La Porte County Asylum for the Poor
"County Farm"

LaPorte County Home
County Home about 1886

In the 1830's, a few years after the organization of La Porte county, the commissioners made provision for an asylum for the poor. They purchased land and built a county poor house and from time to time improved the possessions circumstances required. The poor farm originally consisted of the southeast quarter of section twenty-two in Center township, the left hand lower corner of which extends in Pine Lake. One of the men who served longest as superintendent of the county infirmary was Joseph M. Hoffman, who served sixteen years, having been selected by the county commissioners for that position in 1873. It is said that during his administration holidays were observed, and Sunday services held regularly at the poor farm. The southern half of the poor farm was purchased by the Pine Lake Cemetery Association as stated in the preceding chapter. After this it was found that the farm was not adequate to the county's growing needs, and hence on February 7, 1886, the present county farm was purchased which contains large tracts in sections three and ten of Scipio township. After a new and commodious home had been erected for an infirmary, and other buildings had been provided, the poor and those who cared for them were removed to the new establishment, which has ever since been conducted successfully.

Among the most satisfactory administrations was that of Mr. Concannon. The total cost of maintaining the poor farm for 1891 was $3,500. Besides this there is the township poor relief in which Michigan township in 1891 stood at the head, relieving 223 persons; Center came next relieving 197, then Kankakee with 20, New Durham with 13, Noble and Cass with 11 each, while those of the other townships were not as many as ten, each. The total was 528.
Considering population and everything, LaPorte county has little poverty as compared with many other counties. And this has been so from the beginning. The same industrial conditions, bringing poverty in their wake, have not prevailed here. The "slums" are not in the county, to any great extent. In an early day, in Michigan City, the foreign element was limited to a few Irish and German families. There was but little suffering from poverty. Even what existed was caused more by sickness and misfortune then anything else, and the needs of the sufferers were soon found out and relieved by those who were more fortunately situated. 
Ref: A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of LaPorte County Indiana - Author Rev. E. D. Daniels, 1904 - pages 304 & 305

LaPorte County Asylum and other notes from County files.  
Many of the mentally unstable inhabitants were sent to Logansport State Hospital (formerly Northern Indiana Hospital for the Insane) commencing with the completion of the building of the hospital at Logansport in about August of 1888. Logansport was previously known as Longcliff but in 1927 the State Legislature officially changed the name to the Logansport State Hospital. Due to over-capacity in the mid-1940's, Superintendents recommended that a new hospital be built. This resulted in the construction of "Beatty Memorial State Hospital" in Westville Indiana in 1952. It became known as the "Dr. Norman Beatty Memorial Hospital.  It began admitting patients in 1951 from 17 different counties and the maximum security division in 1954, replacing the old Hospital for the Insane Criminals at the Indiana State Prison. The division served the criminally insane from the entire state. Beatty Hospital was converted in 1979 into the Westville Correctional Center. The mentally ill patients were transferred to other mental health hospitals. Between 1951 and 1979 a total of
18,799 patients had been admitted. These admissions are on microfilm and held at the Indiana State Archived.  Previously, from 1909 to about 1945, the Indiana State Prison at Michigan housed the criminally insane which was officially opened Oct 19, 1912. It filled the state needs until Beatty Memorial State Hospital became available. 

Web master notes:    County poor farms were set up through out the US as a humanitarian effort to aid the homeless for many reasons. Some residents , also known as inmates in the census, found themselves there because of failing heath and mind. With health and life insurance policies almost non-existent in those days, many had not set aside funds for old age and could not care for their needs. And many were forgotten by those who they brought into this world and who did not care to make accommodations for them. In some cases the needs of the disabled were beyond the physical capabilities of the family. Others had come from lives of luxury and through poor investments or being swindled, found themselves in this unenviable position. One of the saddest noted were the children with perhaps one parent surviving or none and being helpless; making it necessary to seek shelter in various institutions through out the county.

As with many of the cemeteries in the county, the impression from doing a brief study on the County Home, actual written records were not kept in the early days. And even in the early part of the 20th century, there must have been a head count given to the county to receive monies for patient care. Due to the very fragile condition of a very few surviving documents, no public access is allowed for viewing.  A suggestion might be to check the census we have provided, cemetery records, family bibles and death certificates and obituaries through local newspapers. 

Also available was the "Old Soldier's Home".   Applications were made and some of the old time vets were transferred there. 

2013 and on -
Even today, in 2013 the County Home provides shelter to many of our area residents. It is located across from the Fair Grounds on state road 2.

Federal Census reports  for the County Asylum - 1850 to 1880 
Federal Census reports and Random directories for the County Asylum - 1898 to 1960

County Home Obituaries and News

Two Inmates Died In Chairs
Ira Hartman and Henry Nies Victims -
Died at the County House -
Mr. Hartman found sitting in chair. Dead at 3 O'clock This Morning ___ County Farm Authorities Startled By Second Discovery
______  Ira Hartman, aged  65 years, and Henry Nies, 52, both of this city, died unexpectedly last night at the county house near Laporte. Both were found dead in a chair in their respective rooms. Both suffered from dropsy and heart trouble the latter being givien as the cause of death  in each instance.
  Mr. Hartman was found about 3 o'clock this morning and the discovery of Mr. Nies did not take place until sometime later.
  Mr. Hartman's wife committed suicide here shortly after the "dope" law went into effect, she having been a confirmed Morphine fiend. Surviving hime are two daughters here and a brother in Ohio.
  Mr. Nies was born May 19, 1862 and was a brother-in-law of C. Gallier 421 Garfield street. Two sons, William of Arkansas and Henry of Oklahoma also survive. Mr. Gallier went to La Porte this
  morning to arrange for the funeral.  Michigan City Evening News Monday 10 May 1915 p. 1 c. 2

Harper, Thomas - Thomas Harper, for four years an inmate of the county asylum, died shortly after noon today of old age. His exact age is not known but he had passed his 90th birthday. He was a native of Ireland and had been a resident of this county for at least 40 years. The funeral services are to be held from the Kingsbury Baptist church Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock. The cortage will leave the asylum about 1:30 o'clock. The remains will be laid at rest in the Kingsbury cemetery where the deceased wife was laid some years ago. The Herald, Friday, July 19, 1895.

Hunter - - - James S. Hunter - DIED OF NOSE BLEED - Michigan City Man Passes Away at County House. James S. Hunter of this city died at the county asylum Wednesday night of hemorrhages of the nose. The deceased was taken to the county house about a month ago. He was 29 years old and is survived by a brother and a sister. If the body is not claimed by relatives, it will be turned over to the state anatomical board. Michigan City Evening News, Thursday 23 July 1903, p. 2, c. 3

INGRAM, William - The funeral of William Ingram, who died at the county poor asylum, took place yesterday afternoon, the interment being in Pine Lake Cemetery. The deceased was 76 years of age and had been at the asylum for the past 12 years. He died from old age and a complication of diseases. A niece, Mrs. Moore, lives in Hanna, and he is said to have left two sisters, the exact whereabouts of whom could not be learned. L.A. Decker & Bro. were in charge. (La Porte Daily Herald, October 24, 1917)

Johnson - - - Andrew Johnson - Michigan City Evening News, 2 March 1920 Andrew Johnson, 72, an inmate of the county farm for the past 40 years died there Friday, a victim of heart failure. He was born in Sweden, February 25, 1848, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jons Johnson. He is survived by a brother, Swan of Crystal Lake, Ill., who came to attend the funeral services which were held Sunday afternoon from Weir and Ebberts parlors. Rev. Axel Nelson officiating. He was buried at Pine Lake cemetery. Inmates of the county asylum acted as pallbearers.

Kimball - Charles Kimball, whom Trustee Hipp sent to the county house about a month ago, died there this morning from consumption. He was about 38 years old, and when sent over he was very ll.
Thos. Concannon, the superintendent of the poor farm, telegraphed to Trustee Hipp this morning concerning the man's death and the remains will probably be brought to this city for burial.
The man has a sister and distant relatives in this city. The funeral will be held in LaPorte tomorrow. His sister, who is employed at the life-saving station, and his aunt, Mrs. Ohmes, also of
this city, went to LaPorte today. Evening Dispatch, Michigan City, Thursday, 3 Mar 1892. 

Nichols - - Hattie Nichols - Michigan City News, 4 March 1908    THOUGHT DEAD; SHE REVIVES Poor Farm Superintendent Fooled by Hattie Nichols Monday, March 2. Superintendent Alschlager at the county infirmary was about to telephone for the undertaker last night when Hattie Nichols, an inmate, who he thought had died came to life again. The case is a most unusual one. After supper last evening Mrs. Alschlager called her husband with the startling information that the Nichols woman had dropped over dead. Mr. Alschlager hurried to the women’s ward and found the inmate on the floor. She was perfectly quit. He made a hasty examination. She appeared pulse less and there appeared to be no heart action. With the assistance on one of the men Mr. Alschlager carried her into another room and she was laid down, in order that efforts might be made to resuscitate her if possible. There was nothing to indicate that there remained a spark of life in her body, but just then all were startled to see the woman open her eyes and look up. In a few minutes she was all right. Hattie Nichols comes from Galena Township and has been in the insane hospital in Logansport several times.

RASSEAU - Daily Herald - Monday, November 27, 1893 - Frederick RASSEAU, an inmate of the county asylum, who died Friday night from the effects of cancer of the stomach, was buried this afternoon in Patton's Cemetery.

REECE - Ernest Reece, aged 95 years, dying with consumption, and his wife, Sophia Reece, bearing the weight of 107 years, were received at the county asylum Tuesday evening to spend the remainder of their days of life. They were taken over the hills to the refuge of the poor and unfortunate of life by the trustee of Wills township, where the aged couple lived for many years, where the father hewed a home out of the wilderness and where his wife, her figure bent with age, her hair as white as the driven snow, witnessed a century pass into forgotten oblivion. The condition of Mr. Reece made it necessary to remove him to the asylum that he might receive the proper care, while the mental condition of Mrs. Reece, her mind tottering under the infirmities of age, required that she be ministered unto as a public charge for the days she is fated to live. This venerable couple has had a long and interesting history. They have lived to behold American achievement and development, to witness the triumph of genius in mechanical invention. Mrs. Reece was a young girl during the progress of the war of 1812, and when her mind was strong and vigorous she could recount much of the stirring history which was written in the early years of the nineteenth century. The lives of both have been filled with content, and life, despite the fact that the sun is now deep on the other side of the hill, has had its sweet mingled with the bitter. (Michigan City Evening News, 2 Oct. 1902)

Schaefer, Ferdinand - Ferdinand Schafer, an inmate of the county asylum, 65 years of age, died yesterday afternoon after a lingering illness of about two years. He came to the asylum six or seven years ago from Michigan City and formerly was a carpenter. He is said to have a son but up to this afternoon the superintendent of the asylum had been unable to locate him. The son is said to have lived in Michigan City, and Superintendent Ahlschlager heard later that he was not in Benton Harbor. I.A. Decker & Bro. are in charge of the body. (The Daily Herald, June 30, 1917)

SCHWENK, Fred - Fred Schwenk, an inmate of the county house, died yesterday morning and was buried today at Pine Lake Cemetery. (La Porte Daily Herald, January 5, 1892)

Smith, Toby - Daily Herald, Monday, February 11, 1895 - Toby Smith, an inmate of the county asylum, died Saturday night at 9:30 o'clock of dropsy. The remains were laid to rest yesterday. Deceased was a resident of Michigan Township.

Snyder - - Jule Snyder,  Michigan City News, 22 January 1908 SNYDER A COUNTY CHARGE In County House Friday, January 17     Jule Snyder, a well known man about town who some weeks ago used a liberal application of carbolic acid and glycerin with about ten times too much of the Acid, in hopes of relieving an itching of the skin is now a county charge. The unfortunate man has been in the county house for some days past and although recovering from the effects of the overdose is none too well and his friends fear that his days are numbered.

Taylor, Mary Mrs. - Taken to The County House. Trustee Hipp today sent Mrs. Mary Taylor, a blind woman, to the county house near LaPorte. She has been living with her daughter and niece, near the prison, until yesterday when the daughter left her mother. The niece could not care for the old lady, and accordingly the trustee sent her to LaPorte. Evening News, Michigan City, IN , Fri. 11 Apr. 1890.

Wollmarath - - - - Adam Wollmarath - Daily Herald, Friday, December 21, 1894 - Adam Wollmarath, aged 94 years who resided in the fifth ward, has been taken to the county asylum. He was removed on his bed. The old gentleman was the father of Maggie Wollmarath, who died Wednesday, from the affects of drinking sapolio dissolved in a cup of water. Mr. Wollmarath is very feeble and is unable to keep himself. The death of his daughter left him destitute.  Adam Wollmarath also spelled as Wallmerath and Wollmerath on various census reports. (Webmaster added notes - Feronica Wollmerath was his wife she died
8 Dec 1884 LaPorte 80 yr Female - Maggie Wollmarath d. Dec 19, 1894 at age 50 I believe that Adam died the next year after entering the nursing home.

WHALEN, Gus - Gus Whalen, 53 years of age, died at 6 o'clock this morning at the county asylum. He had been there for about 6 weeks and had come from Michigan City. He told the Superintendent, William Ahlschlager, that he had a wife, but would not tell where she was. Mr. Ahlschlager does not know the names of any of the relatives or where they are living and unless they are heard from the body will be interred in potter's field. Whalen's death was due to dropsy with which he was suffering when taken to the asylum. The body was taken in charge by L.A. Decker & Bro. (La Porte Daily Herald, November 13, 1917)

Witte - - -   Wm. Witte - Taken to the County House - Township Trustee Chas. Walters yesterday took Wm. Witte to the county house. Witte is old and feeble and has lately been residing with his children, but for some reason he was not suited and applied to Trustee Walters to be taken to the poor farm. Trustee Walters had some business to transact and took Witte over with him. The trustee has lately settled accounts with the numerous grocery men for provisions supplied to the poor during the past year. Michigan City Evening Dispatch, Fri. 19 June 1896, p. 1, c. 4

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