Hawley Town Poor Farm

"At a town meeting, April 7, 1851, it was voted to buy a farm for the support of the poor. Previous to that time the keeping of the town poor had usually been done by boarding them with the lowest bidder, or by the Overseers of the poor, which were the selectmen, making a contract with parties to keep them. They were not all kept at one place, but were where circumstances dictated.

The committee chosen to buy a farm was Levi Holden, Calvin Cooley, and Charles Baker, and they purchased of Dea. Samuel Hall the place known as the Warriner King farm, in the southwest part of the town.

It was urged by some as a reason for buying an alms-house, that some who had in part been sustained by the town and allowed to remain with their friends would prefer to support themselves and escape the odium of going to the "poor-house," as all who received aid from the town were required to go there.The selectmen annually hire a man and his wife as overseers of the farm and house, who receive a stipulated salary, averaging about $250, who are required to keep an exact account of receipts and expenditures. The first of April is the time adopted for making a change of overseers, and dairying is the chief source of revenue.

The following and their wives have been the overseers of the town farm. 1851-2 Leonard Joy; 1853-4 S.S. Hemenway; 1855 to 62 Proctor Marsh; 1862-3 Henry Barton; 1863 to 1870 Phineas Starks; 1870 John Brown; 1871 to 73 Henry Barton;1875 Horace Todd; 1876 to 1879 Daniel Larkins; 1879 to 84 Phineas Starks; 1884 Levi Hawkes; 1885 Geo. Turner; 1886 Charles Davis.

At the annual town meeting, March 7, 1853, a code of rules was adopted regulating the house and its inmates, which reflects upon the civilzation of the 19th century. It received the title "Black Laws," copies of which were placed upon the records, and posted to the house.

It was the subject of a poem written and published at the time by Miss Mary Taylor entitled "Northern Oppression."

[William Giles Atkins, History of the Town of Hawley. 1887. pp.32-33]