This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The old poor farm

Searching through the library for interesting tidbits on Rensselaer, I found a book with an insurance map of the old poor farm that was once located west of the airport and north of the fairgrounds, where the animal shelter and/or the corrections facility are now. The map is from 1921.

I do not fully understand what the purpose of the poor farm was. It seems to have been the place for people who could not take care of themselves but who had not committed a crime that merited prison. Here is a bit about another poor farm, this one in  Fulton County and here is a wikipedia entry that seems relevant. It was a farm, and presumably the people who were classified as inmates were expected to work on the farm if they were able. If you know the Jasper County poor farm or poor farms in general, please comment.
Among the outbuildings is one labeled, "Jail." What do you think that was for?

I do not recall poor farms in Minnesota when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s. I do remember very large state institutions for the mentally retarded. People with mentally retarded children (that was the term used at the time) were almost encouraged to put them into these institutions, which was a horrible way to treat such vulnerable children. I am pretty sure that those are no longer operating, but I long ago lost touch with most of what is going on in Minnesota. Did Indiana have similar institutions?

I have one memory of the old poor farm. I am pretty sure that it was already closed when we came to Rensselaer. A few years after we arrived, there was auction there, and we bought an old dresser, which we still have. There were quite a few dressers up for sale, as I recall, so my guess is that my dresser came out of one of the rooms of what the map calls the "inmates."

(Talking to an original Rensselaerian  about poor farms, I learned that the old poor farm for Winamac is still in operation under the name of Pleasant View. I could not find anything about it on the web. Does anyone know about this facility?)


Gene said...

When I was a child in Rensselaer in the 1940s I remember riding by the Fair Grounds, then by the Poor Farm and seeing a couple of old folks sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch facing the road.

And I remember how my grandparents sometimes discussed their fears of becoming indigent and being sent to "The Poor Farm" -- and I remember an old Indian (Cherokee, I think) named KiKi Rizensun who was a poor farm resident. But that's all I remember... Gene

Capouch said...

Pulaski county's poor farm, which is called "Pleasant View" is a rambling brick structure on the outskirts of Winamac.

It is still occupied. It has been the subject of much controversy the past few years, as county officials have attempted to close it, over the objections of both historians and its current residents.