Bexar County Poor Farm

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Bexar County Poor Farm
Established 1849
Opened 1857
Closed 1968
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location San Antonio, TX
Alternate Names
  • Bexar County Poor Farm and Hospital
  • Bexar County Home for the Aged
  • Robert Green Memorial Hospital (TB)




History

On November 21, 1849, the County Commissioners Court passed an order making it the duty of the court to support and bury indigents of the county. The county and city were to maintain and bury their paupers. Methods were mapped out on how to take care of the poor in San Antonio in February 1854. This led to the establishment of Bexar County Poorhouse. Bexar County Poor Farm was established on Farm Road off of Southton Road in San Antonio, Texas in 1857. Bexar County Poor Farm was first known as Bexar County Poorhouse before becoming Bexar County Poor Farm. County officials established Bexar County Poor Farm for the purpose of housing the poor and indigent paupers from the area and providing housing for indigent people. The Bexar County Poor Farm facility was a 3 story wooden structure with a basement built in 1856 and opened in 1857. Small one room structures were used for tuberculosis patients. The rooms were small and isolated from the other charges along with everyone else. Residents who were healthy and able were expected to work on the property.

In March of 1875, the county published the rules of the poor-house in the minutes which provide excellent details about what they required supervisors to do along with some basic regulations concerning the poor. The rules required the superintendent of the poor farm to keep full records of all inmates of the poor farm. This included name, age, nativity, trade, sex, marital status, citizenship, date of admission, and cause of pauperism. They also had to keep full accounts of all funds spent on food, clothing and other supplies. The county physician had to examine each pauper before admittance to the poor farm. If found contagious of any disease dangerous to life or health, the county would not admit them. Upon admittance paupers were bathed and provided with new clothes.

Bexar County Poor Farm had a number of problems. Complaints of poor care of the residents and lack of food were a common problem. Staff were eating well and the charges were not. Mistreatment of charges often went unreported. Gruesome deaths occurred in such an unsettling manner at the Poor Farm. For instance, pauper named Henry Pusch won a bet. Part of the deal for that bet was that he had to hang himself. There were early attempts of selling the Bexar County Poor Farm beginning in the early 20th century. In 1909, efforts were made later to remove the poor house burials to the City Cemetery in hopes of securing a buyer. A county judge attempted to sell the property in an effort to relocate charges to an existing County Poor House on 100 acres outside of the city limits on Southton Road. However the property was not sold at that time.

In the middle of 1913, San Antonio Light reported the property was approximately 18 acres including the cemetery which was to be sold or leveled. Bexar County had already begun removing bodies from the cemetery on the old Poor Farm cemetery. Judge Phil Shook sought to sell the old poor farm, having in mind the construction of a building on the new farm. Judge Shook believed that the 18 acres of the old place ought to bring at least $1,000 per acre, but the best offer he could secure was $12,000. In 1914, 110 acres worth of land were purchased from H. C. Feldman and Cheryl Neese for the sum of $12,932.40 dollars. An additional 10 acres were purchased for staff housing on the end of Farm Road for more than $1,000 dollars.

Bexar County Poorhouse was moved from Jones Avenue to an existing poor farm on Southton Road in 1916. Bexar County Poor Farm relocated to HFTA replaced the dilapidated wooden structure with a Colonial style building. The wooden structure served as a hospital facility during the pre-Civil War era during the same year. The new facility was a Colonial style building on beautiful grounds in spite of politics and the dark history surrounding the property. Over the course of several years, several hospitals, detention facilities, and schools were located on the same property. Southton Sanatorium, Home For The Aged, Bexar County Boys Home, Bexar County Girls Home, Bexar County Poor House, Southton Convalescent Home, Southton Boys Home, Southton Tuberculosis Hospital, and Bexar County Convalescent Sanatorium. The reason for this is because the county believed it would be easier to keep all the 'undesirables' in one location. African-Americans diagnosed as mentally insane were housed in the Bexar County Poor House since the crowded state asylum at Austin and San Antonio refused to accept black patients.

When Bexar County Poor Farm closed in 1968, the people who had lived there had no other place to go. Many were dispersed to nursing homes, halfway houses, and to the medical center at Robert B. Green Hospital (then Bexar County Hospital). Tuberculosis patients were transferred to the medical center at Robert B. Green Hospital (then Bexar County Hospital). Elderly patients were transported to the new floor of Robert B. Green Hospital later during the summer of 1968. In August of 1969, Bexar County offered land south of the city that was once the county farm and Southton Boys Home (Bexar County Boys Home) for sale. University of Texas - San Antonio had announced plans on reusing the old Bexar County Poor Farm property as a college campus. The old Home For The Aged building would serve as an administration building for the college campus.

The property had sat abandoned for decades before being repurposed. The property was soon taken over by nature and greenery. The property was reported as still abandoned in 1996. Reasons as to why have never been made public. In 2011, the former property of Bexar County Poor Farm was repurposed as the Bexar County Police Training Facility. It is now home to a shooting range owned by Bexar County (Bexar County Police). The land is managed by Bexar County Public Works.