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Cemetery Information *

Fair Acres aka Poor Farm Cemetery
Jasper County,

History of the county poor farm

Oct. 21, 2011 Newton Daily News

The Jasper County poor farm. Yes, that’s what it was known as, from original records back on Sept. 4, 1867. At that time, J. Kipp, Salem Jefferies and David Edmundson were the committee of three chosen to select a “poor farm” and report back to the county board of supervisors at their January meeting. What fascinating reading in the 1878 History of Jasper County, which remains on file at our public library.

As a youngster, I remember adults talking about the poor farm, where older members of the community lived their remaining years. This was primarily for men and women who had no immediate family to take care of them. Otherwise, they would be living at the family home of sons and daughters or younger brothers or sisters. Many times folks talked about the poor farm in hushed tones, which was somewhat puzzling to me. Conversations many times left the questions in young minds ... why would anyone really have to go there?

But, putting things in proper perspective, it was a way of taking care of anyone who might be penniless, in poor physical or mental health. It was indeed a self-sufficient farm, with thoughtful caretakers, where most everyone capable had various jobs to perform. But let’s take a little look at that ancient history.

As the records state, “The Board of Supervisors appointed David Edmundson, E.H. Bartow and G.W. Chinn as a committee with full powers to purchase land for a poor farm, to contain not less than 160 acres, with a price not to exceed $45 per acre. Said farm to be not less than 4 miles from Newton, and they are to purchase the necessary teams, tools and farm implements to put the farm in operation, and provide an overseer as contemplated by law.” This was the beginning.

As records further state, “The Committee performed their duty with dispatch, and on Jan. 25, 1868, they received a deed from S.H. Wilson for 203 acres in section 6 of Buena Vista Township for the price of $9,666,50. With the purchase of livestock, farm equipment and supplies the total outlay was $12,291.11.” Looking at these figures nearly 150 years later, it appears they made some pretty sound decisions!

This fascinating history covers crop production that first year of 650 bushels of corn, 225 bushels of potatoes, 40 bushels of apples, 25 gallons of sorghum molasses, 15 tons of hay and a good supply of garden vegetables. There were four horses on the farm, 10 head of cattle, 53 head of swine, and $225 worth of farm implements. An addition to the house was made, the cellar enlarged, a crib and hog pen built, besides other improvements. The committee praised the fine accomplishments of the managers Mr. and Mrs. Folz.

That first year, 12 persons had been received, who they referred to as “inmates.” Three were very old and infirm, and three were children. Attendance at the poor farm grew to 22 individuals by 1877, with two births and no deaths. A person can’t help but paint some colorful word pictures in their mind of the challenges during those years for the managers, finding adaptable work for every capable individual, and keeping them reasonably satisfied in their surroundings.

My 87-year-old friend, Wayne Richards, related how his grandfather, Jacob Mulbrook, found his niche there at the farm, taking care of the mules. He also had a semi-invalid uncle who spent a good many years at the facility. They used to pick him up for historic family reunions. Wayne said that everyone able to get around had a job to “fit the person.” To a big degree, folks also had a tendency to take care of each other.

My classmate Richard Thomas related that many folks who would end up at the Jasper County Care Facility, as it was known back in the 1930s, many times had a monthly government pension of about $25, which was shortly after Social Security payments kicked in. His dad also spent a short time there and seemed reasonably satisfied with the overall care.

Time marches on ... and today, the county care facility, which has been vacant for a number of years, is scheduled to be transformed into a renewable energy training center. Details are in the works, and before long the physical appearance of that whole area will be only a memory. Individuals who need special care these days have been absorbed into well-run nursing and retirement homes, as well as Progress Industries, founded a number of years ago to care for those with a variety of mental problems.

Just a very small portion of the original Poor Farm Cemetery remains today, with tombstones of individuals dating back to 1875. The remains of most people buried there were transferred to other cemeteries years ago. What will happen to this existing small burial plot remains to be seen. And ... the beat goes on!

Contributed on 12/30/19 by tslundberg
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Record #: 824282

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Submitted: 12/30/19 • Approved: 12/30/19 • Last Updated: 1/2/20 • R824282-G0-S3

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