November 17, 2002

'Poor Farm'- There was such a place
by Bob Stealey, Editor

No doubt you've heard a parent say to a child, "You're going to put us in the poor house," or a frustrated taxpayer yell out in despair, "The tax collectors are going to send me to the poor farm."

For readers 35 and younger, did you know that there actually was a place called the Poor House in the Clarksburg area? Those who do remember it can tell you that in latter years, it was a large, red-brick home located along U.S. 19 where the Country Club Chrysler dealership is located today.

Borrowing from Dorothy Davis' "History of Harrison County, West Virginia," I'll relate to you a bit of the history she provided in that wonderful work about the Poor Farm.

She wrote that before 1850, the only officials elected by the people to offices in the state of Virginia were members of the state Legislature and Overseers of the Poor. She added that public care of the indigent people of Harrison County started with the November 1821 term of the county court.

Citing that juncture of time, Davis quoted from a local newspaper, The Clarksburg (Virginia) Intelligencer, from the Library of Congress: "Jacob Coplin acknowledged deed for poor house farm to the County. This was situated on Ann Moore's Run near the present (1910) town of Grasselli." (Anmoore 1970) "On the first Saturday in February 1824, the Overseers of the poor of Harrison will rent to any person who will take the keeping and
management of the Poor House on the most reasonable terms."

Davis pointed out that in 1850, the county court replaced the Overseers of the Poor, after which the location of the Poor House was changed. Citing the Harrison County Court Order Book for Aug. 11, 1858, she said Waldo P. Goff had entered a report that the court had acquired about 100 acres of land three miles south of Clarksburg on the West Milford Road for a sum of $2,650 from Rawley W. Amos. This information was derived from the Harrison County, Virginia, Deed Book. No. 44.

Davis said the county used the farmhouse on the property as a home for indigent adults until "the building now used (Order Book, August 1910) for an infirmary at the poor farm of this county being in a bad state of repair and insufficient in size for present need, the court doth decide to build an infirmary."

She further wrote that on Oct. 19, 1910, court President George F. Randall and Commissioners John B. Strother and Colder F. Bailey awarded the contract for the building to Ferguson & Brown, who had turned in a low bid in the amount of $19,369, as also listed in the Order Book.

Davis explained that after the "adult poor" had moved to the newly constructed brick structure, the farmhouse was the Harrison County Children's Home for orphans until the 1930s.

The local historian concluded her statements on the poor farm by saying the county court sold the land and buildings to the Salerno Brothers for $150,000 at a public sale in front of the Harrison County Courthouse on June 5, 1965.

Hopefully, that describes to you in a little more detail about the poor house that was located in our area -- you know, the place your parents said you were going to end up sending them.