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The Carroll County Poor Farm Cemetery in Carroll County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 2006. Read its history in the National Register nomination.

CarrollCemetery

SUMMARY
The Carroll County Poor Farm Cemetery is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the Carroll County Poor Farm and Carroll County’s efforts to provide aid to the poor and destitute. It is also being nominated under Criteria Consideration D: Cemeteries.

ELABORATION
Carroll County was organized on November 1, 1833, and named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Although the county’s boundaries were modified in 1838, 1843, 1854, 1857, and 1869, the county seat, at least during the nineteenth century, remained at Berryville. Although settlement in the county occurred as early as the 1820s with the arrival of Louis Russell, most of the pioneer families, including the Sneeds, Williamses, Alexanders, and Boyds, arrived between 1830 and 1833.

Apparently, Carroll County had ways to aid its poor citizens long before the poor farm was established. In the September 17, 1909, edition of the North Arkansas Star, it stated that “Aunt Rinda Allred, who has been a ward of the county for the past thirty years or more, died at the poor farm last Friday.” In other counties around the state, specifically Cleburne County, citizens presented claims for aiding poor citizens to the county, which it would reimburse.

The aiding of a pauper by another person in the community was not unheard of prior to the establishment of poorhouses. Many areas provided “outdoor relief” to paupers that was normally administered by an Overseer of the Poor, who was often a local elected official. Usually a budget of tax money was set aside to help the poor by providing food, clothing, or even medical treatment, when family members, friends, or church congregations could not provide enough aid. However, other methods of supporting the poor were sometimes employed, including contracting with a person in the community to care for a group of paupers or auctioning off the poor, which allowed the lowest bidder to use the pauper’s labor for free for a specified period of time in exchange for food, clothing, housing and healthcare.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, the poorhouse system came to the United States from England, and poorhouses were built with great optimism. It was hoped that they would be cheaper and more efficient, and also aid in the reformation of paupers to eliminate the bad habits and character defects that many people assumed were the causes of their poverty. Although this was not always the case, the poorhouse system was an improvement over previous methods used to aid the poor.

Even though many places saw poorhouses as the answer to the problems of aiding the poor, apparently not all counties in Arkansas had poorhouses by the early twentieth century. A special report on paupers in almshouses done by the Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, gave an outline of the laws governing poor relief in each state, and said about Arkansas that:

Every county must relieve its own poor. Sheriffs, coroners, constables, and justices of the peace shall give information to their respective county courts of the poor and the county court has the duty of providing for such persons. If satisfied that the applicants are paupers the county court shall order their commitment to the poorhouse, there to remain until discharged by an order of the court. County courts have the power to establish poorhouses, and when completed the court shall let them out annually to the lowest responsible bidder under bond for the faithful care of the inmates. In counties without poorhouses, the court may let the care of the poor to the lowest responsible bidder. The county is not liable for the support of any pauper who refuses to accept county aid in the manner provided above. The county court may cause the employment of each able-bodied pauper on work for the county.

Carroll County had an established “County Poor House” by June 6, 1900, when the census was taken, even though the county may not have owned the land at the time. Information at the Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society indicates that the county bought the land between 1900 and 1907 for the care of people judged to be indigent or mentally challenged with no relatives to care for them. At the time of the census, the following people were living at the Poor Farm:

NELSON, Isa, head, white male, age 36, single, born 1863 AR, parents born AR.
HAYHURST, Oscar, white male, age 26, born 1873 AR, parents born AR.
ALLRED, Alrinda, white female, age 60, widow, born 1839, had 1 child, 1 child
living, born TN, parents born TN.
DOWNING, John, white male, age 40, single, born 1859, born IA, parents born
IA.

Although the census records give a snapshot of the residents at the county poor farm every ten years, the residents at the home were constantly changing. On December 8, 1908, the North Arkansas Star reported that “an old man, aged about 76 years and giving his name as John Toddy, was taken up on the streets here a week or so ago and sent to the poor farm. He claimed to be a Baptist preacher in his younger days, and he was in a feeble and destitute condition when found.”

On September 10, 1909, Aunt Rinda Allred died at the poor farm, and she was the first known death to occur there, although there may have been others before then. Even though she was only 70 years old, according to her birth date in the 1900 census, the North Arkansas Star reported that “parties who knew her say she must have been close to one hundred years old.” It is unclear where she was buried, but it is possible that she was buried in the poor farm cemetery.

By the time of the 1910 census, which was conducted at the poor farm on April 6, the number of residents of the farm had grown. The census also showed that Isa Nelson was no longer the head of the farm, and that it was being kept by Onie B. Roark. The census listed the following residents of the farm:

ROARK, Onie B., age 28, married 7 yrs, born AR, parents born AR, Keeper of
Alms House.
‘’ , Media, age 28, married 7 yrs, born AR, parents born AR.
‘’ , ——-, son, age 6, born AR, parents born AR.
‘’ , ——-, daughter, age 2, born AR, parents born AR.
PRESTON, Mary, age 50, widow, born AR, parents born AR.
HAYBURST, Otto, male, age 65, single, born AR, parents born AR.
JACKSON, Martha, age 88, widow, born AR, parents born AR.
SMITH, ——, female, age 50, widow, born AR, parents born AR.
CRISST, David, age 60, widow, born AR, parents born AR.
JAMES, Hailey, female, age 50, widow, born AR, parents born AR.

The population of the poor farm continued to grow throughout 1910. The July 29, 1910, issue of the North Arkansas Star reported that “John and Bedia Borem, an aged couple living up in Osage Township, were brought here Wednesday, adjudged by the county judge irresponsible and unable to take care of themselves and sent to the poor farm for care. It seems the old couple had been more or less a care on the county and the people of Osage for several years, and this step was taken at the request of a petition signed by quite a number of Osage citizens. Still there are others up there, so the Star is informed, that were opposed the step and the old people themselves are very indignant over their predicament. But under the circumstances there was nothing left for the county judge but do as he has done.” Again, in November, the Star reported that “Harriet Ferguson, an aged and infirm lady who had lived in and near Berryville for a number of years, and who for several months has made her home with Jack Rhoden, west of the city, was taken to the county poor farm last week where she will most likely spend her remaining days. She is the widow of a Confederate soldier and draws a Confederate pension from the state.”

In 1917, the county sold the 150-acre farm to J. C. Walker, although the poor farm continued to operate beyond that point. By 1920, the population of the poor farm had continued to grow, and Susie A. Minnicus had replaced Onie B. Roark as the keeper of the poor farm. According to the 1920 census, the following people resided at the farm:

MINNICUS, Susie A., hd. R., 37, white female, divorced, born AR, father born MO, mother born
AR, manager of County Poor Farm.
MINNICUS, Mable, white female, daughter, age 12, born AR, father born IN, mother AR.
MINNICUS, Estella V., white female, daughter, age 10, born AR, father born IN, mother AR.
BROOKS, Lizzie, white female, age 69, single, born AR, father born AR, mother TN.
BROOKS, Sarah, white female, 57, single, born MO, father born AL, mother TN.
COX, Lou, white female, age 77, single, born AL, father born AL, mother born NC.
JONES, Birdie, white female, 28, single, born AR, father born AR, mother US.
COAL, Rose, white female, widow, born US, father born US, mother born US.
BOLES, Joseph, white male, age 89, widow, born MO, father born Ireland, mother MO.
RAGSDALE, James, white male, 74, widow, born TN, father born US, mother born US.
WILLIAMS, Jack, white male, age 75, widow, born MO, father born KY, mother born KY.

By April 1930, the keeper of the poor farm had changed yet again, and Charles E. Doss had taken over the position. As a result, he and his wife and family moved into the farm. In addition, since the Depression had hit the country and more and more people found it hard to make ends meet, the population of the poor farm had increased between 1920 and 1930. The 1930 census indicated that the following people were residing at the poor farm:

DOSS, Charles E., age 58, md. 1st at age 24, born MO, father born TN, mother
KY, Keeper of County Farm.
DOSS, Stella M., age 58, md. 1st at age 24, born AR, father born IL, mother MS,
Keeper of Farm.
‘’ , Ruth, age 33, single daughter, born AR, father born MO, mother IL,
Keeper of Farm.
‘’ , Clarence, age 19, single son, born AR, father born MO, mother IL, laborer
on Co. Farm.
‘’ , Richard T., age 82, widow, born TN, father born KY, mother TN.
‘’ , Rhoda, age 84, single aunt, born TN, father born KY, mother TN.

Inmates
GABBART, John, age 84, single male, born AR, father born KY, mother born
KY.
GRAHAM, Cotney, age 77, single male, born IN, father born KY, mother born
KY.
DANNER, John, age 72, married male, born AR, father born TN, mother born IL.
McCELNER, John, age 79, divorced male, born IA, father born IL, mother born
IL.
SCAGGS, M. M., age 73, widowed male, born AR, father born IL, mother born
IL.
FANNING, Abe, age 82, single male, born AR, father born US, mother born US.
RANDLE, Ed, age 70, married male, born AR, father born TN, mother born TN.
RUMBLEHART, Leo, age 30, widowed male, born MO, father born TN, mother
IA.
COPE, George, age 70, widowed male, born MO, father born TN, mother born
TN.
BLACKWELL, Rob’t. M., age 76, widowed male, born MO, father born MO,
mother born KY.
JONES, Bertha, age 38, single female, born AR, father born AR, mother born AR.
SPACONER(?), Charley, age 82, single male, born AR, father born US, mother
born US.
BILLINGS, Alma, age 83, widowed female, born MO, father born KY, mother
born TN.
SHERFIELD, Augustie, age 73, widowed female, born US father born US,
mother born US.

Little is known about the residents buried at the County Poor Farm or the funeral customs that were used by the farm, but it is known that when John Gabbard (spelled “Gabbart” in the census records) died at the farm in the 1930s, the cost for his “complete funeral” was $20. Unfortunately, records do not indicate if he was buried at the County Poor Farm, although it is quite possible that he was.

By the time of the census on April 29, 1930, the days of the Carroll County Poor Farm were probably numbered. Some counties around Arkansas, such as Cleburne County, began receiving funding from federal welfare and aid programs, and a welfare committee screened applicants for the federal aid. As a result, in those counties, a county farm was not really needed. It is likely that the Carroll County Poor Farm closed during the 1930s, since there were no records of patients in the 1940 census.

Sometime after the farm closed, the buildings were removed and the County Farm land remained vacant. Although plans were developed to put a housing development on the land in the 1970s, the plans were ultimately not carried out. The area around the Carroll County Poor Farm Cemetery remains a rural part of Carroll County.

Today, the Carroll County Poor Farm Cemetery is the last surviving element from the Carroll County Poor Farm, and a rare reminder of the county’s efforts to provide assistance to the poor during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The preserved cemetery, with its simple fieldstone markers, is a testament to the efforts of Carroll County to care for its citizens, and the cemetery is also a tangible link to this important, but often overlooked, aspect of Arkansas’ past.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Carroll County Poor Farm Cemetery is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its association with the Carroll County Poor Farm and Carroll County’s efforts to provide aid to the poor and destitute. It is also being nominated under Criteria Consideration D: Cemeteries.

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