7 Nov 2014
According to the November 7, 1890 Concord Times newspaper, the Cabarrus County Commissioners, at their October 1890 meeting, elected a new superintendent of the county poor house. John William Cook, of No. 5 Township, was elected to replace C. A. Sherwood as poor house overseer. Cook was slated to assume the job on January 1, 1891. Of the change, The Times said:
Mr. Sherwood has made a most capable and faithful officer, and has the poor house and farm in a first-class condition…Mr. Cook will doubtless make a good overseer, but this much is certain – he will never make a better on than Mr. Sherwood did. It would be hard to get a man who would do that.
On August 22, 1890, The Concord Standard wrote about the poor house:
“About the year 1855, the county authorities purchased of Mr. R. W. Allison, a plantation of 156 acres lying just four miles north of Concord. This place was set apart for the entertainment and support of the poor, the blind and the halt [physically disabled] who were unable to care for themselves or had no one to protect them from starvation or cold. Such is the duty of every county…
Mr. Sherwood, an honest, humane and earnest young man with an empty sleeve, and his kind, careful wife, superintend the house. The floors are clean, the walls almost spotless, the beds perfectly clean, the yard in tip top order, the clothing of the inmates neat and clean and perfect order exists…
There are 18 inmates; 12 are white and 6 are colored; The ages of the whites run from 8 to 79 years; the blacks from 4 to 50. There is an old sailor there; he has a bright face, looks stout and has rings in his ears. There are 22 rooms in the several buildings.
60 acres of fine corn is maturing for the county. After feeding 30 persons twice a day for one year, there were 42 bushels of wheat left from the crop raised on the county’s farm last year. There is a large vegetable garden near the house. Mr. Sherwood raises most of his own supplies.“
From 1855 to 1886 Cabarrus County contracted the keeping of the poor and use of the plantation to the lowest bidder. However, it was found that conditions of this system were not in the best interest of the residents, or “inmates” as they were referred to, and did not reflect well on the county. The former plantation owner, Robert W. Allison (see Cabarrus Genealogy Blog entry for April 22, 2014) who also was chairman of the County Commissioners, implemented a policy change in which a superintendent would be employed by the county, rather than a contract to the lowest bidder.
Care of the poor, infirm, aged, mentally or physically handicapped, and other unfortunates was the responsibility of county Wardens or Overseers of the Poor from 1777 until 1917. From 1777 to 1868 each county had Wardens of the Poor, elected by the voters until 1846, and appointed by the County Courts thereafter. After 1917 they were run by Boards of Public Welfare. Inmates of poor houses were expected to make themselves useful if possible, although persons eligible to reside in such institutions were probably in a very bad way, and their labor could be let out to the lowest bidder or commanded by the keeper of the house.
Courtesy of the Cabarrus County Public Library Lore Local History Room and Poorhousehistory.com