The Lincoln County Poorfarm was purchased in 1874. It contained 239 acres and is located about 11 miles from Fayetteville in the southwestern part of Lincoln County. It is about 1.5 miles from the Yukon community and the Prosperity church. It is in a large hollow off Pea Ridge and is surrounded by large, high, and steep hills. Two more tracks of land were added to this in the 1930’s. One small farm about 2 miles south called the Pepper place and 2 miles south of that, three small tracts of land known as the Coldwater Creek bottoms were added.
The buildings consisted of a large main house where the manager and his family lived, also where all the cooking was done. It contained three dining rooms, one dining room for the manager and his family, one for black people, and one for white people. There were two other houses for residing, one house for blacks and one for whites. There was a jail, two large smoke houses, a wash house with concrete floor and a raised concrete platform with holes for the wash pots. This is where the washing of everyone’s clothes was done. There was a large building that covered the spring. It was known as the spring house and had a large walk in storage space on the second floor. There was a large livestock barn for the work mules and riding horses and cattle. Several furrowing houses for hogs were located in different places. There was also a shop to repair farm tools and a garage for the manager’s car. There was also a covered building that contained scales for weighting livestock.
When the original tract of 239 acres was bought in 1874, the price was $4,600.00. When it was sold at auction in 1961 it brought $17,100.00.
Living conditions were good on the farm. It was almost self-sustaining, salt, sugar, coffee and some other items had to be purchased, bur most of the food eaten was raised on the farm. Everyone that could helped on the farm. You were assigned some type of job to help. The men that were capable of working mules did that. Others cut wood as a large amount of that had to be done almost all year. Others worked with hoes either in the garden or the corn or cotton fields. One would shuck corn for the mules, hogs, etc.
The women had many tasks and worked with the manager’s wife, my aunt. Some worked in the kitchen, some the wash house, some in the garden, and when the farm hands could not keep up in the fields, they helped with the hoeing or picking cotton and other things. Some of the women helped with taking care of those who could not care for themselves, because of mental or physical conditions.
In the summer, cool fresh water was brought from the spring house, but water was available all year from a reservoir and spring about half way up a steep hill behind the house. It was piped in the large house and a faucet was in front of the other two houses. A shower was provided in the house where the whites lived where both the blacks and whites showered.
Much canning of fruit and vegetables was done in the summer. Men and women were taken to blackberry vines usually in a wagon. They picked in small containers, then poured them into large wash tubs to be canned later. Much meal was needed in making bread. Many bushels of shelled corn were loaded in the wagon and taken to the gristmill for grinding. This usually took about three-fourths of a day and was schedule on a day that would not keep the mules and foreman from working in the fields. The gristmills were located in Yukon and Camargo.
Much flour was needed and wheat was also raised on the farm for that. My uncle, the farm manager, took care of this, as a greater distance was required for exchanging this and was done in the farm truck.
A great supply of meat and lard was needed each year for the people. Between 40 and 50 hogs were slaughtered each year. This was always done in December during two different cold spells with 20 or 25 killed each time. The slaughtering and scalding would begin about daylight. The meat would be trimmed, the sausage ground and lard cooked out the same day. The next day, the meat would be packed in salt, the souse cooked, etc. This didn’t require many people; therefore those not needed for this could do other jobs.
Another time of year for food preparation was molasses making time. Of course this was in the early fall. The leaves had to be removed from each stalk of sorghum cane. The stalks hat to be cut and hauled to the mill. The stalks were pushed between rollers that were pulled by a mule going in a circle. This squeezed the juice out and then requ8ired cooking in big rectangular pans. The cooked product, or molasses, was put in any kind of container for preservation. This was usually gallon buckets, lard cans, or 55 gallon barrels.
My uncle and aunt, Alex and Mary Lou Carter managed the county farm for more than twenty years. There were very dedicated to their work. Plenty of food was always provided and clean clothes were a requirement each week. Chewing tobacco was provided for the men and snuff for the women, if they cared to indulge. Smoking was not allowed, as there was too much danger of fire to the wood structures.
Five Carter children were raised there and I was a frequent visitor of my first cousin, Bill Carter. We spent many hours and days together. When I graduated from High School, I was employed as Foreman there. I held this job for two years, until World War II began ending my years of county farm life and beginning Army life.
The number of people at the farm usually ran between 40 and 50. All of them were poor. They came there for many reasons, mostly because their relatives were not able to care for them. With some, the mind was not good; others were crippled by strokes or physical mishaps. I could describe many of the people to you. Ben and Sue (brother and sister) were sent there when they were very young. He had fallen out of a barn loft at a very young age. His back was broken and never treated. Naturally he was very short and had a large hunched back. Uncle, Bud, a black man, had been a porter on a Pullman train. He had traveled all over the country. He was a nice looking man with a pleasing personality. A stroke disabled him and he had no relatives and no place to go. I could tell you many stories about the men and women there and how much we thought of them as we were with them every day.
The farm was in operation until 1961 when it was sold. It had operated for a period of 87 years. Many people died there during the years. A few of these were buried by relatives in family cemeteries. Most, however, were buried in the grass lot behind the barn. Limestone rocks were put up when they were buried. But most of these have been knocked down and are gone. There is no identification on any grave. In the early spring before grass puts up, you can see the sunken spaces, a few with limestone rocks. I would estimate 100+ were buried there.
My purpose in being here today is to explain some of the operation of the old Lincoln County Poor Farm. I could tell you many more things about it would take too long. I believe that the people who lived and died there should be remembered with a memorial such as a monument. It should state the years of operation and something about the burial place. I would appeal to you, the Historical Society, County Court, and any individual or group that would like to have a part in preserving this part of the history of Lincoln County.