The Poor House

The Almshouse

The idea to establish a poorhouse in Beaver County was turned down in 1831 and again in 1841 by voters. In 1851, however, the idea was passed with a vote of 1,855 to 1,738. The county then purchased land from George Stone to build the poorhouse. The County Poor Farm was established in 1843 on 138 acres of land. The building was a small one-story structure and the farm included a dairy herd, sheep, pigs, and chickens. The County Poor Farm was a working farm where able-bodied residents had to work on the farm to earn their keep.

Another one-story building was erected on the site in 1859. In 1870, a two-story almshouse was completed, replacing the two smaller buildings. The County Poor Farm could accommodate 100 paupers by 1885. Since the building often experienced flooding, it was in very poor condition by 1913. So plans were drawn up to build a new building on the property in a location that would not flood. However, due to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s 100 foot wide right-of-way through the property, a county-wide election was held in 1914 to vote on the relocation of the poor farm. The County Poor Farm remained in Potter Township as 2,312 favored and 3,203 opposed the relocation.

The new Poor Farm opened in 1916 on a different section of the property. It consisted of a central brick building with a pillared porch which connected to two two-story wings through one-story corridors. Loud steam powered radiators efficiently heated the building. The grounds provided a view of the Ohio River and pleasant places for strolling and golf.

1916 Poor Farm

In 1929, Sherman Moore became the Superintendent and his wife, Marion Marshall Moore (Mary), became the Matron. By 1932, 200 beds were available in the Poor Farm, but more were needed. So, an addition was added to the rear of the building, supplying room for a hospital with 100 beds. The new addition also included the superintendent’s residence, a morgue, farm outbuildings, and a few jail cells for misbehaving residents. The facility then became known as the Beaver County Home and Hospital.

In 1947, William Bickerstaff became the superintendent of the home and his wife, a registered nurse, supervised the staff of 21 nurses and four orderlies. Most of the hospital patients were elderly and their cases incurable. The people had come to the home to die, paying if they could and staying for free if they could not pay. Although it was no longer a working farm, those that could work did and got paid for it. The guests, residents of the home section, watched television, walked the grounds, played checkers or cards, and sat on benches overlooking the Ohio River.

The poor house focused more on the old and infirm rather than the poor and insane in the late 1950s. The problem of overcrowding was temporarily relieved by an annex built onto the Beaver County Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Center Township. Then, due to the increase of industry in Potter Township, the site was deemed an unsuitable location to care for the elderly. In 1959, patients were moved from the Potter Township Poor Farm to the new Beaver County Home and Hospital in Brighton Township (later the Beaver Valley Geriatric Center and now Friendship Ridge). Part of the property was sold during World War II and the remainder, along with the building, was sold in 1955 to the St. Joe Lead Company. The St. Joe Lead Company used the 1940 addition to the complex as offices for a time, until the building was closed and fenced off due to the severe disrepair.