Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kittson County Poor Farm

Aerial Photo of the Kittson County Poor Farm

In the early 20th century, if you had nowhere to go, the choices were few. One of them was the "poor farm".
The Hallock Poor Farm was constructed in the early 1900s to meet the needs of just such individuals. Its construction and rules of operation were guided by state law, through each county’s board of commissioners.

It was built and began operations in 1909, and closed in 19371. Kittson County's Poor Farm had a capacity for 12 at a time, as of December 1913. The farm's land and buildings were valued at $7,900.00.2
To be more specific, the county poor farm provided a home for the homeless, needy, and sick, young or old. It was on an 80-acre tract located northwest of Hallock along the north side of the Two River. Mr. and Mrs. Erick Norland were the first managers. The residents of the farm who were able to work had a job or chore to do. The farm tried to be self-sufficient. Chores were plentiful as there were gardens, animals, and grain fields to be cared for, housework and cooking to be done, firewood to gather, and nursing care for the bedridden. Other managers were the Mons Andersons, Carl Carlsons, and Theodore Bengtsons.3

My own cousins lived there during the 1920s.  My cousin Jackie (Jones) Mananga-Zimmer is the daughter of one of them.  She recently shared with me about that difficult time for her family...
Authors' Cousins at Hallock Poor Farm
My mother had such a bad childhood and would not talk about it until the near end, when she would answer the questions that I asked her. [My mother] Stella [Fitzpatrick] and her two sisters (Kathleen and Edith) were put in the Poor Farm in Hallock until they were 18 yrs old. They were put in there by their Great Uncle, Jack Finney. Their mother wanted them to come to Canada to be with her and her sisters. But that would have been "too much trouble" to get the birth certificates of the girls so they could go there - they were born all over while Ella followed her husband [my grandfather, Fred Fitzpatrick] on the railroad. They were molested by the man who ran the home. Their grandparents would not accept them as their own. I believe only their Aunt, Hannah (Fitzpatrick) Fox, came to visit them. They were in a loveless environment. She said that Mom Anderson (Mrs. Mons Anderson) was the only real person who loved and cared for them.
When the girls reached the age that they could work, then their father Fred Fitzpatrick would have them come to Detroit to work. The only one who stayed in the home area was Kay Fitzpatrick - she went to work for a Doctor in Fargo and she was the only one that finished school.
My response to Jackie: From what I can tell, there were very hard decisions made (sometimes unnecessarily so as you indicated, if someone had cared enough to bother) by both sides of my mother's family (Fitzgerald and Fitzpatrick). As you may or may not know, my Grandma Fitzpatrick, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald, had two younger brothers who were put up for care after my great grandmother died. Their father, William Fitzgerald, was such an alcoholic, it was probably for the best (he died only 5 years later ran over by a train while intoxicated). I remember my mother saying that her Mom, their sister, would have taken them in, but she had only just gotten married herself, and things were very tight. It was definitely a different time then...
1 More Than a Roof by Ethel McClure, p.166
2 - Biennial Report of the Board of Control of State Institutions of Minnesota, 1914
3 Unknown Book, photocopy of P. 389, section entitled, "Bits & Pieces"