Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb



Denison Review

February 5, 1886

There seems to be an effort on foot to rent the county poor farm and to hire the board for the paupers. Being somewhat familiar with the working of the poor farm, allow me to give my views in regard to the matter. If I understand rightly the farm was bought and the house built for the maintenance and support of those who have no means of support and can not take care of themselves. Old and helpless men and women, cripples, blind, simple-minded and the orphans, such are the inhabitants of the county farm. Common sense and human feelings teach us that we should provide for this class of people what the world at large has withheld from them. The law provides that a steward be appointed who shall care for the helpless.

A few man have taken it in their heads that the poor farm is not self sustaining. They want to hire a board for the poor and make money for the county at the expense of the paupers. That the poor farm will not support itself, and one can readily see. The land selected for the farm is about as poor as could be made for that purpose. The larger part of it is what you can call swamp land, half the time under water. The farm is yet new, and there has not been much of an attempt made to raise stock on it until the last two years. Things have run themselves until up to the last year, when a man of good farming capacity was put in charge of it and has made the best showing ever recorded since the farm has been operated as a poor farm. Compare this with some other good farm and put fifteen boarders on it who are all well enough to eat, wear out clothing and bedding, but not help work, and how much would it run behind in a year? If we sell stock off of the farm now while times are so hard, it may be that in a year some supervisor will want to buy stock again, and run the farm as it is now. They may buy inferior stock while now there is a high grade stock of cattle on the place. Would cattle, hogs and horses command a fancy price even if they are of better grades? Rent the farm at $2 an acre and what do you get for your improvements, the $2,000 barn, $300 hog house, double corn crib and other valuable improvements. They will remain idle with a renter and go to ruin.

No man can give satisfaction who is paid for boarding a lot of paupers brought together there from all quarters of the world. The history of the farm shows that the temper of the boarders runs up to a great heat and the steward has been compelled to lock them in, if his boarders should get up a little row, or on the other hand he might lock them in at his pleasure. The paupers are a set, always dissatisfied because the most of them are old and feeble or otherwise disabled, and none of them are at the poor house at their own solicitation. If paupers condemn, their friends will follow suit, and people at large, naturally think that the many must be right and condemn the landlord also.

People live to make money and the landlord will cut his boarders a little short to accomplish that end, and they will be deprived of their warm room, sugar in coffee and tea, and good rations so that the landlord can live and make money for Crawford county and save the taxpayer a penny a year. These old paupers and the little orphans need medicine for a cough, bowel complaint or rheumatism, the landlord cannot afford to buy it and the pauper must suffer to save the county the 50 cents. The little children need school books and occasionally a team has to be sent to bring them home from school, but the landlord only boards them, he can't afford to spend his money and time for his boarders. I say with Mr. A. D. Molony give the paupers plenty to eat and drink, so that they may enjoy life, for it is only a pauper's life which is hard enough at best.


Denison Review

February 12, 1886

The Board of Supervisors, in extra session assembled, concluded to try a new experiment for a year on the Poor Farm. They voted to lease the farm and stock to a responsible party who could give ample bonds, and to allow $2.50 for board for each pauper. It was found that the hired help on the farm – steward, hired hands and two hired girls – cost alone $1,500 and as the number of paupers averaged only twelve this was considered a very high expenditure. It is argued that paupers would not fare so well under the new system than under the old, but it should be remembered that a large number of tax payers are struggling to procure the necessaries of life and all coarse food is so cheap and abundant that no responsible man can afford to starve the paupers in his care.

The Board expects to furnish clothing and bedding to the paupers in addition so that they will be warm at all times. We hope the experiment will have a fair trial, and, if it saves money to the tax payers and does not prevent human treatment of paupers, we are satisfied that it is the very best system that can be devised. Mr. August Schultz and Mr. Davie of the Poor Farm committee who are both well meaning and perfectly honest men do not like to be under the fire of constant suspicion, under which public officials always are when they have public funds directly or indirectly under their control. They prefer – as they have no axes to grind – to have the Poor Farm managed by contract so that no imputation that by buying or selling, or in any other way, they have a chance to make money for themselves. We believe that the experiment for one year can do no damage, and if the proper party secures the lease it may result in the saving of $1,000 per year to the county, without depriving any one of the necessaries of life. We recollect many years ago of a series of questions put by a Yankee farmer to a Western Pioneer, and among these was the following:

“Are your cattle well housed?” The reply was, “Western cattle are reasonable creatures and do not expect to be better housed than their owners.” In the same way we may say that paupers should be – and if not must be – reasonable creatures who ought not to expect to fare better than the average tax payer who foots their bills.

Used With permission from Crawford County Historic Preservation Commission