*** UPDATED October 26, 2015 ***
In 1887, the Marion County Board of Commissioners bought the W. E. Glover farm for $4,500 in hopes of establishing a “poor farm” on it. They had $10,000 to put towards the buying of property and the building. The three-story limestone building was built in 1888 with help from one of the county’s well known stone masons, Fred Scheaffler. It was built of limestone from Florence, KS and it’s doors opened to the poor and public in 1890. The site it’s on was chosen because it’s on higher ground and in the middle of three towns – Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody.
In 1893, W.K. Palmer took charge as superintendent and it was said that he did an incredible job; while his wife worked alongside him and cooked for the people living there. It took tact, patience, kindness, and good and sound judgment to keep up the farm and care for the residents. During his time as superintendent, he averaged 12 inmates at a time; six men and six women. Back then the people who stayed there were called “inmates” instead of what we would call them today, residents or clients. It was said that most of the inmates were incompetent to a certain degree would require the same treatment that little children would.
I recently learned of a room in the house on the second story that was used as a “prison”. The room had bars on the window and if patients became uncontrollable, they could be placed in a straightjacket and in the prison to further restrain them and keep from harming others. (Prison in bottom left corner.)
Each person was given tasks that matched his or her abilities and was required to complete them. The farm had one hired man that helped the men and together they farmed 160 acres, made improvements around the farm, kept a large garden, raised hogs and cattle, and did their own butchering.
The women spent their time sewing and mending, cooking, and keeping up the with the housework. The men and women were kept separate and never met other than at meal times and they were all required to wake at a certain hour and complete their duties. Not only did it serve as a place for the poorer people and mentally handicapped, but it also housed unwed pregnant mothers until their babies were born and then adopted.
Not only were there frequent activities going on around the farm, but there was never a Sunday without the wonderful addition of a church service or special program from the surrounding churchs. Visitors were frequent around the home, as were the Boy and Girl Scouts. Christmas was also a special time, there was always a Santa Claus with a sack of nuts and candy for everyone and Christmas carols. Whenever birthdays were happening, you could be sure to find a giant cake for the special person to share with their fellow residents and friends.
It was also said that the Marion County Poor Farm was better furnished then half of the private United States families, as they were always receiving the latest in modern improvements and machinery. Not only did the Poor Farm sustain itself without help from the county, but it also made enough to pay $200 annually to the county treasury.
Art Loewen once told the writer of another article on Cedar Rest this: “I wish you would mention the fact that when TV first came out, the patients of the home all saved their nickels and dimes and chipped in to buy a set for their own enjoyment. That set was still there and in use when we retired in 1958.”