Osage County Poor Farm

 

            The Osage County Poor farm was purchased by the Osage Board of County Commissioners from O M Billings (160 acres) for $5,0000 on 7 January 1876.  The first Superintendent was George S Francis. It was situated on the south side of the road one mile south and one and three quarter miles west of Burlingame on the county road dividing Burlingame and Dragoon townships. The farm consisted of one hundred and sixty acres of choice bottom land, thirty or forty of which was covered with a very fair quality of young timber. The house and buildings were located just east of Dragoon Creek.

 

The house was perhaps the largest farmhouse in the county, and it was thought it would answer the needs as a county home for several years. The property was purchased at the price of $5,000, cash. An additional building was built at right angles to the old quarters in 1913. The new building was of L shape, one story, and an entirely frame structure except for the foundation wall. In February of 1917 a fire caused from an overheated furnace destroyed it. .  A new brick facility was built and ready for occupancy in November of that year.   By 1937, the facility consisted of 15 buildings, a corral, an orchard and a cemetery and remained in use until the farm closed in the early 1970's. It was sold a few years later at public auction, thus the final chapter of a hundred- year old story.

 

The farm was considered an institution of sorts, and those living there were called inmates. It was part of the county welfare department, sometimes called the "poor farm.” Often the residents were old, mentally challenged, crippled, blind or sick or had no family able to give them the care or support they required. Some had no family ties and were unable to provide for themselves because of some challenge, though still somewhat young or healthy. It wasn't uncommon for a resident to leave the farm for a period, only to return later, sometimes more than once. Other residents lived there continually, some for many years. For this reason, the number living at the farm varied continually.

 

The dormitory building, or inmate building as it was sometimes called, had a mirror image floor plan, with men on the west side and women on the east. There were no dividing walls between the two sides. They had separate sitting rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and stairways, but shared a common dining area. The kitchen, dining area, laundry area, and food storage area were all in the basement. One room upstairs on each side had barred doors used to restrain inmates if needed. A barber shop was located on the ground floor in what would have been a front foyer, just inside the front door on the north side of the building.

Everyone at the farm that was able participated in the work, as there was a tremendous amount of work needed to accomplish everything necessary for the farm to be as self-sufficient as possible. Men worked in the fields, tended livestock and helped with the gardening and other chores around the farm. Women worked in the laundry, performed household duties and helped in the kitchen. Participating gave the residents a feeling of accomplishment and usefulness besides helping to occupy their time.

 

The farm was comprised of fields, timber, pastures, gardens, the orchard, cave, water tower, machinery, animals, fences, windmill, silo, the bayou and a cemetery. There were numerous outbuildings for a variety of uses.

 

The vast quantities of fruits and vegetables raised at the farm were canned or preserved and stored in the large cave fitted with shelves and bins. The large bam, with horses on the east end and cows on the west end, had a big haymow with a hayfork. There was an area for milking the cows also. An ensilage shed was attached onto the silo. The red brick hen house was partitioned into two sections, perhaps one end for the laying hens and the other for the chickens that were sold or eaten. Water pumped from the windmill would fill the water tower and a fire would be built at the base of the water tower to heat the water.

 

The county commissioners hired the superintendent, and the politics of the superintendent may play a role in whether he was hired or not, depending on the political persuasion of the commissioners.

 

 

The above story and b/w photo below have been republished with the kind permission of Linda Fagan (Original Author).

 

 

This is a list of those buried in the Poor Farm Cemetery.

 

 

 

Last

Maiden

First Middle

Born

Died

Grave

Arney

 

Margaret

1913

9

Banks

 

Fred

22

Beard

 

George

23

Colombo

 

John

15

Condon

 

James

13

Cumley

 

Sydney

18

Devlin

 

Mrs

14 Jul 1902

Evans

 

Robert

24

Gibbs

 

Rena

1835

15 May 1896

Gibbs

 

Ed

1869

6

Greeley

 

Jonathon

7

Herrick

 

Herman

25

Hillard

 

Riley

26

Kelley

 

Samuel

1835

1878

Kelley

 

Arthur

1918

8

Kilper

 

John

16

Kinney

 

John

1832

21 Nov 1918

1

Larson

 

Emma

21

Latta

 

Philip S

18 Jul 1907

17

Lawson

 

James

20 Apr 1895

Lewis

 

L B

5

Morrison

 

Pete

19

Murray

 

Thomas

1845

1917

3

Owens

 

Evan

1841

1918

4

Punches

 

Marge E

27

Ralph

 

William

20

Richardson

 

William

10

Smith

 

Charles

14

Strong

 

Susan

1835

17 Sep 1916

2

Tevis

 

Mr

1919

Truan

 

Matthew Henry

1837

24 Nov 1901

Turner

 

Thomas

1804

17 Nov 1893

Van Orman

 

B J

11

Walker

 

Kate

1891

Winder

 

James

12

 

 

 

Poor Farm Aerial Photos / Layout

 

 

 

 

 

Data on this site was compiled and edited by John Hill (Lyndon, Kansas).  Though a document of this nature can never be 100% correct, an exhaustive effort was put into it to ensure as much accuracy as possible. 

 

Credit/References:

 

Burlingame Cemetery Board

Topeka Genealogical Society’s “Osage County Kansas Cemeteries, 1996

Burlingame Enterprise, Osage County Chronicle and Osage County Herald Chronicle

Osage County Historical Society

Ancestry.com

Findagrave.com

Linda Fagan (Osage City, Kansas)

John Hill (Lyndon, Kansas)

Schuyler Museum

Kansas State Historical Society