Friday, May 14, 2010

Franklin County Poorhouse

Franklin County first operated a poor house in Malone in 1830, when the county supervisors rented a small farm.  The next year they appropriated $2000 to purchase a building, which burned in 1845 and was rebuilt.  The county replaced this smaller wood structure with a large brick and stone poorhouse 2 miles west of the center of the village, which collapsed after years of disuse in 2002.  Many readers will remember it as the "old county home." 


Franklin County statistics from 1823 from the NYS Annual Report of the State Board of Charities For the Year 1900:

click to enlarge



"This house is located about two miles from the village of Malone. The building is of wood, poorly constructed, and illy fitted for its present uses. It was originally a farm house, and in size 80 x 24 feet, two stories high. There is attached a farm of 110 acres, yielding a revenue of $1,500. The basements of the building are occupied for domestic purposes only. In the house are eighteen rooms or wards, well warmed by stoves, but without ventilation. From one to eight paupers are placed in a single room. The number of inmates was thirty-eight, fifteen males and twenty-three females. Of these twenty-eight are foreign, ten native born; nine are under sixteen years of age. The sexes are separated at night, but mingle together during the day. The average number of inmates is forty-eight, supported at an expense of thirty-one cents per week each, exclusive of the products of the farm. The paupers are employed, the men on the farm, the women about the house. It has been visited once during the year by the board of supervisors. They regulate the government of the house and the system of diet. The food of the paupers is of a plain and wholesome quality. The house is supplied with Bibles, but there is no regular religious instruction. A teacher of the common English branches was employed in the house for three months during last winter, but the children usually attend the district school. A physician is employed by the year at $28, and comes only when called. There are no facilities for bathing. One birth and two deaths have occurred during the last year. No contagious diseases have raged. Of the inmates seven are lunatics, three males and four females, all paupers, none are reported improved or cured. But one is constantly confined, and he in a cell. They are restrained by confinement, and sometimes handcuffs, shackles, and the straight jacket are used. Two have been admitted within the year. They receive no medical or other attendance, nor does the house permit classification. The superintendents usually discharge the insane; sometimes the power is exercised by the keeper. Two of the paupers are blind, four idiots--two male, two female. The keeper reports nine-tenths of the paupers as here by reason of intemperance and its effects. There is here a poor cripple, almost idiotic, whose limbs are drawn up and under him in strange contortions, and his tongue paralyzed by the disease. He can wear no garments but a loose shirt. The unnatural parents were committed to prison, and the child sent to this house.  The hospital department of the house is wretched, and the nursing and medical attendance inadequate. The general appearance of the establishment however is good, and the rooms are particularly neat and clean."

From the 1901 Meigs & Hadley insurance agents policy book (Franklin County Historical & Museum Society collection, 1975.60):



From the 1870  NYS Code relating to the Poor, p.127:




The April 13, 1879 New York Times reprinted a short article from the Penn Monthly quoting facts from a report of the horrific conditions under which the insane in NYS poorhouses suffered.  The writer colorfully introduced the subject thusly:
"Since the days that the curse of slavery was wiped off the land, no subject so full of horrors was ever afforded to human pen.  There is no standard of misery by thich this can be measured.  The wretchedness of these poor creatures seems a realization of a Dantesque ideal."
The most mild of the poorhouses listed, "in Franklin County, two or three sleep on straw without other bedding.  In the day-time the sexes mix as they please.  They have no change of undergarments."

However, the 1/10/1925 Adirondack News reported favorable aspects of the recent NYS Board of Charities inspectors' report: 
"A significant feature of the report is that recent admissions have been confined to old and decrepit persons, and that the younger type of alcoholics is no longer present.  It says:  'Administrative conditions as to cleanliness and care of inmates are excellent.  The institution has a home-like atmosphere.  The relation of employees to inmates seems considerate, reflecting well-regulated local supervision.'"
____________
See: 
-  Seaver, F. (1918) Historical Sketches of Franklin County.  Pp 78-79.
Herald and Adirondack Mt. Press, Tupper Lake, 9/22/1927
Poorhouse History website

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