Houghton County Poorhouse

Category Exploration Date Status Province / State Country
Schools and Institutions July 8, 2012 Abandoned Michigan United States

Posted on: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 15:15 By: Mike


Information is a little scant on this location, but I have found reference to a facility being here as early as January 18, 1872.

100 acres of land were purchased and cleared, on which were grown potatoes, hay, oats, corn and various other vegetables as well as horses, cattle and other livestock. Very few tax dollars were used in its operation or upkeep as it became largely self-sufficient.

As of 1910, the staff consisted of a keeper, a cook, 2 female servants and one hired man. At the same time, there were 55 men and 11 women, ages ranging from a 24 year-old man to an 86 year-old woman.

A cemetery, known commonly as a potter's field, existed on the site where those who had no family and / or no funds were buried up until the 1920's.

By 1937 there were over 100 people living at the farm. One half of the second floor was for women, the other half of the second, and all of the third floor was for men. Beds were spaced between 8 and 10 feet apart, with a curtain separating them.

In 1953, farming activities were halted by the government as the milk was unpasteurized, the beef was not Grade A, and eggs were not being candled. Social Security had begun, and the need to have the "inmates", as they were known, work was no longer necessity.

It appears that the entire facility ceased operations in 1968.

Personal Commentary: 

On my first approach, it became apparent that there would be no getting to the location without going through someone's back yard. As I began driving away, I used my GPS's "Detour" function to see if another way existed. Sure enough...

The GPS took me around the hill and onto a back road from which I was able to gain access without violating anyone's yard.

The building, as you can see, is crumbling into the ground and doesn't seem to have many years left in it. It appears that part of it has been used for storage since closure.

Despite its dilapidated state, I was happy to find a few interesting things within the ruins to photograph.


My great grandmother, Maria Sadler, died on 28 Sep 1911 while at the Houghton County Poorhouse. She is buried in the cemetery. She immigrated from Slovenia as a widow with 3 dependant children. 3 sons came earlier. You mention that in 1910 there were 11 women living in the poorhouse. She was born in 1837 and would have been 74 when she died. Do you have access to any records? I was wondering how long she was at the facility. According to her death record, she died of mitral insufficiency or heart failure. Was there a hospital attached to the poor farm? Your photos are eerily fascinating :)
Thank you, Christina Sadler

In reply to by Christina Sadler (not verified)

I'm sorry, Christina, I have no records concerning specific patients.  It might be useful to check with the town of Houghton itself.  I don't believe there were any hospital facilities.  It was located close enough to town that would have made it unneccessary.

Thank you for sharing about your great grandmother, and if you're successful in findout out more, I hope you'll come back and share that as well.  The locations are, of course, fascinating, but it's the people's lives and stories that played out at these locations that give them meaning.

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