Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Once an entity
I have the
following to thank for information on the
A certain stigma was attached to those who had no recourse but to take up residence at the county poor farm. They either had no relatives who would take them in and care for them, or else they were rejected by family and consigned to work on the Poor Farm because they had to be supervised. Some evidently were lacking in mental or physical capacities and could not manage on their own as adults.
The “inmates” as they were called by the Benson-England report had no apparent afflictions, chronic diseases, or communicable diseases. The worst infirmity was “age,” with three being over seventy in 1934. In the report published in the county history book, a schedule of expenditures from the years 1929-1936 stated that there were eight to ten residents at any one time, and that expenditures were for salaries of the superintendents, pauper burials, clothing, provisions, medical or dental attention, transportation for the Civilian Conservation Corps “boys” who evidently were assigned to work on the farm and/or buildings (in 1935), allowance to paupers, medical aide, lunacy transportation and board, and one small item of $7.96 in 1934 for “miscellaneous.”
superintendents serving at the
Noting “Paupers’ Burials,” the lowest was in 1932 for $1.00. The highest year in those covered was 1934 when burial expenses were $118.21, and the second highest in 1933 of $107.53. The average for the eight years of statistics for burials was $62.89. No particulars were given, but the burial expenses probably covered a home-made casket, the clothes for the corpse to be buried in, transportation to a designated cemetery, and perhaps a small stipend for the minister or eulogist who presided at the funeral.
Benson-England report posed a series of questions about the
The land received no improvement to fertility. The examiners recommended rotation of crops and fertilization to make the land more productive. Fencing the farm was highly recommended. Raising cattle and hogs for the residents’ meat supply would be to a good use of farm facilities and labor. A small industry (not named) was recommended.
The buildings were old and in very poor repair except for a corn crib built in 1932, which was not sufficient in size to take care of the corn crop, because half of the building was used for the wagon shed.
The dwelling house was in a T-shape, with four rooms, one the kitchen. It was in poor condition, needing new shingles and a new floor, and a means of heating the individual rooms. The proposal was made for the addition of six rooms “in the near future,” with the CWA (Civil Works Administration?) assisting with the building.
The water supply was from a bold spring that had a flow of 1/2 gallon per minute. The spring house was used for refrigeration of milk and other perishables.
However, a grave threat to the spring was nearby. An outside privy was the only sewage disposal unit, only fifty feet away from the spring. The report stated: “This constitutes a health menace since the volume of water and the fall is not sufficient to preclude the possibility of flow-back to the spring that is used for drinking (water).” (Sketches of Union County History, p. 152 )
An interesting item in the Schedule from the Probate Judge’s office for the years 1929 through 1936 showed expenditures for “Lunacy Transport(ation) and Board.” The average annual expenditure over the eight-year period for this item was $79.80, with the largest amount spent in 1930 ($156.60).
We can imagine
the plight of these less-fortunate citizens, while at the same time we
must applaud county government for making efforts to provide for them.
I am an avid “quotations” person. Many quotations I found were
appropriate to the Union County Poor House and its mission. Jesus had
this to say about the poor: “You always have the poor with you”
(Matthew 26:11). Moses said: “The poor will never cease out of the
land” (Deuteronomy ).
The American writer, Will Carleton (1845-1912) wrote: “Over the hill to
the poorhouse I’m trudgin’ my weary way.”
In his annual message to Congress on
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail