Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1993 Page: 112
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Eleven of the 53 paupers who could not be matched to an individual on the
1880 census are described in the commissioners court minutes as aged. Ann Carter and
Mary Hartsfield are called "old and indigent," Sam Fenner is "old decrepit and sickly,"
Robert Lyons, "old and infirm," Sucky Mahon, "very old and indigent," Jim Tanner, "old
decrepit and indigent," and Becca Walker, "old poor indigent and crippled." In addition
to Sarah Preston, one other woman, Charlotte Kentucky, was blind, and another, Mrs.
W. H. Jones, nearly so. Two others, J. D. Whitley and Mark Coleman, were crippled.
One woman, Lizzie Dewees, was added to the list, not on her own behalf, but because
she had adopted a foundling.
Perhaps typical of the paupers was Lucinda Wolters, who climaxed a pitiful
life by being added to the pauper list in 1883. Married when she was 18, two husbands
died before, at the age of 35, she settled on a third, a returning Confederate veteran
named Hugo Wolters, in 1865. Some time in the next few years, he was afflicted with
palsy. Lucinda went to work to support her husband and did so until late 1881, when
she broke her leg and could not continue. On November 14, 1881, a number of citizens
presented a petition to the commissioners court asking that she and her husband be
granted some relief. The county wrote her a check for $20, followed that with $15 more
three months later, then gave her $2 on May 11 and August 18, 1882. Finally, on
February 13, 1883, she and her husband were added to the pauper list and provided a
monthly stipend of $8. Both died thirteen years later, she at the age of 66, on March
28, 1896 and he at the Confederate Home in Austin, on May 17, 1896.4
On February 17, 1883, shortly after the Wolters were added, the county's
pauper list included 47 people. Most were receiving $3 or $4 per month. One woman,
Mahon, was paid only $2 and another, Flora Gilchrist, labelled a lunatic, got $10. The
total bill for the month came to $180.50, the average expenditure per person being
$3.84. And the bill was growing. Fourteen people had been added to the pauper list
in 1882 alone. Three more had been added in February.
So it was that in July 1883, in an effort to mitigate the burgeoning expense,
the commissioners court approved the establishment of a county farm. The farm was
to serve two purposes. First, it was to house the county's paupers. Secondly, through
the labor of able residents and that of county convicts who, because they were unable
or unwilling to pay fines would be sentenced to labor on the farm, it was to produce
assorted crops both for sale and for the residents' own consumption. In fact, the county
had already taken a small step toward establishing such a facility. Since February 13,
1883, G. M. Pettit had been paid $21 a month to care for three paupers. The county
decided to expand the concept, and, drawing on models established by other counties,
advertised for bids for the first county farm.5
On August 22, William Fitzgerald Neal offered his farm some five miles east
of Alleyton for use as the county farm for the period of one year. Neal asked the
commissioners for $12 a month for each of the first ten paupers sent to his farm and
$8 a month for each additional pauper. The county readily accepted, stipulating that Neal
was to "feed, cloth and give the said paupers good shelter (houses) to live in" and that
no pauper could be admitted to the farm who had ndt first applied to and been accepted
4 See Commissioners Court Minutes 2, pp. 126, 154, 167, 202, 224, Office of the County Clerk,
Colorado County, Texas and The Colorado Citizen, April 2, 1896 and May 21, 1896.
5 See Commissioners Court Minutes 2, pp. 227, 254, Office of the County Clerk, Colorado County,
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1993, periodical, September 1993; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151389/m1/4/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.