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Ringgold County Home, Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Depot Museum

RINGGOLD COUNTY HOME

POOR FARMS in IOWA

Charitable institutions, ever since the earliest dawn of history, have existed in some form to ameliorate the unhappy and sorrowful phases of human life. With the advance in knowledge, and the increased duty thereby resting on men to care for their fellows, there has resulted a better understanding of the needs of humanity and better methods of meeting them. Institutions of a charitable nature have sprung up in every clime, more or less perfect in their organization and administration; all of which are doing a noble work for humanity. But, as is more interesting to us, our own land is in no respect behind other lands in its care for the sick and sore, the poor and the unfortunate.

In every State there are numerous institutions cared for at its expense, and in nearly every county the same feeling of kindness finds expression in the maintenance of a home for the same classes. The care of this county for the unfortunate in life has ever been most kind. Busied with individual cares and necessities, as its inhabitants have been, they nevertheless found opportunity to pause and inquire into the condition of the poor of the county.

It was the custom in the earlier days to place a family in charge of one or more unfortunates, paying them a stated sum in consideration for which they were to provide certain articles both of clothing and food, and were required to give bonds for the faithful performance of their duty.

A case in point, serving to illustrate all these particulars is found on the records of this county affecting, however, Ringgold county, then under the jurisdiction of Taylor [County].* The entry is transcribed verbatim et literatim.

October 18 Day 1852

Know all men by these presents that I, Jerry HARPER of the county of Ringgold, and the State of Iowa for and in Consideration of the sum of one Hundred dollars to Me in hand paide is held and firmly Bound unto Sarey Ann - of the County and State a fore Said to furnish the said Sarey Ann - all the necessary provisions and Clothing for her self and her foure Children and all Necessary fuel for the fire and all the Nesesary midisens and Employ all physicans and pay all Reasonable Doctors bills and log all the heavy Wood for the fire for the termination of four years from this present date for the payment of the above obligation I have Executed my Note.

Jery HARPER

Attest: Lott HOBS

Private families often cared for persons in this way, and this is but one of the numerous instances of the past. The attention of the county was aroused to the matter, and the first official action relative to providing a home for this class. General S. MOORE was a member of the board of supervisors that purchased Ringgold County's poor farm.

* Ringgold County was formed from Taylor County in 1847.

The Iowa excerpt from a 1904 U.S. Government report which summarized various state poor laws stated:

The board of supervisors of each county has authority to establish a poorhouse, to prescribe regulations for its management, and to appoint the steward of the same, who may be removed by the board at pleasure.

No person shall be admitted to the poorhouse except upon the written order of a township trustee. When an inmate becomes able to support himself the board must order his discharge.

The poorhouse must be inspected at least once a month by one of the county supervisors. The supervisors have authority to let out the support of the poor with the use and occupancy of the poorhouse and farm for a period not exceeding three years.

Liability for support of relatives extends to parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren.

A legal settlement is gained by residing one year in the state; but the authorities may prevent a person from obtaining a settlement by "warning to depart" if he is a county charge or likely to become such.

The general relief of the poor is in charge of the township trustees, subject to the regulations of the board of supervisors.

For cities the board may appoint an overseer of the poor.

RINGGOLD COUNTY HOME

On October 6, 1882, Ringgold County purchased 240 acres of land in Liberty Township of John A. UNDERHILL for $5,000. In the spring of 1883, they built the first county home, it having supported its poor in their own homes or hired them kept. This first building cost $2,000 and the other improvements cost $1,000. In 1919, this building was condemned.

~ ~ ~ ~

Twice-A-Weekly News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, February 26, 1915

The board of supervisors has hired Alfred Lewis to serve as steward of the county farm at a salary of $100 per month. Mr. Lewis has served as steward for a number of years and his work has been satisfactory.

~ ~ ~ ~

Twice-A-Weekly News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 04, 1915

Alfred LEWIS has resigned as steward of the county farm after several years of service, and members of the board of supervisors have employed Fred HAYWORTH, who will assume the duties of the position at once.

~ ~ ~ ~

On July 8, 1919, an election was held to determine whether or not the county should be bonded in the sum of $28,000 for the purpose of building a new and modern county house building, to take the place of the one condemned by the state inspector. At the election, 751 votes were polled and the proposition lost by a majority of 11 votes. Two lettings were held and both times bids were in excess of bonds, voted on or gain, December 5, 1921. A successful letting was held and a contract for general construction was let to HANNON and RODGERS of Newton, Iowa, according to the plans of KEIFER or KEFFER and JONES [the same architects of the Ringgold County Courthouse built in 1926], architects of Des Moines. The plumbing and heating contracts were let to Frank CORRUTHERS of Lenox.

Work was begun in March of 1922 and finished and accepted on December 29, 1922.

The new building is modern and measured 68 feet 4 inches by 28 feet 2 inches in size, with two full stories and a basement. It is fire-proof with a modern electric light plant, which is also used for pumping water for the use of the entire building, including the water for the livestock on the farm if necessary.

The board selected Kewanee Electrical lights and water system, and American Ideal heating plant construction and equipment cost.

 

    Hannon & Rodgers    $21,861.98
    Frank Corruthers         4,284.50
    J. L. Kinsell
     extra hardware
            140.61
    Hawkeye Lumber Co.
     sewer & pipe
            126.28
    J. H. Askren
     painting
               91.80
    J. H. Seevers
     screens
               33.15
    Miller & Coverdell
     grading
             420.00
    Ideal Electric Co.
     wiring
             187.60
    Miscellaneous               54.00
    Total     $27,200.00

  The building is finished with sanitary composition floors, with integral base, and has all corners coved, or rounded, thus reducing the chance for the collection of dirt to a minimum. It is equipped with low pressure heating system, and all toilet rooms and baths have the most modern fixtures, being automatic in operation.

Ringgold County Home is located in Liberty Township along U.S. Highway 169, north of Side Hill School. It was in operation from 1854 to 1925. Unlike some Iowa county farms, there is no indication that there was a cemetery located on the site for residents. Instead, they were interred in other cemeteries in Ringgold County.

In October of 1950, the county home was leased to F. E. TELBY of Fort Dodge and Mrs. Ferne ROBISON of Leon, and used as the Fairhaven Rest Home. The HORTON Brothers of Winterset assumed operation of the nursing home with Wayne A. BEEBE manager of the 48-resident capacity.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 02, 1953

The formal opening of the Horton Nursing Home, four miles north of Mount Ayr on Hwy. 169, was held Sunday. The building, known as Ringgold county farm, was remodeled and has been equipped to provide care for 48 patients. The expense was shared by the county and the Horton Brothers of Winterset, operators of the new home.

In 1966, L. W. "Joe" GROSS bought the facility and renamed it Sunny Slope Nursing Home. It was in operation for nine years until Mr. GROSS opened Mount Ayr Health Care Center. Ernest "Sandy" STRINGHAM bought the building and its 20 acres for $12,700 from Ringgold County on February 26, 1975.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, April 06, 2017, Page 9

Excerpt from SNAPSHOTS of HISTORY by Mike Avitt

. . . [County Poor Farms] were later called County Homes. Ringgold County would establish a poor farm in 1882.

Poor farms were self-sustaining lodgings surrounded by tillable ground. The residents grew fruits and vegetables and also raised livestock and poultry. A man was hired by the county oversee the operation.

However, poor farms were often ugly and violent places. Many of the residents were violent, mentally impaired, and desperate. A blurb in a November 29, 1888 Mount Ayr newspaper says a seperate building was being constructed at the Ringgold County Poor Farm to house "vicious" inmates. This the poor farm was condemned by the state health board in 1919.

A new brick county home was opened in the winter of 1921-22 on the site of the old poor farm, four miles north of Mount Ayr. This facility lasted until the late 1930s when Social Security and other aid for the poor and elderly came into being. The old brick county home then served as a private nursing home until 1975.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker

SOURCES:
Ringgold County History Complied and written by the Iowa Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Iowa, Sponsored by Ringgold County Superintendent of Schools, Mount Ayr, Iowa. 1942.

AVITT, Mike. Pages and Pictures from the Past. . .Ringgold County, Iowa 1855-2005 p. . Paragon Publications, Inc. Mount Ayr. 2009.

EVANS, Lyman. Taylor County, Iowa History Pp. 444-45, 484. 1881.

www.poorhousestory.com/IOWA_LegalSummary.htm

TERRY, Jack R. A Centennial History of Mount Ayr, Iowa: 1875-1975 p. 53. Mount Ayr Record-News. 1975.

LESAN, Mrs. B. M. Early History of Ringgold County: 1844 - 1937 Pp. 84-85. Blair Pub. House. Lamoni IA. 1937.

Compiled and submitted by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2009; updated August of 2009; updated June of 2010; updated September of 2015; updated September of 2017


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