The management of the House of Industry and Refuge and the lives of the people that stayed in the House changed quite a bit over the 82 years of operation. In this section, you will be able to find answers to many questions you may have about the House, such as why it was built, who was sent to live there, what the “inmates” daily routines looked like, and how poorhouses changed how we viewed charity and social policy in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The following information was adapted from content developed by the Region of Waterloo Archives as part of a commemorative project and used with permission
The House of Industry and Refuge was built based on the requirements of the 1867 Municipal Act which stated that all municipalities were to provide support for residents requiring assistance. To the right is the first mention of this new act in the Waterloo County Meeting Minutes.
In 1867, the local government began planning how and where they were going to build the Waterloo County House of Refuge. They initially advertised for anyone who owned farm land in the Waterloo County who was willing to sell it for a reasonable price. After they purchased the 146-acre land from John Eby, they then advertised for a contractor to develop and plan outlines for the construction of the House and to build the House itself.
By-Law 141 which was passed in 1868, outlined the reasoning for the erection of the Poorhouse and what is required to maintain the House thereafter. Below is the by-law from the Waterloo County Minutes.
The contract to build the House of Industry and Refuge was awarded to Lewis Kribs in 1868 who presented the Standing Committee with the lowest amount of expenses at $8908.00. Lewis was paid monthly for his work and for the costs of buying material for the House. The construction began in 1868 after the purchase of the land from John Eby whose plot of farm land was chosen as it was 141 acres and was just a few minutes walk from the County Court House. John charged $64.00 per acre which came to a total of $9024.00. All of the work and resources to build the main building was done by members of the local community, many of which were from or family members of the County Council. Below is bill for the final work done on the House of Industry in 1869.
The original plan was laid out to the Waterloo County Council one day before the first person was committed to the House. In this document, Hugo Kranz, the then-Reeve of Berlin and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the House of Industry and Refuge, outlined the work that had been done in preparation for the opening of the Poorhouse. They had 50 beds available for the residents and more if required, which was in fact necessary by October of that year when the inmates surpassed the 50 mark. The food supply was arranged ahead of time with various local butchers, bakers and grocers. Recommendations were made for the addition of fences and gates around the property and outhouses to be behind the main building instead of inside the home. The Committee originally estimated that it would cost $1.00/inmate/week to cover the expenses of caring for the residents. We know that for 1870, there were 121 people admitted to the House throughout the year, of which 51 were in the House still in December 1870. The average expense per inmate was $53.30. This was in line with the original prediction that was made a year prior. Furthermore, in 1872, with 81 people admitted to the Poorhouse over the year and 63 still remaining in the House, the average expense per inmate was $65.41. The inmates usually never went over costing more than $1.00 per week each.
At the inception of the Poorhouse in 1869, people were committed by their county’s Reeve, Deputy Reeve, Mayor or Warden who would provide the person with a letter detailing why they needed to be committed to the Poorhouse, accompanied by their signature and seal. Below is By-Law #157 that was passed to ensure that any expenses for transporting a person to the House was provided by the municipality where they come from.
Below is what the form that the Reeve or Warden had to sign in order to commit an inmate to the House. It outlined that the person was in fact from the county they say they were from and that they are no longer able to support their self. The Keeper would then fill out the bottom half of the form, approving the person’s commitment.
In 1897, the by-law was amended to uphold that no person can be committed to the Poorhouse that hasn’t lived in their County of origin for at least two years. This was due to the fact that many people would be committed to the House who had only lived in their town of arrival for a few days or weeks, this mostly applying to newcomers and immigrants from other countries and provinces. If the person was living in the region for less than two years, they would be sent to a “house of correction” which at the time was the County Gaol. The by-law to the right is the amendment that was created to reflect this new law. Not allowing anyone out of the regional boundaries was always a general rule, however it was never enforced by-law. Less immigrants were being admitted to the House after this was passed in 1897.
Below is the new form that was created to reflect by-law #466.
The by-law to commit paupers to the House changed once again in 1901 when an amendment was made to include the following ” nor shall any person having any contagious or infectious disease be committed to said House of Refuge and no female being enceinte shall be admitted as an inmate unless she shall first sign an agreement to remain in the House for a period of not exceeding two years.” (Source: Journal of Proceedings and By-Laws of the Municipal Council of the County of Waterloo 1901, Region of Waterloo Archives) This was due to the new laws prohibiting children from entering institutions where adults suffering from mental and physical disabilities resided.
There were many people that worked and contributed to the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the House, however it is not always clear how many people worked in the House at one time and what their specific roles were. Sometimes people employed by the House would only stay there for a couple of months and had many roles which would often be listed in the Keeper’s Cash Accounts as payment or wages for “sundries” (which means various items not important enough to be mentioned individually). In the yearly reports that were sent by the Inspector of the House to the County of Waterloo, it was outlined how many staff members were living at the House over the course of the year. Below is an example of the Inspectors Report done in 1870, showing that there was an average of 49 inmates throughout the year, and 58 people when including the Keeper’s family and the “hired help” that lived and worked at the House. That means that besides the Keeper and his family of three, there were six other staff that were staying at the House at some point over the year. In the 1871 Census of Canada, there were seven people listed as “servants” under the McMahon’s family, two of which were under the ages 15.
Those that did work and live in the House had their own separate quarters away from the inmates and the manager and his family. They could live their with the family, if they so chose, which happened a few times, such as the Schroeder family and the Reading family.
The jobs of those working in the Poorhouse varied and depended on the person’s experience or comfort level, but mostly they did cleaning, painting (such as whitewashing), farm labour (such as teamster, hay barreling and taking care of the farm animals), small mechanical repairs, sewing and clothing repairs, and taking care of the inmates as a “hospital nurse”. To the left is an example of what some staff members were earning in 1870. The position of “Hospital Nurse” which Joseph Michael Carl held for almost twenty years was paid very well at about $48.00/year. Likewise, a staff member that worked as a farm hand and did plowing on the farm earned $34.40.
Besides paid staff, there were also inmates who were paid to do work for the House. Their roles and responsibilities were also fairly ambiguously outlined in the Keeper’s Cash Books, but they earned significantly less than someone hired as staff. Lydia Stockley is a good exam of this. She lived in the Poorhouse as an inmate for many years and did work for them as the hospital nurse, which most likely consisted of cleaning up after inmates and taking care of those that were not physically-abled. For her work as “hospital waiter” she earned $2.00 ( the time period that she was being paid for wasn’t outlined).
There were many people that were contracted from the local towns to do odd jobs, such as blacksmith, sew clothing, provide meat, bread, and produce, and medicines, do construction and repairs on the House, and do work on the farm.
There was a physician employed by the County of Waterloo to take care of residents and make trips to the House once a week or in emergencies. The physician did not live at the House but usually lived in Kitchener and was able to access the House when needed.
The original duties of the physician were to: attend all cases of sickness, record causes of death, record births, and make recommendations to improve the overall well-being of the inmates.
Some of the recommendations that the physician has made include the erection of the pest house in order to isolate contagious diseases and better ventilation throughout the House.
The physician had a small office on the main floor with a small dispensary stocked by the town druggist to aid common ailments such as stomach pains and the flu. There was a hospital wing on the second floor through the Women’s Wing that he would have to attend to on his visits to check-up on inmates who had more severe or chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease or dementia.
The salary of the physician was always $200.00/year until 1920 when the salary increased to $300.00/year. All of his equipment and drugs that he needed were provided for by the House of Refuge.
As the House Physician often only made visits once a week, he would usually have another job in town, sometimes in local politics or in medicine.
Below is the full list of doctors that worked as the Physician of the House over the course of time that the House was open.
o John William Walden, House of Refuge Physician, 1869-1881
o Joseph H Webb, M.D. House of Refuge Physician, 1881
o Henry George Lackner, M.D. House of Refuge Physician, 1882-1925
o F.R. Harvey, M.D. House of Refuge Physician, 1926
o A.T. Turner, M.D. House of Refuge Physician, 1927-1943
o N.R. McMurchy, House of Refuge Physician, 1944-1952
o N.R. McMurchy, Home for the Aged Physician, 1952-1956
o W. J. McGibbon, M.D. House of Refuge Physician, 1957
The House of Industry and Refuge was located on Frederick Street in Kitchener, Ontario where the A.R. Goudie Eventide Home and Frederick Street Mall are today. Below is a map from 1924 depicting where the main property and farm were located.
The House was in operation from June 1869 until 1957. The House began transitioning to an “Old Aged Home” as early as 1920 and the term “Industry” was dropped from the title of the House at the beginning of the 20th century.
Approximately 3200 people were committed to the House of Refuge over the 88 years it was in operation. The Manager and Matron and their family as well as some employees also lived at the House. The average number of inmates and staff living in the House between 1870-1900 was 90.
The original house was expected to accommodate about 100 people. However, the capacity of the House expanded over time to accommodate more residents. For example, in 1925 the house was renovated to accommodate 160 people. By 1949 there was more concern about over crowding.
A house of industry, or workhouse, was designed to lodge poor people and force those that were physically able to work for their food and board and to help the house make a profit. This was the initial way of dealing with poor people who were seen as a burden to the system and were “undeserving” of any charitable resources provided by the government or churches. Farms were often added to the house of industry property in order to put inmates to work.
The institution was originally intended to be self sufficient by means of operating a farm. Residents were expected to contribute to farm and household tasks. The sale of farm goods was intended to cover the costs of the institution. Over the years several additional farms throughout the County were purchased and sold. Farming continued at the House until 1956.
The yield that the farm produced tried to off-set the cost of the inmates, therefore the higher the yield from the farm, the lower the cost per inmate.
The resident’s were buried in the House of Refuge Cemetery which was located behind the House of Refuge.
The original County of Waterloo By-Law 157 section 8 states: “That a suitable place on some part of the Industrial Farm lying within the Township of Waterloo, shall be erected for a Burial ground for the burial of such of the pauper inmates as may die in the House of Industry and Refuge, (and whose friends do not claim their bodies for interment,) said Burial ground shall be fenced in and properly laid out in tiers or rows, and graves to be plainly numbered. A Burial Register shall be kept in the form of schedule C. to this by-law.”
Bodies were often claimed by family or friends and buried in church or community cemeteries.
Below is a picture of the House and the approximate location of the graveyard from 1932.
The burial site along with the resident’s burial plaques were left unmarked. It is unclear why this was the practice.
The Pest House or the Isolation Hospital was described as “a little red brick of two rooms, called a pest-house, which was used as an isolation hospital”. It was built in 1870 under the recommendation of the Physician of the House, Dr. John W. Walden, who said the House needed an area to isolate infectious and critically ill residents from other residents. It was described as being approximately 1200 feet from the main property.
People coming to the House would sometimes carry contagious diseases and try and enter the House. If they weren’t resident’s of the County, such as immigrants coming from Europe or the United States, they could be sent to gaol for trying to enter the House.
The first resident admitted to the House was James White, a 55-year-old labourer who was sick. He died at the House 31 days later. It wasn’t until 1895 when the first hospital opened in Waterloo County, the Berlin Waterloo Hospital (now the Grand River Hospital), that people suffering of illness or disease could be treated by in a fully-equipped hospital. In the early 19th century, anyone that was physically sick or had mental distress would be sent to gaol, an insane asylum or a poorhouse because there was no hospital or care centers to treat these people.
Residents of all ages, nationalities, and race were admitted to the House for various reasons including sickness, mental distress, physical disability, destitution or living in poverty, or because their parent was in the House or they were deserted by their family. Sometimes a full family would enter the Poorhouse because they had just immigrated to the region and had nowhere else to go or they were at a lack of resources to sustain them.
In 1869 the various causes of pauperism were listed as “sickness, destitution, intemperance, immigrant, lame, old age, vagrancy, parents absconded, parents in goal, blind, orphan, idiotic.”
Yes, people were able to pay for their room and board if they chose to stay at the House. Further, a family member, friend or township could send someone to the House and pay for them to stay there. For examply, Timothy McPherson was sent to the Poorhouse on May 7, 1872 at the age of 78 for being labelled “old age and crippled”. He was sent by the township of South Dumfries (Brant County) and they paid $2.50 per week to keep him at the House for a year ($130.00 total). He died at the House on April 28, 1874 from “opium eating”.
The practice of paying for food and board seemed to begin just a few months after the House opened, with residents being charged between $1.00-3.00 per week to cover the costs of their bed, clothes and food. In the Registry, they would be listed as a “paying patient”.
Below is an excerpt from the Meeting Minutes of the Standing Committee for the first inmate to be labelled as a “paying patient”.
House of Industry & Refuge
Berlin [1st] March 1870
The Standing Committee on House of Industry & Refuge met this day –
Present Messrs Kranz, Martinson, McNally and Tye –[…]Resolved That the Keeper be and is hereby authorized to receive until further orders at the rate of $3.00 per week as payment of Board and Lodging and medical attendance for one Michael [Pioth] received into the House as an Inmate on the 26th [ultimo] –
Residents were allowed to stay at the House for as long as they wanted as long as they remained “eligible”. This meant that if they were brought back to health from the House Physician, if they found work or a place to stay with a family member or a friend, or if a child was sent out to work as an apprentice or sent to an orphanage, then they would be asked to leave the House. Sometimes, if their conditions worsened, they would be sent to a different institution, most likely an insane asylum, in order to be treated and cared for there.
Residents left the House for a variety of reasons. Some left to go live with friends or family who had arranged to take care of them. Some moved to a different municipality to find work or to live with a distance family member or were transferred to a different institution by the Board, such as the London Insane Asylum. Some children were bound out for service, meaning, they were sent to work in a house, farm or at an occupation in order to learn a trade and to earn money. Other children were taken by their mothers or a different family member, or sent to an orphanage.
There were a few people that would be re-committed to the House after absconding, no longer having financial resources or being abandoned by their family or, for women, becoming pregnant again and not being able to care for the child. For some men, they would enter the Poorhouse in the fall as their seasonal work would be finished for the year, stay in the House during the cold months, and leave in the spring to start working on the farm again.
Between 1869 and 1907, unclaimed bodies were buried in one of the two cemeteries located on the House property. These graves were unmarked but there was a record kept of all deaths that occurred at the House.
The Ontario Anatomy Act of 1907 required that the bodies of people who died in any public institutions, which included County houses of refuge and insane asylums, and were still unclaimed thirty-four hours after death by relatives or friends, should be sent to Medical College School of Anatomy in Toronto to be used by students in scientific research. Below is the By-Law passed in 1907 outlining the steps to follow in order to send people to the School of Anatomy.
The first person from the Poorhouse to be sent to the School of Anatomy was Frederick “Bismark” Marti in 1904. This shows that even before the Anatomy Act was passed in 1907, bodies were being sent to the School for research.
Daily life for people living in the House changed significantly between 1869-1957. In the first few years, we know that the Rules and Regulations that were originally outlined and posted at the Poorhouse for inmates to read were followed according to William Jaffray’s accounts. Below is a list of the rules for the House.
We are not sure when and if the managers and residents stopped following all of the rules, such as the morning bell. Most of the rules attested to including “severe punishment” if they were not followed, such as violating the Sabbath Day (Sunday in this case and religious holidays), leaving the confines of the House (for anyone that “absconded” they would be sent to the County Gaol as punishment), using profanity, and drinking on the premise. Depending on the severity of offense, the inmate would either be sent to one of the “jail” cells located in the House or to the County Gaol.
According to Jaffray, the inmates were locked in their “apartments” over night and woken up at 5:00 every morning, except for Sabbath Day, by a bell:
The inmates were then allowed to go to the washroom and a second bell would ring for breakfast. The inmates were separated by genders, the children being put with the women. The keeper would watch over the men while they ate while the Matron watched over the women and children. And inmates that were physically unable to make it to breakfast would be escorted by a servant or they would get their meals brought to them. For breakfast, they were served porridge with milk, coffee, potatoes and bread. Lunch was soup, meat, bread and potatoes and dinner was tea, meat, bread and fruit depending on the season.
For clothing, we do know that the inmates were given clothing once they arrive at the House. We also know that the House would provide meals and some articles of clothing to the “tramps” who were living on the streets of Berlin and not residing at the Poorhouse. This was recorded in the Logbook Registry. Below is an example of this for the year 1880 where the House provided 187 meals for “tramps”.
If the inmate was able-bodied, they were given a task to do throughout the day, such as doing the laundry, sewing and repairing clothing, cleaning the house, taking care of other inmates, chopping and preparing the food, house repairs, working on the farm, or tending to the animals. Depending on each person’s skills, they would most likely be assigned a task they had previously done. This was the case for most of the women who came to the House as domestics or housewives and continued to do house chores as their tasks in the House. Some inmates were paid for their work in the House while others were not. This could have been due to the type of job they were performing. For example, Lydia Stockley was paid $2.00 for her work as a “hospital nurse” while living in the House as an inmate. There is another story of Michael Carl who worked and lived at the House of Industry for a few decades before attempting to enter the House as an inmate in the 1890s.
Most of the able-bodied men worked on the farm.
I find four or five of the male inmates doing good service with the spade; but these with the exception of three or four women, are the only paupers who an do anything like hard work, out of the large number kept at the public expense.
– “A Day at the Waterloo Poor House”, a Lecture Delivered by William Jaffray 1870; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives
William Jaffray’s mentions a second time that there were only 3 people who were “paying for their living” and they were doing labour such as making clothes pegs, sawing wood, and knitting.
Based on some of the earnings of the House, we can also discover some of the jobs the inmates had. From the House and Farm Expenditures records, the House was selling rags, knitted socks, and quilts.
On average, there were about 9 staff members working and sometimes living in the House with the inmates who were doing the majority of the bigger jobs and tasks such as cooking the meals, working on the farm, and tending to the animals.
One of the first rules that was created for the inmates of the Poorhouse stated that they were to bathe once every two weeks.
There were 8 barrels for a cistern installed beside the House during construction in early 1869. This water would have been used for cooking, cleaning and for the bathrooms.
It is unclear at the beginning how the staff members were making hot water, whether it be boiled and from a well or if they have a water system in place to heat the water. There were more water tanks installed beside the Wash House (for laundry purposes mostly) in 1877. A water softening system wasn’t installed in the House until 1923. We can imagine that there were allocated bath tubs that the inmates had to share once every two weeks.
William Jaffray mentions homemade soap in his article from 1870 where he is describing the morning routine for the inmates.
…there is a strong determination of pauper flesh and blood to the wash-room, in search of cleanliness at an unlimited expenditure of the powerful home-made soap the matron has provided.
-“A Day at the Waterloo Poor House”, a Lecture Delivered by William Jaffray
The House purchased soap for the inmates every few months or so, depending on the need. Below are two examples of this, the first from 1871 for 118 lbs. of hand soap for $0.08/lb. and the second from 1886 was 594 lbs. of soap for $0.08 per lb.
A Bath House was proposed for the inmates in 1882.
House of Indy & Refuge
Berlin 3rd March 1882
The Standing Committee met this day –
Present Messrs Buchanan, Groh, Jaffray, Snyder J.B. Staebler, Walter and the Warden –
Mr Jaffray in the Chair –[…]Moved by Mr. Snyder and seconded by Mr Buchanan That the Reeve of Berlin and the Keeper be invited to prepare plan & specifications for the proposed Bath House and report therein at next quarterly meeting of Committee in June –Carried –
The Standing Committee asked that the bath rooms of the inmates be heated by steam in 1894.
Berlin 4th Augt. 1894
The Sub-Committee of House of Industry & Refuge met this day –
Present Messrs Kaiser, McAuslan, Otterbein, Snyder and the Warden.[…]
- Moved by Mr McAuslan and secd. by Mr Snyder That Tenders be asked for the heating of the two bath rooms by steam –
From one descendant of Edward and Mary Edna Amos‘ account, there were showers and bathrooms for men and women in the basement, although these wouldn’t have been added until the 1930s or 1940s. It is unclear if these were used for all the residents of just for the staff, whose quarters and living area were in the basement.
Another aspect of hygiene was grooming men’s facial hair. In the first years of the Poorhouse, it was the keeper’s duty to shave the male inmates faces. Below is an extract from William Jaffray’s article that paints the scene of the inmates receiving their weekly shave.
When the House of Industry and Refuge was first built in 1869, wash stands were purchased to do the laundry of the inmates and staff that were living at the House as well as any linens and bed sheets from the inmates. There were eight wash stands purchased for $1.00 each. At the beginning, the washing was done somewhere in the House. To the right is a photo of wash stands with wash tubs. This could have been similar to what the setup looked like for the House. Typically in the 19th century, washing was down using warm or hot water in a large washing tub with a bar of laundry soap to create a lather. It would all be done by hand or by using a plunger or a large handle to stir the laundry in the tub.
In 1873, the Standing Committee to the House recommended that there be a separate Wash House build at the rear of the House. It would also work as the woodshed. The Keeper, Richard McMahon, drew up a proposal for the building of a Wash House.
In 1874, according to the Meeting Minutes of the Standing Committee, the final proposal was approved which now consisted of the following:
House of Industry & Refuge
Berlin 29th May 1874
The Standing Committee on House of Industry & Refuge met this day –
Present The Warden and Messrs, Merner, Otterbein, Snyder & Springer –[…]The Keeper then submitted his plan for the proposed building to be used as Wash House, Woodshed and cells for Idiots and for purposes of discipline –It was then ordered that the Clerk procure from same competent party as estimate of the Cost of erecting a plain brick building 65 ft x 30 ft – one & half story high – first story to be 10 feet high and wall a brick and half thick – walls above that one brick – to provide for four windows [(Dormer)] in roof – A cellar under Wash House 20 x 30 ft – first story to be divided by two partitions – wood – [lath] & plaster and stairs – and submit same to meeting of Committee next week – Carried
A water tank of about 400 barrels of water was procured for the Wash House in 1877, making it much easier and more convenient for the laundress (the woman who was employed to do the laundry) or an inmate who was doing the laundry to do their work. The floors were plastered just before winter 1877 in order to protect the Wash House against frost and ice.
By 1882, a cooking stove was installed in the Wash House for the laundry as to boil water directly in the water tub and stir it in there.
In 1907, the Standing Committee of the House was instructed to investigate the best method of “equipping the laundry”. They began to look into local businesses that were selling laundry machinery. The Standing Committee decided to purchase the laundry appliances from A.R. Williams Machinery Company out of Toronto for $973.35. For this price, they received: laundry machinery, boiler, electric motor, shafting, and pulleys. After this purchase it was concluded that the electric irons were better than the laundry stove that was being used two decades ago.
A new boiler and washing machine were purchased in 1918 along with a new extractor for the Wash House in 1921.
Plans were proposed to build a new Wash House in 1922, turning the old Wash House into sleeping apartments. There was a second washing machine purchased that year to work along side the older 1918 model.
It is unclear of what model of washing machine the House of Industry used in the early 20th century, however, to the left there is a depiction of a washing machine powered by gasoline that also has a wringer. The wringer was used to get rid of excess water instead of twisting the laundry by hand. It is assumed that all clothing was hung out to dry in the yard.
There isn’t much information given for the daily routine of the children that stayed at the Poorhouse. We do know that much of their daily life mimicked that of the adults. The children would wake at the same time as everyone else at 4:45am to go down for breakfast. The children were seated in a corner away from the adults who were separated by gender in different rooms.
Children would also be given chores to complete throughout the day. Some of their tasks would be in the kitchen, such as peeling potatoes and washing the fruit and vegetables.
Roman Catholic children living at the Poorhouse were allowed to attend the Roman Catholic Separate School in 1873. Their school was located in Maryhill which was about a 3 hour walk from the Poorhouse. It is unclear how many children attended this school and how they got there everyday, whether they walked or if they were taken by carriage.
According to a descendant of Edward and Mary Edna Amos, some of the children of the staff members would attend Natchez School, which was built in the early 1800s.
For the most part, children were to be “bound out” or “sent on trial” (sent to work for a family on their farm on as a domestic in their house) or adopted as soon as the managers or inspector could find a fit family to take them in. Below is the original by-law that outlined the binding out of children.
For more information on the binding out of children, please visit the Children page.
There was a hospital ward built on the upper level of the House for inmates that were sick or became sick while they were staying at the House. The hospital ward was fully equipped with medicines and drugs from the local druggist and the Doctor of the House would stop in once a week or more if needed.
There was no local hospital until 1885 when the Berlin-Waterloo Hospital (now the Grand River Hospital) opened. Women would often go to the House of Refuge to have their babies as this was one of their few options at the time. This ended once the B-W Hospital opened and women could be taken to the hospital to give birth.
There were a few accusations against the keepers and matrons of the House abusing inmates over the years. One of the highly publicized events is referred to as the “Scandal of 1893” which was the accumulation of accounts of abuse and neglect over the period that Peter Itter and his second wife, Alvina Itter, were managing the House. It ended in an inquest that was made against Peter and Alvina Itter that was highly publicized throughout the Waterloo Region.
There was another accusation of abuse that occurred several years later by Margaret Heddle, an inmate who entered the House in 1916 and wrote to the King of England about the abuse she was facing by the keeper and matron at the time, Herbert and Lucy Martin.
Since the early 1800s, family, friends and neighbours would rally together when someone found themselves struck by poverty, either due to old age, sickness (personal or in the family), loss of job, death, mental distress or other reasons. The middle class would also assist the poor by providing food and lodging on occasion. The County would sometimes pay these people to lodge paupers. This was often known as outdoor relief where community organizations, such as a church or the municipal council, and individuals would provide clothing, food and shelter to those in need.
By the 1860s, there was growing concern around the needs of the local paupers. According to Elizabeth Bloomfield in her book, “Waterloo Township through Two Centuries” (Waterloo Heritage Society, 1995): “Social Welfare was fairly costly in the 1860s. In 1866, compared with $1,250 for routine road maintenance in the whole township, $310 was spent for “paupers,” mainly reimbursing others for the cost of caring for several widows, a blind man, and various elderly persons.” (Bloomfield, p.169) Bloomfield provides two examples of the costliness of taking care of a pauper:
In 1855, town warden Jesse Clemens was authorized to give $40 to John Pannebecker “for assistance in keeping and maintaining William Smith [Pannebecker’s brother-in-law], he having both feet taken off [and] unable to support himself, an infirm person.”
Dr. Rosebrugh was paid $50 for attending to blind Jacob Wesch and Philip Diefenbacher was paid $20 for the funeral expenses of a pauper who died at his house.
– Bloomfield, p.169
Even after the erection of the Poorhouse, there were still people, such as the “wandering poor” who would move from town to town and have no permanent residence, immigrants, and those accused of being criminals, that weren’t allowed to seek refuge at the Poorhouse (due to the rules and regulations around entering the House) but still required their assistance. The managers and staff would provide outdoor relief of meals and clothing to people that would go to the Poorhouse but wouldn’t stay. They acted as a soup kitchen for those in need of a meal.
You can probably already observe from the language that was used on all of the House of Refuge records as well as the local municipal records that the poor were treated as the “other”, a group of people that, for the most part, do not deserve society’s assistance and support.