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Poor Houses

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Poor Houses - Poor Farms - County Farms - Potter's Fields

All of these terms were used throughout the years for the place of residence and the burial locations of folks who were indigent and therefore dependent on the community for their care and welfare.  Some of these individuals were simply unable to make a living any longer and had no family to care for them, while others were criminals or outcasts for one reason or another.

Poorhouses were residential institutions to which people were required to go if they could not support themselves. They were started as a method of providing a less expensive (to the taxpayers) alternative to what we would now days call "welfare" - what was called "outdoor relief" in those days. People requested help from the community Overseer of the Poor (sometimes also called a Poor Master) - an elected town official. If the need was great or likely to be long-term, they were sent to the poorhouse instead of being given relief while they continued to live independently. Sometimes they were sent there even if they had not requested help from the Overseer of the Poor. That was usually done when they were found guilty of begging in public, etc.

People have always felt obligated to honor the dead with a decent burial. Due to this,  potter's fields were set up in most counties and states as a place to bury those who were indigent, "unbefriended", and those who had died as criminals.

See more about this subject along with lists of cemeteries and databases of some of the folks who are buried in them at: The Poorhouse Story


Related Links:

Arkansas Poor Farms

Greene County, Arkansas Poor Farm Records

Iowa Poor Farms

Page County, Iowa Alms House Records

Tennessee Poor Farms

Sumner County, Tennessee Poor House Records

Texas Poor Farms

Dallas County, Texas Poor Farm Records

 


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