Jan 15-01

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2001: January: Jan 15-01
The Poor Farm    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Daryl Laitila

By Don't sweat the Petty Things and don't pet the sweaty things. on Monday, January 15, 2001 - 09:42 pm:

Back in the 1930s when many people didn't have a pot to P__ss in - or a window to throw it out of, many counties across the USA had County Poor Farms. The people that resided there helped to raise there own food, milk cows, etc. But then our Glorius Leaders eliminated the Poor Farms - now we have "The Homeless" or "Street People" who live on the streets of this mighty land and add to the scenery of America The Beautiful.

By Alice A., Alaska on Monday, January 15, 2001 - 09:52 pm:

County Poor Farms were customary once upon a time.
I remember seeing the Muskegon County Poor Farm on
M-40 outside of Muskegon when I was a kid. At least that's where I think it was - it has been a while.

By Earl Seppala, Washington on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 03:04 am:

My maternal Grandmother, Maria Lisa Tikkanen (Usitalo) passed away here in 1926. She was bed-ridden for many years with what we have come to believe was ALS. My Mother said the doctors could never put a name to the illness in those days. She is buried in Liminga cemetary with my Grandfather Andrew Tikkanen.

By MKW --MI on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 06:22 am:

I remember visiting my great Aunt Liz here in the late 1950's. The "POOR FARM" is now known as The Houghton County Medical Care Facility in Hancock.

By Dan in Fenton, MI on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 08:05 am:

So, where does the term, "Funny Farm," come from? Is it a derivative of, "Poor Farm?" I know it's probably not Politically Correct, but we heard it as kids growing up.

By jj,greenville,mi montcalm county on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 10:18 am:

there is a farm east of greenville called the county farm also. the road is named after it. it was for poor folks and was self sufficient. producing grain,milk,eggs,meat,vegatables,fruit,berries,honey. what was not stored and eaten later was sold and money received used for other expenses. there is a cemetery across the road from it and of course there are no markers on any graves. there is a metal cage cell in basement for the unruly if needed, to hold and punish? the big brick buildings are currently being used for a big foster care type facility by a private proprietor. not certain if leased from county or quietly sold?
yes, now there are many homeless out in the streets of america. money still continues to talk.

By Anne, Michigan on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 10:31 am:

I grew up on the Canal Road. When we were children, several years after the poor farm had closed, we would beg our parents to drive us up that hill to look at the abandoned, eerie building that loomed over us on top of the hill. We were fascinated by it and its history. We would imagine what it would be like to go inside and were sure it was inhabited by countless ghosts. Several years ago the roof fell in, erasing some of its fear-producing aura. Thanks for the memories.

By Rebecca, IL on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 11:38 am:

My friends and I went "ghost-hunting" there when we were in high-school (what else is there to do in the quiet Copper Country when you're young?). We'd go late at night with flashlights and wander thru it...not exactly heeding the No Trespassing sign that's so obvious in the photo... The place is so interesting tho, with old iron beds with the names still on them and various hospital supplies strewn among the rubble, bedpans etc. We always called it the "Insane Asylum"...it added to the atmosphere.

Thanks for the memories!

By Connie Pizzitola, Aurora, Colo. on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 11:40 am:

I think I took a break here once when riding my bike out to the breakers in the seventies. What fun I had while knowing nothing of the seriousness that occurred where my resting butt sat. This has been a nice history lesson for me.

By Alice Neilson, Ventura, CA on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 12:54 pm:

Yes, Connie, a nice history lesson. I remember my folks talking about the Poor Farm, but had no idea where it was, or what it was. Thanks Daryl.

By Bill Abraham on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 01:33 pm:

Now I know what it is. we stoped at the county camp ground, saw it on top of the hill went up to look and maybe see what it was. we thougt it was a school, now we know. it was in better shape then,

By Brian in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 01:45 pm:

I recently ended a tenure working with medical patients on welfare. I saw many people who were in genuine need. Unfortunately, the majority of the folks I worked with were notorious abusers of the welfare system. While jobs continue to be plentiful in our city, too many of our patients didn't work simply because they didn't have to. (They knew how to work the system.) It's nice to know that at one time people at a Poor Farm had enough self-respect that they would help with the duties that provided for their needs. Thanks for the history lesson. I had never heard of a Poor Farm before.

By Sara, phx, az on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 01:47 pm:

Does anyone know the dates this place was in operation? Is interesting, I grew up after that time and never heard about the poor farms. I have heard sayings re getting sent to the poor farm, usually in the same sentence as "I.R.S". This was a government funded facility? I have heard of the t.b. wards and areas. One of the areas of Phx here was originally a t.b.-town? (for lack of a better word). In regards to Don't Sweat's comment, looks like we should have these places today. Loved your quote by the way!
Was this place self sufficient as the farm jj spoke about out of greenville?

By Daryl Laitila on Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - 07:40 pm:

Here is another picture of the "Poor Farm". It's located not far from Houghton just off the Houghton Canal Road.

By Ruth Stierna, Virginia on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 06:43 am:

Thanks for these photos! My great grandparents John & Eva Johanna Pyhäjärvi had a farm in 1915 not far from this facility. My dad Elmer Jarvi talked about working at the poor farm & how great the meals were for the workers. Does anyone know if there were any records preserved from this place, & where they might be?

By Karen, Hancock, MI on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 10:37 am:

To Dan in Fenton:
I laughed at your comment about the "funny farm", because we also grew up hearing about it. Maybe it was a Tamarack Street thing. What do you think, Sara in Phoenix?

By Liz on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 10:43 am:

My mom knew someone who worked nights there, and I grew up just down the road from there. We would take a drive up there every now and then, by that time it had long been abandoned and it always looked kind of creepy.

By Dan in Fenton, MI on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 11:59 am:

Hi Karen, good to hear from you. Incubator Avenue (Tamarack St) is coming back to haunt me. Poker left me a nice note a couple of weeks back. I hear things haven't changed too much in that neck of the woods. Is that your sister Sara in Phx? Was just there last week. Nice, warm, sunny.

By Sara, Phx, AZ on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 12:52 pm:

Dan in Fenton-
Who are you? The hatchery next door on Tamarack Street? Next time in sunny AZ- give a holler!

By Karen, Hancock MI on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 03:07 pm:

I have better advice for next time you're in Phoenix. Drag that sister of ours back to Michigan with you. Who needs sun anyway? Especially when you can have snowbanks up to your eyeballs! And mosquitoes never killed anyone, have they?

By Nancy N. WI on Wednesday, January 17, 2001 - 05:30 pm:

Grew up in Houghton, but just have a niggling memory of hearing the term "Poor Farm". There was an orphanage on the corner of what is now Mcinnis (sp?) and 7th Street that we called the poor farm, but it wasn't really a farm like the one in the picture. Someplace new to investigate when I visit this summer. Could someone give directions as to exactly where it is?

By LadyYoop on Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 04:52 am:

That poor farm at one time was also the local TB Sanitarium. There is a small building close there too that was the first Copper Country Mental Health. The orphanage on the corner of MacGinnis DR and 7th is on Tech's campus and is now the Good Will Farm, used to house "troubled" kids that will have a better chance at success in life.

By Dan in Fenton, MI on Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 08:21 am:

Yes, Sara, it's me. I was in WA for Bro Phil's wedding. All 13 siblings there, with Ma & Pa. Was a riot. Don in WA also watches this site. Karen, you are a true Yooper. I know it must be hard for Sara in the Valley of the Sun to be missing shoveling and bug bites.

By Karen, Hancock, MI on Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 05:52 pm:

Can't imagine that those brothers of yours are old enough to be married! How can they be getting older, when we aren't?! I can imagine the laughs you all must have had, being all together. Bunch of comedians, for sure!
I run into the few brothers you have left here, once in a while. Would be fun to talk to them more often. My Bro Steve asks about Phil now and again, but I never know anything to tell him. Steve is returning from Kosovo next month, serving with the US Army. Can't wait until December, 2001 when he will be done. So, are you starting an Incubator Avenue of your own in Fenton?

By Connie Pizzitola on Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 05:54 pm:

The Goodwill Farm was an orphanage. My father was adopted from there and later brought back and then re-adopted by the same people. I will never forget the day my mom took us to the goodwill farm for a day visit. She left my sister and I there and we got so scared that we ran out of there and caught up with her walking home on seventh street both crying our eyes out!! I never darkened that doorstep again!!

By Alison now in Oshkosh on Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 10:28 pm:

Poor farms were country wide. I grew up in Albany, Oregon where, just beyond the edge of town is still the "Poor Farm Road" that goes past the old Poor farm. It was established, and run, by the county around the turn of the century as an alternative to jailing someone for their debts. It did a hopping business well through the depression, until the developement of welfare put it out of business.

By elaine, mi on Friday, January 19, 2001 - 05:04 am:

hey, well I just graduated so I found it very funny talking about the Poor Farm...we didn the same thing..the past 3 years of highschool...everyone went up to the Insane Asylum.(that's what we called it too) It was something to do, like someone said before, and I will never forget the day when my frined Cheeko and I drove up there. I was so scared and didn't want to get out of the car...plus it was the middle of winter...well, he pretended the car wouldn't start, and I didn't know what to do...I thought he was telling the truth and I was freaking out, as I looked at the scarey sight of that insane asylum...FINALLY, he gave in..and we drove away. It was funny, but not at the time. =)

By Jenness Jacobson Joque on Friday, January 19, 2001 - 07:27 pm:

I grew up across the lake from this farm. They kept horses up there and we would go riding by rowing across the lake and walking up the hill.
Also have a memory of being up there when we were younger and delivering Christmas cards and singing for the residents. This was when elderly people lived up there, before the county bought the Copper Country TB Sanatarium on Quincy St. in Hancock for it's elderly.

By Marva, Michigan on Friday, October 26, 2001 - 06:11 pm:

My great grandparents, Francis Caldwell and Allie Norton Caldwell, had to go to the Montcalm County Poor Farm in 1894-6 when he became ill with TB. He died there in less than a year but have never been able to find out what happened to her. They had to give up their three kids when they entered the farm. My grandfather was adopted but his two older sisters never were and both eventually died in some type of care facilities.

By L. W. on Wednesday, May 1, 2002 - 11:32 pm:

Hi! I'm looking for any information about Virginia's Poor Farms for a research project. I know there were several. Any help will be really appreciated. Photos would be great!

By MARION ZOELLNER on Friday, June 14, 2002 - 10:11 pm:


By Suzanne Walters, MI on Thursday, October 3, 2002 - 04:00 pm:

What a great site--we need help from anyone
who may have info, photos, memories, any
knowledge on Kent County Poor Farm, Maple Grove
Ward or Maple Grove Cemetery. We are trying
to re-define a severly neglected cemetery. Please
contact me via e-mail or phone 616-452-6084. THANX

By Bob Brown, Prattville, Alabama on Wednesday, October 23, 2002 - 02:35 pm:

The Poor Farm was operating in 1940's and 50's and probably earlier. The depression hit the Copper Country extremely hard. It was during this time that many people lost everything. In regard to housing, if you couldn't pay (rent or house payments), you couldn't stay in your house. Many people were evicted and had no place else to go but to the Poor Farm. There didn't seem to be any stigma attached to having to go to the poor farm. It was a very sad thing. However, life there was structured and the place was designed to be self sustaining. The manager was Mr. Leonard Christofferson and his wife helped. Their oldest son Leonard,Jr was in school with us in Houghton (and also at Tech). It was a very full place and had lots of families living in the rooms in the big building and they all had chores to do. Several of us kids would take our bikes to school and ride out the canal road after school and up the hill to play with Leonard and his little brother, Brinkie. I remember well the time Mrs. Christofferson gave us some fresh baked blue berry pie with milk. The pie was warm; fresh from the oven and milk was warm; fresh from the cow! Its amazing and very sad that it was allowed to disintegrate.

By Dan -- Houghton MI on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 07:49 pm:

We whent looking for said farm. Just ended up getting a formally 4wheel drive GMC totally stuck. Couldnt Find it. Drove all the way out to breakers, but still no luck. If anyone can give me an idea of where its at it would be greatly appreciated. Were looking for it to take some pictures because were putting together a Houghton/Hancock history thing. Like is it between the Houghton Cannal Road and the lake or is it to the south of the road? Thanks. (PS we have a better 4wheel drive now)

By Joyce Mayer on Saturday, May 10, 2003 - 08:57 am:

Interesting line Your right of course,about the closing of the "poor farms"because in them at least the unfortunate had a place to lay their heads. Now of course, they are on the sidewalks roaming day and night just to stay warm.I stayed a one of those farms in Colorado in 1966 and it was kept very clean by those of us who stayed there. We were enroute to California and had major car problems and ended up there because we didn't have enough money to fix the car and a motel. Everyone on the farm worked for their room and board so we didn't feel guilty for being there. It actually was a pretty interesting experiance and now I which I had something to show we were there! Jaam

By RaymondHumphrey on Sunday, July 6, 2003 - 10:38 pm:

I seek the old sanitarium once located in Crown Point,Indiana.My mother,Tessie Humphrey was there,I believe between 1950-1955.Do you have photos of that place?This is extremely important to me. Please,Help!!! Mr.Raymond Humphrey

By Fran,Ga on Monday, July 7, 2003 - 07:11 pm:

If anyone is interested I worked at the Co Hosp starting in High school on weekends and Holidays and worked there for several years until 61. It was still open in 63 as I brought my baby daughter up there to visit my former co-workers and some special patients.One little old man was in bed and I took and lay my little girl in his arms and great big old tears rolled down his cheeks.A special moment!! Ike and Dorothy Klingbeil ran it when I worked there. They lived upstairs with their 2 boys-Chuckie and ???. Also I think just before I left Mrs Hocking ran it. If anyone has any questions or wonders about anything I'll be glad to try and help.

By Connie - Colorado on Wednesday, July 9, 2003 - 05:59 pm:

The famous Chuckie Klingbeil of the Miami Dolphins and even more famous, His Mother, the Houghton High School Librarian!!!

By JJesmore, Ca on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 11:49 am:

seeking information on any poor farm or TB (fresh air school) facility in Crawfordsville Indiana area, looking for family who fell on hard times after death of matriarch of the family and end of pension funds, circa 1914. Family names: Thomas, Pickett, Sams.

By Janet Greenwood on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 06:18 pm:

My first six years were spent at the County Farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington, where my father was the superintendent. My memories of life here were mostly very good. I remember this as a clean place, contrary to many stories I have read about horrid conditions at these farms. We lived in an apartment attached to the three-story home. I was able to interact with the residents, many of whom were too old or disabled to share the work. As the only child there I was given more than my share of love and attention from the crew and the residents.

By scaredstupid on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 05:00 am:

Me and some friends just got back from visiting the "insane asylum" and it was very creepy but at the same time very interesting. We've heard many stories about ghosts and stuff but really all it was, was collapsed roofs on top of old appliances. It was still cool to see and I recommend doing it. Just be careful where you step.

By HoughtonPartyCrew on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 03:41 pm:

So..there are two different buildings/ruins, depending on how you look at it. We went into the first one, and we're all pretty cautious, and BAM!!! A bat came flying at us, lol. This building wasn't that interesting, it consisted of empty rooms, and was a little too dangerous to be walking around in. So, we went into the other building, this one consisted of personal affects and utensils and such. There were two steel green doors that were shut, and being the "rebels" we are, we went to go see what was inside. One guy went in there, and his flashlight went out, and he said that he saw a face coming at him. Not sure exactly what happend, but we got out of there. If you're looking for fun at 3 in the morning, that'll sure get your heart pumping!!!

By Falisha, Michigan on Thursday, September 2, 2004 - 02:19 pm:

I need some more infomation on this building. I work there now and belive me, wow, it has changed. I need to do a history on it and I would love any help I can get. Now it is a AFC home run by my aunt and I have been working there for about four years. I would appreciate any information. Thanks so much.

By Pam Vogel on Saturday, January 8, 2005 - 11:11 pm:

Hi! Does anyone know if there is a picture of the "Poor Farm" when it was being used? Or an earlier picture of the building when it was the Copper Country Sanitarium? My mother, Irene Ranta was a TB patient there. I'd like to make a scrapbook page for her with its history to show to her grandchildren. If so, could you post it on this page or email it to me?

By Alicia, Mi. on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 08:58 am:

HI Pam
I have been trying to find a photo of the Houghton Poor Farm for years with no luck.
There are two at this site, one in Keweenaw
and one in Gogebic.

By Leonard Christoferson Washington on Friday, January 28, 2005 - 09:53 pm:

I grew up in this place. My father and mother were the Superintendent and Matron, respectively. We lived in an apartment in the main building. Usual occupancy from 1936 to 1953 was about 90 people. There was a 400 acre farm in connection, and, yes, it was self sustaining. It never was a tuberculosis sanitarium, that was a separate facility about 1/2 mile down the hill. To get to the Poor Farm site take the canal road and about 3/4 of a mile past the old smelter take the road to the left that goes up the hill.

By Pstti on Sunday, January 30, 2005 - 10:38 am:

I went to the poor farm in the late 50 with the girl scouts we would feed and talk to them, at that time it was more a old age home.Think I will have to go and see if anything is there when I go home next summer.

By Jason, MI on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 04:55 pm:

Who owns this place, and does anyone REALLY care about people snooping around there? I'm trying to photo document the more notable ruins in the Keweenaw and would rather not deal with hostilities if at all possible. Thanks to everyone that's posted here for the help and all the info.

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