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“Each county in the State shall provide, in such manner as may be prescribed by law, a Manual Labor Poor House, for taking care of, managing, employing and supplying the wants of its indigent and poor inhabitants; and, under such regulations as the legislature may direct, all persons committing petty offences in the county may be committed to such Manual Labor Poor House, for correction and employment.”  CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, 1869, ARTICLE XII, SECTION 26. 

The 1876 Constitution of the State of Texas eliminated the reference to committing those accused of petty offences. 

No records are available before May 1889 for Bowie County due to the fire that destroyed all the records.  A Social Statistics table showing the number of paupers in the State, how kept, and the average cost per month of supporting them shows Bowie County with the number of 12, colored 5, average cost per month of $7.50.  The County did not have a Poor Farm.  On May 12, 1889 the County Commissioner’s Court placed H. A. Neal, Jane Johnson, and Jennie Roach on the Pauper’s List for the County.  Claims in May do not list any paupers but does list various claims, such as clothes, burying, ticket, and doctor care of paupers.  The actual number on the Pauper’s List at this time may never be known due to the lost of records. 

The Bowie County Commissioner’s Court Minutes show the following names being added to the Pauper’s List

            James Traynor                May 16, 1889

            Mellissa McGowan        Jul 18, 1889

            J. H. Stinson                  Aug 15, 1889

            Mrs. Adlum                   Feb 19, 1890

            R. B. Graham                 Feb 19, 1890

            E. Parker                       Feb 19, 1890


On Feb 19, 1890 the claims to the County show $294.30 was in favor of S. D. Lary, County Judge, for pauper expenses. 

On May 15, 1890 Mollie White and Abram Moss were declared paupers and placed on the Pauper’s List. 

On Aug 15, 1890 the claims show $170.75 for S. D. Lary, expenses on paupers.  What the actual expenses were is unknown but could part of this amount have been for the money allotted to paupers and distributed from the County Judge’s office? 

Nov 10, 1890 shows Sarah Ann Cain and James Pendly being placed on the Pauper’s List.  On Jan 6, 1891 Wm. Askew was added to the list. 

On Feb 12, 1891 the Bowie County Commissioners’ Court voted to purchase Seventy (70) acres of land for $360.00 from Robert L. McCright to be used and occupied as poor farm for the County.  The land was part of the S.Hancock and L. M. Rice Headright Surveys and located 1.5 miles southwest of the County Seat at Boston.  

On May 15, 1891 the Commissioners’ Court accepted the buildings erected by J. H. Lynch on the poor farm and the first people admitted to the farm were Mollie White, Ben Boyce, Peter Buck and Annie Homan.  J. C. Harris was the first superintendent of the Poor Farm and served until Jan 1, 1893.  He was paid $25.00 per month.  County Commissioner T. C. Morris was authorized to buy all things necessary for the paupers on the poor farm. 

On Oct 18, 1892 John Elliott was declared a pauper and admitted to the poor farm. 

Nov 19, 1892 the Court employed T. J. McClendon to seal all the buildings on the poor farm, complete the walls, and put up doors where needed except the house being used for cooking purposes.  

Nov 29, 1892 the Court employed John Thomas to complete the houses, using the old lumber from the courthouse.  

In a called session of the Commissioners Court on Dec 20, 1892, W. J. Copeland entered into contract to superintend the Bowie County Poor Farm for a term of 12 months beginning Jan 1, 1893.  In his contract he stated to faithfully perform all duties encumbered upon me as such superintendent, including the planting, and cultivation of five acres of land in garden and such crops as thought most profitable.  He also agreed to get out posts, railings and pilings and build a good garden fence and furnish four mulch cows and one workhouse.  Also to fence 4 or 5 acres of land with new rails at no cost.  All of the above was to be done for $20.00 per month. 

Also on this date Elizabeth Fee was admitted to the poor farm. 

On Feb 15, 1893, W. C. Lewis and Wm. Askew made application to be allowed from the county $15.00 per month for their support.  These applications were rejected by the Court as in their opinion that they had established a poor farm in the county where they live, spent considerable money in preparing to take care of those who are dependant on the county for support, and have before entered an order that all persons who wish to be maintained at the expense of the county must be located at and become residents of the Poor Farm.  

Elizabeth Fee left the poor farm in Aug 1893 when the county purchased a ticket to send her to her relatives in Mississippi. 

The Commissioners Court Minutes show merchandise for the poor farm was purchased from the local stores in New Boston.  They also show several individuals were employed to do various things for the Poor Farm, such as Mrs. Sarah Duffer for sewing, someone to do the washing, John Thomas for work, and W. P. Duffer for repairing and drying out the spring. 

On May 17, 1894, Charlie Ware made application and granted to go on the poor farm. 

Jun 20, 1894, it was ordered that the poor farm be fenced in with barbed wire except the front part which shall be left so as not to interfere with the wagon road running across the front part of the tract.

Nov 16, 1894 W. J. Copeland was again appointed Superintendent of the County Poor Farm for the year 1895 upon the same terms that he is now acting under.  Records show that he was the superintendent for 1894 although no record was found of his appointment. 

Feb 12, 1895 the Fletcher family was admitted to the poor farm to be cared for by the County.  They had been living near the water tank, in destitute circumstances and being cared for by their neighbors. 

Aug 12, 1895 The Court awarded a contract to E. W. Cavin to erect and complete a two-room box house on the poor farm. 

On Nov 15, 1895 E. W. Watlington made application and was granted a contract to be the Superintendent of the Poor Farm.  His contract was for one year commencing Jan 1, 1896 and is as follows:

            1st  Agreed by the Court that he is to receive twenty dollars per month for his services.

            2nd  Upon his part it is agreed that he is to give his whole time and attention to the cultivation of said Poor Farm and the care of the inmates upon said poor farm and the repairs necessary.  He is to furnish wagon and team and do all hauling necessary for said poor farm and furnish all plow team necessary to cultivating said farm.  He is to furnish three cows and calves and milk the same for the benefit of said farm.  He is to furnish or raise the feed for his team.  He is to cultivate and raise a good garden and truck patches consisting of sweet and Irish potatoes, peas and turnips.  He is to have the cooking done and is to practice prudence and economy in buying the provisions for said farm.

            3rd  The County is to furnish all the provisions for the Superintendent and his family and the inmates of said farm and furnish seed for planting on said farm and furnish feed for the milk cows during the winter season while in use and the County is to pay extra for washing and sewing for the inmates of the poor farm not able to do their own washing and sewing. 

Nov 11, 1896 the Court heard and after considering all the facts circumstances surrounding Wm Askew and Bill Lewis, both blind, to make an exception to the requirement of residing at the Poor Farm and allowed them $8.00 each per month. 

In Nov 1896 E. W. Watlington was retained as the Superintendent for another year under the terms of the existing contract. 

Dec 1896 tickets for Hot Springs were purchased for Mrs. Helms and three children who were on the poor farm.  Also a ticket was purchased to Memphis, Tenn., for one ______ Dice who was on the Poor Farm.  John Huddleston, wife and three children were admitted to the Poor Farm. 

Feb 1897 May Game was received at the Bowie County Poor Farm. 

The Minutes show claims being paid for tickets for paupers, for hauling paupers to the Poor Farm and burying paupers but no names are shown.  Many claims were made for burying paupers from individuals from all areas of the County.  It must be assumed that all were not inmates of the Poor Farm.  Also burial places are not known.  Also the County furnished medical assistance to the paupers. 

E. W. Watlington was awarded the contract to be Superintendent of the Poor Farm for the year 1898 at $25.00 per month.  He to have washing and sewing done and it is expressly ordered that all produce raised on said farm be used to support the inmates of same.  He is instructed to use every effort in his power to utilize the produce of said farm so far as it is in his powers to feed and support said inmates. And that he uses every effort to reduce the expenses and store accounts as we realize that it is a great burden to Bowie County and he should exercise the interest, prudence and economy. 

Nov 1898 the contract to keep the Poor Farm was let to C. H. Rochelle for one year. 

On Nov 18, 1899 the contract as keeper and manager of the County Poor Farm was awarded to E. W. Watlington.  Also he was awarded the contract again on Nov 22, 1900. 

The 1900 Census of Bowie County shows that E. W. Watlington, age 35 was the manager of the Poor Farm.  Also in the household were his wife, Edna, age 23, daughters Mamie B, 4, and Mary F, 2; son James R. 6 months.  Listed as boarders (inmates) were Mollie White, 53; James Bennett, 50, both single; and John Johnson, 40, widow and Jake Johnson age 6.  

Nov 16, 1901 Jeff B. Williams was appointed Superintendent under the same terms of the existing contract.  

Feb 18, 1902 the Commissioners’ Court was petition for support of Allen Bius as a pauper which was allowed.  On Nov 11, 1903 E. T. Warner made application as a pauper and was granted a claim.  Aug 9, 1904, Elizabeth Walker was placed on the County as a pauper at the sum of $5.00 per month. 

Excerpt for a U. S. Government Report summarizing various state poor laws in 1904.

“TEXAS:  The County Commissioners have the duty to provide for the support of paupers, resident of their counties, who are unable to care of themselves, to send indigent sick to county hospitals where such are established, and to bury the pauper dead.  The commissioners may, by contract, bind a county in any reasonable sum for pauper support, and are authorized to employ physicians to the poor, etc.  The alshouses are under the manager of the county commissioners.”

Except for these general provisions, there are no special statutes governing in detail poor relief and the management of almshouses. 


On Nov 22, 1904 the following RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING POOR FARM were made

It is ordered by the Commissioners Court that the Superintendent of the Poor Farm be and he is hereby required to enter into bond in the sum of Five Hundred Dollars to be approved by the Commissioners Court, payable to the County Judge and his successors in office conditioned that

1st  He will give his personal attention to the superintendence of said poor farm and the care of the paupers living thereon, and that he will treat all those paupers humanely and provide them with necessary and suitable lodging, raiment and medical attention and medicine and good and wholesome and sufficient food, and will make the reports required of him by the Commissioners Court.

2nd  It is further ordered by the Court that the superintendent of the poor farm be and he is hereby authorized to purchase upon the credit of the County all necessary food, supplies and provisions and clothing and medicine necessary to the conduct and maintenance of the poor farm of said County, and the care of the charges residing thereon.

3rd  It is further ordered by the Court that the superintendent of the poor farm be and he is hereby required to report in writing and under oath so each term of the Commissioners Court a statement of the amount of all bills incurred and contracted by him, attaching to such statement itemized accounts of such bills, and such superintendent shall be required to state in such report that he has purchased nothing for the use of such poor farm except necessary supplies of provisions, food, medicine and clothing for the charges of said farm, and agreed to pay no more than the current cash market price therefore, and that all the items in the bills attached to such statement were necessaries and were being used in the maintenance of said farm. 

Nov 25, 1904 John H. King was appointed Superintendent in place of Jeff B. Williams, who services had been ordered dispensed with by the Commissioners’ Court. 

An application was granted for a public road from the Court House to the County Poor Farm on Feb 22, 1905.  The road began at the southwest corner of the Court House square and ran west to the east boundary line of land owned by E. H. Cookman, then south to the north boundary line of land owned by B. T. Cowley; then west to land running south to the residence of E. H. Cookman, thence south to the land lines of land owned by J. W. Read and E. H. Cookman, then in a westerly course to the road leading south by the Read Hill Cemetery, in a southerly course by said cemetery to the County Poor Farm. 

Nathan Lhotka (?) was admitted to the Poor Farm due to his physical condition and disability to perform any kind of labor whatever. 

John H. King was again appointed Superintendent of the County Poor Farm for the year 1906.  He resigned on Aug 16, 1906 at which time C. D. was appointed Superintendent to fill the unexpired term.  On Nov 16, 1906 Mr. Duffer was appointed again to serve until the further orders of the Court.  He was reappointed on Nov 13, 1907, Nov 30, 1908 for two years, and Nov 18, 1910 for two years. 

The 1910 Census for Bowie County does not have any inmates on the County Farm.  Charley Duffer is listed as head, with his wife Ada and sister-in-law, Annie Cavin.  No records were found of the inmates leaving of Poor Farm or their deaths. 

On Feb 28, 1911 the Commissioners Court voted to purchase a house and six acres of J. T. Moody for the sum of $700.00 to be used as the County Poor Farm.  This land was closer to the Court House.  The original County Farm was sold to Tobe Morris for $600.00.  Also sold to Mr. Morris for $1400.00 was the land used as the Convict Farm, which was adjacent to the Poor Farm. 

Ben Carlton, blind, and Mrs. T. T. Martin, old and feeble, were added to the Pauper’s List in May 1911.  J. M. Fielding and Mrs. Wilcox were allowed $5.00 each per month in Mar 1913.  Mrs. Helvenson, a widow, was added to list in Jul 1913.  Mrs. Dudley, old and feeble, was placed on the list in May 1914.  The records do not show any persons being placed on the County Poor Farm.  The next several years show citizens being added to the Pauper List of Bowie County.  During this time the County was also responsible for an allowance to citizens under the Widow’s Pension Law. 

On Jun 17, 1914, W. E. Fussell, Manager of the Poor Farm made an application, which was granted, to buy a pair of mules with wagon and set of harness for the Poor Farm.

Date of his first appointment was not located in the records but he was again appointed in Nov 1914, Nov 1916, Nov 1918, Dec 1920, 

On Aug 17, 1917 a contract was awarded to W. A. Simpson to cover the two houses on the Poor Farm.  Apr 12, 1921 the Court voted to buy wire and have a yard fence built at the Poor Farm.  The Court authorized the purchase a milk cow on Aug 9, 1921 for the benefit of the Poor Farm.  On Apr 10, 1922 the Commissioners Court awarded a contract for digging a well at the County Water Works, which was located at the Poor Farm. 

Jan 8, 1923, W. E. Fussell was appointed Superintendent of the County Poor Farm and for pumping water for the Court House, Jail and poor Farm. 

A contract was awarded on Apr 9, 1923 to James A. Lynch for painting the three houses at the County Poor Farm. 

The Commissioners’ Court authorized on Jul 9, 1923, to purchase one acre of land from Lloyd Wilson to be used for a Pauper’s Cemetery.  This land joins the Read Hill Cemetery on the north fence line.  No graves are marked in this area and the land was not fenced by the County. The exact burial places before this are not known but believe many were buried in the Read Hill Cemetery.  According to the minutes of the Read Hill Cemetery Association, Nov 24, 1903, “it was decided to change the paupers ground upon the hill”.  It is believed that this location was on the north side along the fence line. 

Mrs. Randolph was admitted to the Poor Farm on Oct 8, 1923.  This is the first record of an admission to the poor farm in the records for many years.  Many must have been admitted without them being recorded in the Commissioners Court Minutes.  No records kept by the Superintendent have been located which would contain the admissions and departures for the Poor Farm.  According to the 1920 Census of Bowie County, William E. Fussell, 72, was the keeper of the Almshouse.  In the household were his wife, Mary E, 63; son Ruistin E, 20; inmates Thomas Corley, 74, Anne Ensley, 65, and Katie Stamps, 37. 

On Dec 8, 1924 B. L. Gatewood made application to enter the Poor Farm as an inmate.  Mr. Gatewood was very old and decrepit and unable to care for himself and that none of his children would take and support him and he agreed to deed his real estate consisting of 69 acres of land to the County for the County to care, feed, clothe him, and give him a decent burial, was admitted to the Poor Farm. 

J. R. Rutland was appointed Superintendent of the Poor Farm on Jan 12, 1925.  He resigned on Nov 16, 1925.  Charley Duffer was appointed to replace him. 

Electric lights were installed in the three buildings at the Poor Farm in June 1925. 

On Feb 14, 1927 the claim of Bloxham and Tidwell in the sum of $55.00 in payment of coffin and robe for Mr. Gatewood was presented to the Commissioners’ Court, which was allowed.  The Bowie County Death Records for B. L. Gatewood show he died Dec 11, 1926,  was a widower, about 85 years of age, an inmate of the Poor Farm.  His parents were unknown.  The informant was Mrs. C. D. Duffer and the undertaker was J. M. Tidwell.  

C. D. Duffer asked permission of the Court to advance $2.00 to Harry Coklin, an inmate of the Poor Farm, to defray his expenses to his home near Texarkana.  

C. D. Duffer resigned and J. H. Gulley was appointed Superintendent of the Poor Farm on Jan 14, 1929.  Mr. Gulley was appointed again on Jan 12, 1931. 

One of the buildings on the County Poor Farm was destroyed by fire and the Court authorized the erection of a building to properly take care of the inmates of said Poor Farm.  The contract was awarded to W. C. Cross on Mar 29, 1929 for the building to be completed in 45 days.  The building was accepted on May 13, 1929. 

According to the 1930 Census of Bowie County, James H. Gulley, 74, as Manager of the Poor Farm.  In the household are his wife, Sophia P., 63 and inmates John A. Lee, M, 78, widower; Nava J. Nalls, F, 40, single; Cordelia B. Rhodes, F, 57, widow; Caroline Sewel, F, 48, widow; John W. Jones, M, 59, widower; Francis M. Crawford, M, 76, single; Marion H. Bass, M, 55, married; Frank M. Adams, M, 66, single; Charley Dunlap, M, 45, widower; Robert B. Tisdale, M, 71, widower; John M. McMan, M, 82, Single; John H. Thompson, M, 75, married; Lue Thompson, F, 82, married; and John J. Ross, M, 80, single.    



Atchley, Mrs. E. A.                Dalby Springs

Bailey, Emiline                        Nash

Brown, Sam                           DeKalb

Chandler, Mrs. D. W.             Texarkana

Cagle, Wes                             Malta

Carleton, Ben                          DeKalb

DuBoise, E. I.                          New Boston

DuBoise, Minnie                      New Boston

Durham, H. D.                         Simms

Dean, Rachel                           DeKalb

Firth, Milton                             Simms

Firth, W. R.                             Simms

Flannery, W. C.                       Simms

Gibson, Mrs. Amanda              Simms

Holdridge, J. S.                        DeKalb

Heath, Mrs. Sarah                    Hooks

Kinsworthy, Mrs. Mary            Redwater

Landers, Mrs. Nettie                 DeKalb

Lee, S. R.                                 DeKalb

Locke, Mrs. Lou                       Simms

Martin, Mrs. Mattie                  DeKalb

Mayall, Mrs. Emma                   Texarkana

Miller, Fannie and

Miller, Miss J. A.                       Texarkana

Meadows, Mrs. C. M.               Redwater

Ohler, Jim                                  New Boston

Olds, Geo.                                 Oak Grove

Priest, L. S.                               New Boston

Quitt, Mrs. Lydia                       Carbondale

Rhea, Mrs. W. B.                      DeKalb

Reed, Mrs. Maggie                   Simms

Ramsey, Mrs. Rosa                   DeKalb

Rogers, H. C.                           DeKalb

Reagan, Mrs. Joe                      Texarkana

Spradlin, Mrs. Sallie                  DeKalb

Sisk, R. R.                                Nash

Taylor, Will                               Bassett

Taylor, Laura                            Simms

Taylor, A. R.                            Nash

Taylor, Mrs. N. E.                    Redwater

Thomas, John                           New Boston

Thornhill, G. W.                       Simms

Whetstone, Neal                      New Boston

Wyse, Mrs. M. E.                    Dalby Springs

White, I. A.                              New Boston

Watson, Mrs. J. C.                   Simms

Askew, J. T. & wife                  New Boston

Beggs, S. D. & wife                  Avery

Cameron, Sid & wife                DeKalb

Henry, D. S. & wife                  Nash

Polston, G. W. & wife              DeKalb

Richie, J. R. & wife                  DeKalb

Rushion, J. M. & wife              Hooks

Russ, N. B. & wife                  Simms

Ruddle, T. W. & wife              New Boston

Riddle, Bill & wife                   Maud

Sledge, L. C. & wife               Dalby Springs

Walker, Martin & wife            New Boston

Lewis, J. L. & wife                  Avery 


Brown, Mrs. Mary                Texarkana

Brown, Mrs. Eunice              New Boston

Draper, Mrs. M. A.              Texarkana

Holmes, Mrs. Paul                Texarkana

Kelley, Mrs. Lon                  Nash

McDonald, Mrs. C. C.         DeKalb

Rose, Mrs. Nettie                 Hooks

Slaughter, Mrs. Eva              Texarkana

Oct 18, 1931.  “On this day came on to be considered by the Court the payment of Pauper and Widow’s Pension Claims, and said matter having been considered by the Court, the Court being of the opinion that was necessary to make an order discontinuing the payment of such claims, until the further order of the Court, on account of the lack of funds with which to pay said claims, a motion was made by L. W. Gay, Commissioner Precinct No. Two, duly seconded by E. M. Rochelle, Commissioner Precinct No. One, put to a vote and declared carried, that the payment of all pauper and widow’s pension claims be discontinued from and after this date, except such parties who have heretofore deeded their property to Bowie County, in consideration of the payment of such claim.”

Between Apr 1928 and Oct 1931 the Minutes of Accounts Allowed by County Commissioners, Bowie County, and approximately 100 claims were paid for the pensions for widows and assistance for the poor.  The list was revised on Apr 15, 1931 and shows 67 claims being paid.  Two couples remained on the Pauper list because they had deeded their property to Bowie County for assistance with the right to remain on the property, at their deaths the County sold the parcels of land. 

E. C. Embry was appointed Superintendent of the Poor Farm effective Jan 1, 1932.  On Jun 2, 1932 the Court employed Willie Adams to do the barber work for the inmates.   Mr. Embry was again appointed on Jan 9, 1933 and Jan 1935. 

The following were admitted to the Poor Farm

            J. S. Cameron            Feb 13, 1933

            Henry Hearne             Feb 13, 1933

            Sam Smith                  Feb 28, 1933

            J. B. Windors             Apr 10, 1933

            R. J. Akin                   Aug 19, 1935

            Mrs. Bettie Morgan    Jun 8, 1936

            W. J. Griffis                Jul 13, 1936

            F. D. Elliott                Aug 17, 1936

            Joe Haggard               Apr 24, 1939


On Jan 5, 1937 J. F. Smith was appointed the Superintendent of the Poor Farm.

He was appointed again on Jan 10, 1939.  On Jan 1, 1941 Mr. Smith was employed again. 

The following names were placed on the Pauper List of Bowie County on Nov 12, 1941

            Mr. & Mrs. Wm. Riddle; Willis Griffis, Frank Adams, and Mrs. Callie Sewell

They were allowed a pauper claim for Nov and Dec 1941.  These were the last four inmates of the Poor Farm. 

On Dec 30, 1941 an order was made by the Commissioners Court to advertise the County Poor Farm for sale.  Jan 19, 1942 W. T. Birdwell purchased the land for $1550.00 including all personal property situated thereon belonging to Bowie County.  Thus, the end of the Poor Farm of Bowie County, Texas.  Other programs such as Old Age Assistance, WPA, NYA, and other types of welfare had been implemented by the State and Federal Governments to care for the poor and elderly.