Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
Asylum and Alms House (Attempted)
-As transcribed from pages 116 - 117
From the earliest days the care of the poor has been an important part of the work of the county board. Some members have favored putting the entire burden on the townships; some have favored putting the entire burden on the county, and some have favored a division of responsibility between the county and the townships. The various systems have been tried with varying success. At present the townships are responsible for the care of their own poor, while the county looks after the poor whose actual residence in any particular township cannot be proven.
Plans for the establishment of a poor farm and almshouse have several times been set on foot. Once a poor farm was bought and sold again, and once the foundation of an almshouse was constructed but later abandoned.
November 11, 1885, at the same meeting which voted to erect a jail, a motion was passed authorizing the purchase of a poor farm, the erection of an almshouse and the purchase of equipment, $2,000 to be levied for the purpose that year and $4,000 the following year. The farm was to consist of between 80 and 160 acres and was to be located in the Trempealeau Valley, not more than four miles from a railroad. the work was to be completed November 1, 1886, at which time the county system of caring for the poor was to go into full effect. A poor commission was appointed, consisting of W. A. Johnson of Gale, Thomas Thompson of Independence and Charles Johnson of Blair. But evidently at the time of passing the vote the board had misgivings, for a motion was at once introduced to reconsider. The misgivings continued, and at a special meeting held June 15, 1886, it was decided to adopt the township system of caring for the poor, to dispose of the farm in Burnside which the commissioners had tentatively purchased, and to abandon all the work that had been done in preparation for inaugurating the county system. On the final vote the supervisors who still favored the county system were the representatives from Burnside, Independence, Preston, Sumner and Trempealeau Village.
In the years that followed, the matter of building institutions for the care of the poor and of the insane was discussed at various meetings. On January 2, 1899, O. E. Gibbs, E. J. Matchett and D. L. Holcombe rendered an extensive report on the subject and recommended that an insane asylum and almshouse be built, as a measure of economy, efficiency and humanity. The report was accepted and three men named as a committee to carry out their recommendations. Later G. H. Neperud, D. Wood, Stener Hanson and E. F. Clark were added to the committee. Land was purchased west of Arcadia and work was started in the spring of 1899, complicated somewhat by an injunction obtained by Martin T. Babbit, who claimed that the powers of the committee expired when the old board went out of office in March. The injunction was served May 4 and dissolved May 12.
The work on the almshouse was suspended permanently after the foundations were nearly finished. The asylum was practically completed January 25, 1900. The first trustees were D. L. Holcombe, president, of Arcadia; F. M. Smith, secretary, of Osseo, and Thomas Thompson of Whitehall. J. A. Johnson was the first superintendent. He was followed in March, 1901, by P. H. Johnson, who was succeeded in January, 1911, by John McKivergin, the present superintendent. The farm consists of 405 acres at the asylum west of Whitehall and three forty-acre tracts of woodland elsewhere. The farm is well improved and equipped and the insitution is regarded as a model of its kind. The establishment has not only supported itself, but has already paid nearly one-half of the original cost of $90,000. A part of the income consists of a certain sum received each year from the state. The first nine patients were received April 6, 1900, and the number was increased to forty-six before the end of the month. The capacity is now nearly 150 patients.
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