1893 Wayne County Poor House

Wayne County Poor-house, was visited by Commissioner Craig, accompanied by the superintendent of the poor and Rev. A. Parke Burgess, D. D., of Newark, the chairman of the county visitors of the State Charities Aid Association, and also in company with the matron, Mrs. Albert Shepard, and in part with the keeper Mr. Shepard, July 7, 1893.

The population of the poor-house, on the day of the visit, was 85; of which 52 were men and 32 were women, and one was a baby under 2 years old; three males and two females, were idiots or feeble-minded; one man and two women were epileptics; and 12 inmates were insane; but none were children between 2 and 16 years of age.

The inmates were housed as follows: In old building 14 women and 6 men; in new building, lately used for the insane exclusively, 31 men, and 18 women, and the one child, making 49 inmates, including the 12 insane.

Of the insane, 7 were men and 5 were women, and their names are given as follows: Stephen D. Howell, Charles E. Bender, William Everson, William Codman, Byron Jones, Jacob Legner, John Merrigan; Hannah Crisby, Alice Pulver, Caroline C. Lyman, Lucy Goldsmith, Elsie A. Van Epps.

With the exception of John Merrigan, who was released from the State hospital on bond, all of the said insane persons were inmates of the insane department of this poor-house, under the exemption granted by the State Board of Charities prior to the passage of the State Care Act; but were not included among the patients who were transferred to the Willard State Hospital, May 13, 1892.

After the objection made by Dr. Hoyt, the secretary of the State board, to such exception of the eleven inmates from such transfer to the State hospital, the overseers of the poor of their respective towns were appointed committees of the persons of these insane inmates, respectively on one and the same day, to wit., on the 28th day of November, 1892.

These 12 insane inmates are kept on the same wards with sane paupers, in the building formerly used for the insane department; but there are no paid attendants or employes on any of these wards, except one woman attendant. The man in charge of the bath-tub and the bathing, and of the cleaning of the ward of the insane men with sane paupers is one of the said insane inmates, though the keeper states that all of the same is under his own supervision. But the facts remain that no person other than this insane man is in immediate charge of this ward having insane men, and the keeper resides in another building.

Among the insane inmates Charles Bender is, sometimes, disturbed and violent, according to the statement of the keeper.

There are no proper systems of water supply or plumbing or sewers. The sewage is conducted into the Erie canal.

The building formerly occupied for the insane department is now devoted to paupers and the said twelve insane inmates, the total census of which, was fifty on the day of inspection. The lack of proper water supply is here felt, in the bathing arrangements; where, in the male ward, six persons are bathed successively, in one tub and the same water.

The buildings of the old poor-house proper have no facilities for bathing, and are filled in winter to overcrowding with paupers, the population of which, on the day of the visit was 20. One of its dormitories is occupied by old women. Another dormitory without proper ventilation, is occupied by beds, which are twenty-six in number, and double the normal capacity of the room, which are, the matron states, all used in winter. This is a great abuse.

The hospital is a detached building, being an old structure, the walls of which harbor bed bugs and cock roaches. The bedsteads in the hospital are wooden, and with the straw beds, covered with old comforters or quilts, invite the bugs from the walls, but prevent thorough measures for their extermination. The sink in the hospital empties through a pipe directly into the privy vault immediately outside, and is without trap or ventilation, converting the hospital into a chimney for the vault, especially in winter when, as Silva Parmenter, the pauper inmate in charge, states, the consequent odor is very repulsive. There is no bath-room or bath tub or other facility for bathing in the hospital. There is no attendant or paid employe in this hospital. Its census on the day of visitation was fifteen men.

The food prepared for the different tables on the day of inspection was examined. It appeared to be of good quality and sufficient, consisting of fried pork, potatoes, green peas, bread and tea or milk. It was stated that each patient could choose between tea and milk. The dietary reported by the matron is as follows:

Breakfast – Pork, potatoes and bread with tea, coffee and milk, quite often beef instead of pork.
Dinner – Roast or corned beef, potatoes and some other vegetables besides, bread and butter, pie or pudding, tea and milk.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Soup, meat and potatoes, bread, tea and milk.
Supper – Fried potatoes and meat, bread and butter, tea and milk and occasionally cottage cheese.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Bean soup, baked beans and pork, potatoes and bread, tea and milk.
Supper – Cold beans and pork, fried potatoes, bread and butter and cookies, tea and milk.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Meat pie or potpie, potatoes and some other vegetables bread and tea and milk.
Supper – Cold meat and fried potatoes, bread and butter tea and milk, raw onions.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Fried pork, potatoes and some other vegetables, bread and tea, milk.
Supper – Fried potatoes, cold meat, bread and butter, cookies, raw onions, tea and milk.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Boiled or baked potatoes, fried pork and fish, and some vegetables as side dish, bread, tea and milk.
Supper – Fried potatoes, cold meat, boiled rice, with sugar, bread and butter, tea and milk.

Breakfast – Same as Sunday.
Dinner – Usually have some kind of “boiled dinner,” using the different vegetables, in their seasons, bread, tea and milk.
Supper – Baked potatoes, cold meat, bread and butter, and occasionally milk toast or cottage cheese, etc., tea and milk.

In their seasons, all the different vegetables are supplied to the inmates in abundance, without restriction. The same is true in regard to cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and all fruits.

The redeeming feature of this institution is its matron, who is energetic, devoted to the welfare of its inmates and self-sacrificing in their behalf.

There is no resident physician, but Dr. John W. Robinson of Lyons, is the regular visiting physician, and makes stated calls as often as three times a week and special calls when needed.

The only paid attendant or employe on the wards or in the dormitories is one in the women’s department of the old asylum building; and there is but one cook or paid employe in the kitchen which provides for the inmates.

Annual salary of keeper $ 1,000, and of physician $400, exclusive of cost of medicines, for which $270 was expended last year. Weekly cost of keeping inmates, per capita, one dollar and forty-six cents, exclusive of farm products.

Conclusions and Recommendations.
I. The buildings of the old poor-house should be destroyed or radically renovated.

II. A proper system for an abundant supply of pure water should be established.

III. The system of plumbing and sewers should be examined by a competent and trustworthy plumber whose reputation is established, and all defects supplied and sanitary and adequate construction and appliances secured.

IV. The pollution of the waters of the Erie canal should be stopped and prohibited by the proper authorities; and following the example of Livingston county, some approved system for the disposal of sewage adopted by the board of supervisors.

V. The insane should be removed to the Willard State Hospital.

VI. Until an abundant supply of water shall be secured, the bath tubs should be replenished for each inmate bathed with fresh water from the adjacent Erie canal, if no better source is sufficient.

VII. The old bedsteads and beds should give place to iron bedsteads and wire mattresses, in order to secure freedom from bedbugs, and to insure proper cleanliness.

VIII. The care already exercised to separate the worthy poor from the vicious pauper, should be carried still further, and so far as practicable.

IX. It is evident that the building formerly used for the insane department, is, with the old poor-house buildings, inadequate for the inmates of this county institution; and, therefore, that there is no occasion for the appraisal of the same under chapter 461 of the Laws of 1890.

X. The superintendent of the poor and the keeper and matron at the poor-house, as well as the chairman of the local visitors, should be invited to co-operate in all practicable measures for reforms and remedies of abuses and evils suggested in the foregoing findings of fact and general conclusions.”

SOURCE: Annual Report of the State Board of Charities for the Year 1893, Transmitted to the Legislature February 1, 1894, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1894, Pages 480-485.