1893 Yates County Poor House

Yates County Poor-house was visited by Commissioner Craig without notice, in company with the keeper, Mr. Charles S. Cook, and the matron, Mrs. Charles S. Cook, July 22, 1893.

The census of the day shows, inmates, 30; of which 23 were men and 7 were women; 4 males and 2 females were idiots or feeble-minded; 2 women were epileptics; none were insane; none were children between 2 and 16 years old.

The buildings remain substantially the same; but new bath-tubs have been put in; though they are not used, for the reason stated, that, being on the second floor, there is no way of supplying warm water for them in the summer weather, when steam is not turned on to heat the house, except by carrying hot water up two flights of stairs. The dormitories for men and those for women are divided into single rooms. This arrangement ensures classification or separation of the decent poor from the vicious pauper while in their respective rooms.

The new bath-tubs not being used for the reason already stated, the women use pails for bathing, and the men bathe in the old movable bath-tub in the detached building known as “the hospital.” In this hospital are two men ill and nearly helpless, who have no care except such as may be given by a pauper inmate, who evidently, is not very efficient, or perfectly trustworthy; and save also such as the keeper’s supervision and occasional presence may insure. One of these sick men has palsy with dementia and occasional delusions. The other sick man has paralysis of his left side, and has to be lifted from and to his bed; but appears intelligent and uncomplaining. The situation, considerably removed from the main building, the dirty floors, the foul smells, and the general atmosphere of the place, aroused a feeling of profound pity for the uncomplaining sufferer. There is not intended any reflection on the keeper, who seemed disposed to do the duty devolving upon him personally, though, perhaps, unaware of the necessity of a better assistant in the hospital. The criticism is on the system which preceded the office of the present keeper. In correspondence with the superintendent of the poor, he writes, that “the building should be called a building for old men, as we do not take sick persons always to that room, but generally leave them in the main building; but the people have got in the habit of calling it a hospital.”

In one of the rooms of the main building was an inmate suffering with ulcers of the foot of a serious nature, who was attended by a pauper inmate. His request that Dr. Wm. Oliver, of Penn Yan, might, rather than the visiting physician, give him professional attendance, had been granted, showing evidence of the humane consideration of the wishes of the patients. One woman inmate, stricken with apoplexy and dying, by name Angeline Merritt, is remembered as giving evidence on former visits, of being an efficient and faithful helper, though an invalid. There are not wanting cases in poor-houses of which this is an instance, showing not only self respect, but due regard for others, and disposition to become useful on the part of the unfortunate, but worthy poor.

There is no dietary established as yet by the new keeper; but the diet includes fresh beef twice a week. Dr. McGovern, the physician, visits once each week, and whenever called.

The rooms in the main building, their contents and inmates were clean and in good condition, except remnants of bedbugs, against which a well conducted fight was in progress. The general administration under the new keeper and matron, who took office last April, appears to be relatively good, and likely to improve under their manifest purpose to do right.

The annual salary of the keeper and matron is $500; the physician receives two dollars per visit; being about $160 last year, exclusive of medicines. The weekly cost per capita is one dollar and nineteen cents.

Among other suggestions implied in the foregoing criticisms, it is recommended that the detached building, known as “the hospital,” so long as it may be used as such, for any cases, be put in cleaner and better condition, and under the care of a resident assistant, other than a pauper.”

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 497-499. 


1893 Monroe County Poor House

Monroe County Poor-house was inspected without notice, by Commissioner Craig, in company with Mr. David M. Hough, chairman of sub-committee of county visitors, and accompanied by Mr. C.V. Lodge, the warden, July 24, 1893. An official visit with the same company was made in the preceding winter.

The number of inmates in Monroe County Alms-house, July 24, 1893, was 266; of which men were 174, and women were 92; infants under 2 years old were 2; epileptics were, men, 5, and women, 2, total 7; idiots were, males, 3, females, 1, total, 4; blind were, men, 2, women, 1, total, 3; of insane there were none, and of children between 2 and 16 years of age there were none. Number of State paupers, males, 5, total, 5, as follows:
No. 316. Jacob Zimmerlee.
No. 1803. John Hoyt.
No. 1827. Michael Welch.
No. 1837. Frank Aubry.
No. 1836. John Murphy.

In 1892 an addition was built to the east wing of the male department, 50 x 60 feet, and four stories high, with slate roof, to correspond with the old part. A lavatory, 15 x 18 feet, and four stories high, was also built on the north side at the junction of the new and old parts, and connected with the main building by a cross corridor. The addition is built of brick and finished on the inside, on the brick, with two coats of paint and a coat of spar varnish-no plaster. The floors are hard maple and the ceilings corrugated steel, except the fourth story. It is heated by steam, with Bundy radiators, having flues from the bottom, through the wall to the outside air.

Ventilation is secured through ventilating flues in chimneys, with steam coil in the top, to insure circulation. The fourth story has a ceiling of Georgia pine and trussed roof, leaving a clear floor, 50 x 53 feet, eighteen feet hjgh. This room is used as a hospital ward, and can accommodate thirty patients. The first, second and third floors have a few rooms for employes, but are mainly used as dormitories, and have a capacity of about 100.

The floors in the lavatory are iron beams with brick arches and white vitrified tile. The second and fourth stories are each fitted with a white indurated fibre bath-tub, a spray bath, two large iron sinks, a urinal, with slate back and sides, and two washout closets. The first and third stories are fitted just the same as above, except that they have no bath-tub. Total cost, $15,000. The present season a grain barn has been built, adjoining the horse barn, with stables in the basement for cattle, at cost of $3,400.

The bread and other articles of food were examined, and found good, on the day of inspection and the day of preceding visit. The land cultivated is said to supply all the vegetables except potatoes. The milk of eleven to fifteen cows is used by the inmates. The dietary, with comments of the warden, is copied verbatim from his written statement, as follows, to wit: Winter diet-table for Monroe County Alms-house, 1892-3:

Breakfast – Rice, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat, potatoes, pickled beets, bread, ginger cake, coffee or tea.
Supper – None.

Breakfast – Corn meal mush, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat, potatoes, turnips, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Oatmeal or soup, syrup, bread, tea.

Breakfast – Rice, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat and potatoes, bodied cabbage, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Corn meal mush, or soup, syrup, bread, tea.

Breakfast – Oat meal, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat and potatoes, onions, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Oat meal, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.

Breakfast – Rice, bread, syrup, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat and potatoes, boiled cabbage, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Corn meal mush, or soup, syrup, bread, tea,

Breakfast – Rice, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Codfish and potatoes, pickled carrots or onions, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Oat meal, syrup, bread, tea.

Breakfast – Corn meal mush, syrup, bread, coffee or tea.
Dinner – Meat and potatoes, turnips, bread, coffee or tea.
Supper – Oat meal or soup, syrup, bread, tea.

By “coffee or tea,” is meant that both coffee and tea are provided, and the inmates have their option. The meat provided is beef. Some is salted, but mostly fresh. Three times a week soup is substituted for oat meal or corn meal, but not always on the days marked on this table. The hospital ward is provided with the same diet as given in the diet table, and in addition stewed dried fruit twice a week, butter for supper for all; and buttered toast and bread three times per day with milk or milk punch as the physician may order. From sixty to seventy quarts of milk per day are used on that ward, and from three to four dozen eggs. In the summer time one day in the week pork and beans are subtituted for beef.

For vegetables in summer, potatoes are used every day, and turnips, green peas, tomatoes, string beans and cabbage as the gardens may be able to supply. Cherries were given to every inmate when ripe on the trees. Once a week this summer a dry stew with baked dressing and once a week a dumpling stew is given. With the above variation the summer diet would be the same as in’ winter. Three hundred and eighty pounds first class turkey were provided for Thanksgiving dinner.

There are two paid chaplains, viz., Rev. J. Ross Lynch, Protestant; and Rev. John P. Stewart, Roman Catholic. Each chaplain holds Sunday services, and ministers to the inmates as they may severally need. There is one visiting physician, viz., Frederick Remington, M.D., of Rochester, who visits the poor-house each day. There is also a resident assistant physician, or interne, who receives fifteen dollars per month. On inquiry the inmates of the hospital and the infirm in other wards, without exception, stated that the principal physician, Dr. Remington, visited them respectively each day, or so often as needed and desired. No complaints were made by inmates in these or other respects.

The beds and dormitories were generally clean and in good order on the day of inspection. Ladies who accompanied the inspectors remarked that some of the bedspreads and bedding had gone too long without washing; but none of the sheets or beds examined, including those of filthy persons, appeared to be soiled. Samples were examined in every ward and dormitory.

The statements of ordinary inmates, as well as of assistants, confirmed the advices from the warden, that one of the two sheets on each bed is changed every week in ordinary cases, and in addition, so often as the needs or habits of infirm inmates make necessary or proper, in some cases several times a day; and that each inmate is bathed once a week in clean water. The closets and bath-tubs were clean and generally in good order. Some of the closets with plumbing, however, are not so good as those in the new hospital for men.

The inmates of the hospital for men seem comfortable under the administration of the paid attendant, verifying the opinion of the board that the sick and infirm should be cared for by competent and faithful persons other than pauper inmates. The general conclusion from the foregoing and all the facts observed on the said inspection and former visit, is that the administration of the Monroe County Poor-house is excellent.

Warden’s salary, per year, $1,000; matron’s salary, per year, $360; physician’s salary, per year, $1,000; assistant physician’s salary, per year, $180; chaplain’s salary (Roman Catholic), $150; chaplain’s salary (Protestant), $150. Last year’s cost of medicines, in addition to salaries of physicians, $809.99. Weekly cost per capita for year, one dollar and thirty-five cents.”

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 500-504. 

1893 Seneca County Poor House

Seneca County Poor-house was visited by Commissioner Craig, without notice, July 18, 1893.

The commissioner called with a carriage on several of the visitors of the State Charities Aid Association, who are residents of Waterloo, to request them to accompany him, on his inspection; but found them out of town or engaged and unable to go with him. The keeper of the poor-house, Mr. Reuben E. Saeger, was absent, at Seneca Falls, and was not expected to return until evening. Many of the men were in the harvest field or absent from the house. All the inmates present were inspected, with dormitories, kitchen and adjacent buildings, in company with the matron, the wife of the keeper.

The keeper has reported the census on the twenty-fourth day of July, six days after the visit, as follows:

Inmates, 45; consisting of, men, 37; women, 8; idiots, 3; epileptics, none; insane, none; children between 2 and 16 years of age, none; children under two years old, none. State paupers. 11, viz.:
Record No. 269, A. A. Stevens.
Record No. 271, Patrick Boyle.
Record No. 287, Wm. O’Herron.
Record No. 352, Fred Taylor.
Record No. 362, James O’Donnell.
Record No. 375, John McCarthy.
Record No. 393, Hayward Wilcox.
Record No. 403, Joseph Hansen.
Record No. 435, Timothy Casey.
Record No. 452, John W. Henderson.
Record No. 453, Michael Hayes.

Buildings and Appliances.
The improvements which were recommended at the last preceding visit of the commissioner with the secretary of the State board, have not been made. The recommendations, among other things, were that the old one-story wood building should be abandoned as untenantable; that a proper bath-room and tub should be supplied; and that the women should be assigned to a separate yard and excluded from the men’s yard. In order to make room in the main building for the inmates of the untenantable building, it was suggested that there should be built for the keeper and his family a cottage, which would be less expensive than a new detached building for inmates. The committee appointed by the board of supervisors reported adversely on the suggestion for a separate cottage, and ignored the principal recommendations.

The only stationary bath-tub for the men is in a dark closet, built in the room used as the hospital for men. Pails or hand-tubs in one of the detached buildings are used in preference to the stationary tub.

The women have no hospital. An inmate of one of the rooms opening into a common ward, an aged woman, appeared to be near dying. In the same room were two other inmates, one of whom, though suffering with rheumatism, was the acting attendant of the dying woman.

The men’s hospital is the room in which is partitioned off the dark closet containing the stationary bath-tub already mentioned. In this room was a man, said to be afflicted with heart disease, who appeared to be suffering pain; and on a bed another man appeared to be paralyzed or helpless, and was said to be demented; and another pauper inmate who appeared to be acting attendant on these sick men.

In the dormitories the beds and bedding were not tidy. The beds were not filthy, and the sheets were not soiled, in the sense in which the term is specifically used, but the old quilts and beds and bedding were not in good condition.

The bread, both old and new, was found to be under done, and in this respect unfit for the human stomach, especially where, as in poor-houses, it forms a large part of the diet. The dietary for the week preceding August 7, 1893, has been furnished by the keeper, as follows:

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread and coffee.
Dinner (2.30 p. m.) – Boiled beef, soup. potatoes, bread, tea.

Breakfast – Beef stew, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled corned beef, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, rice.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled shoulder (warm), potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fried pork, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Pork and beans (warm), bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fish, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Codfish (boiled), potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, rice.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled beef, soup, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

“We have milk instead of coffee for supper at times, as we have it.”

The visiting physician, Dr. McNamara, resides at Seneca Falls, four miles distant, and visits once a week. It did not appear that special visits had been made to the sick persons already mentioned. There are no stated services of a religious character. The pastor of the Presbyterian church and the rector of the Episcopal church make occasional visits, and the Roman Catholic priest responds to calls from members of his church. The foregoing statements respecting bath-tub, want of bathroom for men, untenantable building and absence of proper precautions for separation of sexes relate to question of humane care.

Economical Elements of Administration.
There is a farm of 124 acres, of which about 100 acres are under cultivation, the residue not being arable on account of limestone too near the surface to admit the plow, but used as pasture lot. The annual salaries are as follows: Keeper, $500; matron, none; physician, $200; the annual cost of medicines, $175, not being included in physician’s salary. The weekly cost of keeping inmates per capita is one dollar and forty cents.

I. It is advised that the secretary recommend the superintendent of the poor and the supervisors that the improvements formerly recommended and specified in the foregoing, be made.
II. It is recommended that the contract for boarding State paupers in Seneca County Poor-house, and the designation of the said poor-house as a State alms-house, be made dependent on provisions for a proper bath-room, with tub for men, and proper measures for the separation of the sexes and the decent housing of the inmates.”

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 486-489. 

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. 

1824 New York State Poor House Law

1824 – An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of County Poorhouses.   Chapter 331, Laws of 1824, Passed 27th November 1824.   

“I. Be it enacted by the People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, That it shall be the duty of the board of supervisors of each county in this State (the counties of Genesee, Yates, Greene, Washington, Rensselaer, Queens, Essex, New York, Montgomery, Suffolk, Schoharie, Chautauqua, Cortland, Dutchess, Orange, Allegany, Richmond, Monroe, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Kings, Putnam, Delaware, Franklin, Oswego, Otsego, Columbia, St. Lawrence, Rockland, Albany, Tompkins, Tioga, Schenectady, Seneca, Madison, Onondaga, Oneida and Ulster, excepted), at their next meeting after the passing of this act, to direct the purchase of one or more tracts of land, not exceeding the quantity of two hundred acres, and thereon build and erect for the accommodation, employment and use of the said county, one or more suitable buildings, to be denominated the poorhouse of the county of _____ and to defray the expense of such purchase and building, raise by tax on estates real and personal, of the freeholders and inhabitants of the same county, a sum not exceeding the sum of seven thousand dollars, by such installments and at such times as may be ordered by the board of supervisors, to be assessed and collected in the same manner as the other county charges are assessed and collected, which money, when collected, shall be paid over by the treasurer of said county to said supervisors, or such persons as they shall for that purpose designate, to be applied to defraying the expenses aforesaid. II. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the supervisors of said county, at their meeting on the first Tuesday of October, annually, to choose and appoint, by plurality of votes, not less than five persons, who shall be denominated superintendents of the poorhouse of the county of who shall, until the first Tuesday of October next thereafter, take upon themselves, and have the exclusive charge, management, direction and superintendence of said poorhouse, and of everything relating to the same: and shall and may, from time to time, with the approbation and consent of a majority of the judges of the county courts of such county, make, ordain and establish such prudential rules, regulations and by-laws, for the well ordering of the same, and the employment, relief, management and government of the persons therein placed, and the officers and servants therein employed, and the correction of the refractory, disobedient and disorderly, by solitary confinement therein, and feeding them on bread and water only, as they shall deem expedient for the good government of the same; and shall and may, from time to time, appoint and employ a suitable person to be keeper of the same house, and necessary servants under him, and the same keeper and servants remove at pleasure, or otherwise, if they shall deem it more advisable; and it shall be lawful for the said superintendents to contract with some suitable person for the support of those persons who are placed in said poor house, who shall give a bond to said superintendents, with sufficient sureties, for the faithful performance of his contract, and who shall and may be authorized to employ the persons so committed to his charge, in like manner as if he was appointed keeper of said poorhouse. III. And be it further enacted, That whenever, after the said poorhouse shall be completed, any poor person in any city or town of the same county shall apply for relief, the said overseer of the poor of such city or town shall make application to a justice of the peace of said county, which said justice and overseer shall enquire into the state and circumstances of the person so applying for relief as aforesaid; and if it shall appear to the said justice and overseer of the poor, that such person is in such indigent circumstances as to require relief, it shall be their duty (unless the sickness of the pauper prevent) instead of ordering relief in the manner directed in and by the twenty-fifth section of the act entitled “An act for the relief and settlement of the poor,” to issue his warrant under his hand, directed to any constable of such city or town, whose duty it shall be to execute the same, thereby requiring said constable forthwith to take such poor person so applying for relief, and remove him or her to said poorhouse, and there deliver him or her to the care of the keeper of the same house, to be relieved and provided for as his or her necessities shall require; and he or she shall be discharged therefrom by order of the superintendents of the same house, or some one of them. And further, That in case the said superintendent, by a resolution to be passed by a majority of the board, shall give permission, and so long and no longer, as such permission shall be continued, it shall and may be lawful for any justice of the peace of said county, whenever a disorderly person, under or within the meaning of the act entitled “An act for apprehending and punishing disorderly persons,” instead of the punishment directed by the same act, by warrant under his hand and seal, to commit such disorderly person or persons to said poorhouse, into the custody of the keeper thereof, there to be kept at hard labor for any time not exceeding six months, unless sooner discharged therefrom by order of such superintendents or a majority of them; in which warrant it shall be sufficient to state and set forth generally, that such person has been duly convicted of being a disorderly person, without more particular specification of the offence. IV. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the overseers of the poor of any town or city in said county, to take up any child under the age of fifteen years, who shall be permitted to beg or solicit charity from door to door, or in any street or highway of such city or town, and carry or send him or her to said poorhouse, there to be kept and employed, and instructed in such useful labor as he or she shall be able to perform, and supported until discharged therefrom by order of said superintendents, whose duty it shall be to discharge such child as soon as he or she shall be able to provide for himself or herself. V. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the keeper of said poorhouse, to require and compel all persons committed to his care or custody in the same by virtue of this act, to perform such work, labor and service, towards defraying the expense of their maintenance and support, as they shall severally be able to perform, or said superintendent shall from time to time direct; and in case any such person shall neglect or refuse to perform the work, labor and service required of him or her, or shall at any time refuse or neglect any rule, regulation or by-law which, shall as aforesaid be made and established by said superintendents, for the well ordering and government of the persons committed or placed in said poorhouse, or shall at any time depart therefrom, until he or she shall be regularly and duly dismissed and discharged therefrom; in each and every such case, it shall and may be lawful for the keeper of the same house, to place and keep each and every such person in solitary confinement in some part of the same house, and feed him, her or them, with bread and water only, until he or she shall submit to perform the same labor, work and service, and obey, conform and observe the rules, regulations and by-laws aforesaid; or for such time as said keeper shall judge proportioned to his or her respective offence or offences: Provided however, That every such person who shall think himself or herself aggrieved by the conduct of such keeper towards them, may and shall be permitted to make his or her complaint to said superintendents, or any one of them, who shall immediately examine into the grounds of such complaint, and make such order and direction in the case as to him or them shall appear fit and proper; which order shall be final and conclusive in the case. VI. And be it further enacted, That the expense of supporting and maintaining such persons as shall or may be sent to or placed in said poorhouse pursuant to the provisions of this act, and all expenses incident to keeping, maintaining and governing said poorhouse, shall be a charge upon said county; and it shall and may be lawful for the supervisors of said county, to cause such sum as shall remain unpaid at the end of each year, and may be necessary to defray the same expenses, to be annually assessed and collected by a tax on the estates, real and personal, of the freeholders and inhabitants of the same county, in the proportion to the number and expenses of paupers the several towns respectively shall have in the said poorhouse; which monies, when collected, shall be paid by the collectors of the several cities and towns in the said county, into the hands of the treasurer of such county, subject to the orders of said superintendents, to be by them applied to the paying and defraying of the same expenses. VII. And be it further enacted, That the said superintendent may, at the expense of said county, from time to time, purchase and procure such raw materials to be wrought and manufactured by the persons in said poorhouse; and shall and may at all times sell and dispose of the produce of the labor of the same persons, in such manner as they shall judge conducive to the interests of said county; and it shall be the duty of the said superintendents annually, at the meeting of the supervisors of said county, on the first Tuesday of October in each year, to account with the board of supervisors of the said county, for all monies by them received and expended as such superintendents, and pay over any such monies remaining in their hands, as such superintendents, unexpended, to the superintendents who shall then be chosen and appointed in their stead. VIII. And be it further enacted, That no person shall be removed as a pauper, out of any city or town, to any other city, town or county, by any order of removal and settlement; but the county where such person shall become sick, infirm and poor, shall support him; and if he be in sufficient health to gain a livelihood, and still become a beggar or vagrant, then he shall be treated as a disorderly person: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall prevent the removal of any pauper from one city or town to any other city or town in the same county. IX. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall hereafter send, carry or transport, or cause to be sent, carried or transported, any pauper or paupers, or other poor and indigent person or persons, from and out of any town in any county of this State, into any town in any other county, with intent to charge such other town or county with the maintenance and support of such pauper or paupers, poor and indigent persons, such offense shall be deemed and adjudged a misdemeanor; and such person or persons so offending, on conviction thereof before any court of competent jurisdiction, be punished, by fine in a sum not exceeding one hundred dollars, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both, in the discretion of said court. X. And be it further enacted, That if any board of supervisors, or a majority of them, in any of those counties heretofore excepted, shall, at any of their annual meetings hereafter, determine that it will be beneficial to their county to erect a county poorhouse, that by filing such determination with the clerk of said county, they shall be at liberty to avail themselves of the provisions of this act.”

SOURCE: An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of County Poorhouses. Documents of The Senate of the State of New York, One Hundred and Twenty Seventh Session, 1904, Vol. XIV. No. 22, Part 4, Annual Report of the State Board of Charities for the Year 1903, In Three Volumes with Statistical Appendix to Volume One bound separately. Volume Three Charity Legislation in New York 1609 to 1900. Transmitted to the Legislature February 1, 1904, Pages 241-245. 

1883 Places To Increase Insanity

A Report Read At The State Charities Aid Association.

The State Charities Aid Association met yesterday afternoon at No. 6 East Fourteenth street. Mr. Charles S. Fairchild presided. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President – Charles S. Fairchild; Vice-President – Mrs. William B. Rice; Treasurer – Charles Russell Hone; Librarian – Miss A.H. Woolsey; Board of Managers – John Jay, Mrs. d’Oremieulx, Judge Henry E. Howland, Mrs. Lydia M. Hoyt, John A. McKim, Miss Grace H. Dodge, Frederick N. Owen, Miss Emily Tuckerman, James H. Fay, Miss Rosalie Butler, Miss Emily Hoppin. The Treasurer reported that the expenses of the association for the year ending Nov. 30, 1883, were $5,176.24, and the receipts $4,946.97.

The Secretary’s report was a lengthy document, embracing a history of the work of 44 local visiting committees, in addition to the standing committees and the New-York County Visiting Committee, with its branches. The subject of the treatment of the insane in poor-houses and in the County asylums was treated at length, and descriptions were given of the asylums and poor-houses visited in different counties. The report dwelt upon the desirability of doing away with the local institutions for the insane, which were described as rather calculated for the encouragement of insanity and misery generally than for their suppression. In the visitations of the association to the County asylums and poor-houses a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs from the moral and hygienic point of view was found to exist. Lunatics who, perhaps, might be cured or improved with proper care in State hospitals were found cooped up in close cells like ox-stalls, as in Chenango County, or chained to strong iron rings in the wall of the yard, like wild animals, as in Genesee – the lack of suitable care-takers making this recourse to restraint necessary. In Broome County the bath-room was found in the coal-cellar – six patients bathing in the same water, which was then saved to wash the clothes in the laundry. As a general rule the insane in county poor-houses were kept in attics, basements, and out buildings filthy and squalid. In Niagara County, the Secretary found insane patients shoeless, bareheaded, compelled to sit on the floor, and all, both men and women, under charge of a male pauper. The report recommends that poor-house insane wards and county asylums be abolished, and that all classes of insane be cared for by the State, in cottages of moderate coast on the vacant lands of the six present State institutions. The report also recommends the opening of training schools for nurses in insane hospitals.

The poor-house buildings in Tioga County are described as old and uncomfortable. There is lack of hospital accommodation for the sick and of bathing conveniences. The poor-house in Chenango County presented a sad spectacle of disease, depravity, and insanity. There were many distressing cases of suffering and misery. It is said that this poor-house contains a larger number of inmates who are mentally and physically diseased than any other in the State. In Fulton County the paupers are improperly provided for. Men and women, sick and well, sane and insane, were herded together like animals. The sick have no special care taken of them. The Genesee County Poor-house building is described as a pestilence-breeding place.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 14, 1883, Copyright @ The New York Times.

1864 Broome County Poor House

“In the Broome county poor house there are eighty-five inmates, twenty-one of whom, or one in four are lunatics. Ten are males, and eleven are females. Only four are of foreign birth. One has been in confinement since 1834. Nine of these cases are mild, seven are violent. Seven have been treated in an asylum. Eight of these insane are capable of labor. Four males and two females are destructive to their clothing, and four males and one female are in constant restraint, by hand-cuffs or otherwise. The other forms of restraint are persuasion and confinement. Whipping is seldom resorted to. The house has a full supply of water, but no bath tub. All but three are required to wash hands and face daily. Three are confined in cells above ground, without the privilege of coming daily to the open air. There are wood bedsteads in all the rooms but one. Six sleep on straw without beds or bedsteads; the straw is changed once a week. Part are fed in cells, others at a common table. The building is heated by a coal and wood stove. All the rooms are heated, without observation by a thermometer; it is intended to keep them all comfortable. The sexes are entirely separated at night. None other than paupers arc employed uniformly to administer to the daily wants of the insane. The cleanliness of the rooms is commendable, though they are badly ventilated. Vermin were observed. Recent cases are received; one had neither shoes or stockings during the winter, because he would not wear them. The institution is designed to accommodate only five lunatics. They receive medical attendance only when sick. Each case does not receive care with reference to its ultimate recovery. The buildings of the Broome county poor house are insufficient to meet the wants of the insane, but such as they are, are kept in good order, and the keeper and his family are attentive and humane.”

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 183.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Allegany County Poor House

“Of the poor house and its insane inmates in the county of Allegany, Dr. John Norton remarks: “The old block house in which some insane are confined, occupied in part by idiots, is in very bad condition, with no ventilation, old, rotten and filthy, and entirely inadequate for the purposes for which it is used. All the buildings are poorly arranged and badly constructed. Most of the inmates are idiotic, and few are even competent to care for others. With so little help, spite the efforts of the keeper, many must be at times neglected. I found much suffering for want of medical care, as the surgeon employed so seldom visits the institution, and I learned, by those who were competent to speak for themselves, that he gives each case very little attention. I do not think the aged and sick receive proper nourishment. There is but one back yard in which to amuse themselves and get open air, which is entirely insufficient for the variety of cases there represented.” These remarks are based on the facts that the poor house has in it eighty-nine paupers, twenty-one of whom are lunatics or idiots. They have been admitted to the poor house at various periods since 1842. Fifteen are females; six are males; fifteen are natives and sixteen of foreign birth. Eight cases are mild; one has been in State prison; three have been treated in the State asylum; seven are capable of doing some labor. Those who cannot labor have no form of amusement. The house has no bathing tub, and in dry weather the supply of water is insufficient. Thorough ablution is not one of the virtues of the institution. There is no arrangement for uniformity of heat in winter and ventilation. None are without the privilege of coming to the open air every day, unless the keeper is absent. There are rooms without a window opening out of doors. All the looms have bedsteads; one and two sleep in a bed. The beds are ticks filled with straw, which is changed about once a month. There are large stoves in the hall, which are considered sufficient to heat the cells, but no attention is paid to its uniformity or sufficiency. The sexes are partly separated. The keeper has charge of the female insane, and pauper care is the only kind bestowed, beside that of the keeper on the males. As to cleanliness, “some of the cells are quite bad,” and the atmosphere in them “very bad.” Vermin were found in some of the beds. The insane are only partially separated from other paupers. Eight were removed during the year by their friends. A county physician averages a visit to the lunatics about once a month.”

Allegany County Poorhouse – The Art Of Abandonment / Photography by Walter Arnold.

Allegany – Linda Crannell, The Poorhouse Lady.

Allegany County Home Angelica – Louis Q Photography.

Allegany County, NY, Poor House Records.

Angelica, NY, Historical Research Links.

Allegany County NY GenWeb.

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 182-183.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Albany County Poor House

“The year embraced in the report of the Alms House Insane Asylum is for September 1, 1863, to September 1, 1864. The number of paupers varies from four hundred and twenty-five in summer to six hundred and fifty in winter. There have been during the fiscal year one hundred and fifty-five lunatics in the poor house asylum. The ratio of insane is about one in four. Fourteen have died; twenty-eight have been discharged. Ninety-nine of the whole number were mild cases; twenty-one were filthy; sixty-two were males and seventy-three were females; fifty-seven were native and eighty-eight of foreign birth. All have been admitted since 1848. Of the whole number only nine had been treated in the State asylum. Twelve males and twenty females were capable of labor. The large number who were unable to work had no amusement or employment. Only six were destructive to their clothing, and required the straight jacket restraint, or locking in cells. The house has two bath tubs, one for each department, and a full supply of water from the city water works. The insane are required to bathe weekly, and to wash hands and face daily. The rooms are supplied with iron bedsteads, and straw in ticks for bedding. The diet is intended to be ample, and all who are able go to a common table to eat. The change of clothing is made every week. The rooms in summer are well ventilated. All have shoes in winter. Twelve escaped during the year who were not returned; three were removed by friends. The asylum was built to accomodate thirty-one lunatics. There are in confinement at the present time in this space, designed only for thirty-one, One Hundred And Three. The greatest number in confinement at any one time was ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY, designed to accomodate thirty-one!—the alms house asylum of the capital! of Albany!! Dr. W.H. Bailey, who made the inspection, remarks: “The asylum is a modest two-story and basement brick structure, entirely separated from the other buildings in which are the county poor. There is a small yard for the males and another for the females, into which those who are able may go at pleasure, but the yards are too small and too barren either for the health or amusement of the inmates; that for the males is 53×90, and that for the females 84×102 feet. In them there is neither a tree or a shrub to shield them from the scorching sun in summer, nor a bench or a seat on which to rest. They are inclosed by a close board fence about twelve feet high, over which the inmates cannot see, and they stretch themselves on the ground like animals, or creep under the shade of the prison-like enclosure. The sexes are separated; the males occupy the first and the females the second story, the dining room for each sex being in the basement. The sleeping rooms open on each side from a hall extending through the centre of the building. Each of these rooms is lighted by a window. The halls are heated by hot air from two furnaces in the basement, and the rooms receive heat through the doors from the hall. Unless the weather is severe, the heat is ordinarily sufficient, and the unfortunate inmates are comfortable. All who are able are compelled to leave their rooms and occupy the halls during the day time. I regard it as unfortunate that some arrangement was not made in the construction of this building for the weak and feeble. When a lunatic is sick or feeble the heat from the hall is often insufficient, unless the door is constantly open, which is to expose the patient to the noise and gibberish of fifty insane and demented, who are congregated in a single room, making it resound with their vacant laughs and shouts. In summer the windows are a ready and effectual means of ventilation, but in winter the furnaces are not of sufficient capacity to permit a flow of cold fresh air sufficient for the requirements for health. The basement rooms have no means of being warmed or ventilated. In these the boisterous, the vicious and the violent, are confined. None are confined here continually; but every new patient is placed here for two or three days “for the purpose of becoming acquainted with his habits.”

Dr. J.R. Boulware, the present efficient alms house physician, in his recent report to the common council, says:

“The insane asylum was built originally to accomodate seventeen females and fourteen males. There are thirty lodging rooms intended for the inmates, and each room was made of the smallest dimensions, compatible with the physical health of a single occupant, nor was it ever intended that more than one should be put into a room. We are now compelled to crowd from three to five of these creatures, who are in the greatest state of helplessness and dependence, into one room, also obliged to use some of the small, damp, air-tight cells, which are below ground, as lodging rooms, whose aerial capacity was never more than barely sufficient to sustain the health of one individual, thus making it appear that the Alms House physician, or those responsible for the management of this important and most sacred of all trusts, are not only willing to leave them in the unfortunate condition of insanity which simply makes them suitable for entrance into an Insane Asylum, but add to it the greater misery which results from the loss of bodily health. This loss of health is but the natural and inevitable result of such abuse. To realize more fully the important bearing of this subject, every individual should make a practical application of it to himself, and imagine a kind relative or dear friend as one of the one hundred and three who are compelled in cold or stormy weather, to crowd into a mere hall or passage way, whose cubic dimensions are such that the air, in twenty minutes, becomes vitiated and rendered unfit to support health, and in the course of the day becomes in the highest degree deleterious and loathsome.

Think of the effect, mentally, physically and morally of promiscuously huddling together so large a number of individuals, of all grades of insanity, from mere partial mental derangement, to that complete idiotcy, where nothing is left of that intellectual force by which man is characterized and distinguished from the lower order of animals. Many of them obeying the calls of nature without reference to time or place, some perhaps in convulsions, others roaming whilst the timid and retreating are trying to escape from the screams and vociferations of the more turbulent. There being no provision for their proper classification, the noisy, the violent, and the filthy; the quiet, the timid, and the convalescent, have to remain in this hall together during the long weary hours of the day.

The standing committee of the Association of Medical Superintendents, in their report on the construction of hospitals for the insane, say that apartments provided for the confinement of the violent insane, should be entirely above ground, and when used for a single patient, should contain not less than 960 cubic feet of air, nor should the ceiling be less than twelve feet in height, with a window communicating directly with the external atmosphere, and well ventilated. Now I find on measurement that these cells instead of containing 960 cubic feet of air, contain about 760 cubic feet, instead of the ceiling being twelve feet in height, it is but seven feet, instead of being entirely above ground they are nearly entirely below ground, and instead of being well ventilated, they are made air-tight. In these cells the violent insane, whose insanity is manifested paroxysmally, are temporarily confined until their paroxysms of excitement have subsided. Frequently they have to be confined in these damp, air-tight cells twenty-four hours, when the air becomes vitiated by the offensive exhalations and excrementitious matter. The ingress of air shut off, the effluvia in the cell prevented from escaping, the helpless inmate is thus compelled to breathe into the system this poisoned air, twenty-four or perhaps forty-eight hours, and the effect is not only ill health and a stupid mind, but the prostration of all the powers of the individual, both physical and mental, is the unavoidable and inevitable consequence; and this dreaded cell becomes the alembic, in which is double distilled their most bitter cup of affliction.

This picture sad as it is, falls short of presenting this matter in all of its unpleasant features, but enough has been said to make it apparent that this building is entirely inadequate to afford that relief to those for whose aid this department was designed.

Were your honorable body fully aware of this matter as it really exists, I cannot but suppose that the warmest sympathies of your nature would be aroused to respond to the urgent necessities of these insane poor, for surely no affliction appeals more strongly to our sympathy and generosity than this fearful malady.

The improvements deemed most essential, are a building whose relative dimensions to the number of patients, are such that each inmate will be supplied with enough of atmospheric air to support health, and the building so constructed as to admit of their proper classification. Indeed the importance of having enough of pure air to breathe, and the necessity of having the quiet, the timid and the convalescent separated from the noisy and turbulent, so as not to be affected by their screams and vociferations, are so palpable, that they need only to be mentioned to be properly appreciated.

I also wish to mention that there is much credit due the alms house superintendent and the attendants of this institution for the cleanliness of the different apartments of this building. When we take into consideration the great disadvantage of having to keep the turbulent, the destructive and the filthy in the same apartments with the other inmates, this Insane Asylum, in point of cleanliness, will compare advantageously with the best in the State. As far as the patients themselves are concerned, although somewhat ragged, each rag is kept clean.

In this case the physician, no matter how diligent and attentive, or how well he understands the subject, is nearly or quite powerless. He can order no healthful exercise nor any system of profitable amusement. He can only prescribe for the absolutely sick. The keeper has done his duty when he turns the key and locked the unhappy inmates fast, or gone in and by intimidation, threats or blows quieted some turbulent demented incurable. The superintendent of the alms house has done his duty when he has provided for their daily living, at the cheapest possible rate, and supplied the wants that keep them from perishing more rapidly, or from a more speedy recovery. The alms house committee look at the figures and the quarterly expenses of the Institution, and if they have not exceeded the preceding quarter, they have done their duty, or passing speedily through the hall of the Institution they see the inmates neat and clean and do not stop to think that crazy people need anything more —or if one more benevolent, humane and thoughtful than the rest suggests an improvement, it fails to meet anything more than the discouragement of the board, and nothing is the result. The board of common council still leave all to the committee, and the people leave all to the common council. The police justice is obliged nearly every week to relieve the jail of a lunatic; he must be disposed of; the superintendent of the alms house has no discretion, he must receive him, and another deranged person is thrust in the overcrowded apartments and left to his own gloomy hopeless condition to become a confirmed lunatic. The humane and philanthropic learn these facts and lament them, but can do nothing. The time has come when calm judicious legislation is demanded, to interpose and prevent these alarming evils.”

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 178-182.

New York State County Poor Houses.