1864 St. Lawrence County Poor House

“The report from the county of St. Lawrence shows that the name of poor-house is no misnomer in that county. It is an old wood building, three stories high, the ceilings being 8 1/2, 8,  and 7 feet respectively, with rooms 12 x 12 and 8 x 12, and CAGES 3 feet by 7 and 5 x 10, with small windows opening out of doors, but the cells have no such window. The building is not supplied with sufficient water, nor has it any provision for bathing. In such a building one hundred and thirty paupers are kept, thirty of whom are insane; thirteen are males and seventeen are females; thirteen are natives and seventeen of foreign birth. Only four of this number have ever been treated in an asylum. Fifteen of this number are of filthy habits, aud four are destructive. One case was admitted in 1840.

Three of the males and three females are capable of labor. Those who cannot work have neither occupation nor amusement, and though no restraint is used by handcuffs, WHIPPING is resorted to, and the violent are put in cages to subdue them! There are no arrangements for cleanliness, ventilation or uniformity of heat in winter. The cells have no windows opening out of doors. The bedsteads are of boards, and two sleep in one bed (or bunk). The morning diet is potatoes, meat and bread; dinner, meat and bread; night, soup, which is distributed on plates or in cups to each one. The rooms are not all heated, even in winter, and insane are confined in rooms without heat. At night ten are confined in a single cell. The sexes are not separated, but mingle promiscuously, and the attendants are from the family of paupers, who are grossly unfit to administer to them.

It is a startling fact that in a building not entirely heated, in rooms not heated at all in the winter, three-quarters of the insane inmates had neither shoes or stockings during the cold of winter; and there is no reason to suppose that in such a state of things the clothing is anything like ample. The ultimate recovery of lunatics is not held in view, nor can it be where there is no provision for their care, where they are congregated and kept without reference to either science or humanity.”

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 212.

New York State County Poor Houses.