Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pulaski County, Missouri Poor Farm

I intend to write articles about the Pulaski County Poor Farm as I research this overlooked piece of Pulaski County's past.

Pulaski County Poor Farm, Resident's Home, 2009. Photo by Snoop.

During the Summer of 2008, Terrie and I, went to the Old Courthouse Museum in Waynesville, seeking information on an old bridge located in Pulaski County. We toured the museum and at the top of the stairs, leading to the court room, is a display with an old ledger. The ledger grabbed my attention. This summer I decided to go back and take another look at the old journal. I returned to the Museum and after explaining my mission to Marge Scott, I was allowed to read and record the names listed in the book. Marge let me set up shop in the old vault of the 1903 Court House, armed with a notebook, a pen, and the camera on my cell phone. Some would think that I was crazy for wanting to spend an August Saturday afternoon in an 106 year old room, with no air conditioning, reading through a book that is possibly 135 years old. The people who are listed in this book have a story to be told, and I hope to be able to tell it.

The Pulaski County Poor Farm, or County Farm, is not often referenced. It is mentioned in Chapter 6, “The Late Nineteenth Century Landscape”, of an unknown book by an author whose last name, I believe, is Smith. I think this report was written in 1993. The author states:

“For the mentally incapacitated, and the destitute, a Poor Farm was established in 1876, two miles south of Waynesville. In 1889 it had 100 acres under cultivation but the buildings “are in somewhat inferior condition.” The farm had four male, eight female inmates, two of them being of “unsound mind.””

The author lists his source for this tidbit of information as Goodspeed Publishing, History of Laclede, etc., p. 809. I believe that Goodspeed may be off a year or two, because the earliest entry in the ledger is that of Christine Skaggs, who was admitted July 1, 1874.

Coincidently, the work by Smith, speaks of old roads in Pulaski County in the late nineteenth century. I was able to locate the Poor Farm by his description, but hesitate to disclose the location, as the property is currently abandoned. The property has 110 years of County Farm history attached to it, and I would hate for it to fall victim of vandals. For those genuinely interested in the history of the Pulaski County Poor Farm, please email me at and I will provide you with directions.

Pulaski County Poor Farm is also mentioned in “History Pulaski County Missouri, Volume II” published in 1987. The article was written by Adlyn Shelden Willits. This book is still available for purchase at the Courthouse Museum. The research for her article also included conversations with people who remembered some of the residents of the Poor Farm. Mrs. Willits’ article states “There is a large cemetery on the grounds where about 100 people are buried.”

After conducting research on the names recorded in the Pulaski County Poor Farm Ledger, I have been able to confirm the burials of 22 souls who were laid to rest in this forgotten cemetery. I will post those names on this blog next Saturday after I have handed the list to Marge Scott, the Curator of The Pulaski County Courthouse Museum.

There is already a published record of one of the individuals whose final resting place is The County Farm Cemetery. The same volume of History Pulaski County Missouri, has a short article about the life of Charles H. Rickerson. The article was written by John Andrew Rickerson, a great, great grandson and confirms the burial of Charles H. Rickerson, a Civil War Veteran, in the abandoned cemetery of the Pulaski County Poor Farm.

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