1864 Columbia County Poor House

“It is a sad spectacle to humanity, that which is revealed in the condition of the insane paupers of Columbia county. There are at the poor house one hundred and twenty-seven inmates, twenty-seven of whom are lunatics. They have been admitted to the poor house at various periods since 1840. Sixteen are males and eleven are females. Twenty-one cases are mild in character. Twenty-six are noted as filthy! Only two have ever been treated in an asylum. Eight males and three females are capable of doing some labor. Others have no amusement provided for them. Five require occasional restraint. There is an inadequate supply of water; there is no bath tub; the lunatics are not required to wash hands and face daily. Cleanliness, ventilation and uniformity of heat in winter are not observed to any particular degree. The rooms have not bedsteads in all of them. Twelve sleep on straw without bedsteads. The straw is changed once or twice a week. The building is heated by coal “poorly applied.” Mild cases are put with the sane paupers. There are no accommodations for the various grades of the insane. One assistant keeper is aided by the sane paupers in the care of lunatics. The atmosphere in the rooms was very impure and unhealthy. The county takes recent cases. Several were admitted in 1863 and 1864. The females have a change of under garments every week; the males none. None had had stockings during the winter; all had shoes. There is no convenience for out of door exercise. No provision is made for medical treatment; they do not receive any medical attendance at all, nor care of any sort with reference to ultimate recovery. Confirmed lunacy and hopeless idiocy is the fate that threatens the unfortunate who passes this threshold.”

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 187-188.

New York State County Poor Houses