County Poor Farm

(submitted by Elaine Nall Bay)

Shortly after it's creation, Rains County had provided for the care of its pauper residents.  Among the business conducted
by the Rains County Commissioners Court during the February Term 1894, it was ordered that W.H. Teague, County Judge, enter into a contract in behalf of Rains County with A.J. Bruce, Supt. and the Poor Farm of said county, to take care of paupers who may be sent there under his care.  The contract stipulated that A.J. Bruce was to put his full time and labor on said farm and to have the cooking, washing done, etc.  The County was to furnish provisions, teams, tools, feed, houses, and everything necessary to maintain and run the county poor farm.  Mr. Bruce was to receive $20 per month for his services.  (Rains Co. Commissioners Minutes, 2/392)

Later that year in November 1894 the Rains County Commissioners Court contracted with Charlie Buchannan to be Supt. of the Rains County Poor Farm for three months at a salary of $25 per month.  Mr. Buchannan agreed to board himself and his family.  Several months later in February 1895 the Court again contracted with Charlie Buchanan to take charge of and controlthe Poor Farm as Supt. until the August 1905 term, paying him $25 per month for his services out of the Courthouse fund set apart for Poor Farm purposes.   (Rains Co. Commissioners Minutes, 2/451)

At the appointed Court Term, the Commissioners Court entered into a contract with R.S. Little as Poor Farm Supt. for Rains
County at $15 per month from August to October 1, 1895.  After October 1, Mr. Little was to receive $20 per month for his services.  At the end of November 1895 the Commissioners ordered the Court to abandon the Poor Farm until the next term
of the Court.  The Court contracted with R.S. Little, instead, to take care of and board paupers at $7 per person; he had use
of the horse and wagon belonging to the County and any other property belonging to said county for the purpose of caring
for the people.  The County sold R.S. Little two hogs @ 4c per pound.   (Rains Co. Commissioners Minutes, 2/522)

In the January 1905 court term, the Court ordered all paupers and pensionsers of Rains County and their keepers to appear before the Court for the purpose of giving an account of the conditions of said paupers.  (Rains Co. Commissioners Minutes, 4/132)

The next record found concerning the County Poor Farm was inJune 1907 when the Commissioners ordered the Court to rent a house from J.W. Cox for occupancy of the Poor Farm Supt. and paupers.  The following day the Commissioners Court reprimanded E.S. Barker, Supt. of the Poor Farm.  "SaidBarker is receiving a large salary for his services and under said contract his entire time belonged to Rains County.  There has been a complaint about said Barker remaining in town, etc.  The Court ordered that said Barker shall put in his full time at work for the County and when he is not engaged on the farm or at bridge building he shall put in his time in cutting wood on said farm.  Said wood to be cut as follows:  20 cords of 20 inch wood, then balance in 174 4 foot wood.  Any failure to comply fully with said contract will be treated as a cancellation and will be terminated at once."  The Clerk was to notify E.S. Barker by delivering him a copy of said order.   (Rains Co. Commissioners Minutes, 4/347)

By 1915 the Commissioners Court was paying individuals monthly payments as wards of the County or as pensions.  April Term 1915, Ordered that Joe Richards be paid $5 per month and be placed upon the County as ward.When people fell upon hard times and were unable to support themselves or their immediate families during the early 1900's, they could go to county poor farms or poorhouses.  In rural areas, paupers were usually sent to the county poor farm if their needs were great or long-term where they could live independently.   This provided an alternative to "outdoor relief", known today as "welfare".  The the paupers could work to raise their own food, thus making the poorhouses more self-sufficient, relying less on local tax funds. Thus the term "poor farm" came into being.

"C. Snell has filed application for the position of Superintendent of the poorfarm for 1907, at $375 per annum, everything furnished by county.  He also offers to furnish a wagon and team and farm tools, together with four milch cows."  (The Rains County Leader, August 4, 1906).

After the Civil War, the state of Texas ruled that no Civil War Veteran who was in a poor financial condition was to be placed in a poorhouse.  Instead he could apply for relief through his pension.  By 1875 states ruled that neither children nor mentally ill patients could be placed in the Poorhouses or on Poor Farms.

Most genealogy researchers do not expect to find their ancestors or relatives living in these institutions.  However, these places served a variety of people, including:Homeless families who may have been burned or flooded out of their homes Destitute families who, for a time, could not afford to buy food, clothing or fuel
Unwed mothers Orphans Elderly people who were frail or ill and had no one to care  for them.  Seasonally unemployed workers who often were single men needing housing for the winter.  Handicapped people such as those who were mentally ill, mentally retarded, blind, or physically handicapped.  Sick people who had no money for treatment.

The federal census usually treated the Poor farm as a household, and in that household, might have listed
employees (i.e. Keeper or Superintendent, and his family, and other people who may have worked in the poorhouse doing laundry, farm work, etc.) as well as inmates.  During the destructive tornado that struck Rains County in the spring of 1907, it is noted that damage was done to the "CountyPoor Farm occupied by Supt. Baker & family and Frank Cooke & family."  (The Rains County Leader, May 1907)

The Rains County Poor Farm was located north of Emory as indicated by the following quote: "A.L. Taylor has just
finished his house on the old poor farm north of town.  The county having authorized the chairman of the cyclone relief committee to pay him the $100 held by the chairman for this purpose, thus releasing the county from all responsibility from the destruction of his property. It will be remembered that the former residence was destroyed by a cyclone and the commissioners' court made the compromise with Mr. Taylor."  (The Rains County Leader, February 12,1909)