Greene Co., Arkansas Poor Farm

Greene County, Arkansas 
Poor Farm

1900 Poor Farm Census

1910 Poor Farm Census

1920 Poor Farm Census

1930 County Farm Census

Pictures Poor Farm

March 18, 1949 newspaper article

Another March 18,1949 newspaper article

Remembering Life on the Poor Farm


The County Poor Farm was called many different names such as Pauper Farm, found in the 1920 census for the county. The Daily Soliphone referred to it as Poor House. Whatever it might have been called it was created for good intentions in order to provide systematic and economical care for the poor and less fortunate. The County purchased in 1891 an eighty- five acre farm, three miles north of Paragould. The Greene Acres Nursing Home opened Nov. 25, 1957 when 10 poor farm residents were moved into the new 21 - bed facility. To replace the Poor Farm with a modern facility. Organizations answered this appeal to help the unfortunate and formed a special committee with Donald Cox , manager of the Paragould Chamber of Commerce , as chairman. In addition Mrs. T.J. Dickey , J. Ed Thompson, Thomas E. Watson, Roy Garner, J.T. Brown, Tom Ballard, Mrs. Luther Cline, Rev. T. Watson Daniel, Jim Davis, John Easley, Joe Howard, Mrs. Earle D. McKelvey, W. G. Nutt, Dr. Donald I. Purcell, Mrs. L. V. Rhine served as the charter board members .

It is true in our time, as in Bible times that "the poor we have always with us." Early county records show numerous allotments for the care of paupers. That was supported by county funds . Time and neglect with meager funding from the county had reduced the farm to a slum condition. When citizens learned of the deplorable conditions at the farm, they responded with donations of furniture, clothing and food . Repairs were made to the creaking old farmhouse. It became obvious that poor farms were outmoded and the elderly poor and sickened , less fortunate should be cared for in a more humane efficient manner. Below is a entry from Greene County Court Record , Book 1, p. 76 year 1877, is a sample.

"On this day it is ordered by the Court that Richard E. Bearden be allowed the sum of Eight & 50/100 dollars per month from this date for keeping Lucy Lumpkin a pauper for the remainder of the year 1877, for which warrants may issue quarterly on the Pauper fund, and that said Bearden enter into sufficient bond conditioned for the faithful discharge of his duties as keeper of said pauper."

W.D. Newsom, (far right click to see photo) was caretaker of the county poor farm when this picture was made in the fall of 1899. With him on the porch of the main farmhouse were his children Elma, Otho and Hardy and a visiting baby Jerry Guin. The 85 - acre farm had been purchased eight years earlier from T. R. Willcockson for $1,750 "to provide systematic and economical care for the poor" On what is now Fairview Road. In 1949, the citizens of Paragould and Greene County were suddenly made aware of the deterioration in the condition in which a group of elderly and ill people existed was published. The local Big Picture which had only just started publication, picked up on the story and published a series of photos showing the ramshackle house and the wretched state of the inmates , followed by a series of editorials on the responsibility of the county to these unfortunate people. Although attendants are hired for a part of the work , the inmates , also called wards in some census are expected to assist in so far as they are able.

At any rate, as controversy raged, it spilled over in the newspapers so the general public could get in on the matter. The Dec. 8 , 1919 ,issue of the Paragould Soliphone featured an article with a Grand Jury report. It seems that the County Court had instructed a grand jury to investigate the condition of the Court House, the Jail and the Poor Farm. The jury reported that the Court House and the Jail were generally satisfactory but that the sanitary conditions of the poor farm were most atrocious. From the report of the Grand Jury:

"We have also examined the county poor house and the inmates thereof . We found six old men ranging in the age from 64 to 86 years kept at the poor farm; and we regret to report that the general condition of everything pertaining thereto is in bad sanitary condition. The bed clothes are filthy ; and we desire to especially call attention to the court to the case of one inmate of this farm: He is 75 years old , and is suffering from paralysis; but is compelled to lie in a bed fit for no human being to occupy, while the bedbugs and other vermin literally play hide and seek over his person..."

Four days later, on Dec. 19, 1919, an article written by Dr. E. S. Baker , County Health Officer, appeared in defense of the poor farm . Dr. Baker had visited the farm many times in his capacity of health officer. He claimed the sanitary conditions were as good as possible taking in the consideration the inmates and their ideas of sanitation and cleanliness. He pointed out the farm received those persons who because of their perverseness of temper and habits , cannot live with their own children. Dr. Baker pointed out that the keepers of the farm had been needlessly criticized by uniform persons.

Turnover was high among those who managed the farm. The managers seemed to have viewed their task as an almost impossible one and certainly a thankless one. Bad publicity in the early 1950's , especially in the Commercial Appeal and the Big Picture , finally led to the farm's closing.

Jessie E. and Lottie Walters managed the farm approximately 1914 to 1918. The 1910 census shows that John L. and Belle Turberville were managers of the Poor Farm at that time. The 1900 census show Wm H. Newsom and his wife Annie were managers at that time. The Daily Press carried a brief article Oct. 4, 1920 issue indicating Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Curry were taking over the management. The location of the farm never changed it was located on the north side of what is now Fairview Road and proceed about four-tenths mile . Off to the north about 200 yards you will see a small red building and a barn is where the farm was supposed to have been located.

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