|Prior to the establishment of a
facility for paupers in the county, the Marion County Commissioners
dealt with each individual case and appointed someone in the
community to care for the indigent citizen at county expense.
An example appears in the Commissioners Court Journal for
the December 1856 term: Bluford Smith was appointed to provide
for Cyrus Pitney, who "was sick and unable to earn a
livelihood in Consequence of bodily infirmity..." Often
the individuals chosen to care for these unfortunates were
doctors or owners of boarding houses. A contract between Dr.
G. W. Brown and the county in October 1866 stipulates that
the doctor would take in any county charges for $4.00 per
That same year of 1866, an editorial in the Oregon Statesman
called for the establishment of a County Infirmary to care
for "the aged and infirm, who are thrown upon the charities
of the world..."
By May of 1870 a Poor Farm Account had been set up in the
Commissioners Court and a farm purchased near Silverton for
the housing and care of the poor "...for the sum of four
dollars per week for all classes of Paupers, in whatever condition
they may be..."
This experiment with putting county charges to work on the
farm apparently failed. Seven years later property was bought
in North Salem at 2770 Front Street and a double house of
two stories was built. The left wing housed the superintendent
and his family while the right wing furnished private rooms
for up to fifteen inmates. Thirty-three acres around the home
provided room for an orchard and garden with some ten acres
of timberland left over.
Documents from this time indicate in this facility, "The
County pays $2.50 per week for their board and care, but their
clothes and medical attention are extra." As most of
the inmates were either terminally ill at their entry into
the home or were suffering extreme old age, the cost of medical
care and of funeral expenses was significant.
A cemetery was established on the grounds early in 1898 (called
either Terrell or County Farm Cemetery) receiving at least
twenty-five burials from that year until 1942 when the Poor
Farm was closed.
As early as 1889 comments from the local newspaper remarked
that the Poor Farm was becoming a drain on county finances
and a cost to taxpayers for supporting "the county poor."
Apparently these sentiments were addressed by the County
Commissioners and steps were taken to decide the fate of the
county's Poor House. Whether the decision would be to sell
the present site in order to secure a larger one and make
the home self-sustaining or to close it altogether occupied
the next two years.
Several properties in and around Salem were considered (including
that which would later become the Reform School) but no change
was made. Ultimately the county determined that to continue
operation of the Poor Farm was a needless expense and the
farm was abandoned.
It was decided that those inmates still living at the house
could be supported "through old age relief, general assistance,
or other funds." The property was leased to Mr. and Mrs.
Lloyd Hill, last managers of the Poor Farm.
Researched and written by Sue Bell
Marion County Commissioners Court Journal Vol. II, p. 243;
Vol. III, p. 561.Vol. V, pp. 69, 70; Vol. XXXIV, p. 723.
First Biennial Report of the State Board of Charities and
Corrections 1892, pp. 120-123.
Weekly Oregon Statesman 15 May 1885, p. 6.
Susan N. Bell, "Marion County Poor Farm and Cemetery,"
Beaver Briefs, Vol. 31, #2 (Spring 1999), pp. 1-20.
Oregon Statesman 13 Aug. 1866, p. 3;18 & 19 May 1889,
p. 4; 8 June 1889, p. 4.; 19 May 1889, p. 4.; 4 Apr. 1942,
Record number: 9092
Photographer: Ben Maxwell
Copyright: Salem Public Library