Decatur County Poor Farm

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Decatur County Poor Farm
Established 1853
Opened 1865
Closed 1964
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Sandusky, IN
Alternate Names
  • Wabash County Home


On Aug. 9, 1853, the county commissioners purchased 240 acres in Clinton Township, just south of Sandusky for $3,000. Five years later, they made the decision to sell 80 acres of the farm for $1600. When the American Civil War ended in 1865, the first building was erected for living accommodations. Residents actually made the bricks onsite and used them for the construction project. As time went on and the farm expanded, several other buildings (that still stand today) were built, including a large barn, milk house, and jail. These facilities provided the residents with the ability to live and work in a sustainable way, in order that the farm could continue to run efficiently. The planners also capitalized on the farm’s location, selecting an area in close proximity to the Rushville-Greensburg Railroad that passed through Sandusky.

The living quarters housed around forty people on average, until the creation of the Social Security Administration in the 1940s. The women and farm superintendent were housed in a two-story building that also held the dining room and kitchen. The men were kept in another two-story building very near the women’s home and to the west. Reports throughout history have claimed the facilities to be well kept and clean, yet no extravagant amenities were possessed. The buildings were lit and heated by the natural gas well that still functions today. When it came to the ventilation system, doors and windows were used to keep air moving.

A jail was located onsite, but was hardly ever used according to records and was only utilized for troublesome individuals. The milk house, which still stands today, is located between the residential halls and the jail and served strictly as a location for storing the milk from the cows and produce from the garden and orchard. The milk house has a slated roof and was just recently refurbished. A large two story barn was carved into the side of a hill, south of the living quarters and jail. The barn housed numerous kinds of livestock including cattle, horses, pigs and a few chickens. On the east side of the home and across the railroad, a plot of ground was marked as a cemetery, though no further records have been identified today.

The County Poor Farm moved to Greensburg, Washington Township, in 1949. The county purchased 37 acres south of the Decatur County Fairgrounds for $12,000. A new building was constructed here for a cost of $61, 944 and was used for the same purposes as the previous home. Luke Gookins and his wife were the superintendents for the last ten years at the Poor Farm, and they helped make the transition into Washington Township. The Poor Farm in Clinton Township was sold at this time for $28,400 to a man by the name of Debusk. An auction was held to sell personal property and equipment totaling $6500. DeBusk kept the Clinton Township Poor Farm for one year, then sold the property to Russell Foster. The Foster’s lived in the Poor Farm residence hall for approximately a year, and at that time the family proceeded to tear the building down. The building was taken down with tractors and ropes and was buried in the basement of the residence. Upon deconstruction, a small house located just east of the residence hall was built using many remnants of the County Farm building. This house still stands on the property today. Unfortunately, several years after the construction of the “New” Poor Farm in Washington Township, the building caught fire and all records were lost; however, the residents remained safe. It is said at the time of the fire, the building was leased as a nursing home. Eventually, the building closed down in 1964.