the Poorhouse Story
POORHOUSE HISTORY by state

Pawtucket Poor Farm (Providence County)  
from The History of Pawtucket 1635 - 1876 by Susan Marie Boucher,
published by The Pawtucket Memorial Library in 1976.

More RI Poorhouse Photos

Howard R.I.  State Alms House

Coventry Poor Farm 
When you get to the site it will have two sections. One on the right and one on the left. On the left type in "Coventry" and then hit the quick pix button and a bunch of pictures will show up in the right hand section. The poor house is in the second row first from the left.

Dexter Asylum photograph in the American Memory Collection 
NOTE: Use the phrase "Dexter Asylum" (without the quotation marks.)
the Poorhouse Story
SPECIAL PROJECT:
 

PORTSMOUTH ASYLUM PROJECT  

   Don't miss this!    It is a great project and an outstanding website. PHL
the Poorhouse Story
HISTORY:

 

Here is the Rhode Island 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
LOCAL NOTES:

 

Historical Notes excerpted from -- The History of Pawtucket  
   (as was the photo above)
Submitted by Ray   [wayray@ix.netcom.com
- Nicknamed the "Pest House"
- Established by the town council in 1875
- Elderly residents lived in a dormitory behind the main building, and there 
   was a barn on the property.
- There was a two story building known as the Pest House, near the 
   dormitory, where the diseased and sick elderly were quartered.
- Men spent their days on the farm growing things, while the women 
   engaged in knitting and sewing and other work on the long porch.

 

In 1882 the Newport Poor House and Farm on the 92-acre Coasters Harbor Island was donated to the Navy by the City of Newport and the State of Rhode Island on the condition that the site would be used for the training of recruits. 

This postcard shows a row of canons along the water at that Naval Training Station at Newport, Rhode Island. 

 



"I do recall that there is a "Poorfarm Road" in Coventry, [Kent County] RI; and I was told that one was located there, thus the name. I am only going on "hear-say" and family  stories, maybe someone can give us concrete  information."
  James A. Mulligan
   mulligan_jim@yahoo.com 
"I remember the house on Poor Farm Rd. in Coventry....off Rt.117 ...
if I remember correctly...a large 2 story  close to the road and very plain...an exact duplicate of my Grandmothers house in Charlestown, RI...now restored...I'll send you a picture of my  Grandmother's if you like...it was built about 1830 and probably the one in  Coventry was also.
I  know the farm was always referred to as Holden Farm."
     N
ancy T. M
auro  mailto:mauron@tampabay.rr.com 
And .... here is the picture she sent!               PHL

Dave Mathieson has submitted some historical notes about the first Almshouse in the 
state of Rhode Island -- The City of Newport Almshouse [Newport County]


         "Cumberland's poor house was where the high school stands now on Mendon Road. There's a 
          cemetery out front that's barely noticed."
                 Alan Green
amangreen@home.com 

 

the Poorhouse Story
RECORDS:

 

Rhode Island Poor Farm/Town Asylum Records

We are very  pleased to announce that Bob Sherman, a professional historian who works for the Rhode Island Historical Society has provided us with a very instructive lesson in how to find poorhouse historical information and records throughout the state.   This is an extremely helpful and very specific document which lists the nature and location of many, many records.    PHL  
the Poorhouse Story
CEMETERIES:

 

RHODE ISLAND POOR FARM CEMETERIES  

"You might want to place a link on your Rhode Island page to the RI Cemetery Database Project. This has been an ongoing project the past nine or ten years to document RI cemeteries and their occupants, especially all the out of the way ones including prisons, poor farms, asylums, etc. There isn't a specific, separate listing for poor house inmates but they are often included in larger town and city cemeteries. They have been doing great work and have a searchable database on the web with a much more detailed database available at local libraries here. Check it out , it might be a very useful link for researchers."
     Robert L. Sherman [bsherman@rihs.org

NOTE: Thanks to Bob's tip we searched this list of descriptions of the cemeteries they have or are considering including in the database and found the following notes about cemeteries which seem to be poorhouse cemeteries (or have something to do with poorhouses.) PHL

RHODE ISLAND CEMETERY DATA BASE

Location Cemetery
Bristol HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: BR001 NORTH BURIAL GROUND 
BRISTOL RI 

Location: 15 ft west of HOPE ST (RT 114) AT ASYLUM RD at TEL pole # 134 
9000 burials with 4000 inscriptions NOTE: In 1822 the town purchased a tract of land on the Neck for the purpose of erecting a "House of Industry" (poor house). At the town meeting 17 April 1822 it was voted "A part of said town land be set apart for a burying ground, the same to be well enclosed. This cemetery covers 30.8 acres. 18.9 is now being used and 11.9 acres at the west end is for future expansion. The transcript of this cemetery was done in 1978 as a CETA project by two people known only as MJR & AB. It only covers about 1/3 of the cemetery in the southeast corner. This cemetery has been recorded but not checked.
Cumberland HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: CU014 BARTLETT CEMETERY 
CUMBERLAND RI 

MENDON ROAD NOTE: (Poor House Cemetery), the remains were removed to #15. This cemetery has not been recorded.
Coventry HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: CY188 TOWN FARM NEW CEMETERY 
COVENTRY RI 

Location: 20 ft north of POOR FARM ROAD NOTE: Arnold visited on November 3, 1904, Vol. 6, page 311, 'Beside the farm wall south side of road, the Town Farm new cemetery, no markers yet, several are buried here.' Shows on George Matteson map on NW corner of Town Farm and Poor Farm Roads. There are no gravestones evident in 1997. This cemetery has been recorded but not checked.
Cranston HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: CR552 TOWN FARM LOT 
CRANSTON RI 

SOUTH OF KNIGHTSVILLE STATION NOTE: James Arnold visited this lot 
13 Mar 1891 (Vol 1, Pg 74) A few rods south of the Knightsville Station and a short distance from the railroad bridge there is quite an extended burial lot of the poor who died on the Town farm. We understand that the first burial of the poor on this farm was precisely where the railroad bridge now is and were removed here when the railroad was built. This cemetery has been recorded but not checked. This cemetery is not registered and has not been located.
Exeter
EXETER HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: EX025 JOHN CHAPMAN LOT 
EXETER RI
  Location: 10 ft south of PURGATORY RD
  30 burials with 9    inscriptions from 1762 to 1801
  40  ft x 80   ft in fair condition no enclosure; sign in fair condition
  Tax Assessors Map #: 50   Plat #: 2    Lot #: 4 
 NOTE: At junction of Purgatory Rd & William Reynolds Rd.  According to
George Harris, who recorded this cemetery in 1880, there is a large grave in the 
northeast corner of this lot containing the remains of the town poor who were 
burned in the Peckham holocost.  There are 13 graves turned 90 deg to the rest, 
the reason for this is unknown.
Exeter
EXETER HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: EX029 
CAPT JOHN REYNOLDS MONUMENT  
EXETER RI
  Location: 20 ft north of ALLENTON RD at TEL pole # 157
  25  ft x 25   ft in fair condition enclosed with granite posts and iron rails;
  sign in fair condition
  Tax Assessors Map #: 68   Plat #:      Lot #:
  NOTE: 1/8 mile east of route #2.  This is not a cemetery, it is a monument to 
  Capt John Reynolds on the old poor farm to which he gave money.
Foster HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: FR060 SPEARS LOT FOSTER 
Location: 10 ft north of NORTH RD at TEL pole # 13 500 burials with 393 inscriptions from 1816 to 1991 NOTE: Council Bk 8 Pg 342 7 Oct 1905 
Henry Nye appointed to procure lot for burial of poor soldiers, sailors 
and marines of late Civil War. recorded 1992 by Donald & Barbara 
Boyden for FPS This cemetery has been recorded but not checked.
Glocester HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: GL109 PAINE LOT 
GLOCESTER RI
Location: 350 ft north of TOURTELLOT HILL RD 20 burials with 2 inscriptions from 1831 to 1848 NOTE: Sayles #108. 1/4 mile north of Chestnut Oak Rd., north of the poor farm. The driveway passes north and east and it is close to a house. This cemetery has been recorded but not checked.
Portsmouth HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: PO019 TOWN FARM LOT PORTSMOUTH west of WEST MAIN ROAD at TEL pole # 161 41 burials NOTE: The Portsmouth Ayslym, the town poor farm. When the institution rules were formulated in 1838, the 11th rule included the provision that " "All persons dying at the Assylum (sic), his or her relations or friends may have the liberty of burying them at their own expence (sic); but if at the town's expense, they may be buried at the Assylum or elsewhere at the discretion of the Commissioners" (repr. in John T. Pierce, Sr.'s "Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island," Portsmouth, 1991, p. 60). No transcription known at this time (1998); the 48 names entered in the database come not from gravestones, but from lists of "Inmates died at the Asylum" 1847-1875 in the "Book of Registry for the Portsmouth Asylum" at RIHS. The institution rules make it clear that some of these people may have been buried elsewhere. Two people were buried here from outside the poor farm. An additional three names for a period preceding the RIHS records have been entered on the basis of Benjamin Pearce's coffin records (BP); these show inexpensive coffins for names marked "Town House." In 1975 CETA gave the location as "on Raytheon property on the south side of their buildings," but they did not record the stones. Not found by Ian Kohl 1989. This cemetery has not been recorded.
Warwick HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: WK090 WARWICK POOR FARM CEMETERY WARWICK RI ASYLUM RD at TEL pole # 12 100 burials with 0 inscriptions 135 ft x 150 ft in good condition no enclosure; sign ??? Tax Assessors Map #: Plat #: 372 Lot #: 2 NOTE: Arnold visited this lot 25 Oct 1891; Vol 4 Pg 228. On the Asylum farm northeast from the house, lot fenced, some neglected. This was the cemetery for the Warwick Asylum (poor farm) from 1870 to 1943. Also buried here are paupers from elsewhere in town. The early markers are plain fieldstones, the later ones are cast concrete with no markings. The data on the burials comes from the almshouse records. This cemetery has been recorded and checked.
Warwick HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: WKA20 BUDLONG-BRIGGS LOT WARWICK RI WARWICK POOR FARM NOTE: James Arnold visited this lot 25 Oct 1891; Vol 4 Pg 170. In a corner of the Asylum farm, graves mostly obliterated and overgrown. This cemetery has been recorded but not checked.

 

We are hoping to build this base of information about poorhouses in RHODE ISLAND 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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