1864 Otsego County Poor House

“There are sixteen lunatics in the poor house of Otsego county, and it is a remarkable circumstance that fifteen of this number are American born. Four are males and twelve are females. Two of this number have been insane since 1837, and one since 1845. Five have been treated in an asylum and returned to the county poor house; eleven have never had the opportunity for a care that an asylum affords. Five of this number are violent, and three are filthy in their habits; four require mechanical restraint. One male and four females are capable of doing some labor. Their only amusement is to saunter about the grounds when the weather will permit. Though the house has one hundred and thirty inmates, there is not a bathing tub in it. The house is supplied with water, and the insane are washed once each week.

The building is of wood with a stone basement, and is three stories high; each story is eight feet. The rooms are 24 by 14 feet. All sleep on beds and bedsteads. They all eat at one common table, and the fare is plain and nutritious. Occasionally three persons occupy one cell. The sexes are kept separated, but they have only pauper attendants in the immediate care of them. Two had neither shoes or stockings during the winter; five had no shoes. They are kept separated from the sane paupers.

Recent cases are received, but they do not receive care with reference to their ultimate recovery. The sanitary regulations are good, and the system of restraint mild and yet efficient. There is no convenience for the various grades and conditions of the insane. The mild and the violent, the sick and the well, the clean and the filthy, are all confined in the same ward. They are visited by a physician once each week. From 1837 to 1864 is a long and miserable existence in such a place.”

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 208-209.

New York State County Poor Houses.