1864 Herkimer County Poor House

“In the county poor house for Herkimer county there are one hundred and forty-eight paupers, thirty-one of whom are insane. Seventeen are males and fourteen are females. Fourteen of this number are mild cases of insanity; nine are violent, and eleven are confined to the house; eleven are of filthy habits; thirteen have been treated in the State asylum. Most of the cases have been admitted since 1850; but one case has been in the institution since 1844. One female is capable of labor, and three males of out door labor. The others have nothing to do in the way of amusement or pleasure. Handcuffs and straight jackets are used for restraint. The yard of the building has water in it, and tubs. The only ventilation is secured by lowering the windows. One inmate is confined in the basement cell, with the privilege of coming to the open air, once in three days!

The buildings used are one story, one being of wood and one of stone, the ceilings being 8 and 10 feet respectively, and the rooms severally 8 x 5 and 8 x 6.

The bedsteads are of wood. The ticks are filled with straw, which is changed twice each week. Three sleep on straw .alone, without bedsteads or bedding. The breakfast is bread and barley coffee; dinner, meat, potatoes and bread; bread and milk for tea. Each mess is taken to the room for the women. Most of the men eat at a long table in the hall. The house is heated with wood and coal stoves, but no attention is paid to uniformity of heat in the winter, though the stoves are kept constantly burning. The mild cases associate with the sane and sleep with them. There are no accommodations for the various grades, and to the wisdom of paupers is committed the care of the violent.

The full number that the institution can accommodate is twenty-four. The surplus number are kept with the sane. One escaped during the year who has not returned. A physician visits the institution twice weekly, or oftener, if sent for, but the care is merely temporary. The whole arrangement of the institution is bad, and there is nothing about it calculated to improve the condition of the insane; nothing sufficient to make them comfortable.”

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, Page 195-196.

New York State County Poor Houses.