NH used to maintain poor houses for paupers

Caring for the poor, the old and the helpless has always been a problem for civilized societies.

There have always been the ill, the orphans, the disabled and those who don’t fit into society for one reason or another.

On Nov. 3, Steve Taylor presented the program "Poor Houses and Town Farms: The Hard Row for Paupers." In a lively and entertaining talk, Taylor, former state commissioner of agriculture and now a speaker with the New Hampshire Humanities Council, traced the development and evolution of caring for the poor from England in the 1600s to present-day nursing homes.

Colonial towns used several methods, he said, none of them particularly humane. People without means were "warned out of town" – simply told to leave. Those who couldn’t be removed were auctioned to the lowest bidder – that is, given to the person offering the least amount of money to house (and work) the poor person for a year.

Beginning in the 1830s, poor farms were used to collect the indigent into one place under the supervision of a superintendent, but officials also included petty criminals and the insane.

Officials had a hard time, Taylor said, "separating the ‘vagrant, vicious poor’ from the helpless and ‘honest poor.’ "

Eventually, county farms were built. Hillsborough County’s complex at Grassmere included a prison, nursing home and large dairy farm where the able-bodied worked for their keep. That dairy farm was once considered one of the finest herds in the state, but it was phased out when farming became financially impractical. The rest of the county offices are still there.

The Hillsborough County Farm was established in Goffstown in 1849 with 88 residents. When the main building burned in 1867, 125 residents were left homeless. The county purchased the David Whiting Farm in Wilton, near the Temple line, and moved residents there in 1868. Pictures show it as a complex of a dozen buildings. Only the house and barn remain as a private home.

In 1895, the operation was moved back to Grassmere, a section of Goffstown.

According to records, as many as 250 people were housed in Wilton. Some were simply too old to live alone, and some lived at the farm only in the winter, returning to their own homes in warm weather.

The farm maintained a school and had a chaplain for regular church services. A Catholic priest came monthly, and when there were singers and musicians available, there was a choir.

The farm apparently was productive enough to pay for at least part of its expenses besides providing all of the food and hay for its milk cows.

In 1826, Lyndeborough purchased 133 acres for a poor farm from Eleazar Woodward for $1,500. The house, on Crooked S Road, is now owned by John and Joan Giese.

Joan Giese said when they renovated the attic, they found the evidence of the many cell-like rooms.

"They were about big enough for a bed and place for a candle," she said. "It must have been awful."

The farm was sold in 1870 for $5,600, and the town joined the county system.

Prior to the farm, the town had used the "warning out" system. Sometime in the late 1700s, the town purchased a cow for the poor.

Wilton’s poor farm, located in West Wilton, operated from 1830-68. The brick house dates to about 1815.

NH used to maintain poor houses for paupers

Caring for the poor, the old and the helpless has always been a problem for civilized societies.

There have always been the ill, the orphans, the disabled and those who don’t fit into society for one reason or another.

On Nov. 3, Steve Taylor presented the program "Poor Houses and Town Farms: The Hard Row for Paupers." In a lively and entertaining talk, Taylor, former state commissioner of agriculture and now a speaker with the New Hampshire Humanities Council, traced the development and evolution of caring for the poor from England in the 1600s to present-day nursing homes.

Colonial towns used several methods, he said, none of them particularly humane. People without means were "warned out of town" – simply told to leave. Those who couldn’t be removed were auctioned to the lowest bidder – that is, given to the person offering the least amount of money to house (and work) the poor person for a year.

Beginning in the 1830s, poor farms were used to collect the indigent into one place under the supervision of a superintendent, but officials also included petty criminals and the insane.

Officials had a hard time, Taylor said, "separating the ‘vagrant, vicious poor’ from the helpless and ‘honest poor.’ "

Eventually, county farms were built. Hillsborough County’s complex at Grassmere included a prison, nursing home and large dairy farm where the able-bodied worked for their keep. That dairy farm was once considered one of the finest herds in the state, but it was phased out when farming became financially impractical. The rest of the county offices are still there.

The Hillsborough County Farm was established in
Goffstown in 1849 with 88 residents. When the main building burned in 1867, 125 residents were left homeless. The county purchased the David Whiting Farm in Wilton, near the Temple line, and moved residents there in 1868. Pictures show it as a complex of a dozen buildings. Only the house and barn remain as a private home.

In 1895, the operation was moved back to Grassmere, a section of Goffstown.

According to records, as many as 250 people were housed in Wilton. Some were simply too old to live alone, and some lived at the farm only in the winter, returning to their own homes in warm weather.

The farm maintained a school and had a chaplain for regular church services. A Catholic priest came monthly, and when there were singers and musicians available, there was a choir.

The farm apparently was productive enough to pay for at least part of its expenses besides providing all of the food and hay for its milk cows.

In 1826, Lyndeborough purchased 133 acres for a poor farm from Eleazar Woodward for $1,500. The house, on Crooked S Road, is now owned by John and Joan Giese.

Joan Giese said when they renovated the attic, they found the evidence of the many cell-like rooms.

"They were about big enough for a bed and place for a candle," she said. "It must have been awful."

The farm was sold in 1870 for $5,600, and the town joined the county system.

Prior to the farm, the town had used the "warning out" system. Sometime in the late 1700s, the town purchased a cow for the poor.

Wilton’s poor farm, located in West Wilton, operated from 1830-68. The brick house dates to about 1815.

NH used to maintain poor houses for paupers

Caring for the poor, the old and the helpless has always been a problem for civilized societies.

There have always been the ill, the orphans, the disabled and those who don’t fit into society for one reason or another.

On Nov. 3, Steve Taylor presented the program "Poor Houses and Town Farms: The Hard Row for Paupers." In a lively and entertaining talk, Taylor, former state commissioner of agriculture and now a speaker with the New Hampshire Humanities Council, traced the development and evolution of caring for the poor from England in the 1600s to present-day nursing homes.

Colonial towns used several methods, he said, none of them particularly humane. People without means were "warned out of town" – simply told to leave. Those who couldn’t be removed were auctioned to the lowest bidder – that is, given to the person offering the least amount of money to house (and work) the poor person for a year.

Beginning in the 1830s, poor farms were used to collect the indigent into one place under the supervision of a superintendent, but officials also included petty criminals and the insane.

Officials had a hard time, Taylor said, "separating the ‘vagrant, vicious poor’ from the helpless and ‘honest poor.’ "

Eventually, county farms were built. Hillsborough County’s complex at Grassmere included a prison, nursing home and large dairy farm where the able-bodied worked for their keep. That dairy farm was once considered one of the finest herds in the state, but it was phased out when farming became financially impractical. The rest of the county offices are still there.

The Hillsborough County Farm was established in Goffstown in 1849 with 88 residents. When the main building burned in 1867, 125 residents were left homeless. The county purchased the David Whiting Farm in Wilton, near the Temple line, and moved residents there in 1868. Pictures show it as a complex of a dozen buildings. Only the house and barn remain as a private home.

In 1895, the operation was moved back to Grassmere, a section of Goffstown.

According to records, as many as 250 people were housed in Wilton. Some were simply too old to live alone, and some lived at the farm only in the winter, returning to their own homes in warm weather.

The farm maintained a school and had a chaplain for regular church services. A Catholic priest came monthly, and when there were singers and musicians available, there was a choir.

The farm apparently was productive enough to pay for at least part of its expenses besides providing all of the food and hay for its milk cows.

In 1826, Lyndeborough purchased 133 acres for a poor farm from Eleazar Woodward for $1,500. The house, on Crooked S Road, is now owned by John and Joan Giese.

Joan Giese said when they renovated the attic, they found the evidence of the many cell-like rooms.

"They were about big enough for a bed and place for a candle," she said. "It must have been awful."

The farm was sold in 1870 for $5,600, and the town joined the county system.

Prior to the farm, the town had used the "warning out" system. Sometime in the late 1700s, the town purchased a cow for the poor.

Wilton’s poor farm, located in West Wilton, operated from 1830-68. The brick house dates to about 1815.