<<!-- This page is property of ~CE Hardin " 1998-2006" PR Massey " -->" --> Greene County, Arkansas  -- Remembering Life on the Poor Farm

Greene County, Arkansas

Remembering Life on the Poor Farm

Most of the people in this photo (circa 1950) were still alive
when the transfer from the poor farm into the facilities at the
Greene Acres Nursing Home took place in 1957.

Two male residents are shown relaxing on the front porch of the men's house
at the county poor farm. The man on the right has been identified as George Todd.
Ray and Christine Cole (inset) were caretakers of the poor farm from 1942 to 1946.

 

Ray and Christine Cole were caretakers for the poor farm from 1942 - 1946. "My dad got $50 a month plus room and board," Gerald Cole said. "He didn't do it for the money. He did it 'cause he wanted to. He was a successful salesman before we moved out there. Dad could go out and make $100 on any day he wanted to. Ray Cole was known around the county as "The Watkins Man," selling household products door to door.

Cole said there were generally about a dozen inmates at the farm. "We called them inmates back then," Cole said they would be referred to as residents today.

Before the "poor farm" was established, people who fell on hard times would be taken care of by someone who was reimbursed by the county. This entry, taken from History of Greene County, Arkansas by Vivian Hansbrough, 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."

According to Hansbrough, the county purchased 85 acre farm three miles north of Paragould on what is now Fairview Road in 1891. This was "to provide systematic and economical care for the poor."

Cole said his father was also a "truck patcher." He loved to work a garden. He'd go out and sell a few items, then come back and hoe that garden.

"He raissed vegetables for all of us to eat. We ate what the residents ate. We didn't get special treatment, except that we had our own house to live in," There were seperate houses for the women and men.

Some of what they ate had also fallen on hard times. Cole remembers a turkey that wandered around the place. "he was a mean thing. He'd always chase me, and sometimes he'd get to me and spur me. One day I was ready for him. When he came at me, I had a big stick and I sent him flying. We had turkey for three days."

Although it was not required, the residents were encouraged to help out on the farm. Hansbrough wrote, "Although attendants are hired for a part of the work, the inmates are expected to assist in so far as they are able."

"There was one lady there who my mother encouraged to help out by scraping and drying the dishes. My mother told her it would do her good to be active." He said she worked for awhile, but then started making excuses to get out of helping.

"She took to using crutches all the time. She would say her back was hurting too much to be able to stand to dry the dishes. One day she was hobbling across the yard and that mean ol' turkey, before I killed it, started to go after her. She threw those crutches into the air and started to run faster than you would believe. Funniest thing I ever saw," Cole heartily laughed.

Cole remembers a cemetery on the northeast corner of the property. "It was called a pauper's grave. It's been plowed over now. That's a shame, I think all cemeteries ought to be kept scared. Just because they were poor folks doesn't mean they shouldn't be treated with respect," Cole said.

"We used that cemetery to bury a baby one time," Cole said. "Someone had found this baby -- on Eight Mile Creek, I think -- in a laundry bag. It was dead. They brought it to us. We had to bury it in an orange crate."

The county poor farm wa eliminated with the establishing of Greene Acres Nursing Home in 1957.

The farm is a part of Greene County's history that unfortunately may soon comprise nothing more than the two paragraph's in Hansbrough's book.

Transcribed from the May 28-29, 1996 Paragould Tribune by: Sandy (Matheny) Hardin

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