The above image is from Vincent Van Gogh’s collection of Peasant Character Studies from the late 19th century. This one is entitled Head of a Man with a Pipe from 1885. It is in the Public Domain, PD-1923. 


There is little information about John Hudson before he entered the Poorhouse as the name was very common for people living in south-western Ontario in the second half of the 19th century. However, he was likely living in South Dumfries, Ontario in 1871 as South Dumfries is the municipality he was sent from to the Poorhouse. He was living with another lodger in a house with a family of six. John was admitted to the Poorhouse on April 24, 1879 at 74 years old. There was no occupation listed for him and his reason for being committed was because he was sick and destitute.

John was a paying patient which meant that  someone he was related to or the township where he was from would pay for his food and board at the Poorhouse. According to a letter written by Israel D. Bowman to the Township of South Dumfries’ Clerk, D. Baptie, they were paying $2.00/week to keep him at the Poorhouse.


2nd April          [188]3

Township of South Dumfries (D Baptie Esq Clerk)

St. George –


[Hurim] Van Every

25th Septr ’82  2nd March ‘83

26                                2.00                             52.00

“ “for J. Hudson 24th Oct. 82

to 24 Jany ’83 – 13 weeks @ $2.00                26.00

“ “ William Wright from 17th Jany 83

to 17th April ’83 -13 weeks @ $2 ½               32.50


Wright in a very troublesome Customer hence additional charge

Keeper wishes to have it made $3.00

Please remit & oblige

Yours truly

Israel D. Bowman



It is interesting to note that the “average expense for each person for the year” according to the Inspector’s Report that would be published in the County Minutes each year, was $44.98 for 1882. The Township of South Dumfries paid $104.00 each year for the care of John at the Waterloo County Poorhouse for about nine years. This amount was double the amount that each inmate actually cost. However, this was the common price for any paying patient that wished to stay at the House. They would be charged between $1.25-3.00/week for their board, food and care.

In another letter addressed to D. Baptie of South Dumfries, Israel D. Bowman stated that John Hudson’s health was not doing so well. 


23rd Sept.         [188]4

  1. Baptie Esq

Township Clerk

St George

My dear Sir,

I have to inform you that William Wright one of the patients from your Township departed this life on Sunday last. The Keeper has interred the [sic] in the Cemetery on the Farm – should any friends of deceased desire it the body can be claimed and removed at any time – I enclose bill – Poor Mr. Hudson is getting rather “shaky on his pins” as the saying is but seems in tolerably good health –

Yours truly

Israel D. Bowman Inspr

23rd Septr         4

Township of South Dumfries (D Baptie Esq Clerk &c St George)


A second letter about his health in 1885:


28th Decr          [188]5

D Baptie Esq

St George

D Sir,

Yours of 26th with $52.00 a/c Hudson’s Board to hand – Receipt herewith Enclosed – The old man (Hudson) is in tolerable health for his age – getting weak and frail – although in this kind of weather he is still able to come out to Church of a Sunday –

Wishing you many returns of its season I remain

Yours truly

Israel D. Bowman



John Hudson died July 17th 1888 at the Poorhouse. Israel D. Bowman wrote a final letter to D. Baptie about his death: 


23rd July           [188]8

Baptie Esq

Tp. Clerk

St George


My dear Sir,

Poor Mr Hudson has at last gone over to the majority – he was confined to bed only a few weeks – according to our register he was in his 90th year. The cause of death is put down to old age –

A few of the Church of England friends interested themselves I his behalf so much as to procure him a Christian burial with the benefit of the Clergy – His body was interred in Mt. Hope Cemetery and on in the Grave Yard at the Farm.

I enclose the [last] bill you will have to pay on the poor fellows a/c

Yours truly

Israel D. Bowman


17th July –        8

Township of South-Dumfries / D. Baptie Esq Tp. Clerk

St George


John was buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery shortly after.