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.
3. 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.