Henry County, Indiana PoorFacts and Figures Gathered During a Visit to the County Asylum Spring of 1889
The following story is taken from the 28 June 1889 issue of the New Castle Courier
A drive of a mile and a half northwest from New Castle will bring one to the big, thrifty farm owned by Henry County. Situated upon a gravely hill, commanding a splendid view of the surrounding country and of the metropolis of the county, sitting queen like upon a hill the hill opposite, is a large brick structure, the home of Henry county's paupers.
Barns and other smaller buildings cluster around the asylum, giving the place the appearance of a small village. A broad driveway leads up the hill from the northwestern pike to the house where the surroundings at this of the year are pleasant and inviting. A large well-kept lawn surrounds the building, which resemble, in outward appearance the pleasant home of a prosperous farmer.
On arriving at the farm the visitor receives a cordial welcome from the superintendent, Daniel Harvey, his wife and daughter, Phebe. The house is always open to callers and many people visit the place through curiosity and to get a glimpse of the daily life of the unfortunates confined within. But pleasant and inviting as are the surroundings upon the outside, a trip through the buildings reveals many unpleasant sights. But here humanity may be seen at its worst, pitiable, repulsive, under restraints, for they are nearly all afflicted with in some way, mentally or physically, and some are hopelessly insane.
A visit through the main building reveals everything neat, clean and as comfortable as it can possibly be made and nothing is left undone that can add to the surroundings. Every room in the house is a model of neatness, the beds are well furnished and clean, there is plenty to eat and kind treatment, yet a visit leaves no pleasant impression upon one. The inmates are the isolated unfortunates of the world, victims of a cruel fate, friendless outcasts, sufferers from disease and infirmities, with their days of realization that there is enjoyment in life all past, and now in the purgatory of mere existence they look forward to nothing but death to relieve them of their unhappy being. Decrepit age and innocent youth; strong men and women afflicted with epilepsy; people who are vicious and violent, requiring the firm hand of discipline to govern them; poor, pitiable, feeble minded persons incapable of caring for themselves, are some of the characters one finds in the county asylum.
There are at the present time thirty-seven inmates, including twenty-one men, twelve women and four children. Of this number there are four afflicted with epilepsy, one woman and three men, and two crazy. The majority of these unfortunates are old people and among the number is one woman who is nearly a hundred years old. The health of the inmates is remarkably good; a physician has not been called to the farm for three months. This is probably due to the forced habits of cleanliness required and the sanitary conditions of the place, which are of the very best. Probably in no charitable institution in the country do the wards fare so well as in the Henry county Asylum. They not only have plenty to eat but their food is well cooked and of good quality. Good wheat bread, meat and plenty of good vegetables.
But in turn for the care and kind treatment they receive, those able to work are required to perform some daily labor and as a result the farm is one of the best cultivated and most prosperous in the county. The farm embraces two hundred and ninety acres, about one hundred of which is in cultivation, including pasture; and ninety acres of woods pasture. There are about eighty-five acres of corn, thirty-three acres of wheat, eleven acres of meadow and three acres in potatoes now, all of which is in excellent condition and the prospects for a large crop are fine.
A representative for the Courier visited the farm on Tuesday and was shown over the entire premises by superintendent Harvey, who may well be proud of the showing he has made in the last few years. The fences are in excellent repair and the entire farm is in a high state of cultivation. Within the last year, with the assistance of one hand and the paupers, Mr. Harvey has cleared the underbrush and grubbed the roots from sixty acres of timber land and set the same in bluegrass which is now one of the most beautiful woods pasture imaginable. He has also fenced off and redeemed from and almost impenetrable growth of brush and briars an eight acre field, which had not been cultivated since the farm has been owned by the county. The field is planted in corn and will yield an excellent crop this year. Every detail shows a perfect system in the work. Henry County can boast of one of the finest cultivated farms and the best-regulated asylum in the State, and to Superintendent Harvey, wife and daughter is due the credit for the high standard of excellence shown in the institution.