1864 Ontario County Poor House

Dr. John B. Chapin, of Brigham Hall Asylum for the insane, says: “The location of the county house is healthy; the grounds are ample. The department of the county house devoted to the insane comprises the first floor of two wings adjoining the main building. There are two day rooms for females, and one for males. The increased demand for females has caused the erection of additional accommodations for their care. The day rooms arc about 33 by 10 feet. The sleeping rooms are partitioned from these day rooms by open upright bars; the sleeping rooms are 6 by 7 feet; windows on one side of the room in two wards furnish the means of ventilation. The windows are intended to be out of reach, and too high for observation out of doors. They evidently afford ample means of escape. There are no means for classifying patients. The attendants seem to be superannuated paupers. There are no means for properly treating recent and curable eases. The means of escape are abundant, and the disparity of the sexes may be owing to this circumstance. The class of insane now confined are mostly demented persons, who have occasional paroxysms of excitement; they sit with their feet crouched under them, and bent over in the appearance of hopeless dementia. During the summer ventilation is good; in the winter there is probably lack of fresh air and heat. The floors were clean; the walls needed abundance of whitewash. The general appearance of the insane and of the department was cleanly, and there was a disposition on the part of the keeper to do what his means permitted for the comfort of his charge. More efficient means should be adopted to prevent escapes. A suitable attendant should be employed for the care of the insane; a daily inspection by the keeper should be made, and a bath room prepared for more frequent ablution.”

The population of the poor-house is one hundred and seventy; twenty-nine are lunatics—the ratio being one in six; twenty-one are females, and eight are males. The dates of their admission are not to be obtained. Five are filthy; a large number are demented; only two have been treated in the State asylum; five are capable of labor; those who do not work have no amusement; the violent are restrained by a leather muff and by seclusion. The building has a full supply of water for domestic purposes, but not for bathing. The rooms are heated by a coal stove in the hall, and ventilated from windows on the side of the building opposite the cells; all have bedsteads and bedding, and are apparently comfortably fed. There are no accommodations for the various grades of the insane; pauper attendants are employed to take care of the lunatics. The condition of the rooms for cleanliness and ventilation in summer is fair. But two or three had shoes in the summer; [how many were without them in the winter?] The county receives recent cases. Five have escaped during the year who were not returned. There is no sufficient provision for medical treatment, and none is directed to each case with reference to its ultimate recovery.”

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 204-205.

New York State County Poor Houses.