History of the Ottawa County Poor Farm
This is the original Ottawa County Poor Farm building. It was the farmhouse of the Daniel and Lucinda Realy family, and it and 198 acres were sold to Polkton Township in February, 1866 for $6,000.
It often served as an inn for travelers going through from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven, and was called the "Mid-Way" house. It served as the Poor Farm until the brick building was built, at which time this original house became a laundry. The original building was torn down in 1951 after having served many years.
The yellow brick building was erected in 1886 to accommodate the growing need for more space for the residents/inmates. It was built at a cost of about $9,000 and the name was changed to "Infirmary".
In 1928 the east wind was added to the 1886 building, and was known as the "Womens Department". The Bakery was established in the east wing basement in 1943 where many loaves of bread, pies, biscuits and cookies were baked to feed the residents.
According to the introductory pages of Book One, the Ottawa County Infirmary (county poorhouse) began its operation in 1866 with H. S. Taft as "keeper". Then begins the listing of workers, beginning with the hiring of William Cowles on April 14, 1866 for $20 per month. Horace Bancroft started on July 9, 1866 for $1.50 per day. Soon other names were added: David Gire, Charles Gray, Ira Babcock, George More, George Armstrong, and John Nobles who worked on the farm haying, harvesting, and general farm work.
The cost involved in bringing paupers to the county house is interesting. The price ranged from $2.00 to $15.00 depending possibly on the distanced covered and whether meals were included. Some of the names of those who transported the paupers were: A. G. Maxfield, J. P. Hopkins, E. J. Avery, W. H. Miller, C. W. Hunt, William Bruce, Charles Post, G. Taylor, Orrin Doud, Amos Taylor, J. Greene, S. Hazelton, Lewis Mursee?, E. Scott, Allen C. Aelst and J. B. Wiley.
There are four books of records for the poor farm. The books are on file with the Department of Social Services of Ottawa County where Mr. Loren Snippe is director (1995).
Book One covers the years from 1866-1883.
Book Two covers the years from October 1919 through 1931
Book Three covers the years from 1931 through 1932
Book Four covers the years from 1951 to 1976
KEY TO BOOK ONE
NAME Name of Pauper
ADM. Date of Admittance
DIS/D - Discharged/Died
BK. 1 PG. Book #1, Page #
OLIVE Olive Township
PARK Park Township
JAMES. Jamestown Township
ROB. Robinson Township
CROCK. Crockery Township
COOP. Coopersville City
ALL. Allendale Township
CHES. Chester Township
WR. Wright Township
TAL. Tallmadge Township
NOTE: Dates were not always noted in Book One as to the year the event occurred.
Where the year is enclosed in ( ), it is an estimate.
Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 26 January 2005