Cherokee County,  Kansas

History of the Poor Farm


Thursday evening of this week James W. Taylor, superintendent of the Cherokee county poor farm, was the recipient of a most pleasant surprise and a high compliment to him as an officer.  His neighbors residing in the vicinity of the poor farm organized a surprise party numbering eighty-two persons and marched in upon himself and family with well filled baskets and hearts full of praises to him for the manner in which he had conducted the poor farm during the past two and a half years.  Short speeches were made by Rev. Snelson, Mr. Taylor and others, and with music and the excellent lunch spread the evening was most pleasantly spent.  It was a complete surprise to Mr. Taylor as he had never visited at the house of any person in attendance and many of them he did not personally know.  It was given solely to manifest their appreciation of Mr. Taylor's efforts to properly conduct the poor farm.
(Baxter Springs News ~ August 20, 1892 ~ Page 4)

One of the inmates of the Cherokee county poor farm is an old colored woman supposed to be more than one hundred years of age, who was brought to this country from Africa as a slave.
(Topeka Daily Capital ~ Friday ~ August 7, 1903 ~ Page 4)


H. S. Coon, superintendent of the Cherokee County poor farm, was made the following annual report to the county commissioners.

I herewith submit my report for the year ending Sept. 30, 1903.

The total expenses for the year were $904.73.  I have paid into the county treasurer $319.12.  Add to the latter amount the amount received from the state for the care of the insane at the poor farm, and it leaves a blance in favor of the farm of $39.  About $100 included in above was paid for machinery.

During the year I have handled 2190 bushels of coal and have at this date 750 bushels.  We have on hand 43 head of cattle, 65 head of hog and two horses.  Crops from unpreventable causes are not what we expected.

The average number of inmates for the year was 27.  There were 24 admissions during the year, and 5 deaths.  Would recommend that you stop the importation of Weary Willie to the poor farm.
(Galen Evening Times ~ Friday ~ October 9, 1903 ~ Page 2)

H. S. Coon has been appointed superintendent of the Cherokee county poor farm.
(Pittsburg Daily Headlight ~ Tuesday ~ August 16, 1904 ~ Page 4)


Samuel Johnson took charge of the Cherokee county poor farm on Monday as the new superintendent.  Mr. Johnson is a prosperous farmer of this county who has been a very successful farmer and is in possession of one of the good ones in the county.  The retiring superitendent, S. H. Coon, will move onto his farm about eight miles south of Pittsburg.  Mr. Coon was in charge of the farm for six years and gave the best of satisfaction.
(Galena Evening Times ~ Thursday ~ October 5, 1905 ~ Page 4)


Yesterday Tom Hefferan, an old man who for years has been an inmate of the Cherokee county poor farm near Columbus, celebrated his 107th birth anniversary.  He is said to be the oldest man in the state of Kansas.  He was born in the year 1800 just a few months after the death of George Washington and while John Adams, second president of the United States, was still in office.  He has consequently lived under all but one of the presidents of this nation.

Until about a year ago he was able to be up part of the time and retained a fair proportion of his reasoning faculties.  Now he remembers nothing of his past life and is hardly able to raise his hands.  His form is robust, however, and apparently he retains his usual vitality.  He weighs in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, but is able to take but little nourishment and death may claim him at any time.  Of his life there is not much known, further than substantial proof to prove his age.
(Pittsburg Daily Headlight ~ Friday ~ 8 March 1907 ~ Page 9)

DIED  AT  107

Oldest Man in State Dead at Columbus Poor Farm

Columbus, May 3 ---- (Special to Headlight)--- Thos. Hefferan, aged 107 years, the oldest man in the state of Kansas, is dead at the Cherokee county poor farm near here.

It seems to be a well authenticated fact that he was this age.  He always maintained that he was born in the year 1800, and it is said he had documents to prove his statement when he first went to the farm.  He was for year a peddler in the county and was widely known as "Uncle Tommy."

At the time of hi death he had a wonderful growth of hair, not even thin at the temples, and great shaggy eyebrows, all a silvery gray but of fine texture.
(Pittsburg Daily Headlight ~ Friday ~ May 3, 1907 ~ Page 1)

Down in Cherokee county the poor farm is reported to be in a wretched condition and a tax will be voted to fix it up.  In most Kansas counties the poor farm is self-supporting and is one of the prosperous farms of the county.
(Topeka State Journal ~ May 24, 1907 ~ Page 4)

The poor farm of Cherokee county is said to be in a disgraceful condition, not fit for people to live in, and wholly inadequate to the needs of such an institution.  The buildings are about rotted down.  They should be repaired or new ones should be built.
(Baxter Springs News ~ June 6, 1907 ~ Page 4)


The Women's Dormitory and Kitchen at Columbus Were Destroyed

Columbus, Kan., Dec. 2 --- Fire yesterday destroyed the main building, women' dormitory, kitchen and dining room of the Cherokee county poor farm.  The buildings were for the most part old frame buildings.  The insurance which the county was able to carry on them will not be sufficient to replace them.  The commissioners are having temporary quarters erected to replace the destroyed buildings.
(Hutchinson News ~ December 2, 1911 ~ Page 1)


Work of rebuilding the main building of the Cherokee county poor farm, destroyed by fire last Friday morning, was commenced yesterday morning.  It will take nearly two weeks before temporary quarters for the inmates will be completed.  A number of them have gone to their homes or relatives in the county until things are in such condition that they will be safely housed at the farm.
(Joplin Daily Globe ~ December 5, 1911 ~ Page 3)


Says She Was Driven From Home Three Years Ago

Leona Murray will be taken to the Cherokee county poor farm this morning by Constable Pat Peal.  In an interview yesterday the girl stated that she had been drive from home at Hiawassa, Ark., about three years ago.  She spent two years in the reform school and since has been roaming around, hunting for a home, she said.  She has been in Galena about a month.  She was found at the Frisco depot yesterday morning by an officer and was detained in the city jail.
(Joplin Globe ~ March 15, 1913 ~ Page 10)


Mayor Curry Says Cherokee County's Poor Farm Provides Real Comforts for Inmates

When Mayor Curry visited the poor farm in Cherokee county, which is situated about three miles out of Columbus, Kan., last Sunday, he says it made him feel ashamed of the way the unfortunate people of Montgomery county are provided for at the poor farm in this county.

"Cherokee county has a modern two-story brick building at its poor farm with individual wards for the inmates," said the mayor, "and everything about the institution is strictly sanitary and arranged for the comfort and pleasure of the sad-faced and decrepit humanity that has been forced by misfortunate to spend the last days there as county charges.  The women inmates are house on the ground floor of the building while the men are quartered on the second floor.  The county farm has its own water and electic light plant, the rooms being lighted by electricity, hot and cold water being supplied throughout the entire building.  It would seem that nothing has been spared which might add to the comfort and convenience of those who have to live there.  The superintendent and his family live at the home and personally look after the care of the inmates.  I sure wish this county could boast of such an institution.

The Cherokee county poor farm covers about the same number of acres as does the Montgomery county alms house, but at the latter, the mayor says, the inmates are housed in shacks instead of being provided with comfortable and sanitary quarters.  The building on the Cherokee county farm was built at a cost of $16,000 and is sufficiently large to care for he poor of that community for years to come.  It now has thirty inmates, while there are only about sixteen at the Montgomery county farm.
(Coffeyville Daily Journal ~ Tuesday ~ September 15, 1914 ~ Page 1)


Galena, Kan., Nov. 1 --- The board of county commissioners Tuesday voted to discontiue the Cherokee county poor farm near Columbus on or about December 1, this year, it was announced by County Attorney Kent Yount.

The action was taken by the board after having had the matter under consideration for several months.

"When the county poor farm was first established many years ago, the county did not have a social welfare program as it does today," Yount said.  "With the social welfare program in operation in the county at the present time, the county commissioners feel that all needy persons in the county can be taken care of under this relief program and it was decided to discontinue the poor farm, which has been operated at a loss for several years, to cut down county expenses."

At the present time, there are 12 residents at the poor farm.  These will be transferred to boarding or nursing homes in the county under supervision of the social welfare program.

The farm consists of 220 acres of land, which cannot be sold unless a majority of voters in Cherokee county vote in favor of selling the land, Young said.  This proposition for selling the farm land will be submitted to the voters at the next general election in November, 1952.

Members of the board of county commissioners are making plans to hold a public sale to dispose of personal property at the farm, including farming equipment, stock and chickens.  A notice will be published in the newspapers announcing the time and place of the sale.
(Joplin News Herald ~ November 1, 1951 ~ Page 3)


The Cherokee County Farm, operated for many years as a home for the aged and needy, has been offered the state as a site for a Tuberculosis Santarium for Southeast Kansas. The County Farm is located on US 69 highway two miles east of Columbus and includes 240 acres of land several well constructed buildings.

The board of county commissioners voted last October to suspend county operation of the farm facilities because there were not enough patients there to warrant keeping the huge buildings in operation. At the time there were twelve persons being cared for at the farm. At present there are eleven.

The commissioners will transfer the eleven to local nursing homes, it has been stated. For a number of years the farm has been operated at a loss and its discontinuance is being done to an effort to cut down county expenses.

Since the announcement by the commissioners, the three Cherokee county Tuberculosis Association units have been working toward a goal of securing a Southeast Kansas TB Sanitarium in this county.

The Columbus TB Association is headed by Mrs. Glenn Starrett, while Mrs. Ward Ball heads the Baxter Springs organization and Mrs. C. M. Capelli the Galena organization. Both Mrs. Ball and Mrs. Capelli have been working hard toward securing a state operated hospital here.

Photographs, elevations and other important information have been submitted to the state legislative council for possible action toward securing a TB hospital here. Rep. Bill Fribley, Crestline, is a member of the legislative council.

Rep. William M. Ferguson, Wellington, chairman of the legislative council's social welfare committee, reported to the council on December 1 that the committee recommended the establishment of a tuberculosis sanitarium in Southeast Kansas. This area has the highest rate of patients in the state.

Rep. Ferguson said it would facilitate transportation and also be valuable as an out-patient clinic. Hearings will be held on a possible location, he told the council.

The idea upon which the local associations are working is to give the County Farm land and buildings to the state if the legislature will appropriate the necessary funds to build a TB hospital at the site.

Although deeding the county farm to the state for such a purpose would not come in line with the powers of the board of county commissioners, District Judge Jerome Harman who has been devoting considerable time toward the project, said today that the idea could be accomplished by an "enabling act" by the state legislature. An act of this kind could be included with legislative appropriating funds for construction of a new TB hospital in Southeast Kansas, Judge Harman said.

Two sales have been set thismonth to pave the way for closing the county farm.

The first sale will be held Wednesday, Dec. 12, starting at 12:30 p.m. Twenty-one head of Holstein cattle owned by the county, are to be sold at public auction, according to the board of county commissioners.

The second sale will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 19, and will include th farm machinery, horses, hogs and feed at the farm.

The commissioners, John Stoskopf, chairman Ralph Shaffer and Frank Tryon also announced today that they had reached an agreement with Mrs. Leota Koch, operator of the Columbus Restorium, whereby she will lease the farm facilities for a period of one year. The commissioners said she announced intentions to operate the home as a nursing home, possibly taking over the care of the eleven persons there at the present time.

The commissioner will give Mrs. Koch possession of the home as soon as possible, probably Jan. 1, it was said today. The lease will include only the home facilities, garden spot and the chicken house, the commissioners said.
(Columbus Daily Advocate ~ December 10, 1954)

DOWN MEMORY LANE (By George Gleason)

Back in the early days when peoples' parents got old and helpless, the children, in most cases, were able to take them into their homes and care for them until they died. It was Oct. 1, 1882, when steps were first taken by the county to provide necessary and beneficent institutions for the unfortunate poor in the county.

Chosen was a farm of 240 acres situated in Crawford township, about two miles east of Columbus. It comprised the southeast quarter of section 8 and the west half of the southwest quarter of section 9, township 13, range 24. It was started with five inmates and became the Poor Farm for Cherokee County.

It was operated by a superintendent, his family and only occasionally, with additional outside help. The inmates, if they were able, assisted with the chores of operating the large brick building, the garden and the lawn. The farm land was tended by the superintendent and part-time help.

Mr. Pattyson was the first superintendent, for 1882-83; M. I. Davis for 1883-84; Jacob Lemley, 1884-90; James Taylor, 1890-92; James Marshall, 1892-93; M. L. Medsker, 1893-95; I. D. VanOrsdall, 1895-99.

On Sept. 30, 1899, H. S. Coon succeeded to the office. The inmates at that time numbered 22, the number had varied over the last few years from 22 to 35. The farm from the very start had always been largely self-supporting and in 1903 had shown a nice balance in operating profits. It was well stocked, having at the present time 67 head of hogs, two horses, 75 acres of corn, 30 acres of oats and a large well-kept garden.

Mr. Coon was a native of Carroll County, Mo., having been born there in 1862. In 1883 he came to Cherokee County when he was 20 and settled in Weir City where there was just one coal mining shaft at the time. He followed farming and mining for several years before accepting the superintendent's position at the Cherokee County Poor Farm.

When coming to the county, he was a poor boy who had by persistent effort, hard work and skill, forged to the front. In the position of superintendent, he was strict and careful concerning the property under his charge, while at the same time he was kindness itself to the unfortunate, whose lot was to need the fostering care of the county.

The Poor Farms throughout Kansas were discontinued and the unfortunate were cared for through the welfare system about thirty years later and that farm land was rented out to nearby farmers. The large brick home was rented for several years in the 1950's for a rest home and I believe it was in the 1970's when the farm was sold to an individual. The large building still stands.
(Columbus Daily Advocate ~ January 30, 1985)



This is the last article about cemeteries in Cherokee County. I would like to thank all the persons who kindly provided information about the different cemeteries. Several of the county burial sites only have two or three graves, therefore those have not been mentioned in this column.

The Genealogy Library continues to add burial listings to the cemetery files as present and past newspapers are being read and indexed.

There is one burial site which had over one hundred persons buried therein, but only a few tombstones now mark the graves. This cemetery was on the property of the former County Farm which was located two miles east of Columbus on Highway 69/160 in Crawford Township.

The 240 acre County Farm was established in 1882 when Cherokee County took steps to provide a necessary and beneficial institution for the unfortunate and the poor in the county. It opened with five patients. Many of the persons housed at the farm were sick, without a home or means of support, or was just too young or too old to care for themselves. In 1905 the oldest inmate was 105 years old while the youngest was three.

The County Farm was operated by a superintendent, his family and occasionally with additional outside help. The residents, if they were able, assisted with the chores of operating the large brick building, the garden and the lawn and taking care of the livestock. The superintendent and part-time workers planted corn, wheat and oats in the 160 acres of farm land. There was also an orchard on the property.

A newer two-story main building was erected in 1914 according to the January 14, 1915 issue of the Modern Light. The new spacious home for the county poor was equipped with its own water system, a furnace and laundry room in the basement, an elevator that ran from the basement to the first and second floors, sleeping apartments segregated as to sex with two beds in each room. The kitchen opened into separate dining rooms, one for the women and one for the men. The building also had an electric light plant which was utilized for grinding feed, pumping water, and other Labors connected with the operation of the county farm and home. The steam heated building had 14 rooms and two baths on the first floor while the second floor had 12 rooms and one complete bath.

In 1951, the county commissioners voted to suspend county operation of the farm facilities because there were not enough patients to warrant keeping the huge buildings in operation. Over two hundred twenty acres of land were offered for sale. Twelve acres and the buildings were reserved for use by the Hillcrest Rest Home which rented the property during the 1950s. Then in 1975 the county commissioners sold the large home, cottage and the outbuildings, as well as the rest of the acreage to an individual.

During its seventy years of operation, the County Farm admitted an average 34 patients a year. Some stayed for short periods of time while others lived there for several years. According to the County Farm death records which the Cherokee County Genealogy Library has in its possession, there were about 243 deaths which occurred at the farm. Many were buried there and others were buried in other cemeteries throughout the county.
(Columbus Daily Advocate ~ Wednesday ~ December 27, 2006)

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