1864 Saratoga County Poor House

“Between the fashionable resorts of Saratoga and the guests who crowd them, and the poor house of Saratoga and its lunatic inmates, there is a sad contrast! The poor house of Saratoga has one hundred and fifty inmates, fifteen of whom are insane. Nine are males and six are females; nine are natives and six of foreign birth; eleven of these cases are of mild form. One has been a resident since 1842, and another since 1844. Four of the number are capable of performing some labor, the others are provided with no amusement. Three are destructive to their clothing, and two require occasional restraint by handcuffs or otherwise.

There is a supply of water but no bath tub; the insane are not required to bathe, nor are they required to wash hands and face daily. There is no arrangement for ventilation or uniformity of heat in winter; all have beds and bedsteads, the straw is changed twice every year. The building is warmed by stoves, wood and coal being used for fuel. There are no accommodations for the various grades of the insane. Pauper attendants are alone employed to care for them. The institution receives recent cases. Five have shoes; in the winter ten had neither shoes or stockings! There are ten cells, into which twenty lunatics have at times been crowded. No provision is made for medical treatment, they are visited only when sick; no case is treated with reference to its ultimate recovery.

The select committee on “charitable institutions, &c.,” in 1857, said, “of this institution, of the inmates ten are lunatics, three males and seven females, all are paupers. They receive no special attendance. Five are confined at times in cells, and some are restrained at times by shackles and handcuffs. The keeper reports that some have been improved. Lunatics have escaped from the house and not again been found. Eleven of the inmates are idiots, five males and six females; all are over ten years of age.”

This house is old and badly dilapidated. The rooms are low, sadly out of repair, and the air in the sleeping rooms most foul and noisome. It is is very well attended, however, by the present keeper, and is kept in as good order as possible.

“Corporeal punishment is administered to men, women and children.”

Dr. Gilbert, in 1864, says: “The building is old and considerably dilapidated. The foundation has settled unevenly, giving a degree of distortion to the floors and ceilings; and the ceilings are cracked and crumbled off. The floors are somewhat more uneven from the knots protruding, and particulary around the outside doors, which are somewhat decayed. The ceiling in the rear part of the building is broken and low, the -windows are small and loosely fitted, the base shrunken, leaving an open space, and thereby rendering it cold and uncomfortable in cold and damp weather. The furniture as the bedsteads and chairs are very old and worn. The bedding is cotton and quite ordinary, yet in a majority of the rooms clean, the floors and woodwork clean also. The inmates were thinly and poorly clad, yet clean and tidy, and apparently healthy.”

There has evidently been no improvement. The miserable old prison of 1857 and the rickety and ill-arranged gloomy place for confining the unfortunate insane poor of 1864, is one and the same—a burning disgrace to the county and the State.”

SOURCE: Documents of the Assembly Of The State Of New York, Eighty-Eighth Session, 1865, Volume 6, Nos. 199 to 112 Inclusive, Albany: C. Wendell, Legislative Printer, 1865, Pages 213-214.

New York State County Poor Houses.

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One thought on “1864 Saratoga County Poor House

  1. Pingback: Milton Township and the story of the Saratoga County Almshouse in 1900 – History Hermann

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