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The Barron County poor farm

By Harold Kringle with contributions by Emil Maas and Wesley Olson 2006

It was 1884 when the County decides they should look after the poor, they bought land and built buildings on the southeast edge of Barron, it was called the poor farm. In 1885 $2000 was appropriated to build the buildings; The Barron County History of 1922 stated that, “Improvements have since been made from time to time until the County now has a pretty modern alms house, adequate barns and sheds, and a well cultivated farm, excellently stocked and admirably equipped.”

Wesley Olson’s grand parents Louis Olson family were one of the managers. They took over in the fall of 1918. Wesley tells of his grandfather going with his horse and buggy to pick up people from around the county. Any of the folks who were able helped with the farm or housework but most of them were there to spend their last days.

Emil Mass was born on the farm, when his family was the managers. They built a new 16x50 silo in 1915. They finished filling it the day he was born. There was a good sized house on the farm. It must have provided rooms for a lot of old folks. Wesley Olson’s parents met there she helped to care for the residents. He worked on the farm. The picture furnished by Emil Mass shows about 9 people that could have been residents. That was in 1915. John Miller and Charles Toy were others who managed the County Farm.

The poor farm was discontinued in 1937. There is a cemetery on the hill back of the buildings with several graves. It is maintained by the county. Neither Caryl or I remember of any one going to the poor farm but there were lots of folks that were in tough financial condition during the depression days of the thirties. One of my uncles who lived in Milwaukee lost his job. He came to my folk’s farm with his wife and two small children. They lived with us and he cut wood and hauled it to town to make a living.

Each township or city was responsible for the welfare of their residents, any one in need could go to their town chairman and he could give them money or an order for so much food at the local grocery store. They had to live in the town ship for I think it was a year to establish residency otherwise the area they had lived in before was responsible. I lived east of Rice Lake, some one moved into every vacant house; some of the other residents were eager to see them move before the year was up.

It was in the 60s that the report at the town meeting each spring would include the names of people and the amount of money they had received as welfare aid from our township, town of Barron. In 1961 it was $2,102 for three families, in 1962 it was$l,284 for two families, in 1963, $114. In 1964,$652. Somewhere along about that time it was changed when the county took over the welfare system.
Many counties in the state have continued their county farms, it has been difficult to continue as they were required to pay their resident workers the minimum wage. But some have done a good job with developing good herds of livestock and demonstrating good farming practices.