North Dakota Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

Caption: Richland County Poor Farm and Bois-de Sioux River, Wahpeton, N.D.



the Poorhouse Story


Here is the North Dakota 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


The family of the Superintendent & Matron of the Richland County poor farm have shared with us their copy of a transcript of a fascinating  interview with the Matron which was done as part of a government Work Progress (WPA) Project during the Great Depression. We have scanned that transcript. This is a valuable historical document because it gives us intimate insight into what life was like in the poorhouse during the late 19th century; and it contains some information about individuals who lived there. We hope that may be of genealogical help to some.  PHL


The Richland County Poor Farm 
(during the  20th century)
The Keeper & His Family

an annotated photo album    


the Poorhouse Story


"My mother, an only child,  was raised on a poor farm.  Later known as the Richland County Farm, it was in Wahpeton, North Dakota. She moved there when she was 5, in 1921.  Her mother died there in 1936, and her father, some time later, retired to an old folks home in Devils Lake, ND, and passed away in 1953..  John Mathiesen and Lena Olson, her parents, were both Norwegian immigrants who met in Wahpeton.   Corine failed first grade, as she only spoke Norwegian.  She later skipped 3rd, 5th, and seventh grades, and graduated as Miss Wahpeton High School, and was class Valedictorian.  My father, Paul Peterka, captain of the state championship football team, used to pick her up in a Buick Touring Car, with heated bricks on the floor for warmth.  They married in 1936, shortly after her mother's death.  She and Paul later had 5 children.  My mother, Corine, wrote a short Christmas story about life on the 'county farm' a few years before her death in 1999, which was given to friends as a holiday greeting."         Photos
      Submitted by her youngest son, Marc Alan Peterka, 2002, Ft. Lauderdale FL

"My Great Grandfather's second marriage was to Catherine Zech Bader. Catherine was first married to Henry Bader.  Catherine was one of the people interviewed as a part of the WPA Project in the 1930's. In the interview it states that in 1895 her husband Mr. Henry Bader was appointed Superintendent of the Richland County Poor Farm and his wife was appointed Matron. The Farm was located 1 mile south of Wahpeton. The interview even lists some of the first needy people. I found the interview at the Chester Fritz Library-Special Collections in Grand Forks, North Dakota."    

     Margaret Ellen Tisdel Burnstad 

"My great-grandparents, Henry and Catherine Bader were the superintendent and matron of the poor farm in Wahpeton, Richland County, North Dakota around the turn of the century. Henry died accidentally May 1, 1901. According to the newspaper report he was the superintendent for six years."   Sandy Sidler 

the Poorhouse Story

A great website article about the history of social services for the poor in North Dakota.
(Mention is made of the Cass County Poor Farm.) 

the Poorhouse Story

The Poorhouse list can be found in the 1900 census; North Dakota, Cass county, Fargo township, Cass County Hospital and Poor House; ED 22; sheet No 3, supervisor district 199

the Poorhouse Story

the Poorhouse Story

We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in NORTH DAKOTA 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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