger farm. So the old poor house farm was put up for sale soon after Raines' death. The commissioners were J. J. Hendren, J. H. Whitson and Oliver Hoskins.
A news item in the local paper stated that after the poor farm in Pop Hollow was discontinued, 63 persons were scattered over the county wholly or partly supported by the county at a cost of $2,700 a year. Meanwhile plans were going forward for the purchase of a new site and the erection of larger and better quarters for the county's needy.
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