1864 Schenectady County Poor House

“In June the inmates of the poor house of Schenectady county numbered ninety-one (the November number is one hundred and twenty-one). Twenty-five are lunatics. They have been severally admitted since 1850. Nine are males and twelve are females. Thirteen are of native birth. Eight are mild cases, and four are filthy. It is creditable that sixteen of these cases have been treated in an asylum. Six are capable of labor; others have sewing, books, newspapers, Sunday school papers, and the liberty of the yard to amuse them. One female requires constant restraint; two males and three females require occasional restraint. Muffs are used and a closed cell in the second story. The house has two good wells and one cistern, but no bath tub. The insane are not required to bathe, though their hands and faces are washed daily. The building has no basement cells. The bedding consists of ticks filled with straw, and the straw is changed once a month. One sleeps on straw without other bedding. In several of the beds two persons sleep. The halls are heated by registers from furnaces, but no attention is paid to the uniformity of heat in the winter. There are no accommodations for the various grades of the insane. The sexes are not separated except at night; one attendant beside the paupers is employed in the care of the lunatics. The rooms were clean and the atmosphere in them “excellent.” The accommodations are separated from those of the sane paupers; the accommodation is designed for thirty persons, twenty-five being the highest number ever confined. The insane are visited by the county physician twice a week, or when required. The institution does not receive recent cases.

Dr. A.M. Vedder says: “The attention paid to the insane of this county will compare favorably with any public or private asylum in the State. I am familiar with the treatment of the insane in Philadelphia, and think our insane quite as well cared for as theirs.” Awarding all due credit to the care bestowed upon the insane poor in Schenectady county, which is certainly better than in some of the adjoining counties, we must beg to differ widely from Dr. Vedder in the first part of his opinion. Where there is no bath tub, where insane are not required to bathe, where but one attendant beside paupers is employed to care for the insane, where they are not seen by the physician more than twice a week, the care can hardly challenge comparison with that received at the State asylum or Brigham Hall.”

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 214-215.

New York State County Poor Houses.