by Chris Clemens
The English settlers who arrived in North America in the 1620’s established the concept of “Poor Laws” and essentially built a legal arrangement for government oversight and support for those not able to care for themselves. Whether you were someone who had a mental illness, a developmental disability or even were a wealthy man who suffered a major accident and became unable to pay your bills, the local Overseers of the Poor would review your case and determine how to help. Over time, homes for the destitute were established and, at least in New York, were managed at the county level. Poor houses, or almshouses, began to provide residential care for New Yorkers as early as 1736. If you read my post about the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane you already know that in the early 1800’s officials began to concern themselves with the type of care that many people living in almshouses were receiving. Maltreatment and abuse ran rampant throughout the findings from investigations into the county-based programs. As a result, state-run facilities began to be built in New York, starting with the Utica Psychiatric Center in 1843. Slowly, the use of almshouses in New York began to dissipate and many of them are no longer in existence. The Genesee County Poor Farm was established on January 1, 1827 in East Bethany, NY at the geographic center of the county and served upwards of 300 people at a time until it closed in 1974.
I had previously shared a number of personal photographs, history and impressions from the tour I took here. The nature of this blog is to share my experiences at historical and unique places and to promote exploring them, which is typically well-received. However, I have removed the history and photos at the the request of the property owner. These remaining photos were taken while standing in the road.
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens