1864 Dr. Willard’s Poor House Report By County

New York State County Poor Houses – Dr. Sylvester D. Willard’s Report 1864.

1864 The Willard Asylum and Provisions For The Insane – County Poor House Investigation – 8.29.2013.

1864 Albany County Poor House – 9.18.2013.
1864 Allegany County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Broome County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cattaraugus County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cayuga County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chautauqua County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chemung County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Chenango County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Clinton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Columbia County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Cortland County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Delaware County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Dutchess County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Erie County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Essex County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Franklin County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Fulton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Genesee County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Greene County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Hamilton County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Herkimer County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Jefferson County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Lewis County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Livingston County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Madison County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Monroe County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Montgomery County Poor House – 9.19.2013.
1864 Niagara County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Oneida County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Onondaga County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Ontario County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Orange County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Orleans County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Oswego County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Otsego County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Putnam County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Queens County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Rensselaer County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Richmond County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Rockland County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Saratoga County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schenectady County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schoharie County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Schuyler County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Seneca County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 St. Lawrence County Poor House – 9.20.2013.
1864 Steuben County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Suffolk County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Sullivan County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Tioga County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Tompkins County Poor House – 9.21.2013.
1864 Ulster County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Warren County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Washington County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Wayne County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Westchester County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Wyoming County Poor House – 9.22.2013.
1864 Yates County Poor House – 9.22.2013.

The following excerpt from NEW YORK The Empire State is a wonderful outline for those who want to understand why County Poor Houses were created in the State of New York. Here are a few additional resources:

1. David Wagner, “Poor Relief and the Almshouse,” Disability History Museum.
2. 1603 – 1900 Brief History of Charity in New York State transcribed and annotated by L.S. Stuhler.
List of Counties in New York State.

Public Welfare – Though privation and hardship were fairly general throughout the Dutch Colonial period, the number of actual dependents was small, and relief, when needed, was administered by the officers of the Dutch Reformed Church. Churches of other denominations were expected to care for their own poor, an in localities lacking a religious organization relief was a function of the civil authorities. Funds for the poor were raised through church collections, individual donations, and court fines for misdemeanors and violations of the excise laws.

Soon after the organization of the Colonial Government, several sieck-entroosters, minor ecclesiastical functionaries, were sent to the Colony charged with the duty of visiting sick persons in their homes. These were the first social workers in what is now the Empire State.

For the dependent aged, almshouses were established by Dutch Reformed congregations at New Amsterdam, Rensselaerswyck, and other settlements, and a company hospital was erected in New Amsterdam in 1657 to care for sick soldiers and Negroes. Orphanmasters were appointed at New Amsterdam, Beverwyck (Albany), and Wildwyck (Kingston) to protect the interests of propertied widows and orphans, but when the latter became desititute they were turned over to the care of the deacons.

After the Colony came under English rule, poor relief in the southern counties was regulated by the Duke’s Laws (1665), which made each parish responsible for its own poor and for raising funds by taxation. The few general poor laws enacted were directed against vagabonds, beggars, and others moving from their places of legal settlement. Until formally accepted as an inhabitant of a town, a newcomer might at any time be “warned’ to depart by the authorities. An undesirable was ‘passed on’ from constable to constable until her reached his place of legal settlement or the border of a neighboring colony.

The prevailing attitude toward dependency was stern, cold, and strait-laced; in many places the pauper was made to wear a brightly colored badge on his sleeve inscribed with a large letter ‘P.’ No attempt was made to segregate the types of dependents; the insane and the physically handicapped, the aged and the young, the inebriates and the sober were housed together. The first public institution for ‘the employing of Poor and Indigent People’ was established in New York City in 1734 and opened two years later under the name ‘House of Correction, Workhouse and Poor House.’ The only method of caring for destitute children was through apprenticeship and indenture, by which children were bound out singly or in groups with the specification that their masters have them taught to read, write, and cipher.

During the Revolutionary War the local poor relief system broke down in many communities. Refugees from areas controlled by the British or ravaged by raids, not being chargeable to either county or town units, became the first ‘State poor,’ cared for by State commissioners. In the wake of the Revolution a great wave of humanitarian reform surged over the new Nation. Private philanthropic organizations were set up, the most important being the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism established in New York City. A sweeping revision of the penal code in 1796 reduced the number of crimes punishable by death from thirteen to two and established the first State prison. Corporal punishment, such as confinement in the stocks, whipping, and branding, was gradually abolished. Reforms were made in the laws against debtors. Public poor relief was completely secularized; the office of overseer of the poor was made elective instead of appointive; and towns too small to maintain individual almshouses were permitted to join others in town unions for the purpose of providing institutional care. Poor funds continued to be raised by local taxation supplemented by income from fines.

Several severe yellow fever epidemics at the turn of the century resulted in such public health measures as systematized quarantine, general sanitation, isolation of patients, and appointment of public health officers. The Ladies’ Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children was established in New York City in 1797 to help surviving dependents of fever victims. An offshoot of this Society founded the first orphan asylum in 1806. But child aid grew slowly, and for many years dependent children were herded indiscriminately with all other classes of dependents.

In the same period the insane were recognized as a separate social problem. In September 1792 the first mental patient was admitted into the newly opened New York Hospital, but treatment remained custodial rather than curative. The Bloomingdale Asylum, opened in 1821 as a separate unit of the New York Hospital, was the first institution for the insane in the State operated primarily on therapeutic principles. It received annual State grants for many years. The New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb-second of its kind in the Untied States-was incorporated in 1817 and later received State grants.

In 1824 the secretary of state, J.V.N. Yates, published under legislative authority the first State-wide poor law survey, which revealed that besides almshouse and home relief, the indigent were being cared for under the ‘contract system,’ whereby the dependent poor were let out to householders at a fixed rate, and under the ‘auction system,’ whereby the poor were bid off to persons offering to maintain them for the lowest cost. After summing up the chaos, cruelty, and waste arising from prevailing poor law practices, Yates recommended a State-wide system of county poorhouses, where all paupers were to be maintained at county expense, the able-bodied to be set to suitable work and the children to be given adequate education.

As a result of the Yates report the legislature in 1824 passed ‘An act to provide for the establishment of county almshouses’; but so many exceptions were allowed that, although poorhouses were established in all but four counties during the ensuing decade, the attempt to put the county system into effect eventually collapsed and relief was returned to local responsibility. However, the indiscriminate herding of dependents resulted in abuses so shocking as to lead to constant pressure for proper classification and segregation of different groups. The earliest effective changes took place in the field of child welfare. In 1824 the House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents, the first juvenile reformatory in the country, was established in New York City by the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents. It was supported mainly by State funds. In 1849 the Western House of Refuge (now the State Agricultural and Industrial School at Industry) was opened in Rochester as the first American juvenile reformatory under complete State financial and administrative control. The Asylum for Idiots (now the Syracuse State School) was established in 1851, the first of its kind to be opened under State ownership and control.

Several other important child welfare organizations were founded in the middle years of the nineteenth century, including the New York Juvenile Asylum (now the Children’s Village at Dobbs Ferry) and the Children’s Aid Society, which inaugurated the placing-out movement. The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was organized in 1855 under private auspices and taken over by the State in 1875. By 1866 the total number of privately managed orphanages exceeded 60.

A distinctive feature of this period was the development of State institutional facilities for the mentally and physically handicapped. The State Lunatic Asylum at Utica was established in 1836 and opened in 1843. The New York City Lunatic Asylum (now Manhattan State Hospital), founded in 1834, was the first municipal mental hospital in this country. The blind had received separate care as early as 1831, with the founding of the New York Institution for the Blind. In 1865 the State Institution for the Blind (now the New York State School for the Blind) was established at Batavia to serve the western counties.

Mass immigration in the nineteenth century brought in its wake grave problems of public health and poor relief. Large numbers of immigrants needed medical care upon landing; many were poverty-stricken; others were mulcted of their meager savings by thieves and swindlers. Without friends of funds, they soon found themselves drawn into the slums or the poorhouse, or were obliged to engage in the meanest forms of work for low wages and under conditions that exposed them to vice, disease, and death. Alarmed by the growing hordes of indigent aliens, poor-law officials demanded State and Federal legislation to protect local communities. In 1847 a State board was created to help and advise newcomers and to reimburse local communities for immigrant relief. Funds for this purpose came out of head taxes and indemnity bonds imposed on immigrants. The agitation against ‘alien pauperism’ culminated in 1882 in an act of Congress regulating immigration and containing a provision intended to exclude persons likely to become public charges.”

SOURCE: NEW YORK A Guide to the Empire State, Copyright 1940 by New York State Historical Association, First Published in November 1940, Bureau of State Publicity, New York State Conservation Department, State-wide Sponsor of the New York State Writer’s Project, Pages 118-121


1873 Our State Charities

“The State Board of Charities, of which Dr. Charles Hoyt is the Secretary, and Prof. Theodore W. Dwight the President, has just issued its fifth annual report. The duty of this Board is to inspect the public charities of the State, and make such recommendations to the Legislature as they deem best on their management. Few who have not studied the subject can have an idea of how broad is the field of work of our charities receiving aid from the State. Their property interest alone is enormous, amounting during the past year to $20,450,272 of real estate, and $3,727,602 of personal property. The aid they received from the State Treasury reached the sum of $1,635,558, and from municipalities the large amount of $3,341,762, while their total annual receipts were $7,832,902, and their expenditure $7,259,568. The whole number of persons in these institutions during the year was 92,741; the number temporarily relieved, 98,368; the number receiving outside free medical and surgical aid, 294,364, and the number under gratuitous educational training, 70,339.

In the County Poor-houses alone were, during the year, 18,933, and in the City institutions 39,286 persons. The Houses of Refuge trained and sheltered 5,619 of our youth, the Catholic Protectory containing much the largest number, 2,380. Of idiots, 681 were specially cared for, and of inebriates, 315 in the Binghamton Asylum. The number of deaf and dumb instructed and relieved were 714; of blind, 549;  of insane, 5,073.

The report of Prof. Dwight in regard to the management of our County Poor-houses contains suggestions of the highest value. It is well known that when this Board began its labors, the condition of these misnames houses of charity was shocking in the extreme. There was but little classification; old and young, unfortunate, virtuous girls with abandoned prostitutes, children and hardened ruffians, sand and insane, sick and well, the purely unfortunate and the lazily vicious, were all herded together in one building, and sometimes in the same rooms. The result was that one of the most terrible diseases which can afflict a civilized community began to break out here in our rural districts-hereditary pauperism. The Secretary of the State Board visited one almshouse in Western New-York where four generations of females were prostitutes and paupers. Even at this time, in the Westchester Almshouse, there are two or three generations of paupers. The treatment of the insane and the blind or deaf or sick in these institutions was simply atrocious. The first great step of reform in the State was the classification of the insane, and the withdrawal of large numbers from the County Poor-houses and the placing them in the State Willard Asylum, on Seneca Lake.

Still another important measure was the separation of the pauper children in Broome County and several adjoining counties from the almshouses, and placing them in an institution near Binghamton, called the “Susquehanna Valley Home.” This wise measure, however, should at once be imitated in all parts of the State. A poor-house is no place for children. They catch the bad habits of the institution, and they grow up lazy and dependent. They are paupers even in childhood. The taint of an almshouse rest on them all their days. Of girls, it is well known that they are often corrupted in these places before they go forth in life. There is no excuse in this country for retaining a single child in a poor-house. The demand everywhere for children’s labor is beyond all supply, and thousands of homes are open to shelter and instruct such unfortunate children. Before the Randall’s Island Nursery was so exclusively under Roman Catholic influence, the Commissioners of Charities used to send forth each year hundreds of their little waifs, under the charge of the Children’s Aid Society, to homes in the West, where many have grown up as prosperous farmers. All our almshouses could easily thus dispose of their children, if of sound mind and body. Indeed, the report of the “State Charities Visiting Society“-alluded to very favorably in Prof. Dwight’s report-states that the Children’s Aid Society had offered to the Westchester County Poor-house where are housed some sixty pauper children-to send them all to homes without expense.

The only place for a pauper child is a family. Even the Binghamton Home would fail of its great object if it retained the children during any long period. We trust that an act will pass during this session of the Legislature, requiring the Superintendents of the Poor in the various counties to place their pauper children in intermediate houses, like the Susquehanna Valley Home, which institutions shall be under State and private management. Every five counties should be allowed a “Children’s Home,” and the counties need not be required to pay any more for the support of the children than they do now. Then each Home should be required to place out very carefully every sound pauper child after a six months’ residence. Prof. Dwight also recommends, very wisely, the establishment of “industrial almshouses.” Our county poor-houses are full now of able-bodied paupers. Each Winter they sail in there for harbor. They ought to be made to support themselves. As it is now, the county paupers of the State only pay one-fifth of their cost, or about $32,342. If State work-houses were established these county able-bodied paupers could be separated, classified, and made to earn their living. Then the county houses could be limited to the sick, aged, and helpless. All that considerable class, moreover, who commit minor offenses, and are put for short periods in county jails, ought to be placed where they would support themselves, and at the same time learn some useful branch of industry.

At present these petty criminals spend their time in complete idleness in the county jails, and go out worse than they entered. To improve this class there should be a separate department in the State work-houses proposed, and the criminal statutes should be changed, so that the magistrates could commit them to these, and for longer terms than is at present the custom. We trust that the present Legislature will enlarge the authority of this Board, and enable it to go on with the great reforms which it has inaugurated.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: January 14, 1873, Copyright @ The New York Times.

1864 Yates County Poor House

This county poor house report really hits home knowing that my great-great-grandmother, Charity, lived in this place of squalor, with three of her children after her husband and eldest son, my great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather respectively, enlisted in the Union Army on January 18, 1862, at PennYan – Company B, 3rd Regiment, NY, Artillery. It has been a humbling experience uncovering the layers of the untold stories of my ancestors.  

Yates county poor-house has eighty-seven paupers, fifty-four males and thirty-three females. Six are insane, one male and five females; four of the females work a little, or, if unable to work, they amuse themselves in the care of pauper children. The male patient requires occasional restraint, but only confinement in a cell is resorted to to enforce restraint. The house has one bathing room, and is supplied with water, except in dry times in the summer. The insane are required to bathe every one or two weeks, and to wash hands and face daily. The more rational, room and sleep with the paupers, and eat at a common table with them. One male and one female are each confined in a separate cell. The county receives recent cases for treatment, and they are visited by a physician about once a week. They are usually healthy, and have the appearance of being comfortably and carefully taken care of.”

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 223.

New York State County Poor Houses.
Yates County Cemetery Project – Part VII: Cemeteries in the town of Jerusalem.

1864 Wyoming County Poor House

“No report.”

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 223.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Westchester County Poor House

“To a population of two hundred and twenty-five in the poor-house of Westchester county, twenty-two are lunatics. Seven are males, and fifteen are females. Three-quarters are of foreign birth. Seventeen of these cases are of mild form of insanity. One was admitted in 1829. It is not known that any of the whole number have been ever treated in an asylum. Several have been admitted to the poorhouse for the second or third time. Four males and eight females are capable of labor. Those who do not labor have no amusement or employment. The manner of restraint and coercion is by straight jacket, handcuffs and confinement. The house has a full supply of water and two bathing tubs, in which, however, the insane are washed and bathed at no particular times. The building is of stone, two and a half stories high, with eight feet ceilings, and rooms 8 x 5 feet. The cells are in the centre of the building, with corridors, after the style of a prison and penitentiary, and receive their light only through the doors. They are, of course, dark and ill ventilated, and there is a total and studied absence of all that contributes to cheerfulness or mental elasticity. The building is heated by furnaces, and a comfortable temperature is maintained in winter, but there is no provision for the various grades of the insane. The sexes are separated, the males in one ward and the females in another, with pauper attendants, and one male assistant in the care of the female insane. The general appearance of the rooms is clean and tidy. Provision is made to confine twenty-five insane, but thirty-nine have at times been forced into the space designed for twenty-five. All have shoes, and their under garments are changed weekly. Whenever they are sick, the physician of the alms-house visits them, but they never receive treatment with reference to their convalescence, yet the county does not, in view of such a startling fact, hesitate to receive recent cases for confinement, not for cure.”

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 222-223.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Wayne County Poor House

“Of eighty inmates in the poor-house of Wayne county, twenty are lunatics, or one in every four. They have been severally admitted since 1850; thirteen are males and seven are females, Fifteen are of native birth. Fourteen of the cases are mild; two have been discharged during the year, and two have been sent to Utica for treatment. Previous to September, four cases were admitted in 1864; nine cases were admitted in 1863. Five males are capable of doing some labor; the only amusement for the others is going in the yard when the weather will admit of it. One is constantly restrained by handcuffs. The house has no bath tub, and the insane are not required to bathe more than their hands and face daily. One is confined in a basement cell without the privilege of coming daily to the open air. All the inmates have beds or bedsteads, none sleep without them; the straw in the beds is changed every two months. Their food is served on tin plates in their rooms. The rooms are heated by stoves in the hall, but no attention is paid to uniformity of heat in the winter. The rooms are neat and clean; in most of them the air is good. It is intended to separate the insane from the sane paupers. The accommodations are designed for ten lunatics, though twenty are now in confinement, crowded into the meagre room designed for ten. Three escaped during the year who are not returned, and two were removed by their friends. There is no provision for their management or treatment with reference to recovery. The county receives, as will be seen, recent cases. A new building designed to be used exclusively for the insane is in process of erection.”

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 222.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Washington County Poor House

“The Washington county poor house is a three story brick building, with nine feet ceilings, the rooms being seven by eight and eight by ten, lighted by windows two feet square. The whole number of inmates is (120) one hundred and twenty, of which thirty-six are insane. Several were admitted previous to 1840. Three are past seventy years of age. Thirteen are males, twenty-three are females; twenty-five are of native birth; ten have been treated in an asylum: twelve are capable of doing some labor. Those who do not labor have no light occupation or amusement, except going into the yard when circumstances admit of it. One is constantly restrained by hand-cuffs. The building is supplied with water, and has one bath tub; the insane are required to bathe occasionally.

The bedsteads are of wood; the bedding, straw and feathers. Two sleep on straw without bedstead or bedding. Those who are able eat at a common table, others have their food distributed to them. No attention is paid to the uniformity of heat in the winter, though it is designed to keep the rooms comfortable. Two are often confined in a single cell. The attendants employed to care for the insane are paupers. The county receives recent cases. The building is designed to accommodate fifty. They receive no medical treatment with reference to an ultimate cure. Cleanliness, comfortable clothing and sufficient food, are the three virtues of the institution. It aims at nothing more.”

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 221.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Warren County Poor House

“While in several counties the ratio of insane to the paupers is one in four, in Warren county it is but one in seventeen and a fraction. There are fifty-four sane and three lunatics in the county house. The number is so small that they receive no particular care, nor is any special provision made for them; they do not labor; they are locked in cells if violent; they sleep on bunks; their diet is pork, potatoes, bread, beans, &c., and milk once a day; two eat at the table; to one the food is carried. They are cared for by paupers only. In the female apartment the atmosphere was bad. The county takes recent cases. No provision is made for medical treatment, and they receive none.

In short, the insane take their chances, and receive no care worthy that name.”

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 221.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Ulster County Poor House

“The examination from Ulster county shows that in the poor house there are twelve insane paupers, three of whom are males, and nine females; all of whom are registered as having been admitted since 1850; but as three of them have been treated in the lunatic asylum, the date is not an index to the period of their lunacy. None of this number are capable of any labor; at least none are furnished with any suitable employment or amusement of any kind. Two of them require restraint a part of the time, and one constantly. Two are both violent and filthy. The house is represented to have a full supply of water, though it has not a single bathing tub for its one hundred and thirty-five inmates! The building is of wood, one story high, and the rooms are six feet by nine and a half. Not all the rooms have bedsteads in them; two sleep on straw, without either bed or bedsteads. And the food is served “the same as rations,” by which it may be understood that each insane person is handed a certain quantity of food. The building is heated with stoves, without any special regard to uniform temperature. The sexes are kept separately, but male attendants are employed to care for the female insane, and they are pauper inmates of the institution. After this style the provisions of the county house is for twenty-six insane. In this remarkable state of things, to the question ” Does each case receive care with reference to its ultimate recovery?” the reply is, “It does!” A physician visits the institution twice in each week. In 1857 the committee appointed to visit charitable institutions, &c., reported of this as follows: “Of the inmates fifteen are lunatics—three males and twelve females. Five have been admitted during the present year. They receive no special medical attendance, but a male attendant supplies their ordinary wants. Ten are confined in cells, and one restrained with chains. Beside the main building are several small old buildings on the premises, in one of which—a very poor one—were twelve cells for lunatics, very open, and where it is barely possible to keep them from perishing.” “In the house are twelve idiots—four males and eight females. Two of the females are under sixteen years of age.” The investigation of 1864 fails to show any considerable improvement in the care of the insane paupers in Ulster county.”

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 220-221.

New York State County Poor Houses.

1864 Tompkins County Poor House

“The building which contains the cells for the insane is an addition to or an extension of the main building for the poor. It is but one story high, and contains nine cells, varying in size as follows: 8 x 8 feet, 6 x 7 and 5 x 7. These cells have no windows; and when the insane are allowed to go out, they mingle with the sane paupers; but if they are confined at all, it must be in these cells, and they are so confined the most part of the time. The population of the county house is fifty-six. Only six are insane; one other was sent to the State asylum, and one other died. Of the six remaining, one had received treatment in the asylum. Three were able to perform some labor; two required occasional restraint, by handcuffs or shutting in cells. The house has no bath tub, and the insane are required to wash hands and face only three times a week. All the rooms are not supplied with bedsteads; one sleeps on straw, without other bedding. Two eat in their cells, and the others come to the table with the sane paupers, from whom they receive such care as they get. In the cells the air was impure, and one was very filthy. The institution receives recent cases. Their under garments are changed on Sundays. All had shoes during the winter, except one. The lunatics are not visited by a physician unless they are specially sick; and no case receives care with reference to its recovery, even though it be a recent case.”

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 219-220.

New York State County Poor Houses.