1893 Seneca County Poor House

Seneca County Poor-house was visited by Commissioner Craig, without notice, July 18, 1893.

The commissioner called with a carriage on several of the visitors of the State Charities Aid Association, who are residents of Waterloo, to request them to accompany him, on his inspection; but found them out of town or engaged and unable to go with him. The keeper of the poor-house, Mr. Reuben E. Saeger, was absent, at Seneca Falls, and was not expected to return until evening. Many of the men were in the harvest field or absent from the house. All the inmates present were inspected, with dormitories, kitchen and adjacent buildings, in company with the matron, the wife of the keeper.

The keeper has reported the census on the twenty-fourth day of July, six days after the visit, as follows:

Inmates, 45; consisting of, men, 37; women, 8; idiots, 3; epileptics, none; insane, none; children between 2 and 16 years of age, none; children under two years old, none. State paupers. 11, viz.:
Record No. 269, A. A. Stevens.
Record No. 271, Patrick Boyle.
Record No. 287, Wm. O’Herron.
Record No. 352, Fred Taylor.
Record No. 362, James O’Donnell.
Record No. 375, John McCarthy.
Record No. 393, Hayward Wilcox.
Record No. 403, Joseph Hansen.
Record No. 435, Timothy Casey.
Record No. 452, John W. Henderson.
Record No. 453, Michael Hayes.

Buildings and Appliances.
The improvements which were recommended at the last preceding visit of the commissioner with the secretary of the State board, have not been made. The recommendations, among other things, were that the old one-story wood building should be abandoned as untenantable; that a proper bath-room and tub should be supplied; and that the women should be assigned to a separate yard and excluded from the men’s yard. In order to make room in the main building for the inmates of the untenantable building, it was suggested that there should be built for the keeper and his family a cottage, which would be less expensive than a new detached building for inmates. The committee appointed by the board of supervisors reported adversely on the suggestion for a separate cottage, and ignored the principal recommendations.

The only stationary bath-tub for the men is in a dark closet, built in the room used as the hospital for men. Pails or hand-tubs in one of the detached buildings are used in preference to the stationary tub.

The women have no hospital. An inmate of one of the rooms opening into a common ward, an aged woman, appeared to be near dying. In the same room were two other inmates, one of whom, though suffering with rheumatism, was the acting attendant of the dying woman.

The men’s hospital is the room in which is partitioned off the dark closet containing the stationary bath-tub already mentioned. In this room was a man, said to be afflicted with heart disease, who appeared to be suffering pain; and on a bed another man appeared to be paralyzed or helpless, and was said to be demented; and another pauper inmate who appeared to be acting attendant on these sick men.

In the dormitories the beds and bedding were not tidy. The beds were not filthy, and the sheets were not soiled, in the sense in which the term is specifically used, but the old quilts and beds and bedding were not in good condition.

The bread, both old and new, was found to be under done, and in this respect unfit for the human stomach, especially where, as in poor-houses, it forms a large part of the diet. The dietary for the week preceding August 7, 1893, has been furnished by the keeper, as follows:

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread and coffee.
Dinner (2.30 p. m.) – Boiled beef, soup. potatoes, bread, tea.

Breakfast – Beef stew, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled corned beef, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, rice.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled shoulder (warm), potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fried pork, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Pork and beans (warm), bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

Breakfast – Fish, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Codfish (boiled), potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, rice.

Breakfast – Fried shoulder, potatoes, bread, coffee.
Dinner – Boiled beef, soup, potatoes, bread, tea.
Supper – Coffee, bread, cake.

“We have milk instead of coffee for supper at times, as we have it.”

The visiting physician, Dr. McNamara, resides at Seneca Falls, four miles distant, and visits once a week. It did not appear that special visits had been made to the sick persons already mentioned. There are no stated services of a religious character. The pastor of the Presbyterian church and the rector of the Episcopal church make occasional visits, and the Roman Catholic priest responds to calls from members of his church. The foregoing statements respecting bath-tub, want of bathroom for men, untenantable building and absence of proper precautions for separation of sexes relate to question of humane care.

Economical Elements of Administration.
There is a farm of 124 acres, of which about 100 acres are under cultivation, the residue not being arable on account of limestone too near the surface to admit the plow, but used as pasture lot. The annual salaries are as follows: Keeper, $500; matron, none; physician, $200; the annual cost of medicines, $175, not being included in physician’s salary. The weekly cost of keeping inmates per capita is one dollar and forty cents.

I. It is advised that the secretary recommend the superintendent of the poor and the supervisors that the improvements formerly recommended and specified in the foregoing, be made.
II. It is recommended that the contract for boarding State paupers in Seneca County Poor-house, and the designation of the said poor-house as a State alms-house, be made dependent on provisions for a proper bath-room, with tub for men, and proper measures for the separation of the sexes and the decent housing of the inmates.”

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 486-489.