New Hampshire poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story



Postcard Caption: Cheshire County Farm, Westmoreland, NH 









the Poorhouse Story


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

HISTORIC FIRE -- Strafford County Poor Farm -- Newspaper Article 
Warning:  This is gruesome reporting!   Includes a list of those who died.


The Fire at the Insane Asylum 

From “The County Almshouse” in The History of Strafford County New Hampshire and Representative Citizens by John Scales, c. 1914.

This section from the history book provides a much more sedate account of the fire and the subsequent investigation.  It also tells a comprehensive history of the poor farm.
It is located on the fine website of the Dover Public Library.                    PHL


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"Grasmere [Hillsboro County] is a small dot on the map on Locus Hill Rd. 0ff Route 114 near Goffstown, NH. It is so listed in the New Hampshire Atlas and Gazeteer. Whether or not it is an official township or not is not clear to me. I have driven Route 114 many times and seen the sign pointing to Grasmere and the County Farm. Locally going to the County Hospital or Poor Farm has been in my lifetime known as "going to Grasmere."
     George D. Chapman 

"Both captions [for the 2 photos above for Hillsboro County] are correct because the Hillsborough County Farm was indeed located both towns.  The original farm in Goffstown burned in 1846 and the county commissioners purchased the Whiting Farm in Wilton, taking possession in  April, 1867.  This farm remained in operation until the early 1900's when the farm again moved back to Grasmere (Goffstown) where it remains through today. The account of the move from Goffstown to Wilton is
recounted  in the Wilton Town History."
     Richard Putnam 
The First Blacks of Portsmouth
(excerpt re: poorhouse)

     "Housing possibilities were scarce for blacks; combinations of families and single people often shared households. The Portsmouth almshouse sheltered some free blacks who were unable to escape poverty. A man identified only as Quint died there at age 70, while Mrs. Silvia Gerrish was living at the almshouse when she and her three children were baptized. Dinah Wallis and her son also were baptized there. Violet Freeman died at the almshouse at age 75. Free blacks were unwelcome in other communities because the towns did not
want to provide them with food and housing if they could not become self-supporting. Ultimately, the most horrifying risk facing a free black person was the possibility of being kidnapped at any time and being sold into slavery as a supposed runaway."

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"In my home county of Coös, New Hampshire, the poorhouse was called the Coös County Farm located in Sterwartstown. Hope this helps in your research!"
Mariana Bean Ruggles 
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women residents riding in a sled --poorhouse in Washington, NH (photo)
Christmas tree farm -- former Poor Farm -- Hopkinton, NH

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Much fascinating information about the Sullivan County Poor Farm may be found in the Annual Report (ending December 31, 1899) of the County Commissioners, Treasurer, and other Officers  

Note: The information in these Annual Reports dealing with the county poor farm provide genealogical information far beyond simply that of the names of inmates. Because the local government was responsible for accounting for any funds spent on the poor farm, the names of people who provided any goods or services to the farm are also listed. 
Title Page 
County Farm Superintendent's Report from the 1899 Annual Report of Sullivan County, New Hampshire From: Liz Tattersall   (email: )  
Commissioners' Report [with poor farm remarks] from the 1899 Annual Report of Sullivan County, New Hampshire Submitted by:  
List of County Farm People from the 1899 Annual Report of Sullivan County, New Hampshire From: Liz Tattersall   (email: )  

STRAFFORD COUNTY POOR FARM Records Recently Rediscovered 

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5






(First Page)

(First Page)

(First Page)

(First Pages)

(First Pages)

NH_STRAFFORD_CF_Vol_1_1883.jpg (549467 bytes)

NH_STRAFFORD_CF_Vol_2_1886.jpg (549465 bytes)

NH_STRAFFORD_CF_Vol_2_1903.jpg (592361 bytes)

NH_STRAFFORD_CF_Vol_3_1904_Summary_New.jpg (571134 bytes) 

NH_STRAFFORD_Vol_4_1934_Summary_New.jpg (542332 bytes)

NOTE: Click on any small photo above to see larger image.
They are HUGE ... So they may take quite a while to open. 
Thanks to Dave Bedard  
for having scanned and shared them with us

   These records are currently in the temporary custody of Dave Bedard 
while the County Administrator determines the best place to archive them. 

For further information researchers may contact Dave or contact the County Administrator, Ray Bower, at 603-742-1348 to make arrangements.


List of Residents of the Strafford County Asylum/County Farm from the 1880 Census 
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A monument was erected in Strafford County in memory 
of the victims of the poor farm asylum fire. (See above.)

The inscription reads:

In memory of those who lost their lives 
by the burning of the Strafford County Asylum
Feb. 9, 1893
The names of those lost  are listed on the monument.
Spellings are somewhat different from the list in the 
newspaper article.

photo by
Dave Bedard


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We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in NEW HAMPSHIRE 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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