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July 3, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: Floyd County Poor House

(Continued)

Although an asset to those in need, the facility also drew stigma from the local citizenry. In a November 1878, New Albany Ledger Standard reported about the charity’s Thanksgiving menu of chicken pot pie. Apparently not everyone agreed with the food choices. 

“Let not a taxpaying curmudgeon begrudge them this little taste of the luxuries of life,” the article said. “Their lot is a hard one, their fate a sad one, and if a ray of comfort can be made to shine upon them in the name of charity let them have it and welcome.”

Another New Albany Ledger Standard account a month earlier detailed the lives of the 45 “inmates.” Most seemed happy, the reporter said, with the biggest complaint being the lack of tobacco. Mental illness was noticed too, and not necessarily described in the most gentle of terms. 

“One was a silly young woman, the shape of whose head left room for only a thimbleful of brains, and this poor unfortunate creature kept up a constant, imbecile sort of a smile that was sickening,” the unnamed author said.  

In a January 1880 New Albany Ledger Standard news article, the paper actually lists the names, birthdates and diagnosis of those in the “insane asylum” to quell fears from the local populace. Causes of the afflictions included religious excitement, heredity, old age and trouble and hardship. 

Although the building’s fate currently remains in limbo, a preservation drive was organized in 2008. However, major repairs would need to be made before the old Poor Farm would be inhabitable again to any organization. But some people consider the protection meaningful given the history of those less fortunate entering through its doors. 

“This was their home,” said local historian Vic Megenity to the Floyd County Commissioners as documented in a Jan. 17, 2008, article. “Please don’t tear it down.”

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