Jennings County Poor Asylum
|Jennings County Poor Asylum|
|Building Style||Single Building|
A Notice to Builders for bids on carpentry and painting work on the Jennings County Asylum for the Poor was found in the June 10, 1868 Vernon Banner. Four hundred acres had recently been purchased from John Torbet on Graham Creek in what is now Sections 31 and 36 of Vernon township; costing the taxpayers $8,500.00. On August 26, 1885 an article in the plain dealer stated "John Berkman moved to Rochester, Minnesota, Wednesday morning. He had come to Jennings county in 1842 and was superintendent of the Poor Farm for 26 years. Mrs Berkman was a strong aid. The duties were so arduous they feel great relief at being free from the responsibilities during the remainder of their lives. They so conducted themselves and their business, that they go away regretted by everybody."
An article in the June 20, 1888 Plain Dealer stated that over 200 of the 400 acres purchased were in cultivation and a larger and better residence had been built, (it does not mention if this is a new building or just additions.) There were 4 mules, 30 hogs and 40 head of cattle; a large granary was being constructed and a new barn was being contemplated. The inmates grew and ate their own food; 200 bushels of potatoes were put away each fall, as well as milk, butter, bread and garden vegetables. Wheat usually was in the excess of several hundred bushels.
The County Commissioners occasionally sent a committee to check on the status of things at the farm. Reports of these were written up in the local papers. The residence was an L shaped two story brick building with 26 rooms in all and a basement with four rooms; the interior was designed like a hotel with a fire escape. Two white wooden porches ran along the entire front of both stories of the building. A long brick building with jail house cells for inmates with senility or other frailties of that nature also housed a barber shop and wash house. There was a clapboard summer kitchen adjoining the main residence. The entire place was a working farm with 5 outhouses in a row, a slaughterhouse, five cisterns, one main barn, one corn crib and a smaller two story grain barn with tongue and groove planks on the second floor.
In February 1985 after its use as a Poor Farm was over the main residence burnt while George and Martha Franks were living there, the fire started in a flue and completely gutted the newly remodeled section of the building. John Hammons who had spent his childhood on the farm had purchased the farm and had planned to move in the next day.