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Heritage \ Places \ Writings \

Bay County Infirmary (aka: Poor Farm, County Farm)
Written August 12, 1983, by Mildred Reid Wagner.
  • Contributed by Bay County Historical Society, Sep. 2008.
  • Bay County Farm (Poor Farm)

    Dear Madam:

    I am writing in regards to the picture presented August 11, of the Bay County Infirmary, taken during 1912. At the time my father, William H. Reid, was superintendent, and had been for the past four years. The men in the picture were County Supervisors . In back are my mother and father. A few of the men I recall by name: Doctor Crummer, who had an office in Essexville; William Maxson and Mr. Meisel, another. The others I can not recall by name.

    Often the men held meetings, and over a dinner discussed affairs of the Infirmary. With the pictures laid flat, you can see one end of the Infirmary building, to the left is a screened porch for men, where they sat during the summer days. Entering the building there was a good size room where men often read or played cards. From this a door opened into a long hall where bedrooms were to the left. Near by was our family dining room, and to the right my father's office, next to which was the living room for the family.

    At the end of the long hall was a second dining room for men. The women's dining space was off to one side by itself near the back. They, too, had a private screened in porch of their own for summer.

    Saturday nights men were given a plug of chawing tobacco or a tin of Prince Albert smoking tobacco. My father admitted the ladies should at least, be entitled to a little candy, but two of the ladies quietly sat smoking a corncob or clay pipe. One lady chawed on a large plug of tobacco.

    Hired girls helped in the large kitchen, working with Ethel and Almeda Maxson, Orea Peoples, and a girl named Mary, who did both cooking and baking.

    My father requested and received a large baker oven for the kitchen, which attracted considerable attention. Several people, curiously, came just to see and admire how well it worked, making less work for the girls.

    The home was for the more destitute, some, of which, were bed patients without relatives. At the time we were there bed patients were on the third floor, and without an elevator meals had to be carried the three flight of stairs, nor could they get to the outside. That was when my father insisted the more able patients would have to give up the rooms of the first and second floor to those more needy, and so they could use the porch to receive the sunlight and fresh air, and be able to visit whenever they felt better. Naturally, those who gave up the better rooms were not completely happy.

    The Poor House and Infirmary took turns sending dead bodies to medical school, but, of course could not be selective toward people. It hurt to see an old man, I called Grandpa, taken away, he was such a nice person. In case a person died without any means, they were carried to the dray and taken to the cemetery.

    Caskets were made in part of the basement, in a carpenter shop, then painted. A minister conducted a simple service, saying a prayer of grace. I recall, one time, when a wooden box, lightly nailed was provided, and when my mother opened the lid she saw a naked baby inside. In turn she clothed the body in doll clothes before it was buried.

    My father maintained a good size fruit orchard of several different varieties, and harvested in the fall for the table, or stored in the cellar where it was cool. Some were canned.

    It was an exciting day when butchers of the area and several truck farmers gathered to lend a hand, they would cut and cure meat for winter.

    It should be reminded, in Bay City, if a person became dangerously violent they were brought there and locked in a padded cell on the third floor, kept there until commitment papers could be filed, at which time my father took them to Traverse City.

    Related Pages/Notes

    {Click image to enlarge}

    {Bay Co. Poor Farm Map}

    Related Pages:
    [Bay County Poor Farm]
    People Referenced
    Crummer, Dr.
    Maxson, Almeda
    Maxson, Ethel
    Maxson, William
    Peoples, Orea
    Reid, William H.
    ?, Mary
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay Co. Infirmary
    Bay Co., MI
    Carpenter's shop
    Esseville, MI
    Medical school
    Poor Farm
    Traverse City, MI
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