1864 Oneida County Poor House

“There are 560 inmates in the poor house of Oneida county, ninety-seven of whom are insane; forty-three are males, and fifty-four females. Fifty-five are natives and forty-two are of foreign birth. Within the year four have died, nine have been discharged and two have absconded. Sixty of the whole number have been treated in the State asylum, and been returned as incurable or for some other reason. Most of the number have been received into the county asylum since 1850, though the admittance of one dates back to 1843.

About forty of the whole number are capable of performing some labor, half of whom are males. None of the females labor out of doors. Those who are unable to labor have out of door amusements, such as “pitching quoits, playing ball, swinging, fiddling, dancing and singing.” The females are amused with books and papers. Fourteen require occasional restraint from destructiveness to their clothing; for this purpose leather muffs, straight jackets, cold baths and fixed chamber chairs are used. Thirteen are filthy; five are past seventy years, and one is eighty-eight. The building has a full supply of water, and one bath tub in each department, and beside daily ablution, the insane are required to bathe weekly. The building is heated by furnaces, and every room is ventilated from the ceiling. There are no basement cells. The building is of brick, two stories and a basement, with ceilings of ten feet; the single rooms are five feet by nine, and the double one seven by eleven feet, and the sitting room halls twelve by sixty-four feet, and all well lighted. In no case does more than one sleep in a bed; the ticks are filled with straw: sheets, quilts and straw pillows constitute the bedding. The fare is wholesome and simple; the patients all come into the dining hall to the table and are waited upon by attendants.

In the winter all the rooms are heated, and a comfortable temperature is maintained. The building has five wards, and allows of some accommodation for the various grades of the insane. It admits of complete separation of the sexes, and the whole is under the care of a man and his wife, with female assistants. Perfect cleanliness is maintained and good ventilation.

The institution does not provide for recent cases; they are sent to the State asylum in Utica. All have shoes and stockings, and some change of clothing, the same as sane paupers. The building is designed to accommodate about ninety patients. A physician is employed who visits the institution twice every week or oftener if necessary, but the treatment has no reference to ultimate recovery. The pauper insane are probably better cared for than in almost any of the other counties of the State excepting New York and Kings. The occasion of this may doubtless be attributed to the liberal influence that is exerted over the public mind by the State asylum at Utica. The fact that it makes no pretentions to the care of recent cases is most commendable, and the portion who first receive treatment at the State asylum is therefore large.”

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 203-204.

New York State County Poor Houses.