Crawford County, Iowa, Poor Farm History
County Poor Farm Home Near Arion
Photo submitted by Phyliss Heller
In the election of 1878, the Board of Supervisors was authorized to purchase a county farm. In pursuance of this election one hundred sixty acres were purchased from D. R. Gillete at fifteen dollars per acre.
In April 1905, the county poorhouse was totally destroyed by fire. This necessitated the placing of county charges in various institutions, where they have been supported up to this time.
The issue of constructing a new poor farm to replace the one that had been destroyed by fire was turned down by the voters in the November election.
In 1910 a proposition to dispose of part of the poor farm and issue bonds for twenty-five thousand dollars for the construction of a poorhouse was submitted to the people and carried.
The supervisors advertised the sale for March l (1910) at 3:00 o'clock at the Courthouse with W. J. McAhren crying the sale on the front steps of the Courthouse.
The legal description of the land in Denison township was SW 1/2 section 31, twp. 83 North, Range 39 West of the 5th P.M., except 1/2 acre in the southeast corner of said land consisting of 164 1/2 acres, subject to a 1911 year lease thereon, the terms of sale to be $1,000.00 cash payment on date of sale and balance cash 60 days from the date of sale, without interest.
The county retained the half acre because this had been used as a cemetery to bury paupers who had died at the Poor Farm and had no known relatives.
Burials in the Poor Farm Cemetery
The supervisors were now ready to contract a new building, a structure large enough to care for twenty-five inmates, besides the manager's family. The estimated cost $25,000.00. The board of supervisors let the contract for the building of the new county home and barn to the Wiley Brothers of Chicago for $14,487.00. (The plumbing and gas lighting was contracted separately.)
The "new" county home was built on land already owned by the county which was located directly north (across the Boyer River) from the location of the "old" county home. The location of the "old" county home was flooded often by the river water and this probably influenced the supervisors to sell the original property and build on higher ground since the county had the land anyway.
Crawford County Iowa History 1850-1925
by Anna Marie Schneller.
The county home, locally called the poor farm, was destroyed by fire about 3:00 o'clock on Sunday morning, April 2, 1905. One man, an old fellow named Perry Wilson, was burned in the building.
The County home was located one mile east of Arion on the Boyer River bottom. It was a large frame structure with many rooms. There were no conveniences such as a county facility should have. There were fourteen in the home and it was managed by Mr. and Mrs. Marion Cole.
A good part of the furniture was saved. The house was a total loss. There was $1,600.00 insurance on the building. The loss to the county was near $3,500.00.
The State Board of Control had condemned the old poor house as inadequate. The supervisors disposed of the inmates by sending the three Wildmen women to the Glenwood State Asylum, the Anderson woman to the hospital, four others to Shelby County and three to Sac County. One old man was left to house. He was offered a home by relatives a short time later. Marion Cole was paid $250.00 for the work he had done since the beginning of the year.
The supervisors rented the land to another farmer who would go ahead with the crops for the year.
There was speculation that the fire had been set. A suspect was arrested. Russell Gifford was judged insane, and Sheriff Meehan took him back to Oregon where he came from.
Meyers, F. W. History of Crawford County, Iowa. Chapter XI-County Government. 1911. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago.
Schneller, Anna Marie. Crawford County Iowa History 1850-1925
Compiled and submitted by Sharon Hopper.