the Poorhouse Story

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This 132 year old ledger came home to Salem in September 2002 

Salem Overseers of the Poor
Clerk's Ledger

Volume 17  (January 1870 - February 1879)

The Poorhouse Lady presented this book 
(which was recovered through eBay!)
to the 
Phillips Library Peabody Essex Museum

For more information about the contents of this important historic ledger,
click on the image of the book to the left.

Don't miss this!  (You may be surprised what ancestors may show up here!)


Caption: The Poor Farm, Salem, Mass. 

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Here is the Massachusetts excerpt  
from a 
U.S. Government REPORT 
summarizing various state poor laws in 1904. .

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Brookfield Poor Farm -- Worcester County -- Historical Notes

from a 1939 Works Progress Administration (WPA)  interview  


"Boston's Pauper Institutions" by William I. Cole 
Title: The New England magazine. / Volume 24, Issue 2
Publisher: New England Magazine Co. Publication Date: April 1898
This article is apparently the third in a series and deals with the "principal Almshouse, on Long Island."  It is rich in detail and full of wonderful old historic photographs which evoke the detailed texture of life in a city poorhouse in those times and tells of the evolution of the almshouse and its relationship to other institutions.  (The link will take you to the article on the Cornell University website.)  PHL


The following are all items about the Hampden County Home 
which Roberta Cyr has generously allowed us to copy from her family webpage.  Our Thanks!  PHL   Note: These are all scans of newspaper articles, photographs, etc. -- 
which take quite a while to load. (But they are well worth the time!)
August 21, 1873 Newspaper Article:
                               "The City Alms-House
                     The Newest of Our Public Buildings

A Picturesque Structure on a Noble Site:
                     Its Details, Excellences, and Faults."

                                                           This one is fascinating and hilarious!  PHL

June 6, 1933 Newspaper Article: New Bay Path Cemetery to be Dedicated
1986 Transcript-Telegram  Article: Early Holyoke cared for its own
(an excellent historical survey)
1988 Union-News  Article: 100-year-old "poor farm"
August 23rd 2000 Newspaper Article: Almshouse Burying Ground    [also called the  Bay Path Cemetery]  in Blunt Park, Springfield, MA.
To read Roberta's chronological summary of the history of this cemetery and information about where the records may be found -- scroll down and click  the link in the CEMETERY section.  


Historical Notes about POOR RELIEF Practices 
in West Springfield [Hampden Co.]

from the book, "West Springfield, Massachusetts a Town History" by Esther Swift, published 1969.
submitted by Rusty Clark

Photographs and obituary for Waldo Lamb, who served as Superintendent of the town poor farm for 26 years and then, after retirement, served as an overseer of the poor. [We believe this was in the community of Leicester in Worcester County, MA. The obituary is undated. We would welcome any further information about this remarkable man.  PHL ]  

We are very grateful to Timothy T. Orwig  for sharing information about his master's thesis:

This involves the following poorhouses:
Haverhill  in ESSEX County.
Cambridge  in MIDDLESEX County.
Milton in NORFOLK County.

See the abstract and table of contents.

Sally Neale has generously provided us with historical notes about the Almshouse and State Primary School in Monson [Hampden County]. (See below for information about Records.)  

Historical notes about the Almshouses and Workhouses of Hingham [Plymouth County] Massachusetts are contained in the final chapter of the History of Hingham, Massachusetts. 

"Before 1868, Charles Spear moved to Dorchester and was superintendent of streets there as well as taking charge of the poor farm."  
(See RECORDS below.)

Poor Farm Conservation Area in Lexington, MA  (with map)

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Click here to read  notes which provide memories and tips which may help others locate records they may be seeking.   PHL

Hampden / Middlesex / Worcester

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Hudson Poor Farm -- Middlesex County
Inmate Information
(1867 to 1887)

extracted from Town Reports.

Clicking on the link above will open an Excel spreadsheet list generously prepared and shared with us by Janet Lyman  who writes ...  "After that the names were not listed in the town reports."  NOTE: If you cannot open this on your own computer (because you do not have a spreadsheet program), you should be able to go to your nearest public library which has internet access for the public (which most now have) to open this list ... and even print it out at the library, should you wish to do so.)


This document has recently been offered for sale on eBay. Having little context for this except my previous research into other poorhouse records ...
I am uncertain about the nature of this payment. I suspect it involves a payment or reimbursement for one town's portion of the County Home's expenses. Any further information would be greatly appreciated.  


List of Residents of the Poor House in Haverhill -- Essex County -- 1850 Census  
(Scroll to entry 772-988)  

Barbara Tourtillott [] has done a wonderful job of transcribing on her website the list of Alms House Occupants of the Easton Alms House   in Bristol County  from the 1880 Federal Census. 
She has also done the same great job
transcribing on her other website the list of Alms House Occupants of the Taunton Alms House in Bristol County  from the 1880 Federal Census. 

Sally Neale has generously provided us with notes about the records available from the Almshouse and State Primary School in Monson [Hampden County]. (See above for historical notes.)  


Charles Spear Records, 1856-1888 
     Volume 4 - "Dorchester, Massachusetts Travellers [sic] lodged and persons sent to State Almshouse" 1864-1870. Volume contains chronological entries with name, date, color, age, sex, height, complexion of men, women and children seeking shelter. 
     Box 5 - Contains two folders: (1) Bills, memoranda, payroll sheets, and certificates, 1870-1872, relating to Spear's duties as Superintendent of Streets in Dorchester; and (2) material removed from Volume 4 including governor's pardon, bills, receipts, petition to pay for female poor, and replevin bonds. 

In the 1880 United States Census can find the "Poorhouse and Farm, Salem, Essex, Massachusetts". Source: FHL Film 1254532  National Archives Film T9-0532 Page 568A.

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No. 5: Historical Archaeology at the Hudson Poor Farm Cemetery
publication of the Massachusetts Historical Commission 

Almshouse & Burial Grounds, Springfield, [Hampden County] MA.  

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Expenditures for state almhouses authorized 
(St. 1852, c. 275)
first almshouse opens in 1854
Suggested Topics for History Day 2002
(with accompanying record holdings cited)
... almshouses ... as early models of reform
[Human service records: 
Board of Alien Commissioners (HS2); 
Board of State Charities (HS3); 
State Almshouse at Bridgewater (HS3.04); 
State Almshouse at Monson (HS3.06); 
State Almshouse at Tewksbury (HS6.11) ... ]
No. 5: Historical Archaeology at the Hudson Poor Farm Cemetery*
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OTHER INSTITUTIONS: (These may also be of interest to those researching poorhouse records.)

Postcard photograph of the County Home for Aged Women  
in Pittsfield, Berkshire County. (Scan takes a while to load.)
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We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in MASSACHUSETTS 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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