South Dakota Poorhouse
the Poorhouse Story

Poor Farm, Huron, Beadle County, South Dakota.

1913 postmarked postcard

the Poorhouse Story



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

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Here is a wonderful article -- "Beadle County Poor Farm Recalled"  -- 8 Feb 1991
from the Huron Daily Plainsman,  to whom we are grateful for their consent to copy and share this with you.   PHL       NOTE: This article can take a long time to load ... but it's worth it!

Historical Notes about the Minnehaha County Poorhouse
(extracted from chapters 2 & 7 of the on-line version of "History of Minnehaha Co." from the USGenWeb files which contain the full text of Bailey's History -- 1899)
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Personal recollections of the Kingsbury County poor farm.

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"In 1913, the Beadle County Poor Farm was all of section 15, Township 110, Range 61 (Custer Township) according to the Standard atlas of Beadle County, South Dakota, George A. OGLE & Co., comp. & pub. (Chicago, IL: 1913), Custer Township, page 35."
     Sheryl Stearns Hickle

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     The remains of seven people who were buried in the cemetery of the old Meade County poor farm have recently (December 2001 through February 2002) been uncovered during digging for the construction of a new home in Sturgis, according to recent newspaper reports. The articles state that county officials are just now finding records of the old poor farm. Apparently the State Office of History’s Archaeological Research Office is helping to locate other unmarked graves on the site and identify the gender, approximate age and ethnic origin of the remains. A 1902 plat indicates approximately 300 graves near the poor farm. In the absence of any burial records, officials are reviewing county commission minutes for more information. 

     People whose lives ended at county poorhouses often lived lives which remain obscure to those who would wish to honor them.  People who live and die in poverty often left no “paper trail” which genealogists could use to learn more about their ancestors. We would like to suggest that the community could best show its respect for those people who are buried in those unmarked graves by continuing to search for records which will hopefully identify them … and also record and acknowledge the history of this poor farm. 

     Many communities have made similar discoveries. Two of them have recently been written up in stories in the New York Times and the Saint Louis Dispatch. That these old poorhouses have often been ignored by history and very little respect shown the people who died there is a national problem.  But the test of the degree of respect for our ancestors … and our desire to know the history of not just the rich and famous … is measured by what we do to correct the situation now.  

     Responses in other communities have ranged from situations where officials have simply refused to acknowledge the existence of poorhouse cemeteries (as in Milwaukee WI) -- to places where the cemetery has always been well maintained (as in Washington County NY)  -- to places which have been able to create a small memorial park (as in Erie County PA) even where disrespect has been shown in the past.

We hope that the people of Meade County set an example for the rest of the country and do the right thing. It sounds like they are well on the way toward doing that.  PHL


County Home/Farm Cemetery, Gregory Co., SD

County Home/Farm Cemetery, Union Co., SD 

the Poorhouse Story

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