Sangamon County poor farm, 1914 (Springfield Survey photo)

Survey poor farmThe Springfield Survey was a massive study of local schools, prisons, and other institutions undertaken in 1914 by the Russell Sage Foundation with the help of hundreds of local volunteers. Topics covered included schools, care of “mental defectives, the insane and alcoholics,” recreation, housing, charities, industrial conditions, public health, the correctional system, and city and county administration.

For more information, see entry on the Springfield Survey.

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21 Responses to Sangamon County poor farm, 1914 (Springfield Survey photo)

  1. Marilyn Underwood says:

    My G.G.Grandmother, Sarah Bunting Whitehouse Derricott b. England, was admitted to the ‘farm’ in December 3, 1896 Sarah was committed to the Poor Farm, also known world-wide as The Alms House, by Sheriff Ed Baxter. She had attacked a friend of hers with a pair of scissors. The record files of the home only go to June 1, 1905 and Sarah was still interned at the age of 75. We assume she died there; which is a mystery – along with the body! No records of her death. She is listed in their ‘book of 1905’ and also on the 1900 census but not 1910 or later. So assume she died between 1905-1910. How do I find where she is buried and also a death certificate – County and state vital records don’t have a certificate on her. Weren’t they required at the ‘Farm” I am coming to Spfld. in June and would certainly like to locate this info.
    Thank you.

  2. editor says:

    Ms. Underwood: I responded to you in a private email, but to emphasize for others: the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library is the gold standard for local historical and genealogical research. I always recommend that as an excellent starting point.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Jim Hawkins says:

      The remains of the “poor farm” is located south of route 36 between Buffalo and Lanesville,one of the old brick buildings still stands.I was told there is a cemetary on the grounds but the tombstones were removed years ago,the grounds are private owned.

    • Marilyn (Mick) Underwood says:

      Nita, I don’t know much about these sites and how to contact someone privately. That’s what I thought I was doing – going to the email w/your address. Let me know if you recvd. this or to everyone. I don’t want to go into all that ‘stuff’ if I shouldn’t be posting to everyone about ‘our’ families. o.k.?
      Thanks = Marilyn

    • Marilyn (Mick) Underwood says:

      One of those postings is certainly part of my family, but how do I privately reply to her – Nita Derricott.
      Thank you

  3. Deb says:

    Marilyn I too had a grandmother in the same “Poor House”. Sometimes listed as “insane”. The records that the editor mentions that are at the Lincoln Library are a nice thing to look at but very limited. They help piece together parts of your puzzles though. I have a very sad memory of being in the Sangamon collection and seeing many cardboard boxes around the perimeter of the room marked insane records. They said the records weren’t ready to be looked at and from what I’m finding out now probably never will. I was noticing online that someone at RootsWeb is trying to find out who are in the graves at the Alms House Cemetery. I have been on those grounds and it gave me the feeling of connection to my grandmother. Maybe you can help the person collecting cemetery records somehow?

  4. editor says:

    Deb: Thanks for the note. The Poor Farm/Poor House/Alms House/County Home is a sad aspect of county history.

  5. Nita Derricott says:

    Marilyn, My husband is Donald Derricott, his grandparents were John and Purlina Bell Derricott and great grandparents Richard and Sarah Whitehouse Derricott. We must be related but how?

    • Marilyn (Mick) says:

      Nita, I don’t know much about these sites and how to contact someone privately. That’s what I thought I was doing – going to the email w/your address. Let me know if you recvd. this or to everyone. I don’t want to go into all that ‘stuff’ if I shouldn’t be posting to everyone about ‘our’ families. o.k.?
      Thanks = Marilyn

  6. Marilyn (Mick) says:

    OOMMGGOSH – Jim, Deb and Nita – I am sooo sorry I haven’t responded. Have been a bit under the weather the past couple years and haven’t been ‘into this hobby’ (?) for awhile. Again, I am sorry. It was wonderful to read your comments and must say, it has restarted ‘my battery’!
    Every time I get to Spfld., I practically live at the library – love their obit files and glad to see they made good use of the old ‘wooden drawers’, love ’em. Anyway, (I do gab alot) that is where I learned 1905 was the last poor farm book listing the inmates.
    My cousin, who lives in Rochester, and I went to the ‘farm’ about 5 yrs ago and it was being cleaned up pretty good. Was told later, a gentleman has been clearing this on his own and trying to find names. instead of headstones, etc., they have a small concrete square in the ground with a number on it – that’s it. So those numbers havee to match up with the records….at least I would think. As for records, I checked w/county vital records, state records, sheriffs office and way back when, the Historical Society out on So. 11th St. – don’t know who ended up w/all their records when they folded.
    Nita, yesss, I have alot of newspaper clippings on poor John’s family, so sad – most died of the Typhoid Fever that swept the country. But I’ll write to you separately, too much for here. Think you all are tired of my rambling by now.
    Thank you all – even the Editor.

  7. editor says:

    Mick and Nita: We don’t post commenters’ email addresses for privacy reasons (you should see the spam we get; believe me, you don’t want any part of it). But I have your email addresses and will send each of you the other’s contact info. Thanks for reading.

  8. Marilyn (Mick) Underwood says:

    Here I am again. After going through my Derricott family last night, I saw an article stating the ‘poor farm’ was closed in 1944! Why then, can’t we find records for the inmates? I’m sure the state or county had to keep patient records by 1900?? This ‘hobby’ is so frustrating – gets on your last nerve! Buttt, like the energizer bunny – we keep going and going and hoping! :)

    Deb – if i lived close enough I would love to help w/the records – I have signed up with the state to index deaths/marriages, but am told most of the counties have been finished but will keep me on the list.

  9. Shelley Goodall says:

    I’d like more information on the Poor Farm Near Buffalo, Illinois as when I was a teenager I lived there with my parents an my two brothers. At that time I was 17 and there was a three bedroom red brick home that set to the east of the red barn that sits there now. There are people buried there too. Once a nice old man in his 80s came driving down that long drive in a very old Model T Ford. He came to put flowers on his wife’s grave My brothers helped him to clear a path as the grass over near the bin grain was high. Anyway I do a little about the history there if interested.

  10. Megan Birk says:

    I know it’s been awhile since this thread was active, but I am writing a book about poor farms, so if anyone would like to talk about their experiences or what they’ve found about family I’d love to hear from you. My name is Megan Birk, and I am a university professor in Texas.

  11. Marilyn Underwood says:

    Editor and followers:
    I understand there is to be a ‘meeting/committee’ that will hold a meeting on April 7 regarding the Poor Farm out by the ‘burg’ (Mechanicsburg) . Can someone keep the rest of us posted as to what they will be doing, etc. through this column? I know I live too far away (Florida) to be much help, but if there is anything I CAN do, I’m willing.
    Personally, I think it is a disgrace for county or state to ignore a gravesite the way they have Not only that one but all others. And to ignore the records (as I’m sure the state would have – or should have demanded) – but where the heck are they!! And as “Deb” said a few years ago, the library had quite a few boxes tagged but too busy to unload! I’m sure there are many who would volunteer to sort them.??


    • editor says:

      Mick: I don’t know of any committee meeting about the poor farm, but I am doing a presentation at 3 p.m. April 7 on the history of the poor farm. It will be at the Buffalo Village Hall, free and open to the public. I’m sure others agree with you about the cemetery neglect, but rehabilitation would be a big project.

      As far as the records, some inmate and cemetery records are at the Sangamon Valley Collection, the local history collection at Lincoln Library, the Springfield Municipal Library.

      Thanks for reading.

  12. Marilyn Underwood says:

    Editor – thank you again for posting my messg. Evidently, the “news” of a committee being formed had been misinterpreted and I’m sorry – you just burst my bubble!
    I was so thrilled to see someone taking on that project, but who knows, miracles do happen.
    I had checked the library – some 10-15 yrs ago – and all I could find was a listing that only went to 1905 – I had also followed ‘her’ on census but those too ended around 1910 or 20 I think it was. Haven’t worked on this line for some time so not sure.
    I would still have liked to hear your presentation, sounds interesting. Good luck

  13. Marilyn Underwood says:

    Hi everyone – it’s the “big mouth” again. Been a few years since I’ve been here but am
    s l o w w w l y getting back to genealogy and enjoyed re-reading the comments and a few new ones regarding he “Poor Farm”. Have to admit, was a bit disappointed that no one has found the records of those poor people. While practically ‘living’ at Lincoln Library every time I was in Spfld., never once did Curt/Greg ???, the fellow in charge of he dept., mention anyyy kind of records being there except the one in 1905 listing the inmates – is this something new that was added? I hope.

    Also, the gentleman who had been trying to clean the cemetery up and locate graves – is he still working out there and has he compiled a list of those he ‘found’? That sounded like a life-long job.

    Meagan, in TX, did you collect alot of info. on the home for the book you were writing? Hope so.

    Sally Goodall – what year did you live out there?? A close friend of my Rochester cousin, also lived there! She passed away a couple years ago tho’.
    After thought – I went to school and lived a short way from a family of Goodalls, they lived on Stanford St., Spfd. – across from Bunn Park – any relation?

    Sorry, too long I know but am curious what all has happened since I was ‘gone’
    Marilyn “Mick”

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