On December 4, 1826 the Genesee County Board of Supervisors met in Bethany for the purpose of establishing a County Poorhouse. A brick building, originally a stagecoach tavern, located near the corner of the Bethany Center Road and Raymond Road was the site selected, as it represented the geographical center of the county. (Wyoming County wasn’t established until 1841.)
This official announcement, dated December 9, 1826, appeared in an issue of the Batavia Times newspaper:
“Notice is hereby given that the Genesee County Poorhouse will be ready for the reception of paupers on the first day of January 1827 … The Overseers of the Poor of the several towns of the County of Genesee are requested, in all cases of removal of paupers to the county poorhouse, to send with them their clothing, beds, bedding and such other articles belonging to the paupers as may be necessary and useful to them.”
Resembling a reformatory, a poorhouse often housed orphaned children, families, destitute elderly, physically handicapped, mentally unstable, morally corrupt, even criminals. These institutions were situated on the grounds of a poor farm on which able-bodied residents were required to work; such farms were common in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A poorhouse (sometimes referred to as almshouse or asylum) was a government-run facility for the support and housing of dependent or needy persons, typically run by a local government entity such as a county or municipality, and institutions of this nature were widespread in the United States prior to the adoption of the Social Security program in the 1930s.
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