Jackson County Poor Farm
|Jackson County Poor Farm|
|Building Style||Single Building|
Jackson County’s poor house/farm became one of the first created in the earliest days of Michigan statehood. Generation after generation of poor souls lived there. Some were blind, deaf or insane, and others just homeless for a variety of reasons. The 1881 “History of Jackson County” documented that 33 people — equal numbers of men and women — lived there then. The men worked about the farm and in the garden, barn and wood pile. The women performed household duties. Fire destroyed the original poor house about 1886 and a new wooden frame building with a brick exterior was built a year later.
After World War II, federal and state governments issued more mandates, and poor houses and farms began to vanish from the social landscape. Counties could no longer warehouse people, but they were expected to provide medical care. By 1950, Jackson County’s poor-home residents were so aged and infirm they were no longer capable of field work. The Social Services Board put the farm up for sale, and on Aug. 15, 1951, the Citizen Patriot reported the sale of 183 acres, for $18,350, to John Jenkins. By about 1960, the grand old poor home was in serious decline. The county put to voters a $1.7 million bond issue to build a new Jackson County Medical Care Facility on Lansing Avenue.
In February of 1963 nearly 90 residents were moved from the old poor home to the new building. And the old building sat empty — except for May 1963, when it briefly served as a hideaway for four escaped Southern Michigan Prison convicts. In the summer of 1964, the poor home was sold to local Seventh-day Adventists for $12,000. They built a school on the property, a short distance from the old home. On April 23, 1967, a father and two sons who had a contract to demolish the old home inadvertently started a fire. They were burning rubbish in an open area when sparks apparently settled in the home’s eaves. Within moments, the top of the building went up in flames.