Decatur County Poor Farm

Eden Township


On the motion of S. P. McNeil of High Point, Decatur County's Board of Supervisors purchased 160 acres of land on January 4, 1866 for the purpose of providing housing for the poor, the feeble-minded and the nonviolent insane. The land, located in Section 14 of Eden Township, was purchased for $2,700 from Dozier B. Gammon. Gammon's residence was enlarged and equipped as an infirmary. A frame addition which cost $2,000 was added in 1878 to serve as an insane hospital.

Inmates at Decatur County's home were provided an opportunity to enjoy farm life and perform chores from which they could earn money.

Himena V. Hoffman wrote in her History of Decatur County, Iowa 1839 - 1970, pages 105 - 108:

From the time this Home was established until 1900, it would seem that more of the inmates were indigents than mental afflicted. For instance, in 1891 there was only one who was not admitted as a pauper, and he was classified as "has fits." Two pathetic entries in succession: Thomas ------------age 93 and Thomas Albert age 3 weeks, both paupers.

For years the records carried the name, Molly Unknown, who was found abandoned one July day in 1883. While she was entered as a pauper, she was perhaps feeble-minded. It is assumed that some family not wanted the care of the child left her on a country road. Molly had been a woman for many years when she died at the Home where she had been placed when a small child.

The other children at the County Home between 1890 and 1900 were there for months not years. Peter aged four, Henry, aged nine, and three-year old Willie were taken by a Children's aid Society, as were two little girls. A fourteen-year-old girl was sent to a "Home for the Friendly," according to the record, but it seems possible it was a "Home for the Friendless."

A year-old child of a deaf-mute mother was sent to an Ottumwa institution. A twenty-three year old mother who was admitted as insane brought a baby three-weeks-old with her.

The business firms that furnished goods for the County Farm included Wallace and Horner, H. Long, Bobbitt and Fluke, Van Werden and Co., Hurst Brothers, Hamilton and Gammill, Young and Thompson, John Bowman, San Farquhar, J. R. Bashaw, Bowsher and Biddison and Mike Myers.

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Articles about the County Farm: Census Records: Photos
Various Newspaper Clippings US Federal 1870 Register of County Farm Inmates 1879-1959
F. Varga Comments About County Farm US Federal 1880 County Farm Cemetery
County Farm State of Affairs Iowa State 1885  
Board Minutes as per County Farm US Federal 1900  
A Visit to the County Farm US Federal 1910 & 1920  
Pauper Claims for 1895 Deceased US Federal 1930  
Lillie Davis Case US Federal 1950 (scroll down to sheet 14)  
Pauper Claims for 1897 Deceased    
Pauper Claims for 1898 Deceased    
Jacob Helsher Case
M. McCollough Dies at County Farm    
New Regulations for County Farm    
Inmate Geo. Argabright Found Dead    
Bert Visits County Farm    
1901 County Farm Report    
Alleged Elder Abuse    
J. Mendall of County Farm Dies    
Christmas at the County Farm    
David Wood Missing from County Farm    
A.W. Waldo Commits Suicide    
County Farm Stewards Grayson & Shira    
Articles about Mollie/Molly (unknown)    
Decatur County IAGenWeb