Previous to 1874 Clarke County's indigent poor were kept by individuals, at the expense of the county. In that year a tract of 200 acres of land was purchased on section 4, Osceola Township. The year following a large house was erected, capable of accommodating twenty to twenty-five persons. The whole cost was not far from $7,000. The farm is located three miles north of Osceola. The average number of inmates does not exceed eight, a remarkably good showing. It should be said, however, that the county still pursues, to some extent, the policy of having paupers kept by individuals--relatives, when possible.
Source: from reprint of "Clarke County History", Lewis Pub., Chicago, 1886. p. 266.
Clarke County Farm.
Through the courtesy of the Board of supervisors and the kindness of superintendent Miller, of the Clarke county poor farm, the editor of the Democrat spent an interesting and profitable day at the County Poor Farm Thursday of last week. It was on the occasion of the inspection of the premises and property by the Board of Supervisors.
The county farm consists of a square tract of 160 acres of beautiful land about 3 miles north east of Osceola, in Osceola township adjoining the Fremont line. The county purchased the farm about thirty four years ago and have used it ever since as a home for the poor of the county who become county charges and are eligible for that institution. For the past fourteen years it has been under the management of superintendent Miller and his wife who live on the premises. Aside from the use of the farm, which is thoroughly worked each year, the increase in value of the property has been such as to make it a very advantageous investment for the county, as it is now well worth $100 an acre and would readily sell for that.
The first thing that strikes a visitor to the farm is the extreme neatness of appearance of every thing about the lawns, yards, orchard, and barns. Fences and gates were in perfect repair and order, and scrupulous neatness marked all the surroundings. The spacious barn, cribs and granaries were stored with a goodly supply of feed for stock and spoke well of the productiveness of the farm and its good management. The party spent most of the forenoon inspecting the stock on the place. There were over a hundred head of fine thrifty hogs of the Poland China breed, a large number of which were being fed for market. The cattle, about thirty or forty head, were mostly cows and heifers of the Short Horn variety, among them were some splendid specimens. All showed marks of good care and were thrifty. A number of horses and colts were in the same thrifty condition and were apparently well contented with the treatment they were receiving. The premises fairly swarmed with poultry, nearly always an indication of thrift and prosperity.
The noon hour having arrived the party was summoned to the dining room where Mrs. Miller had provided an elaborate and sumtuous dinner, to which all the company did ample justice.
After dinner the party was escorted over the house. In one wing Mr. and Mrs. Miller have their living apartment. There are accommadations in the pauper wards for 18 or 20 persons, but at present there are but 8 inmates, 4 women and 4 men. The men's quarters are in a frame building slightly removed from the main house.
It has a sitting room well warmed, with asleeping rooms opening off. The utmost cleanliness prevailed in every nook and corner. The beds were clean and comfortable looking and provided with ample covering. Two of the inmates were aged men, and every appointment was such as to insure their comfort. the ward for women was on the second floor of the main house, and was especially home like and comfortable. A well warmed sitting room with sleeping rooms opening off constituted the ward. Opening from the hall was a large and well equipped bath room which under the regulations of the place is in frequent use. There seemed to be good ventilation throughout the house and scrupulous neatness and cleanliness were the conspicuous features. Such of the inmates as are able assist in the work about the house and premises but of those who are now there it was plain to be seen but little could be expected. There are no children at present in the Poor House.
After going through the house the party walked over the farm. Fences were found in repair, the fields clean and clear of noxious weeds, all bearing evidence of careful cultivation. At least one hundred and thirty acres of the farm is smooth land well adopted for any kind of crops, while fifty acres is rolling and just the thing for pasture. On the while condition of the farm stock and house was such as to please and gratify any citizen of the county, and makes it evident that whoever should succeed Mr. and Mrs. Miller in the management of the Poor Farm will have a high standard to maintain and will find it no easy job.
Probably the most interesting character among the inmates at the Poor Farm is the venerable James Madison Walters, who has made his home there for the past 5 years. Mr. Walters is now 88 years old, is tall, erect, and vigorous in body and intellect. His history is an interesting one ... [unfortunately the next 2 lines were completely illegible]... of fortune. In portions of his life he has had wealth, friends, political influence and official rank and prestige, yet he is spending his declining years in the poor house, waiting for the grim reaper.
Sixty-five years ago Mr. Walters settled on land in Marion county, Iowa, which he secured from the government. The early settlers of that time and vicinity selected him for his intelligence and enterprise as their first Justice of the Peace, and he exercised jurisdiction over a vast territory. When Marion county was organized, he was elected the first Sheriff of that county and served two terms. Afterward he was made postmaster at Knoxville, in which office he served several years. Subsequently he was sent for two terms as representative in the legislature from Marion county. Afterward he pursued a varied business life, at one time having considerable wealth. In later years he came to Clarke county living near Murray. One evening about five years ago he came walking to the poor house and asked for admission. He was an old man, then 83 years old, and he announced that he was through, was destitute, and must make that his home. From that time he has remained an inmate of the place. He keeps neatly dressed, is a ready and iwlling conversationalist, of intelligence and culture. With various old time acquaintances and with his few relatives he maintains regular correspondence. The success of no man's life can be accurately measured until its close.