It has been observed that the first meetings of the Hancock circuit court and also of the county commissioners were held at the house of Samuel B. Jackson. The Hancock circuit court continued to hold its sessions there until the September term, 1829, when it convened at "the court house in Greenfield." The commissioners met at the house of Samuel B. Jackson until the May term, 1829, when they met at the house of Jeremiah Meek in the town of Greenfield. Their meetings were then held at the house of Jeremiah Meek until the November term, 1829, when the record recited that they also convened "at the court house in the town of Greenfield."
According to the best recollection of Jared Meek, recently deceased at eighty-seven years of age, the first court house stood just across the street west of the public square, and south of the old Gooding Hotel. He remembered it as a two-story log house, fronting on what is now South State Street. The first reference to this house in the county commissioners record was made at the August term, 1829, when an election was ordered to be held there. At the November term, 1829, the board allowed to Jared Chapman "in part for his services in building the court house in the town of Greenfield," the sum of one hundred and eighty dollars. At the same meeting, November 9, 1829, the board ordered "that the lower south room of the court house be, and it is set apart for the office of the clerk and recorder, and not to be encumbered with any other business whatsoever." At the November term, 1829, another claim was allowed in favor of Robert Davidson "in the sum of fifteen dollars, it being for extra work done by him in finishing the court house in said county, the contract being previously taken by Jared Chapman." This court house was used until about January, 1834.
At the January term, 1831, the board ordered the county agent to advertise in the nearest newspaper that proposals would be received by the county commissioners for the building of a court house in the town of Greenfield, at their May term next, "as follows, to wit: forty feet on the ground (square) to be made of brick, the same to be done in the usual plan;" The record shows that John Hays took the contract for erecting it. It was several years, however, before the house was entirely finished. At the November term 1832, its location on the public square was changed. At the May term, 1833, the foundation was practically completed. On January 7, 1834, John Hays was paid in full on is contract. At the May term, 1834, the board ordered the county agent to advertise for proposals for further finishing the court house. Among the improvements contemplated were the hanging of double doors, the making and hanging of "fashionable window blinds," painting the cupola, grading the yard, etc. The contract for this work was let to Otho Gapen and William Naylor on July 18, 1834.
It is interesting to observe in connection with the construction of this house, which was the first court house on the public square, that a part of the necessary funds were raised by subscription. These subscriptions were either made at the time the site for the county seat was selected, and are the subscriptions referred to in the report of the committee appointed by the Legislature, or else they were subscriptions taken for the special purpose of erecting this building. At different times notes were delivered to John Hays, the contractor, as so much cash on his contract, with the privilege of returning them to the county treasurer in case he failed to collect. At the May term, 1832, the subscription paper and also some notes of different citizens of the county were delivered to Hays, "to use due diligence in collecting the same, and if not collected, to return the same to the treasurer safe." Due care on the part of the commissioners is also shown in an order made at the January term, 1835, when an allowance of four hundred dollars was made to Gapen and Naylor "in part payment of their contract, it being understood that the allowance is not an acceptance of the work done, and that the same is hereafter to be examined."
At the March term, 1837, the commissioners ordered the county agent to make provisions for furnishing three rooms in the upper story of the court house, "partitions to be of good poplar plank 1 _ inches thick, well seasoned, tongued and grooved, and well put together; a common batting door to be made to each room with a lock and key to each door, and to be ceiled overhead with good poplar plank _ inch thick,*** one of the rooms for the use of the Clerk and Recorder," A seat was also ordered made for the judges and a banister and seats for the jurors.
At the May term, 1839, a contract was entered into with Nathan Henry for putting a new roof on the court house. We do not see shingles like them any more: "Good poplar shingles, eighteen inches long and one-half inch this, laid five inches to the weather," etc.
At the Decenber term 1845, the board contracted with Nathan Crawford for the erection of two buildings as office for the clerk, recorder, auditor and treasurer. These offices were built, one to the northeast and the other to the northwest of the court house. The buildings were each twenty feet by forty-eight feet, and had vaults built in them for keeping the countys moneys and records. Heretofore the records and valuable papers had been stored away and kept by the officers in any manner possible. Now adequate provision was made for their safe keeping.
A hall extended through the original building from north to south. The county offices were originally on the lower floor to the west of the hall. The court room was in the southeast part of the building. In the southeast corner of the court room was a large fireplace, eight or ten feet wide, in which large logs were burned. The floor of the entire court room was of brick. It was in this court room that Thomas D. Walpole made his reputation as a trial lawyer. This court house stood and was used until about 1851.
The minutes of the December session, 1850, of the board of county commissioners recite: "Ordered that the present session of the board be held in the auditors office in consequence of the court house being unfit for the transaction of business." The Auditors office at that time was located in one of the buildings erected in 1846. At the same session an allowance of five dollars was made by the board in favor of the trustees of the Methodist church in Greenfield "for the use of the meeting house to holding circuit court at the September term, 1851." This church stood on the west side of South State Street, a few blocks below Main Street. The circuit court continued to hold its sessions at the church, and the board of commissioners at the auditors office until December, 1854. At that time the building known as the county seminary was taken and used for the court house. In June, 1855, a contract was entered into between the county commissioners and the trustees of the Christian church for the use of the church as a court house until the new court house should be completed. All the court furniture was at once removed from the seminary to the church, and the sheriff was given possession of the key of the church during terms of court. It was agreed that the church should suffer no injury, and that it should be occupied free of charge. At the January term, 1856, the above order was rescinded, and the courts were ordered to convene thereafter in the new court house.
On March 11, 1854, the commissioners ordered the old court house sold, and also ordered the county auditor to give notice in the State Sentinel that proposals would be received by the board on the third day of the next term for the building of a new court house.
At the June term, 1854, a special tax levy of forty cents was levied on each one hundred dollars of taxable property for the purpose of building the proposed court house.
On June 9, 1854, the contract for the erection of the new building was awarded to Nathan Crawford, "the lowest and best bidder," for fourteen thousand and four hundred dollars. At the December term, 1854, Edwin May was employed as architect to superintend the erection of the house, and an order was made allowing the sum of twenty-five dollars for every visit he should make to the building during the erection thereof. Nathan Crawford began his work. In September, 1855, the board ordered it painted, "the walls stone color, the cupola a lighter shade, the blinds green, the roof copper color and all other painting to be left to the painters judgment and taste, provided it be done in a good and workmanlike manner." At the same time the contractor was ordered to place in the cupola the necessary timbers for the purpose of hanging a bell therein.
At the January term, 1856, the board of commissioners ordered "that all courts hereafter be held in the court room in the new court house." This is the court house that is known to the present generation as the "old court house." The county offices in this building were on the lower floor, on either side of a hall extending through the building from north to south. The court room was upstairs, the court and jury being seated at the east end of the room. When court was in session, the bell in the court house tower rang every morning at the time of convening. When the lawyers remained too long in their offices, it was the custom for the sheriff or bailiff to step to the door or window and call them. In fact, it was sometimes suspected that some of the older lawyers of that day appreciated the value of the advertisement in the call to "come to court," and that they delayed purposely.
The bell whose sound from the court house tower was familiar to the older generation, now calls the people to worship at the Presbyterian church in the city of Greenfield.
The court room in this building came to be used for various purposes about the time of the Civil War. Finally several balls were given there, to which many people of the county took exception. Public sentiment became stirred up about the matter, and the board of county commissioners, at the December session, 1865, made the following order relative to the future use of the court room: "Ordered by the board, that the court room shall not hereafter be used for the exhibition of shows or the holding of balls or parties therein; nor shall the same be used by individuals for any private purpose whatever."
This court house stood until 1896.
On September 11, 1895, the county auditor was directed to give notice to architects that October 4, 1895, had been fixed as the day on which the board would convene for the purpose of meeting architects who wished to submit plans and specifications for the erection of a new court house. On that day the following architects appeared before the board: An. N. Rush, Grand Rapids, Michigan; McPherson & Brown, Indianapolis; Wing & Mahurin, Ft. Wayne, Indiana; G. W. Bunting, Indianapolis; Krutch & Laycock, Indianapolis; Bell & Kent, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
On October 5, 1895, the plans submitted by Wing & Mahurin, of Ft. Wayne, were accepted. A contract was entered into with that firm whereby they agreed to make all drawings, plans and specification, and to superintend the construction of the building, and were to receive as compensation therefore, three and one-half percent of the actual cost of the building.
Samples of stone were submitted by: Cleveland Stone Company, of Chicago; Matthews Brothers, of Ellettsville, Indiana; Forest City Stone Company, of Cleveland, Ohio; Malone Stone Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. The sample of Matthews Brothers, of Ellettsville, Indiana, of Bedford limestone, was accepted. On April 30, 1896, the contract for the construction of the building was awarded to Geake, Henry & Green, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
In June, 1896, an action in the name of William P. Bidgood was brought against the contractors to enjoin them from building the court house. In that action notice was also served upon the county treasurer, George W. Ham, not to pay any warrant that might be drawn in favor of the contractors. This had the effect of stopping the work for a while. In the early part of July, 1896, however, a legal opinion was obtained by the county commissioners and other officers from Byron K. Elliott, of Indianapolis, that such warrants might safely be paid, whereupon work was at once resumed by the contractors.
The laying of the cornerstone of the court house, on September 22, 1896, was one of the greatest ceremonial events in the history of the county. The ceremonies were conducted by the Masonic order. Member of the Knights Templar from Rushville, Knightstown, Richmond, Ft. Wayne and other points were in attendance to assist in the work. There was a great parade. It included all of the great secret societies of Greenfield, and representatives and delegations from all the lodges in the county. The line of march extended north on Pennsylvania street to Walnut; west on Walnut to Noble street; south on Noble to North street; west on North to School street; south on School to Main street; east on Main to State street; north on State to Grant street; east on Grant to Wood street; south on Wood to Main street; west on Main to public square. The following was the order of the march:
The parade was over a mile in length. The school children occasioned great enthusiasm.
The following was the program of the day, given on the public square:
|Music||Fort Wayne Band|
|Invocation||Elder W. M. Gard
Music by Union Choir
Laying of the Corner Stone
Music by Band
|Address||Judge Charles G. Offutt
Music by Band
|Address||Hon. William R. Hough
Music by Band
Music by Union Choir
|Benediction||Rev. M. E. Nethercut|
Judge Frank E. Gavin, of Greensburg, acting grand master, conducted the ceremonies connected with the laying of the cornerstone. He was assisted by Martin H. Rice, grand treasurer, Henry Geake, John T. Duncan, William Ward Cook and Homer Bragg.
A large box was placed in the cornerstone which contains lists of officers and members of practically all the lodges and orders in the county. It also contains copies of the following newspapers: New Palestine Courier, The Hancock Democrat, Greenfield Republican, Greenfield Herald, Evening Republican, Evening Tribune, Stone-Cutters Journal. Among other things deposited in that stone are the pictures of the Greenfield high school building, and of the court house; a list of the children in the Greenfield public schools; premium list of the Hancock county fair of 1896; a bar docket of the Hancock circuit court, February term, 1896, containing pictures of members of the bar; also bar docket of September term, 1896; copies of addresses delivered by the Hon. Charles G. Offutt and Hon. William R. Hough at the laying of the stone; Holy Bible, presented by John T. Hatfield, and history of Hancock county, presented by John H. Binford.
On May 22, 1897, the county commissioners purchased from R. R. Ellis, a jeweler of Greenfield, the fine two-thousand dollar Howard clock which was placed in the tower.
At 10:30 A.M., August 24, 1897, the last stone was laid on the court house, the builder leaving a small American flag to wave from it.
Among the principal items of expense connected with the building of the court house were the following:
|April 30, 1896, contract for the construction of the building||$128,764.00|
|Extras, not including furniture, on account of changes, etc., |
as shown by the "Record of Receipts and Disbursements
for New Court House
|To Wing & Mahurin, Architects||8,634.60|
|Other amounts were paid out, not included in the above
Making to total cost of the building a little more than
The building was complete, and the county officers took possession on January 1, 1898.
The court house contains forty rooms. It is a magnificent structure, of Bedford limestone, artistically and compactly built; commodious, well lighted, absolutely fire proof, and heated by a steam plant that has been installed just east of the jail. The offices of the county surveyor, the city clerk, city treasurer, and the mayors office, are on the first floor. On this floor are also a large "record room" for storing old records, a "farmers room," a G. A. R. room, and living rooms for the janitor. On the second floor are the offices of the county auditor, treasurer, road superintendent, recorder, assessor, sheriff, and the commissioners court room. On the third floor are the judges office, the large and small court rooms, the grand jury room, the court reporters room, the law library, and the county superintendents office. The walls and ceiling of all the offices and halls were handsomely and artistically decorated with paintings, and all except the ceiling of the third floor are well preserved. The tile roof with which the court house was covered was not a success, and leakages have completely ruined the entire ceiling over the third floor. In 1914 the building was covered with a new tile roof, which, all are hoping, will prove more satisfactory.
In the hall of the second story is a marble tablet with the following historical inscription:
|R. F. WILSON
W. M. THOMAS
L. BORING, AUDITOR
|WING & M. AHURIN |
There seems to be a consensus of opinion among men who visit the city of Greenfield, that Hancock county has one of the most beautiful and most artistically designed court houses in the state.
While the old log court house was in use just south of the Gooding corner, a one-story, or probably one and one-half story, jail was built near the northeast corner of the present public square. On June 11, 1829, the board of county commissioners held a special meeting "for the purpose of transacting business concerning the jail." On that day it was ordered, among other things, that Robert Davidson and Jacob Blackburn be allowed one hundred and four dollars and fifty cents "for building a jail in Hancock county." At the January term, 1832, the commissioners ordered the county agent, Jared Chapman, to advertise for bids for the erection of "a stairway to be erected at the east side of the jail in Greenfield for the convenience of the upper room of said jail." The stairway was certainly to be substantial, and timber was plenty: "there shall be four sills ten inches square, of suitable length upon which the stairs and platforms shall stand; the upright posts shall be six inches square, the stairs shall be three feet wide in the clear; the platform the same width of the stairs and four feet long; the posts shall extend three feet above the stairs, and suitable railing round the same at the top; and the doors of said jail to be put in good order for opening and shutting, all of which timber shall be of good white oak and all work shall be done in a good and workmanlike manner; the stairs shall rise the same as the court house stairs and rail on the outside of the stairs from top to bottom."
In another order Nathan Crawford is "authorized to put a lock onto each door on the outside of the jail in such a manner as will be more safe and strong for said jail." The sheriff did not have his residence in the jail then, hence from time to time orders like the following, concerning the care of prisoners, appear on the commissioners record:
"Cornwell Meek is allowed the sum of two dollars and twenty-five cents for service rendered by him in victualing and taking care of prisoners in the jail of said county."
"Ordered that Jeremiah Higgins be allowed seventy-five cents for guarding jail and prisoner."
This jail stood only four or five years. About 1833 it contained a prisoner, one John Hays, who, it seems, was demented. He apparently tried to escape by burning his way out. Instead of succeeding, however, the flames consumed the prisoner within the jail.
On April 14, 1835, the board of commissioners met in special session for the purpose of receiving plans for a jail for the county. The plan adopted was for a one-story building, seventeen feet by forty feet on the ground, "wall to be of brick and to be twenty-six inches thick and made in the following manner: The outward half of the wall to be 13 inches, two courses of brick then a plank the thickness of a brick, nine inches in breadth, which will be placed on the wall four inches from the face thereof and extending to the center of same, which will require the width of a brick to fill out the course, and the innermost half of the wall 13 inches, one course of brick, then a plank as before 13 inches in width, which will bring the lower edge of the first mentioned plank with the upper edge of the last mentioned, and to lay and raise the wall in that manner." At first the floor of the jail was ordered made of "niggerhead stones." But later it was ordered "that said floor be laid of hewn timber ten inches thick, and to extend all over the foundation and that there be a plank laid across the ends of the timber the thickness of the walls and to be pinned down and laid in such a manner as not to break joints at the same place."
The jail was composed of three rooms.
The jail was to be finished by January 1, 1836. It was built directly south of the court house and within eight feet of the south line of the public square. The contract for its construction was let to Cornwell Meek, who agreed to build it according to plans and specifications for twenty-two hundred dollars. This jail was used by the county less than twenty years.
At the March term, 1852, the board ordered the county auditor to give public notice "that on the second Monday in April, he will receive plans and specifications for the building of a log jail for said county, from all who are willing to suggest a good plan for building a substantial jail."
On April 12, 1852, the board ordered the auditor to give further notice that at the June term proposals would be received for the erection of the jail, to be of the following dimensions: "Thirty two feet in length and 18 feet in width, two stories high, the first story to be eight feet and second story to be seven and one-half feet in height, divided into four rooms with a hall between them, and one door in front made of Oak plank two inches thick, provided with a good and sufficient lock; and two good strong doors leading from said hall into the lower rooms, and two doors leading from said hall upstairs into the rooms intended for jail rooms, the said doors to be made of good oak timber and of the thickness of two inches and filled with good jail door nails, the floor upstairs to be laid in timber 6 inches thick and then drove upon the same a plank floor of 1 _ inches thick thoroughly nailed with doubt 10 penny nails closely driven and overhead, the same as the last mentioned floor." The walls were built of logs, twelve inches square.
In those days when iron was too expensive, a good substitute for it was produced by driving heavy planks full of nails. This made it practically impossible for a prisoner to saw or cut his way through a door or wall. It will be observed that in this jail, the doors and the floor and ceiling were driven full of nails.
The contract for the erection of this jail was given to Jonathan Dunbar. At the March term, 11853, he was allowed three hundred and fifty-eight dollars in full on his contract. The jail was built on the south side of the public square, and was used until the present jail was built in 1871. This building is still standing on West South Street, just a little west of State Street.
The present jail was built in 1871, under the supervision of Charles H. Brown, architect. The principal contract for its construction was let to John R. Reeves. The original contract price was thirty-two thousand, nine hundred dollars. The commissioners record, however, shows that over forty-five thousand dollars was paid out before it was finished.
The front part of the building is used as a residence for the sheriff, the jail itself being to the rear. The following report made by the board of state charities on September 4, 1914, will give a good idea of the building:
Building and Equipment.An old building of brick and steel. It is neither strong nor safe. The lower part is poorly ventilated. Steam heat, electric light; city water. Plumbing fair, but in good repair. Good sewerage. Washtubs are used for bathing. Iron bunks with mattresses and comforts in fair condition. The bedding is not washed.
Management. The jail is managed by the sheriff and his wife. No printed rules for the government of prisoners. Tramps received upon order of the marshal. Commissioners visit the jail frequently.
Prisoners. Five men awaiting trial, two serving sentence; total seven. Provision for sex separation, but none for classification. Prisoners bathe weekly. No rule in regard to the change of underclothes. Papers and magazines for reading. Religious services not held regularly. No employment. Three meals a day. The prisoners seemed satisfied with food.
Improvements.The interior of the jail has been improved by paint.
Recommendation. Bath facilities, standard bedding and printed rules are recommended.
Expenses for 1913.Repairs, $245.22; supplies, including fuel, light, water, etc., $88.20; sheriffs fees, including boarding of prisoners, $1,112.30; total, $1,445.72
Among the first acts of the county commissioners, after they had divided the county into three townships, was to appoint overseers of the poor for each township. The first claim allowed by the board for caring for the poor, however, was not until the May term, 1831, when the record shows an allowance in favor of James Glendon of "the sum of Six Dollars and cents for services rendered by him in boarding and bedding a pauper in said County and for removing the same out of the aforesaid county." Several other claims of a similar nature were allowed at the same term. Among them "Lot Edwards, Doct. is allowed the sum of Six dollars and seventy-five cents for services rendered him as a physician employed by the overseer of the poor in Brandywine township." This is the beginning of a series of claims of this kind filed for the caring for the poor of the county.
In 1843 a law was enacted giving the overseers of the poor within their respective townships power and authority to bind as apprentices the minor children of any poor person who had become chargeable as a pauper within the township, or who was supported there in whole or in part at the charge of the county; also all minor children whose parents had abandoned them or had unreasonably neglected or were unable to provide for them; also all minor children who were or who would become a county charge and who had a lawful settlement in such township. The same law also provided that others might bind out their children as apprentices. All of such contracts had to be signed and acknowledged by the parties the same as deeds and had to be recorded in a special record kept therefore. Such contracts were called indentures. The record kept for that purpose in Hancock county shows that in all twenty-nine children were bound out to service in this manner. No entry has been made in this record for over forty years. A good idea of the nature of such contracts and of the methods pursued may be had from the following extracts of contracts:
The first is a contract between the overseers of the poor and "John Doe," wherein the overseers "have put and place and bound Richard Roe, a poor boy, aged four years, nine months and nine days; the said Richard Roe is to serve said John Doe the term of sixteen years, two months and twenty-one days, that is to say until the said Richard Roe shall arrive at the age of twenty-one years, and the said overseers do by these presents give unto the said John Doe all the right, power and authority over the said Richard Roe and his services during the term aforesaid which the laws of this state give to a master in and over a lawful indentured apprentice, and the said John Doe in consideration thereof doth on his part covenant and promise and agree with the said overseers and their successors in office and each of them and with said Richard Roe that he will give him, the said Richard Roe twenty-one months schooling, one-half of which is to be given between the ages of nine and twelve years, and six months between nineteen and twenty-one years of age; and to train him to habits of industry and morality, and during the time of his service to provide him and allow to him sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging and apparel, and all other things necessary during his said term of service, and the said John Doe further covenants and agrees to give to the said "Richard Roe at the expiration of his aforesaid term of service two suits of everyday apparel, and also to give him a freedom suit worth Thirty Dollars."
Following are the essential parts of another indenture, wherein a young girl was bound out to "John Doe" and wife, to learn the trade and occupation of a house servant:" "And the said John Doe and wife covenant to teach the said Rosanna Roe the said trade and occupation and to provide her during said apprenticeship with all necessaries proper to her age and condition and to cause her to be taught to read and write and the rules of arithmetic to the double rule of three inclusive, if practicable; and at the expiration of said term to furnish to her, the said Rosanna Roe, the following: one feather bed and bed clothes for one bed, also a common suit of wearing apparel."
On March 6, 1851, the county commissioners bought of George Anderson the following described real estate for the purpose of providing a home and proper care for the poor of the county who were unable to support themselves and who had no one to care for them: The west half of the northwest quarter of section 7, and the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 6, all in township 15 north, range 7 east. This land was retained by the county until 1866, when it was sold to Amos C. Gambrel. The method of caring for the poor during those years well illustrated by the following contract, made in March, 1856, with William G. Smith:
"Articles of agreement made and entered into this 5th day of March A.D., 1856, between Chilton Banks, Daniel S. Wilkison and Rezin Perry, County Commissioners of Hancock County, Indiana, of the first part, and William G. Smith of the County and State aforesaid, of the second part witnesseth:
"That the said party of the first part, in consideration of the rents, covenants and agreements hereinafter contained, and which are to be paid and performed by the said party of the second part, do rent, demise, and to farm let unto the said party of the second part the farm in said County and State known as the poor farm to hold the same until the first day of March 1857 at the rate of One Hundred Dollars per year for the rent of said farm.
"And said Commissioners agree that said party of the second part shall have the care, custody, and keeping of the paupers of said Count for said term, and shall be allowed the sum of Two Dollars and fifty cents per week for each and every pauper he may clothe, feed and lodge during said term. And said Smith agrees with said Commissioners that he will pay the rent hereby made payable and will take care of, clothe, feed, and lodge the County Paupers for said term of said farm, in a suitable manner; that he will not commit nor suffer waste on said premises, that no wood or timber shall be cut thereon except such as may be necessary for firewood for his own use on said farm, and that at the expiration of said term he will deliver up possession of said premise to said Commissioners or their agent in as good condition as they now are, fair wear and tare and damage by fire excepted. And said Smith further aggress that at each session of the Board of Commissioners during said term, he will render to them an account of the names, time of arrival and health of all paupers under his charge, and if any shall have left, the fact and the time shall be so stated and said account shall be rendered under oath.
"Witness our hands and seals the date first written,
Chilton Banks (Seal)
D. S. Wilkison (Seal)
Rezin Perry (Seal)
Wm. G. Smith (Seal)
It seems that during this period there were more paupers at times than could be cared for by the tenant on the farm. The commissioners entered into separate contracts with individual householders to care for such paupers, say for the period of one year.
On June 5, 1866, the county commissioners bought another farm of two hundred and thirty-eight acres of land about two and one-half miles east of Greenfield as a home for the poor. This land has been farmed since that time and the proceeds thereof used for the support of the inmates of the infirmary. The first building on this farm was a one-and-one-half-story brick house that had been built for a private residence. The house was occupied by the superintendent of the farm. Attached to the rear of the superintendents residence was a cheap frame building which was used as the infirmary. Mr. Binford, in his "History of Hancock County," published in 1882, described the buildings as follows: "The building is a discredit to the county, being old and dilapidated, and not at all in harmony with the wealth and dignity of our citizens. The superintendents residence is a plain, old-fashioned, story-and-a-half brick, built many years since for a private residence. The infirmary building proper is a cheap frame known by carpenters as a plank house," built in the rear of, and attached to, the superintendents residence. The building is not only cheaply constructed, and poorly ventilated, but small and wholly inadequate to the demands of the unfortunate."
In 1883 plans submitted by Charles G. Mueller, architect, of Indianapolis, were adopted by the county commissioners for the construction of a new building. At the December session of the board, on December 11, 1883, the contract for the construction of the building was awarded to John R. Cowie, William New and John Sloan, as partners, for twenty-two thousand, four hundred and fifty dollars. The record awarding this contract was signed by James Tyner and Augustus Dennis. George W. Parker, the third commissioner, entered a written protest against letting the contract for the reasons, as alleged, that the taxpayers were already overburdened with taxation; that many taxpayers were not as well situated as the paupers were at that time; that it was cheaper to assist these paupers in homes and among their friends and that the asylum as contemplated was an extravagance. On the next day, December 12, 1883, the contract was signed by the two above-named commissioners, James Tyner and August Dennis, but Parker again entered a written protest against contracting for the erection of the building, on the grounds as alleged, that the architect, Charles G. Mueller, had given the county no contract by which his compensation could be determined, and second, because he was not a "home architect."
The building was constructed in accordance with the plans and specifications that had been adopted. It furnishes a good home for the poor, and the report of the board of state charities, made after a visit to the institution on June 4, 1913, is very favorable and very creditable to the management:
"Farm. Two hundred and seventeen acres of good land, valued at two hundred dollars per acre. Four acres in garden, in good condition. Variety of vegetables. Two and one-half acres in orchard. Stock: Twelve head of cattle, six cows, nine horses, fifty-five swine. Farm buildings in good condition. All are to be painted. Some old, dilapidated sheds in barnyard have been torn down. Fences good. Two hundred rods of new fence and one hundred and twenty rods soon to be built. Door yards well arranged and cared for.
"Building. Administration building in front. Two-story brick connecting in rear. Inmates kitchen and dining-room in basement. Men on first floor, women on second. Separate dining-rooms. In good repair except the rear porch. Trimmings recently painted. Gas plant in basement for lighting purposes. Steam heat. Ventilation by doors and windows. Rooms well lighted and ventilated. Ample and comfortable furniture. Iron beds. Chair in each room. Bedding is good, clean and changed frequently. Two bathtubs. Bathing weekly. House clean. Floors oiled. Walls newly whitewashed. Free from odors.
"Inmates. Population: nine men, seven women. Sex separation. Inmates clean and well cared for. Sufficient clothing, clean and well taken care of. Food consists of meat for breakfast and dinner, good bread, vegetables and fruits in season. Mush is served frequently during the winter. Health good. Reading matter furnished. Religious services held frequently, but not regularly.
"Management. Salary of Superintendent Clarence G. Cook, one thousand dollars; physician, two hundred dollars. Superintendent hires one man to help. Records very well kept. Superintendent is a good farmer and conscientious and his wife an excellent housekeeper. Cooking is done by inmates under direction of matron."
At the meeting of the farmers institute at the court house at Greenfield in January, 1907, a plan was submitted by the ladies of the Clio Club of the city of Greenfield for converting the county farm, houses and premises, into a boys dormitory, manual training and industrial school. The ladies of the club, through the report of their committee, expressed their opposition "to the term, pauper, and its degrading effects," and held that there was "quite a difference between poor and pauper."
The suggestion originated with Mrs. A. N. Rhue, and the thought of the club is pretty well shown by the following excerpts taken from their committees report:
"The tendency to avoid the poor house has been in a measure gratified since the township trustees are authorized to provide for the poor of each township. Most of the poor, especially the children, are better cared for, very nicely, kindly and quietly at their own homes, avoiding the publicity, shame and disgrace, and breaking up of family ties by being dragged away to the poor house.
"As a matter of business economy and common humanity, we recommend that this worn-out issue, this miserable pauper prison, be changed to a more modern, more charitable, more profitable institution. We hope that some day the big, empty poorhouse shall swarm like a beehive with a goodly number of sturdy, ambitious farmers boys, each one learning his individual trade, whereby he can make his living, provide a home for himself and family, and that when he is old he may sit under his own vine and fig tree, having proven himself worthy of all the cost and trouble of establishing the Hancock Industrial School.
Mrs. Ada New
Mrs. Ione Reasner
Mrs. Mattie Thomas
Mrs. Rosa B. Rhue
After the subject had been presented to the institute a general discussion followed, in which both men and women participated. A number who expressed themselves, commended the plan; others were in doubt as to the results of the proposition.
Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Pages 85-101.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI May 19, 2002.
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