Champaign County Poor Farm

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Champaign County Poor Farm
Opened 1857
Building Style Single Building
Location Urbana, IL
Alternate Names
  • Champaign County Nursing Home


Land for the first Champaign County Poor Farm was first purchased in 1857 in the township of St. Joseph. The original poorhouse in Champaign County was 116 acres. Initially, men were awarded contracts for the “keeping of the paupers of the County and the renting of the County Farm”. Whoever won the contract to provide for the ‘paupers’, would then have the right to put the ‘paupers’ to work on the land. In 1863, it was decided that each township within Champaign County would care for its poor instead of operating at a county level and the county poor farm was temporarily dissolved for two years.

In 1865, officials reverted to the county system and a new tract of land consisting of 42 acres a mile east of the Champaign County Courthouse was purchased for a county farm. By 1866, a house had been built at a cost of just over $7500. A report from 1884 describes repairs and improvements which have been made at the Champaign County Poor Farm and notes that, “the number of inmates present was thirty-nine…of whom nine were insane, one an idiot, one blind and three were children under sixteen years of age.” The quarters for the insane are, “much improved since the last visit, much tidier and the odor not so offensive.” The system of management shifted in 1887 from contract base to elected official. A superintendent was elected to manage the poor farm and house. The living quarters for the non-insane separated the men from the women. Men and women had separate dining rooms, sitting rooms and sleeping quarters. For the sake of economy, a boiler system was used to cook the food, consisting primarily of steamed vegetables. Acreage was added to the complex over the years to expand the farm portion. The grounds of the Champaign County Poor Farm included: a large house, a cell house for the insane, shelters for livestock and fields for crops. Inhabitants of the poor farm were expected to work. Ideally, the poor farm would be self-sustaining through the crops and livestock; however, the inhabitants of the Champaign County Poor Farm consisted almost entirely of the elderly, the disabled and the chronically ill who were physically incapable of work, hence their residence at the poor farm. This proved to be a fundamental flaw of the poor farm system. The Champaign County Poor Farm transitioned to the Champaign County Nursing Home in the 1930s.


Burials were made between the late 1800's to middle 1900's, but soon after the graves were "lost". In 1970 during some construction, the graves were "re-discovered", and moved about 50 feed east, were a memorial service dedicating the new resting place took place August 10, 1970. There is an estimate of around 100 graves in the original cemetery.