The Poor Farm

Every community faces challenges presented by individuals who have no source of income due to temporary or ongoing poverty, disability, medical problems, or mental instability.  Families usually took 'care of their own' but sometimes there were multiple challenges and a family member might be sent to a local facility for the infirm, mentally handicapped, or physically limited.   

Barry Co., MO Poor Farm - where Barbara Ennis Terry was said to have died in 1883.
(Early History of Barry County, Mo)
Since communities seldom had the largess to create specific, separate entities often one place would serve several roles.  What started out as a 'Poor Farm' where the destitute or homeless might be given work and shelter morphed into the place where the insane, handicapped, or long-term ill went when a family could not care for them.  This happened with aging parents cared for by equally aging children. The family may not have been "poor" but were strapped for options.  

As fortunes ebbed and flowed conditions improved or deteriorated.  The Barry Co., Missouri Poor Farm was established to high hopes but within a few decades it had to be replaced.   The original wooden structure was superseded by a brick structure run on more a modern care home basis.   

The "Poor Farms" and the community "Pauper Graves" offer a challenge to most family historians.  Records were seldom kept, sometimes names were not even known, such locations were soon forgotten and built over, and thus locating a final resting place nigh impossible.   One person, on my husband's tree, was in a state hospital when he died from cancer and all that is known is one of four pauper cemeteries would have been used. All records of the deaths, grave allocation numbers, and similar data no longer exist. Sometimes, however, original plat books provide clues and occasionally death certificates provide addresses for the county cemetery set aside for indigenent and pauper graves.

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