Mecosta County
Poor House

Many people have asked about the Mecosta County Poor Farm, so I have decided to start accumulating whatever I can find on it. I have always had an interest in this place, but, seem to spend more time at the computer than out researching it. So..... this page is where I am going to load anything I find on the poor house. I would also like to find the burial records for the old poor farm cemetery. I live about three miles from the old building, so wish me luck.

Also if you have any news articles or anything to offer, please send them on for addition to this page.

Back in the 1980's, I did a booklet on Mecosta Township when asked for information from the State Historical Commission. We had just officially moved here in 1981, though had property her way before that. As the Township clerk, I felt that I should know some history, so I did a bit of digging. This is what I wrote at that time:

In 1883 a County Poor Farm and insane asylum was built in Mecosta Township, a short distance south of the Village of Stanwood. In the fall of the same year, it burned down, presumably by incendiaries. A reward of five hundred dollars was offered to catch the arsonists, but to no avail. Later, another poor house was erected in 1885 and although it was built of bricks, it burned, all but one wing with the losss of one life in 1899. An addition was built onto the remaining wing in 1900 and again in 1932, the entire building was destroyed by fire, with the loss of three lives this time. The present hospital was built in 1933 with OWA and PWA help. In 1946, the board, on recommendation of George Nicholson who was the Mecosta County welfare director voted to use the County Poor House for the County Convalescent hospital. Nicholson and a committee from the auxiliary which had been organized in 1950 for the purpose of assisting the hospital appealed to the board in January, to change the name to Mecosta Memorial Hospital in memory of the men and women of Mecosta County who had and are serving in the war. On Sunday Oct. 21, 1951, Mecosta Memorial Hospital was dedicated. In any event, it has a history of hardship, bad luck and privation.

Pioneer, June 6, 1883

John Fenning, of this city, has purchased the county poor farm of the committee appointed to sell the same, paying $2500 for the ground and a portion of the buildings. The county retains the crops and a portion of the insane building. The committee is now advertising for sealed proposals to sell the county not less than 10 nor more than 40 acres of land for a new farm, said land to be situated not more than one mile from a railroad station in the county.

FIRE-FIRE! - October 4, 1884

About half past eleven o'clock last night, (Oct 3d.,) a fire was discovered in a wing of the old County House northwest of the city. Mr. John East, the keeper, quickly saw that the buildings were doomed, as the fire had already gained such headway that to extinguish it was impossible. In fact it was by the most strenuous efforts that all the lives were saved. Besides Mr. East and his family nineteen inmates occupied the building. Literally everything was consumed, the occupants with barely clothing enough to cover them. Mr. East himself was not half dressed. The loss to the county is between $600 and $700. We think Mr. John Fenning owned the farm and buildings, but whether insured is not known. The origin of the fire is supposed to have been a defective chimney. John East lost clothing and furniture about $500, with no insurance.

We learned from Mr. John Fenning that his buildings destroyed at the poor farm were covered by $1000 insurance.

Pioneer, January 27, 1885

All the bodies which have been buried on the old county poor farm - now the property of Mr. John Fenning - are being removed and re-interred in the potter's field of the city cemetery. We learn there are seventeen bodies in all; a portion of which were brought to the grounds yesterday. It is expected the work will be completed today or tomorrow.

Pioneer, April 9, 1885

The new poor farm was built at Stanwood and the house was found to be creditable in every way. Mr. and Mrs. Ford are singularly well adapted to taking care of them. The separation of the sexes is provided for, the rooms are of sufficient size, the halls wide and well lighted, the dining room is pleasant, the insane have a separate building, the furnaces are equal to this cold winter, and the water supply is ample. The only suggestions to be made were, that fire escapes should be provided for on the rear wall, the system of ventilation further extended, and stairs be built, so as to make direct communication with the Keeper's quarters and the kitchen. The house was clean as to the beds, floors, windows, etc. Number of inmates - men, thirteen, including three boys; females, eight, including an infant; of these two are feeble minded.

Pinckney (Michigan) Dispatch Thursday, October 9, 1884



Mecosta's County's Poor House and Asylym Burned.

The Mecosta county poor house and asylum, a building temporarily leased by the county for the purpose indicated by its name, burned to the ground last night. The fire was first discovered by Mr. East, the keeper, about midnight, the flames bursting from the roof, near the chimney. Mr. East gave the alarm, and while an assistant attended to the removal of the paupers, East attempted the rescue of three insane persons who were locked in their cells. He had got two of them out without much difficulty and returned for the third. By this time the fire had progressed so far that the smoke and heat were stifling, and the keeper and the insane patient nearly suffocated, but finally succeeded in escaping. All the inmates were eventually removed from the burning structure without loss of life or serious injury and were taken to neighboring houses for shelter. Temporary arrangements will be made for the care of the unfortunate charges at the city hospital until the new poor house, now in course of construction, will be ready for occupancy.

There was some insurance on the property, but not a vestige of clothing, bedding or furniture was saved.

This is the second time within about a year that the county poor have been turned out by fire, the poor house at Stanwood having burned a few months ago.