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Chuck Poehlein penned this column on the care given to the poor and sick by the county during the first decades of its founding. The first installment appeared in last Thursday’s edition and shared information on the county’s poor farms, working agricultural enterprises that offered work to the county’s poor in return for room and board. Today’s final installment reports on the roles families held in helping poor relatives.
In 1864 the governor of Indiana sent out an appeal to city authorities and the clergy to have compassion and seek out the “many wives, children and parents of soldiers who are destitute of the necessities of life and must greatly suffer unless immediately provided for.” Some of those unfortunates were unable to give notice of their condition, he said, “and know not where to apply for relief, while others are too proud or too sensitive to ask for that which should have been freely offered by a patriotic and Christian people.”
He implored the clergy and county authorities to “make themselves acquainted with every case of need in the neighborhoods” and then appeal to their councils and congregations to supply the wants which they discovered. He said further that “no soldier’s family shall be permitted to want in a state overflowing with prosperity and abundance.” On Dec. 6, 1864, an order was issued to Conrad Dusch by auditor John Thompson to “let Mrs. Bauer, a poor soldier’s wife, have $10 and Perry County will pay you for the same.” The note means that the store owner is to let Mrs. Bauer have $10 in merchandise.
An 1860 note from S.S. Amos, Troy Township Trustee, was to Mr. F. Kimbel: “Sir if you let Mrs. Scott, a soldier’s wife have one sack of flour and 30 pounds of bacon for the benefit of her family, Perry County will pay you for the same.”
The blind were sometimes cared for on contract in boarding houses, as attested by an 1877 bill presented to the commissioners on behalf of Jane Washington: “To boarding Vincent Sheapard a blind colored man 13 weeks as per contract, $20.”
Others could be sent to an institution at Indianapolis as attested by this bill from the Indiana Institute for the Education of the Blind: “One suit of clothes-$5. one pair shoes-$1.75. RR fare home-$2.” In 1866 Perry County commissioners received this letter: “On the ninth day of this month John N. Didier received a letter from the superintendent of the blind azilum, that his childrens will leave Indianapolis on the 29th. As Didier is not able to pay the expenses or to attend to it, pleas to appoint a suitable person to meet them at Jeffersonville the same day, and bring them home. Respectfully submitted - V. Marshal, trustee Leopold Township.”
Presumably, the children were sent from Indianapolis to Jeffersonville by train where they would be met by a Perry County representative and brought home via an Ohio River packet boat.
In 1872 the commissioners received a bill from the Deaf and Dumb Institution of Indianapolis for $3.05 for mending shoes and clothes for “a pupil, Richard S. Boone of Perry County.”
Doctors’ charges and the cost and types of medicines make for curious reading in the 1860s. G. Burton Thompson, a Tobin Township doctor, submitted this bill: “1863 May - Visit Sally Conner a pauper and medicine - $1. June - Medicine at different times - $1. August - Medicines for inflammation of the bowels - $1. Drawing two teeth and medicine - $1. June - Tonic medicine and pills for Kezial Frymire a pauper - $1. Sept. - Purgative pills and tonic - $1.”
The bill was approved by Tobin Township Trustee Charles May. In 1864, a doctor, Victor Keller presented this bill, written partly in German, “For the frailment of Typhoid Fever. In October five mails (visits) at $4 per mail including the medicines.”
A Dr. Ehrhardt of Tell City submitted an 1864 bill in the amount of $18. “To attending pauper and medicines for John Scott of Tell City from May 31 till June 20 To 14 visits and setting complicated fracture of the upper left arm.” In 1882 E.F. Cummings wrote that he would “Furnish all medicines perscribed by the physician imployed for the paupers of Troy Township for one year for the sum $75.” His offer was accepted.
The commissioners often approved clothing and grocery items we don’t usually associate with helping the poor. An 1862 grocery list for the pauper Peter James listed two pounds of coffee, 21⁄2 pounds of rice and 11⁄2 pounds of sugar, all for $1 at John D. Patrick’s Store at Leopold. Also 10 candles for 10 cents; 7 pounds of beef at 4 cents a pound; 1 quart of whiskey for 10 cents and two plugs tobacco for 10 cents. And at another time 1 pound of candles, more coffee and sugar and a bottle of wine for 171⁄2 cents.
In August, 1860 the commissioners approved this bill submitted by Louis Fourmier on behalf of “The Widow Harris, a pauper,” for 2 pounds sugar, 25 cents, tea 25 cents, coffee $1, brandy 50 cents. And in September, coffee, sugar and half gallon bourbon at 50 cents.
The bill was approved by William Elder, trustee. In 1865 an order was issued to C. R. Payne (presumed to be a store owner) to “let Mrs. Mary Graham a poor old lady have 10 yards of calico, a pair of woolen hoes (hose) and thread and Perry County will pay you for the same.” In 1863, commissioner S.S. Amos was reimbursed $5 “For one small beef given to Hiram Hinton.” A bill for $2 was submitted for “delivering a load of fine coal to Mrs. Kohn a poor woman” in the winter of 1864.
A list of drugs supplied to the “Troy Township Poor House” in 1864 included several entries for Laudamum (a derivitive of opium) at 10 cents each and morphine, at $1.50; Paynes Balsam, 50 cents; Charcole Bitters, $1.05; Zropii cam, 10 cents; liniment, 40 cents; Sugar of Lead, 10 cents; Sweet Spirits Nitre, 10 cents; 1 ble Panacea, 50 cents; Ground Flax Seed, 10 cents; Rhodes Ague Cure, $1.
From scanning the fall quarterly report of 1878 from William W. Scott, superintendent of the poor farm at Cannelton, we get an idea of the variety of maladies and conditions of the people under his care at that time. Listed were 14 males and 12 females, along with eight persons received during the quarter, for a total of 34. After each name was a one or two-word description of their malady. Some of the names were: Mary Knicker-Aged and Infirm; Jacob Knicker-Deaf Mute; Minor Goatley-Semi-Idiotic; Anna Hardin-Nervous Debility; Sally Conner-Aged and Helpless; Frederick Schneider-Lazy and Sick; Joseph Poerard-Rather Poor; William Harris-Poor and Diseased; Sarah Artman-Blind; William Anthony-Fits; Willie Huff-Crippled; Polly Grabille-Partly Insane and Poor; Mary Mille-Insane; Eliza Patterson-Semi-Insane; Lena Poeline-Very Insane.
Included in the new arrivals were: Emeline Hollowell (age 28), suffering from “Chills” and her 6-month-old child, Michael. William Allen (32) and Casper Schriber (62) were listed as “Insane - Returned from Asylum.” Under the date of October 29, Willie Harris was listed as “Deceased.” It is presumed that in cases where relatives of the inmate were unknown, they were buried on the farm, behind the asylum. In 1859 a bill for $1.50 was submitted by John J. Lang “To making coffin for child at the assylum.”
The Cannelton “poor farm” was located in the area presently occupied by the factories of Schwab Safe.
In 1882 Troy Township Trustee Lawrence Kiefer approved a bill from H. Maraweck “For haling (hauling) Mrs. Baley from Tell City to Pore House with four Childran and Beading (bedding) for $1.50.” Commissioners allowed $5 for making a pauper’s coffin out of common lumber.
It was customary for early furniture stores to sell coffins out of the back of the store and a selection of both walnut and poplar coffins were kept on hand, most, if not all locally made. In 1862, a draft in the amount of $2 was issued to Henry Schergens for “Making a coffin for the child of John Meyer” a pauper. A bill issued by Joseph Dusch in 1863 is “For two coffins furnished for Ed Scull and his wife who died with smallpox at $6 each.” Dusch complains that “When they died I had no poplar coffins on hand and had to furnish walnut coffins.” In 1860 Benjamine M. Esarey submitted a bill for $7 for making “One walnut coffin as charged for James Goodson and that the money cannot be made out of Goodson and it is further more hoped that you will not require further proof in sufferance to this claim.” The commissioners crossed out the $7 and wrote $5 as there was apparently a misunderstanding, because the county never ordered anything but poplar coffins for the poor.
In May of 1860, Joseph Dusch turned in a bill for $8.50 for burial expenses and “I coffin for man unknown drowned in the Ohio River - $3.50. Digging grave for same - $2. Hauling body to grave $1. Two men for hauling body - $2.” A note at the bottom, written with a steel-point pen, attests: “No one would take hold of the body and the condition the body was in made it both dangerous and disagreeable for anyone to take hold of the corpse.” H.P. Brazee, Trustee, OK’d the money transaction. Where the corpse was buried is unknown.