Minnesota Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story
POORHOUSE HISTORY by state


Postcard Caption says: Rock County Poor Farm, Luverne, Minn.

MORE   POORHOUSE   PICTURES

HUBBARD  (2)  

LAKE (panoramic) OLMSTED         BROWN   

HENNEPIN  
(awaiting permission to copy)

HOUSTON

the Poorhouse Story

RESEARCH: 

Read about the Centennial Scholars Lecture, 'Strangers at Our Gate: A Social History of Hospitality at a County Poor Farm.' -- a multi-media presentation at Concordia College -- which gave an in-depth look at the Lac qui  Parle County poor farm from 1930-1951. The researchers were Dr. Joan Kopperud and Dr. Harvey Stalwick.

the Poorhouse Story
HISTORY:

 

MORE THAN A ROOF:  The Development of Minnesota Poor Farms and Homes for the Aged
by Ethel McClure
published by The Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul 1968

Note: This book is currently out of print and no longer being published. However, a search through the Inter-Library Loan program revealed that it is available in many libraries throughout the country. I was even able to find a copy in my own city in Texas! 
This book is wonderful!  I have read many, many books dealing with the history of social services.  But this author has pulled off what often seems impossible -- the book is very factual and comprehensive, but Ms. McClure writes like a gifted storyteller.  I couldn't put it down!  And I learned why the pattern of poorhouse development was very different in Minnesota (and other states in the midwest.)  Anyone who is curious about what poorhouses were really all about needs to read this book.    PHL 

 

Here is the Minnesota excerpt from a U.S. Government REPORT 
summarizing various state poor laws in 1904. .
Click on the links above for more information.

the Poorhouse Story
NOTES FROM READERS:

"I just came in contact with your website and it is of great interest to me, as I was born and raised at the Houston County Poorfarm in Minnesota in 1932.  My parents, Cyrilla (Klug) and Valentine Esch,  came there as managers in March of 1932 and I was born in October.   They  were a  young couple, (ages 22 and 27) and already parents of two children, Myles and Margie, ages 1 and 2 1/2." 
     Alice (Esch) Miller
e-mail:  milcal@calmn.net


"I remember (at age 65) the poorhouse that used to be in my home town of Hopkins, Minnesota (suburb of Minneapolis) [Hennepin County]. I never was in the place but when we drove along the highway that fronted the institution we would frequently see an elderly man or woman walking along the highway and my parents would comment "must besomeone from the poorhouse". I remember feeling sorry for the people who lived there who were too poor to have their own home or a family to take care of them."
     Lois Willard  jon.and.lois.willand@worldnet.att.net 


'" I just found your site for the first time, and took a quick look at the Minnesota page for any reference to the Anoka County MN Poor Farm.  (My grandfather was the last superintendent of the farm from 1929 until it closed in 1935, and the family lived there during those years.)  I have in my possession a copy of a paper written by Barbara Peterson in 1984 titled "A History of the Anoka County Poor Farm".  It's 25 typed-double space pages (with footnotes & maps & illustrations).  I seem to remember that she wrote it as a class assignment (probably for an oral/local history class) - I know she contacted both my mother and my aunt for information for the paper.  (That's why I have a copy of the paper - she gave Mom a copy as thanks for her assistance with the research.) 
 
It would seem that this sort of thing would be of interest for your web site - the problem is I don't have the authority to let you publish it.  (Yeah, I'm probably overly cautious, but I know how I'd feel if I found a college/grad school paper of mine published on the web without my permission.)
 
In the mean time, I would be happy to provide limited information from the paper for anyone who is interested."       Mary Chamberlain  maryc521@msn.com 
      
Note: Mary sent us a copy of the paper, and it is wonderful! Now we are desperately seeking Barbara! It would be great if we could get permission to publish this paper. PHL

the Poorhouse Story
LOCAL NOTES:

Click on the Logo above to go to the excellent webpage   
published by Minnesota Public Radio
to accompany the documentary
which aired on July 29, 2002

This program focused on Minnesota poorhouse history. 
Be sure to follow all the links for additional information.
If you have RealPlayer you will be able to hear the recording
of the broadcast itself.  Hear Mary Bakeman share her special  knowledge of Ramsey County and other aspects of
your state's poorhouse practices.      PHL

 

the Poorhouse Story
LINKS:

http://www.mnhs.org/library/search/vrdb/bsearch.html
Ramsey County Poor Farm -- Photo Search
(Click on Visual Resources Database on the left to get a new search screen; enter: Ramsey County Poor Farm; click Search)

Photograph Collection
Location No. MR2.9 MP7.2R p2
Negative No. 9511
 
Creator: St. Paul Daily News
Title: Ramsey County Poor Farm, Maplewood.
Date: 1925


The On-Line Edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (in its Metro section)
on 2/11/2001 carried an article titled:
Brown County Poor Farm to be demolished     
This article tells a very personal story from the point of view of the daughter of the last "keepers" of that poor farm. It is not a 19th century story, but rather the 20th century story of the type so familiar for the later period in poorhouse history. It is mentioned that there were residents there who were also from Blue Earth, Sibley, and Watonwan Counties.                                       PHL
See picture postcard.
They have taken the article down; but you can see our copy of the page.
the Poorhouse Story
RECORDS:

LIST of  MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY POORHOUSE HOLDINGS by county.


The Freeborn  Co. (MN) Historical Museum library has in its collection an original record book from the County Poor Farm.
Also, in the cemetery transcripts done by the Freeborn County Genealogical Society there are excerpts from the commissioner's meeting minutes of people buried by the county. (However, we are uncertain whether these were poorhouse inmates or indigent people living outside the poorhouse  who required burial at county expense.) These excerpts start in the 1880s and go to the early- mid-1900s. The cemetery transcripts have not been published. These records are available for researchers to use at the historical society's library.


"POOR FARM RECORDS
Most Minnesota counties operated poor farms. Some farms date from the 1860s (although most began later in the 19th century or early in the 20th) and continued up to the 1950s. Some became nursing homes or tuberculosis sanatoriums, usually no longer operated by the county. Records of several poor farms are in county records in the State Archives. These usually contain registers of residents ("inmates") that give date and cause of application and some or all of the following information: applicant's name, nationality, marital status, age, birthplace, length of residency in state or county, occupation, health status, and death date. A Historical Directory of Minnesota Homes for the Aged, by Ethel McClure (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1968), HV1468.M65 M24, may be useful in identifying records of poor farms and municipally owned nursing homes."

Above quote from http://www.mnhs.org/library/tips/personal/guide.html page off the Minnesota Historical Society website

the Poorhouse Story
CEMETERIES:

 

Preservation Effort Succeeds!   

Ramsey County (Minnesota) Poor Farm Cemetery to be Converted into a Heritage Park

 


.

Ramsey County's Forgotten Cemetery  
Alphabetic listing of the almost 3000 burials in the County Potter's Field. Introduction includes a brief history of how the poor farm cemetery began and ended, with photos. M-321, ISBN 0-915709-65-1, 80 pp., photos, paperback. 
from Park Genealogical Books

In the cemetery transcripts done by the Freeborn County Genealogical Society there are excerpts from the commissioner's meeting minutes of people buried by the county. (However, we are uncertain whether these were poorhouse inmates or indigent people living outside the poorhouse  who required burial at county expense.) These excerpts start in the 1880s and go to the early- mid-1900s. The cemetery transcripts have not been published. These records are available for researchers to use at the historical society's library.

 

the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in MINNESOTA 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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Poorhouse HISTORY CEMETERIES by State RECORDS by State