Madison County Poor Farm ca 1946

The Madison County Poor Farm was established in 1876 with the purchase of 256 acres of land in Sections 24 & 25 of Douglas Township. A frame building was quickly erected to house inmates and the farm was populated with both the poor and the mentally ill. Shortly thereafter, a brick building was built and surrounding farm buildings were added. 


Early on, the inmates included both the poor and the mentally unfit. Eventually, the state passed a law that the insane be housed at Clarinda and the mental patients were removed to that facility. There were times, however, when Clarinda became overcrowded and Madison County was forced to return the mentally ill to their facility for awhile.



Several items in the early Winterset Madisonian alluded to the fact that children from the Poor Farm were available for adoption, anywhere from infants to teenagers. The children could be "tried out" and if found unsatisfactory, could be returned.


In the later years, the Poor Farm housed mostly the elderly, many of them dying there. Some remaining financial records show that the county paid for burials both at the farm and in a regular cemetery. There are no surviving records showing how many died there or where they are buried. From an unknown source, it was stated that the Poor Farm cemetery was eventually destroyed, the markers being "thrown in a quarry" and the graves farmed over.


In February of 1975, Leonard Abrahams, a lifelong resident of Douglas Township, living in Section 23, spoke of people who were residents of the County Poor Farm, located in Section 24, being buried on the County Farm property, west line, adjacent of the draw that goes through the property. 


Transcribed and edited by Kent Transier

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This page was created on Dec 08, 2006.
This page was last updated Thursday, 13-Apr-2017 19:13:43 EDT .