History of the relief of the poor & the establishment and evolution of the Almshouse in Newburgh, NY


Note: The following information was submitted by Elizabeth P. McKean, Engineering Dept, City of Newburgh, and Glenn T. Marshall, Town Historian for New Windsor

Mostof the material below was taken from
“History of the Town of Newburgh” by E.M. Ruttenber, 1911

[Bracketed material] indicates editorial comments by Linda M. Crannell



Provision for maintaining the poor was included in the act creating the Precinct of Newburgh

The first record in relation to the subject, aside from the annual election of Overseers of thePoor



raised “for the support of the Poor for the year ensuing”




The following rules were adopted at the annual Precinct meeting, viz:


[Poor Masters
(previously called Overseers of the Poor) to become a paid position]

Rule First – “Voted, as an encouragement to all succeeding Poor Masters, the more faithfully to discharge their duty in their office, by preventing all unnecessary charges and needless costs on the inhabitants of the Precinct, and also as a reward for their good services, we freely vote them the sum of £10 each, to be paid out of the money voted to be raised for the use of the poor or out of such fines as may be raised for the same use.”


[Poor Masters made legally liable for prosecution or made to repay costs or fined 20 shillings ]

Rule Third – “Voted, that no Poor Master forthe time being shall for any cause whatever, relieve or cause to be relieved, or made chargeable, any person or persons whatever, that may by law be transported: or any private person who can be made accountable according to law ; on pain of perjury, and making themselves liable to pay all such charges, and forfeit to the use of the poor twenty shillings and charges of prosecution, to be recovered before any of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace.”



raised for the poor




raised for the poor




raised for the poor

“Voted, That donations be collected in this Precinct to be applied to such poor whose husbands or parents were either killed or taken prisoners at Fort Montgomery.”



raised for the poor




[First use of a rented building as a poorhouse.]

“Voted, To hire a house for the accommodation of the Poor."



[Practice of binding-out or contracting for children to be indentured servants.]

“Voted, That the Overseer of the Poor be authorized to contract with one or more persons to take the whole of the poor and to put out the children as they shall see best for the town.”



… voted a tax of …
[see left]

An act of the Legislature was passed authorizing the construction of a town Poor House.

A site was selected on Water street, and a building completed in the course of the year [1814].





“The system was conducted with success and economy, as the following figures from the annual reports will show, viz: [see to the left]

[It should be noted that the term “temporary relief ” referred to expenses for those people who livedoutside the poorhousebut required assistance.]


victualing, clothing, etc.




Doctor’s bill


Keeper’s wages


Temporary relief







385.41 ½

On Hand

17.81 ½

Fines, &c.



“In 1830, the ORANGE COUNTY POORHOUSE was erected at a cost of $12,000; and on the 22d April, 1831, the Legislature authorized the sale of the Newburgh Poor House and lands, which was soon after effected, and the proceeds were applied to the payment of the county poor tax.”


$2,174.64 ¾


$1,158.58 ¼



$3,160.69 ½




872.72 ¾

Expenses of alms-house

Newburgh Poor House Sold and community joined the ORANGE County system in 1831.


temporary relief

(town of Newburgh)

[It should be noted that the issue with which the town of Newburgh found fault was not the cost of maintaining people who were sent to the Orange County Poor House ; but instead it was the fact that sending the town's paupers to the county poorhouse had not kept down the cost of "temporary relief" of paupers who were not sent there. In other words, it had not deterred people (who were not being sent to that poorhouse) from applying for and receiving relief.] [The cost to the town of maintaining people in the county poorhouse is not here even alluded to –see below]



temporary relief

(town of Newburgh)


$6,451.90 or

temporary relief

(town of Newburgh)


[as alleged by town committee]

[The meetings referred to below in Ruttenber’s “History of the Town of Newburgh” on pages 142 & 143 appear to have been held late in 1852, despite some ambiguity and a possible type-setting error.]


“The county system of supporting the poor continued until … the rapidly increasing chargesfor temporary relief aroused public attention and investigation. The subject was first brought before the Board of Supervisors by Mr. Enoch Carter, supervisor from Newburgh, and the abuses of the county system were thoroughly exposed. At the instance of Mr. Carter, the Board adopted the following resolution, viz: [ see right]

Resolved, That in the opinion of this Board of Supervisors, it would be for the mutual interest of the citizens of Newburgh and of Orange county, than an application be made to the Legislature by the citizens of the town of Newburgh for the passage of an Act paying to the town of Newburgh her proportionate interest in the present County House , and also empowering said town to provide a town House for her own poor, the expenses of which shall be borne by the town of Newburgh.”


A farm was purchased and the erection of suitable buildings commenced. The building was completed and opened December 10th , 1853.

“The act applied for passed the Legislature, March 23, 1853. By its terms the town of Newburgh was established as a separate and distinct Poor District.”





[This apparently would include both the cost of maintaining people residing in the alms-house and the cost of temporary relief .]

“The general results of the system are stated in the annual report of the commissioners, submitted November 1, 1857, from which it appears, that an expenditure of $27,700 had then been made in the purchase of land and in the erection of buildings &c ., and that the cost of maintaining the poor had been $19,699.92, during the five years that the system had been in operation – or about $4,000 per year.”

[ see right ]










[ see right ]


However … another later report did not portray such a favorable financial advantage to the plan.
The following information is from a volume entitled “Reports: City of Newburgh – Financial 1862-1881” stored in archives box in City Clerk’s basement.

“The advocates of the change… insisted that the town would make a saving by the plan proposed; but by comparing … [here is a comparison of the tax burden for the period 1846-1852   and the tax burden for the period 1853-1859] … there is hardly a balance in favor of the new system . One thing, however, all will concede, viz: that the town has provided a home for its Poor which will compare favorably with the finest charities in the Nation, and that its inmates receive much better attention than under the old system.”


“…the amount specially assessed for the support of the Poor during the same period was $45,000 …” [which would average approximately $6,428 per year] from the above report



cost of maintaining the poor (including “out-door relief”
[which had been previously refered to as “temporary relief”]

In 1861, the total persons counted 578, with an average of 64 each year. The average cost per week for “each Pauper maintained” was $2.10, and the average cost per year of maintaining the poor (“including out-door relief) was $7,461.40.

This house eventually became a satellite of the ORANGE COUNTY Welfare Home and Infirmary.
It was demolished in 1970
as part of the extensive Urban Renewal initiative in Newburgh.

A Gesture of Respect for   the Lives of Those Who Died at the Newburgh Almshouse
JUNE 10, 2000

It is the CEMETERY which was attached to this poorhouse which volunteers (under the leadership of City Manager, Harold J. Porr III, the City Council, the Department of Public Works under Superintendent Jim Licardi, and Gallagher Truck Center in the Town of New Windsor) are cleaning up and for which they are establishing a system for future maintenance . Thanks to Elizabeth P. McKean, Glenn T. Marshall, and Richard Durbin (reporter with the Orange County newspaper, The Sentinel ) for making the public aware of the need to preserve this history and pay respect to these people.

It is sincerely hoped that the NAMES of those buried in this cemetery will soon be made available … so that they may be shown the respect of allowing that their descendants may know of their fate and their final resting place. .

Return to Orange County, NY