Ypsilanti Citizen Opinions Sidetrack

Thank you Ypsilanti
By Dan DuChene & Christine Laughren
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   5:07 p.m.

Christine Laughren and Dan DuChene, co-owners of the Ypsilanti Citizen, pose in front of their company's banner at Frenchie's during the Citizen's one-year anniversary party.

The Ypsilanti Citizen was launched in November 2008 to inform the Ypsilanti community about the news and events that were happening in their area.

Since our launch,...read more

Crossroads Summer Festival; rockin’ ladies night
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   4:37 p.m.

Barbara Payton and the Big Boss Trio rock Washington Street.

A special Ladies Night was held Friday at the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Just...read more

Crossroads to hold Ladies Night for Relay for Life
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   9:13 a.m.

On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more

Electric rail pollution leads to dirty laundry
By Laura Bien
Jun. 15, 2010   ·   11:42 a.m.

From the approximate vantage point of the present-day Materials Unlimited, the interurban car barn and powerhouse on Michigan Avenue loomed large.

Maggie Smith was not looking forward to a forenoon of sewing pleats.

She put down her newest customer’s summer dress. Downstairs, she offered to get potatoes...read more

EMU students in wartime
By Laura Bien
Jun. 1, 2010   ·   10:32 a.m.

The 1942 Aurora yearbook, the 50th
anniversary edition, included images that contrasted modern and
old-time students.

Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black...read more

Care of Washtenaw's poor in 1910

The onetime poor house at Washtenaw and Platt. Photo by Courtesy of Ypsilanti Archives

The onetime poor house at Washtenaw and Platt.
Haabs

To the Archives

By Laura Bien
Mar. 16, 2010    ·    10:12 a.m.


In Oct. 1909, the Washtenaw Superintendents of the Poor reported the county poor house at Washtenaw and Platt roads was in bad condition.

Samuel Beakes had said the same in his 1906 book “Past and Present of Washtenaw County, Michigan,” remarking, “[The poor house] is now quite old and dilapidated… it is not a building of which a county as wealthy as Washtenaw can feel proud.”

The superintendents recommended rebuilding the house, to be funded by a $75,000 bond [almost $2 million today] on the ballot in the coming 1910 spring election.

At this, Ypsilanti associations and societies leapt into action. Many groups visited the poor house. Their conclusions varied widely.

The Ypsilanti Grange, an association of local farmers, weighed in first.

“Great interest was manifested in the discussion as to whether the county should be bonded for $75,000 for a new county farm,” said the March 7, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “The sentiment of the meeting was strongly against the bonding. A number were in favor of tearing down the keeper’s part at the county farm and building a modern structure in its place. It was affirmed that there were only 40 inmates of the county farm and that the expense incurred for each amounted to $100.”

The newspaper added, “The Ypsilanti Daily Press, upon investigating [this] statement, found that the number of inmates is 56, however, and that the house of the keeper, though sanitary and comfortable, is old.”

Next to consider the question was the Ypsilanti Home Association, a women’s group dedicated to helping the poor. In the preceding month, the group had spent $61.75 for clothing [$1,400 today] and $11.04 for direct cash relief [$250].

“One of the members reported the investigation that has been conducted… respecting the condition of county houses,” said the March 9, 1910 Daily Press. “Washtenaw, they have said, marks eighth in point of wealth of the state, while her county house is one of the very worst.”

Another group of civic-minded ladies, the Ypsilanti Study Club, next weighed the issue.

“A guest of the club, who seemed entirely cognizant of the conditions there, remarked on the forlorn appearance of the exterior of the county house… This lady was inclined to think the inmates had a better home here than they had previously been accustomed to, yet she admitted… that there were [both] feeble-minded in the institution and people of past refinement.”

Sometimes an inmate was both. The prestigious families from which he or she had been ousted were sometimes ostracized by community members—-at least, by those who knew.

Normal College physiology professor S. D. Magers investigated, and his conclusions were reported in the March 11 Daily Press.

“The people in charge of the county house are doing their best to keep things clean and to supply the inmates with good food: but that is the best that can be said,” Magers said in the Press.

“At the time of our visit there were thirty eight men and fourteen women in the institution. The men were housed in together, except for sick people. We found them sitting on a long bench in a room about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, with a ceiling perhaps 7 and 1/2 feet high.

“The strongest criticism I would make in this matter of all classes of people being housed together; one man who seemed certainly idiotic and made inarticulate sounds as we passed him was living along with men who were there simply because they had been unfortunate. Tramps and vicious characters were likewise living in close association with the others. With the women the same conditions were found. Several, who must surely be deranged, should certainly have been lodged by themselves.”

The Daily Press conducted a telephone survey “asking prominent farmers and business men their feeling toward the erection of new county buildings [and they have] a general disposition in the negative,” said the March 16 Daily Press.

The Ypsilanti Woman’s Club next considered the matter, and when “one of the ladies reminded the club that the tax for the new county house would amount to but 19 cents on a thousand dollars if the bonds were issued for ten years,” said the March 17 paper, “the cost of the county house did not seem so formidable a matter as has sometimes been represented.”

The Grange had already sent a committee, and now produced a report, printed in the March 21 paper.

“The food that is served consists of meat, cabbage, peppers, once a day; lettuce, carrots, turnips, squash, cabbage, peppers etc. once a day; bread three times; tea, coffee, or milk three times; butter is used from eight cows; syrup is used when butter is not wanted; tobacco one plug or one paper of smoking each week,” the report said.

The farmers had inspected the livestock during their visit. “We saw one of the beef animals that had been fattened for use at the house and we can truly say that few people of any class have been fed on better beef the past winter than has been served to the paupers of Washtenaw County.”

The hard-working farmers had scant sympathy for the apparently loafing inmates. “When we consider that some of the charges are weak minded, the majority the victims of their own vicious habits, they at least ought to be thankful that that they are so well cared for.

“It will be a happy day for Washtenaw,” they continued, “when her thousands of independent poor can feel assured that the product of their hard labor will serve them as generously as the public now does her paupers.”

The Ladies’ Literary Club was next to report.

“The 11 women have much better and more wholesome quarters than have the 40 men,” said a March 22 Daily Press article, “and they have two thirds of the room. The sitting room of the men is on the ground floor, and the foolish and idiotic are here with the others. They have only hard benches to sit upon, not a chair being visible in this apartment. Most of the men were smoking, which circumstance cannot be particularly agreeable to the cripples occupying a room opening off from this.

“The plaster in the county house is in such a state that it is a daily occurrence to sweep up a bushel basket full of it. It falls at all times from ceilings and walls.”

The poor house had 43 residents, according to the 1910 census, conducted on May 11. Yet the Daily Press had reported 56 inmates on March 7. It seems unlikely that nearly a quarter of the residents would vanish in two months. One wonders if they were on the poor house premises when the census taker visited, and, if so, where.

A sense of sadness seeps from the numbers and names written on the old census forms. Of the 43 inmates, a third could not read or write. Almost 20 percent did not know their own birthplace and almost half did not know their parents’ birthplace. Most were between 50 and 80 years old. Three residents were people in their 80s.

41-year-old Algernon Curry was a single man. He did not know where his parents came from. He could read and write, but was blind. His fellow residents Kate Baker, 60; Sarah Robinson, 82; Nancy Vandenburg, 81; and Amelia Hewitt, 63, were also blind, and Everett Kelsey, 28, was deaf. Sarah was listed on the census as “mulatto,” the only nonwhite poor house resident. Both Nancy and Amelia had once each had a child that they had outlived.

Jennie Horn was born in Michigan of German-born parents. She spoke English, but could not read or write, and she wasn’t learning to do so in the poor house. All there was to do at the poor house was eat, sleep, and perhaps do some gardening. She was 13.

Clara Wade had never married. She had no idea where she or her parents came from. She could speak English, but she was illiterate. She was 60 years old.

John Martin was 79 years old and widowed. He could not read or write. He died in the poor house in the summer of 1917. His death certificate says his father, born in France, was Charles Martin, and his mother was an unknown French woman.

John was a retired peanut seller. He once pushed a cart of roasted peanuts up and down the street. The cause of death was listed as “gangrene, lower extremity,” a condition John had endured for several months.

The poor house was rebuilt—but not until the year John died. It was renamed the County Infirmary. The building stood until 1979. Today the site is County Farm Park.

John Martin was buried in Ann Arbor’s Forest Hill Cemetery.
----

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales of the Ypsilanti Archives,” available in Ypsilanti at Cross Street Books, the Rocket, and Mix boutique and in Ann Arbor at Nicola’s Books. Bien will be giving talks and book signings at Mix, 128 Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti, on March 27 from 2-4 p.m.; at Nicola’s in Ann Arbor’s Westgate Shopping Center on April 20 at 7 p.m.; and at the Ypsilanti Archives, 220 N. Huron St., on April 24 from 2-5 p.m.



]]>
Aubrees
YAFCU


© 2010 The Mojo News Group - Ypsilanti Citizen Home - About Ypsilanti Citizen - Contact Us - Advertising - Calendar - Archives - Terms of Use Citrus Stand Media Group Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional