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. 


1901 Detained For 15 Years As “Feeble-Minded”

Girl Then Pronounced Insane Is Declared to be of Sound Mind.
Now Under Commissioner Feeny’s Protection – Tells a Story of Ill-Treatment at Newark (N.Y.) Asylum.

Fifteen years a prisoner as feeble-minded, has apparently been the lot of Mary Lake, now an inmate of the Richmond Borough Almshouse, but about to be set at liberty. Commissioner of Charities James Feeny of Richmond Borough is largely responsible for justice being done the girl even now.

The young woman is a daughter of George Lake of New Dorp. Lake, on Dec. 5, 1883, was sentenced for a serious offense to ten years in State prison. Lake’s children were committed to the County Almshouse, and the records show that on Sep. 10, 1886, Mary, twelve years old, was committed to the State Institution for Feeble-Minded Children at Syracuse. She remained at that institution until she became of age on Jan. 4, 1896, when she was transferred to the New York Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women, at Newark, N.Y.

Commissioner Feeny on Sept. 19 last received a letter from C.W. Winspear, the Superintendent of that institution, stating that Mary Lake had become insane, and demanding that she be removed. The Commissioner found that she must be brought back to Richmond County, and preceedings were taken to have her legally declared before she could be committed to an insane asylum. Some correspondence ensued between Commissioner Feeny and Superintendent Winspear, and under date of Oct. 1 the latter sent a certificate made by the attending physician at the institution, which follows:

Mary Lake has had a number of attacks of excitement, but none so severe as the present attack, nor did they last as long. Has been very much worse the last two weeks. I have no doubt of her insanity. N.E. LANDO

Upon the receipt of this the Commissioner sent Superintendent of Almshouse Pierce with a nurse, and armed with straitjackets and other paraphernalia to bring the supposed insane and violent girl to her home county, and the Superintendent was surprised to have placed in his custody an attractive-looking young woman entirely docile, well-educated, bright, and intelligent. Miss Lake was brought to the almshouse on Oct. 2, and since that time she has been under careful inspection, and has undergone several severe examinations at the hands of Dr. Isaac L. Millspaugh and Dr. John T. Sprague, who finally certified to Commissioner Feeny that the young woman is not now insane, and perhaps never has been; that there is no evidence that she has ever been even feeble-minded, and, on the contrary, she is intelligent, well-educated, is willing to work, and is most competent in every respect.

Commissioner Feeny did not feel justified in turning the young woman out upon the world, for, while she had been educated and trained to household duties, she is unsophisticated, and with the aid of Mrs. George William Curtis and other ladies whom he has interested in the case, the Commissioner is attempting to find her a good home.

Miss Lake, when seen at the almshouse, talked freely of her life in the institutions, and told stories of ill-treatment at the hands of some of the assistants at the Newark institution. She says there are others at the institution who are sound-minded, and who desire to be and should be discharged from the asylum.

She claims the reason she was declared insane and sent back to Richmond is that she was charged with being the originator of a plan to appeal to Gov. Odell upon the occasion of his visit to the institution during his recent tour of State Institutions. The plan was not carried out by the inmates. While she was among the number who agreed to speak to the Governor, she was not, she says, the leader or the originator of the plan. She declared her determination to leave, however, and fearing that she would make some trouble, the authorities at the institution, she says, took the above-mentioned method to get rid of her.

Of the other Lake children, one son has been lost sight of, another is in an institution for the blind in Brooklyn, and one daughter is said to have been brought up in a private family in ignorance of her parentage, and to have been happily married very recently.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times, Published: October 26, 1901, Copyright @ The New York Times.

Newark State School for Women & Cemetery

New York State School – Newark Custodial Institution for Developmentally Disabled, Childbearing Age Women. February 17, 1932, Begins Accepting Boys.

1878-1885: The Newark State School operated as part of the Syracuse State School.
1885: By statute erected as the State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women.
1919: Name changed to Newark State School for Mental Defectives.
1927: Became a part of the Department of Mental Hygiene and name changed to Newark State School.
1932: Accepts boys.

1916 Newark State Custodial Institution For Feeble-Minded Women.
Early State Schools in New York.
State of New York Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Newark State School for Mental Defectives, 1921 – Through – Fifty-Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the Newark State School, at Newark, Wayne County, New York to the Department of Mental Hygiene 1943.

Newark State School 1937

Newark State School 1937

Newark State School 1937-2

Newark State School 1937-2

Newark State School 1937-3

Newark State School 1937-3


Newark State School for Women

Newark State School for Women

Photograph courtesy of The Museum of disABILITY History 

The New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women was established in 1878 in response to an increasing awareness that almshouses were improper places for ‘feeble-minded’ women. Social reformer Josephine Shaw Lowell led the crusade, with assistance from the State Board of Charities. Lowell delivered several reports before the state legislature expressing her concern that feeble-minded women often disregarded moral and sexual restraint when placed in the undisciplined environment of an almshouse and frequently had illegitimate children who, in turn, became dependent on the state for their welfare. Women of child-bearing age, fifteen to forty-five, were admitted into this institution, in order to “prevent them from multiplying their kind.” (New York State Board of Charities Report, 1879).

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees

THE BAD NEWS: Thousands Remain Nameless! 6.15.2015.

THE GOOD NEWS: One Man Is Remembered! 6.14.2015.