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The Beaver County Home in the 20s and 30s

Milestones Vol 27. No. 2

By Peggy Townsend

Beaver County's first poor farm dates back to 1853, according to a newspaper article. The original frame, one-story building would have housed very few people.

The county had erected its fourth home for the poor by 1926.. This was a far cry from the 1853 original, for it was a beautiful brick neoclassical structure with pillared porch, attached at the back to a very large, long residential complex as home for those served by the operation. Across the driveway from the administrative quarters there was a large field or green that served as a golf course and some distance beyond that was the Ohio River. The view was inspiring

The County Home as it appeared in the 1920s and 30s.

The buildings were heated by steam, the radiators at times making loud, knocking noises, but the result was efficient warmth.

There was a beautiful rose garden at a corner of the administrative section of the main building but also visible from the residents' rooms. A number of these plants grew in the plot, but most outstanding was a big red rose, the famous General Jacqueminot (developed in 1853 -- interestingly, the very year that Beaver County provided its first poor farm). The intense, rather lemony fragrance emanating from the General's many petals endeared it to residents, who called it affectionately General Jack.

The shrubs on the grounds provided a pleasant place for strolling, especially on summer evenings.

Sherman Moore became Superintendent of the operation and his wife, Marion Marshall Moore (known as Mary), became Matron in 1929, serving in this capacity during what were probably the worst years of the Great Depression .

When Mrs. Moore, who was to oversee the welfare of the women residents, arrived at the County Home, she walked into the women's quarters to introduce herself and to inspect their living quarters. She saw some women picking something off themselves, throwing them on the floor, and stomping on them. To her horror, she discovered that they had lice. Mrs. Moore made short work of these vermin. The women were henceforth kept scrupulously clean. A seamstress , Mrs. Hunt, introduced into the establishment by Mrs. Moore, was set the task of making a new dress for each of the women upon her arrival and thereafter twice a year, Christmas and Easter. The dresses were made of bright cotton materials, and the women were thrilled with these crisp new clothes. From the scraps Mrs. Hunt pieced quilt tops. None of the material was wasted.

Proceeding to the residents' kitchen, Mrs. Moore found the workers sorting through prunes and taking something out of them. When she asked what they were doing, they told her they were picking out the bugs. Picking bugs out of the prunes! Not with Mrs. Moore on deck. The prunes, all they had, were immediately dumped, as were wormy flour, insect infested raisins, and everything else that was in any way unfit to be eaten. She made a clean sweep through the kitchen and storage rooms. Thereafter everything had to be scrubbed and every insect and worm kept out. Mrs. Moore considered absolute cleanliness a very close second to godliness.

This cleanliness included every inhabitant. One day a woman who was brought into the County Home was so filthy that her face and arms were completely encrusted, her actual skin not even visible, and her clothing was a stinking mass of unrecognizable makeup. There had been no one to care for her in the hovel where she had been discovered. Obviously the first order of business was a bath and clean clothes. The woman objected strongly, screaming that she would get pneumonia and die if she was given a bath. Mrs. Moore said, "I'd rather die clean than live dirty." The woman, still loudly protesting, got her bath, did not die of it or even catch a cold, and was quite presentable when cleaned and freshly clothed.

The new matron came upon other more troubling problems. One day in checking a woman's closet, Mrs. Moore found a dead newborn in a shoe box. Horrified, she confronted the woman, who said she had been sick, had gone to the bathroom, and had unexpectedly discovered that this was the cause of her stomach ache. She had no idea how it happened. It must have been something she drank. That this occurred at the Beaver County Home points out a major difference between the present geriatric center and the residents in earlier days. There was nothing geriatric about some of these people. It was, after all, a home for the poor, not just for the aged.

Some of the men residents worked on the farm, and in general they were free to walk about and to sit on numerous benches provided along the driveway.

Residents of the County Home enjoying a summer rest
under some of the shade trees that lined the entrance.

Jim Springer, farming superintendent, at the end of the day.

A newspaper article dated 1929 gives a picture of the Beaver County Home and Farm as it appeared about seven months after the Moores took office.

"When the program committee at the Ladies Missionary Society of New Salem prepared the program for the year 1929-30 they gladly accepted the cordial invitation of Mrs. Sherman Moore to hold a meeting at her present location, the Beaver County Poor Farm, and August 8th, the regular date for a meeting, was the date selected for this meeting, and accordingly on the morning of that day, the greater part of the members together with their families and some of their neighbors, motored to the County Home where they were right royally entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Moore. During the forenoon the visitors were conducted thru the fine, large buildings on tour of inspection. These buildings house the poor of our county, of which there are around eighty-five men and about one third as many women.

"These buildings are in fine condition and surely reflect credit on those in charge. Equipment for doing cooking, baking, laundering, etc., on a large scale is provided, notably the laundry equipment. A huge electric washer whose capacity is ninety bed sheets at once, is the first step in the washing process. The clothes are then placed in a large perforated revolving drum, which runs at a very high rate of speed, and the wringing process is thus accomplished by centrifugal force. Next they are placed in a large reversing openwork cylinder which tosses and shakes them dry. A large mangle is then used for ironing. At the noon hour the visitors went to a nearby grove where a fine cafeteria dinner was served to all present. After dinner the time was spent in further sightseeing. The devotional part of the program was held under the trees and was conducted by Mrs. Jay Groscost.

"At the close of this meeting a vote of thanks was extended to Mr. and Mrs. Moore and family for their untiring efforts to make the day a pleasant one for their guests, who numbered nearly one hundred twenty-five."

Another newspaper story covering these events lists most of the members of New Salem Presbyterian Church at that time as well as many residents of South Beaver Township.


"Mrs. Sherman Moore Is Genial Hostess

"The Missionary society of the New Salem Presbyterian church met at the Beaver County Home Thursday, with Mrs. Sherman Moore.

"Members of the society with their families, friends, relatives, and former neighbors of the Moores started to gather at 10 o'clock in the morning and by the time all had arrived the gathering numbered 119.

"They were conducted on a tour of the buildings, after which they all drove to a picnic ground, where a sumptuous picnic dinner was served. The barn and other buildings were next visited.

"Mrs. J. R. Trotter, Mrs. J. E. Gillespie, Mary E. Garvin, Mrs. C. U.[W] Treasure, Mrs. Harvey Smith, Miss Genevieve Treasure, Florence Garvin, Charlotte McMillin, Elizabeth Moore, Richard Groscost, Marjorie Hammond, Rev. W. F. Shannon, D.E. McNickle, Mary Young, Lois J. Henderson, Dorothy Henderson, Bernice Sheerer, Lila L. McMillin, Harry Hammond, Jay Groscost, Willard Smith, J.M. Mansfield, John T. Sheerer, J. P. Hammond, Joseph H. Riley, Mrs. R. Peters, Edith Hammond, Gladys Cunningham, Mrs. Earl Graham, Jean McCowan, Edith Beight, Mrs. Mary Moor, Mrs. Frank Justice, Mrs. Wilo Anderson, Robert Henderson, E. C. Kennedy, S. B. Anderson, H. A. Henderson, B. L. Sherman, H. C. Young, Sr., H. P. Young, Sara McClinton, Hollis Calvin, Charles S. Groscost, Raymond Allan, E. C. McElroy, B. F. Sheerer, S. Moore, James Tennis, Edson Smith, J. F. Warner, Agnes Young, Nannie Anderson, Jennie Mansfield, Ida McMillin, Laura McMillin, Ralph McMillin, Howard McMillin, Helen Kennedy, Wayne Kennedy, Mrs. Edson Smith, J. Stewart Smith, Mrs. Bertha Sheerer, Mrs. J. P. Hammond, Mrs. Charles S. Groscost, Mrs. Dal Anderson, Mrs. J. B. Cunningham, Mrs. S. M. Hammond, Mrs. Euphemia Warner, Cathern B. McNickle, Blanche Freeborn, Helen Groscost, Flo Groscost, Clark Hunter, Mildred Smith, J. B. Cunningham, Edna Anderson, Mrs. Ben Sherman, Mrs. Boyd Henderson Mary Moore, Mrs. Anna Laird, Mrs. Joseph H. Riley, Sherman Moore., Mrs. Sherman Moore, Mrs. Margaret Townsend, Peggy Jean Townsend, Augusta Stollenwerk, Viola Smith, Edna Stanyard, Lydia Trautvetter, Frances Stollenwerk, Betty Stollenwerk, Doris Stollenwerk, Leoda Derringer, Mrs. Pearl Martin, Clark Reed, Ethel Anderson, Mrs. Gayle McClinton, W. Glenn Anderson."

That the Beaver County Poor Farm was able to support its agricultural operations and provide the food needed by the residents as well as the feed required for the animals (horses, cattle both dairy and beef, pigs, chickens) is well documented in the following newspaper article covering the 1929 production. Poverty was a daily reality in our county during the Depression, and a poor farm that required nothing of the tax payer was helpful.


"Detailed Report Of Supt. Shows Products To Value of $14,793


"The Beaver County Poor Farm is a paying proposition. This conclusion is revealed in a report prepared by Sherman Moore, superintendent of the County Home, and presented to County Controller Charles C. Galton.

"The cost of operating the farm for 1929 was $10,699.68.

"A record was kept by Superintendent Moore of everything produced on the County Home farm. Dairy products valued at $5873.67 is the largest item on the report. Vegetables with a value of $2772.50 were raised. The value of feed produced was $3841.75, including straw, corn, hay, oats, wheat, and silage. The eggs produced at the farm had a value of $290.25.

"Fruit is the smallest item on the report, there being $106 credited to grapes, berries, peaches and quinces.

"Meat was dressed at the farm which had a value of $1909.50. This includes pork at $1507.50, beef at $90 and veal at $312.

"In addition to the above valued items, other items are reported for which no additional credit was taken. There were 750 pounds of lard, 150 pounds of cheese and 625 pounds of sausage in this class.

"The canning season was a busy time at the County Home. Superintendent Moore's report shows 2720 quarts of vegetables were canned for the winter. Four hundred glasses of Jelly and 60 glasses of quince honey were made.

"Three barrels of sauer kraut and 20 gallons of piccalilli were also made.

"The County Home for several months has been taxed almost to capacity. There are at present 150 residents, most of whom are men. During the past year there has been an increase of 50 residents at the Home."

While the men on the estate were permitted much freedom to roam about, the women were under close supervision. The baby in a shoe box probably inspired Mrs. Moore to great vigilance. Still, there were those who attempted to break the rules and even to escape altogether.

One resident, (we will call her Madge) a tall and skinny woman who was deaf and unable to talk, somehow met and fell in love with an employee (here designated as Aaron). Their feelings were mutual. They were helped by an employee in the residents' kitchen, who delivered Aaron's letters to Madge. Aaron and the woman who aided him developed a plan for Madge to escape into the arms of her lover. Unfortunately for them, the scheme failed utterly. One night in August, 1931, the woman set her room on fire to create a diversion while she escaped from a downstairs room by crawling through a window and leaping into her lover's arms. However, she jumped before he was ready to catch her, and she fell to the ground, breaking her arm. Meanwhile, the fire had awakened the establishment, and she was soon found, while her friend escaped, leaving her on the ground with her fractured arm. There followed a flurry of letters to her from her beloved, sent through the cook in the residents' kitchen, but Mrs. Moore found the letters (which are still extant), and confiscated them.

Meanwhile, two of the resident men found their way into the silo one day to drink the fermented liquid from the silage. They were soon missed, a search was instituted, and they were found dead in the structure..

A remembered few of those who worked at the home and farm were as follows:

Mrs. Young, who was the cook for the administrative building, and a very talented cook indeed.

The tall, spare man directing the farming operation was Jim Springer, to whose abilities the accompanying reports on farm production abundantly attest..

There was a hospital to provide for any who became ill while resident. Miss Stella Listen was the nurse in charge, though not the only nurse.

The aforementioned Mrs. Hunt was in charge of all sewing.

A later article on the County Home reflected the increased number of residents and included an appeal for reading material.


"More Reading Matter Needed For The 100 Patients

"Public Should Respond Promptly

"Increase in the number of residents at the County Home, a reflection of general conditions, has taxed the capacity and facilities of the institution in recent months. Today there are 175 residents in the men's department and 28 in the women's department.

"To meet the crowded condition, Superintendent and Mrs. Moore had to use all possible space and facilities. Attic and basement rooms, heretofore used only for storage, have been fitted up for comfortable sleeping and living quarters to meet the growing demand for space and accommodations.

"The institution, although crowded, was never in better condition nor more efficiently handled than at present. Food, sanitation, living conditions, discipline, with necessary medical, hospital, and nursing care have steadily improved under the able management and direction of Superintendent and Mrs. Moore. Scientific cooking and feeding, inaugurated under the Moores' administration, has added much to the general health and personal comfort of the residents.

"Superintendent and Mrs. Moore would be glad to receive from the public current magazines and books to occupy the weary hours of patients unable to do anything else than read. The liberal amount of reading matter now available at the home is entirely inadequate to meet the demands. Patients will be delighted with magazines and books that have served their purpose in home or office. This request should be promptly met by the reading public. Magazines and books may be sent by mail in bundles addressed to the Beaver County Home, Monaca, R. F. D.

"An error in addition in a recent news item showed operating expenses of the home $10,000 higher than they actually were last year. The actual operating expense as shown in the annual report of the county controller, was $54,181.51."

Newspaper clipping dated 1933.


"The largest crop of grain ever produced on the County Hone farm in a single year has just been threshed, according to Home and Farm Superintendent Sherman Moore

"The yield of oats was unusually large, 1674 bushels being threshed. Wheat totaled 356 bushels and rye 118 bushels. Thirty-eight tons of straw was baled, Moore stated today.

"Not all of this large crop was raised on the county farm. Several acres of unused land was donated by W. Raymond Jeffreys, and by the St. Joseph Lead Company, through George Weaton, Beaver, and was planted by the county home farmers."

All of this comfort, beauty, and productivity was soon destroyed by contamination from a factory that wiped out vegetation and made continuation of the operation untenable. The company that now owns the property will not even let anyone in to photograph for the historical record the lovely administrative building still there.