January 7, 2016

Shenandoah County Farm and Alms House

We stopped at the Shenandoah County Park near Maurertown for a walk on one of the trails. I was delighted to come across a new historical marker. It tells the story of the County Alms House and Farm. At one time many communities had a "poor house" to provide shelter and work for the impoverished. This one lasted longer than most, and was still used to provide shelter when it burned in 2014. The barn still stands and will likely be part of the demonstration farm being developed to teach sustainable farming techniques. 

During the colonial era, this park was part of a 230 acre Glebe Farm. It was owned by Beckford Parish, the local division of the established Anglican Church. They used it to support their minister, Revolutionary War figure Peter Muhlenberg.  
After independence, the established church was dissolved. In 1798 Shenandoah County citizens petitioned the state to "appropriate to some Charitable purpose... the Glebe land ... for the sole use and benefit of the poor. " Soon after, the General Assembly ceded the property to the county. 
The land became the county farm. Orphans, those with mental and physical ailments, and the poor came to live here. Some stayed for short periods, others for their entire lives. Their life was often difficult. 
Initially, residents lived in Glebe era buildings. In 1829 a new brick Alms House was built approximately 750 feet in front of where you are standing.
Inhabitants grew their own food and sold the surplus. Overseers of the Poor were appointed to care for the county's destitute, while a superintendent and matron managed operations at the farm.
See also Revolution #1 (Peter Muhlenberg)

Glossary: Glebe is land owned in order to provide income to pay clergy.
Almshouse was a house ​built where ​old or ​poor ​people could ​live without having to ​pay ​rent.

Sharing with Good Fences and Signs, Signs


  1. You visit some very interesting historical places. I enjoyed reading about this one.

  2. looking forward for a linky to
    ...I admired your post
    herzlich Pippa

  3. What a lovely area!

  4. we have a county poor farm in our town, too. they're working to preserve its history.

  5. A very worthwhile cause & so good to see it being remembered in this beautiful area.

  6. Maybe we need to reestablish the "poor houses" again to help our homeless population.

  7. Always great to learn a bit of history.

  8. I love this. I must try to find this myself some time.


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