Today, the "County Farm", consists of a 148 bed nursing home, an assisted living facility, the House of Corrections/County Jail, 500 acres of actively managed woodland, 129 acres of open farmland, nature trails, 6,700 feet of frontage on the Connecticut River, and one of the top Holstein dairy herds in the state.
But at its beginning . . .
1866 ~ 1876
In 1866, Cheshire County purchased the Jedediah and Elvena Sabin farm for $13,000. An Almshouse was erected in 1869 at a cost of $22,710, and a 50 x 40 foot barn was approved for construction in 1872. By April 1873 in addition to the usual crops grown, about 1800 pounds of tobacco was raised as an "experiment, and the results show it may be a source of profit, but at the same time we would not recommend it as the leading crop, except so far as it can be done without a large outlay of expense or exhaustion of soil."
In 1876, the County Commissioners reported "Not only does the best financial interest of the county demand, but humanity also dictates the true policy that the wards of the County shall be kept at the Almshouse. It is a mistake to suppose that it is either generosity or good judgment to encourage the pauper to rather receive a meager weekly allowance that cannot suitably feed, or warm, or clothe him, than to go to the Almshouse, where he is sure to have plenty of food, warm shelter, comfortable clothing and kindly care, at no increased expense to the County. We feel that the people of Cheshire County have, through their agents, prepared a good home for their paupers, and we earnestly invite inspection of the same."
1877 ~ 1886
At the conclusion of the Commissioners report in 1879 it was stated, "a new barn is to be built at the County Farm the coming summer; this was rendered absolutely necessary by the increasing productions of the Farm, requiring more room for stock and storage."
In 1882, the Commissioners report "We are pleased to report that the interest bearing indebtedness of the County is growing less year by year; that the balance of the debt contracted in 1867 by the purchase of the County Farm, and the construction and furnishing of the buildings thereon falls due the present year, and will be paid." They go on to praise the managers of the farm and Almshouse, saying they have ". . . endeavored patiently and persistently to accomplish the end for which the institution was established, . . . to furnish comfortable accommodation, plenty of wholesome food, kindly care and nursing in sickness, and to perform the whole duty the public owes to its unfortunate poor, and in such a way as not to encourage indolence and pauperism, and make the institution a refuge for those who are too mean to help themselves."
The County Commission recommended that the House of Correction "should not be continued in connection with the home for our unfortunate poor." The House of Correction became part of the county jail in Keene, and only occasionally was a convict sent to Westmoreland. "A very pleasant chapel" for religious services was arranged. In 1885, two water closets were placed on the lower floor of the Almshouse, one on the male and one on the female side of the house. The installation of a vibrating telephone and electric call bell assisted the inmates in calling for assistance.
1887 ~ 1896
In 1889, the County Convention appropriated $3000 for a new laundry. The laundry was located on the lower floor, in addition to adding a water closet, and room for 2-3 patients who needed to be separated from other inmates. The second floor contained 8 rooms for a few "insane persons, chronic cases". A creamery was purchased so that cream could be produced and sold. Nearly $1000 in cream was sold in a 20 month period. The corn crop averaged 90 bushels an acre. A new building for the insane was erected. In 1895, a new 60 horsepower boiler was purchased for $665 and 6 rooms above the boiler room was to be used as a House of Correction.
The report on the Jail and House of Correction in 1889 included "During the year a number of desperate criminals have been committed to the jail. In the fall an ingenious and bold plot for breaking jail, which came near being carried into execution, was discovered by the jailer. As a result, quite an expense has been incurred in strengthening and making secure all places that seemed to invite an attempt to escape. During the year. . . inmates have been employed at seating chairs, from which some revenue has been derived."
1897 ~ 1906
The Smith Farm was purchased in 1897 for the purpose of increasing the water supply at the farm. In their annual report, the Commissioners made the following suggestion to those sentenced to the House of Correction, ". . . should be sent to the county farm. Then we can supply them with plenty of employment; and in our minds this would greatly lessen the number of convicts thus sent, and be of less expense to the county." The Cheshire County Grange Fair Association donated $21.61, and its bankbook, for the entertainment of the poor. "Two big horse loads of women" were taken "out for a sleigh ride". A treat of candy and cake was purchased with the funds. The Commissioners report of 1906 states "The poor are our brothers and sisters and as such they are entitled to good, humane and kindly treatment, and to be comfortably and warmly clad. . . . no one wants or desires to see them scrimped down so that their happiness and comfort will be taken away, and that their poor and penniless condition will be taken as a crime." The cost for the support of inmates at the farm and House of Correction was $2.83 per week.
1907 ~ 1916
In 1908, the name Maplewood was given to the institution. Timber was sold at auction for $2850. A blacksmith shop was installed for the use of the county farm and local people. As there was a great need for better hospital and prisoner facilities, two dormitories were converted to hospital rooms. In 1915, the average cost per week for inmates was $4.35. The estimated value of the farm and buildings was $68,000. In 1916 land was purchased from Lawrence Leach and the B&M Railroad. Plans for the new hospital were drawn up at a contract price of $13,050.
1917 ~ 1926
State law forbade having children at the farm. The cost of supporting inmates increased to $5 per week. The hospital building costs rose to $17,000, and was opened for patients in November. By 1920, there were four obstetrical cases at the hospital; 16 surgical cases and 26 private patients. A new truck was purchased for $3600. In 1922, the value of the farm and buildings was $96,000. A severe epidemic of influenza caused the deaths of 16 inmates. Many repairs and painting of the facilities were completed in 1924, with a large part of the labor being performed by prisoners. In 1926 one of the buildings was remodeled into a House of Correction accommodating 30 prisoners. The contract for this work was $15,000.
1927 ~ 1936
A flood in November 1927 caused a great deal of destruction. In July of 1933, a fire destroyed all the farm buildings. A replacement barn and two silos were erected at a cost of $9,877.23. Extensive repairs were made on electric wiring. The potato crop produced 1225 bushels and about 100,000 feet of lumber was cut.
The County Delegation voted that the superintendent and matron have two weeks vacation each year, rather than separate days. Milk production in 1935 was 183,777 pounds, and 4,000 quarts of fruits and vegetables were canned. In 1936, a flood damaged the womens building, and a fire destroyed the barn. A contract for $8,244.30 to rebuild the barn was awarded. Milk production increased to 247,752 pounds.
1937 ~ 1946
The potato crop of 1937 averaged over 300 bushels per acre. When prisoners terms were shortened in 1938, they had little time to do work at the farm. This smaller population resulted in an increase in cost per case. There was a hurricane in September, which damaged roofs, shade trees and 50,000 feet of pine. In 1939, the delegation voted to allow the Commissioners to purchase a piece of land adjourning the farm, the cost not to exceed $250. The same year, 6,500 quarts of vegetables were canned. In 1941, it was determined that separate eating places be provided for inmates and prisoners.
The hospital was certified by the state. The County Delegation purchased the "Willard Bill" farm from Robert Blood for $5,000 in 1943.
There were fewer inmates in the dormitories and the numbers of private cases were higher. By 1946, Maplewood Hospital was practically full during the entire year. The county home was recognized as a great convenience as a shelter for children under the State Probation Department and the Department of Public Welfare.
1947 ~ 1956
A flood in May 1947 did some damage at the facility. Milk production that year was 193,870 lbs. A freezer plan was installed in 1948 at a cost of $5,312, and a new steam boiler at a cost of $15,000. Twelve head of Guernsey cattle were sold for $2265, and $2350 worth of meat was frozen. In 1950, the House of Correction was approved for keeping Federal prisoners. A plan for the best use of the land was prepared. In 1952, the farm placed second in the State and County Institution Division in the Green Pasture Program. Reforestation began with the planting of 7,000 spruce saplings in 1953. The land next to the B&M Railroad was sold to the state for $350 in 1953. The State revoked the hospital license and condemned two of the buildings. But in 1955 the building was checked by an engineer who found the buildings to be sound, and could be remodeled.
1957 ~ 1966
Many repairs were made and the remodeling to the hospital building was completed by 1957. At the beginning of 1958, an open house was held for the general public to view the infirmary. Two hundred people attended. In 1959, three rooms adjoining the hospital were remodeled, and the hospital capacity was increased. Sixteen beds and equipment were added. The State Fire Marshal stated that protection in this building was "second to none". The Board of Hospital Services granted the hospital its Nursing Hospital License. There were 29 inmates in the Almshouse during 1960 and 184 prisoners in the House of Correction. A new state law in 1961 required milk to be pasteurized, resulting in rising food costs. The hospital operated at full capacity with a waiting list and the House of Correction had 32 prisoners, with 213 being committed during the year. In 1962, 456,824 pounds of milk was produced. In 1963, at a meeting of the Selectmen of Westmoreland and county officials, an alarm system was set up to warn the citizens of Westmoreland of any escapes.
1967 ~ 1976
The hospital continued to have a waiting list; there were 19 inmates in the Almshouse, and 114 prisoners were listed. Sixteen new registered Holsteins were purchased in 1967. By 1968, the dairy herd was 4th ranking in the county with 90 registered and 12 grade Holsteins in the herd. The farm operated at a profit and the average cost to care for a patient at Maplewood was $11.55 per week. With donations from the Soroptimist Club in Keene, a used movie projector was purchased in 1969 and movies were shown to the patients at the hospital.
New federal meat inspection laws of 1970 required the farm to discontinue slaughtering their animals. A study on sewage disposal was completed and in 1971, the final design of a treatment plant was completed. In 1972, a bond issue was approved for a new jail. The number of nursing care patients increased because Old Age Assistance accepted our dormitory. In 1973, the farm was about to break even for the first time. Due to changing regulations of nursing home standards, policies and procedures kept the staff at the nursing home busy in 1974. The delegation approved plans for a new 150-bed nursing home in 1975. That same year, the new correctional facility opened with the expected problems at the opening of a new facility, plus some unexpected ones, such as five prisoners escaping at one time.
1977 ~ 1986
On July 23, 1977 the new nursing home was dedicated, providing 150 beds for senior citizens. The farm operation supplied $30,000 worth of supplies to the nursing home. By 1979, the nursing home was operating at full capacity.
In 1983, due to the changes in federal and state statutes concerning the jail, a committee was established to determine how to go forward relative to the House of Corrections and whether to use the buildings available or to add on to the present buildings. By 1986 a decision had been made to build an addition to the jail. This addition would provide the facilities for more than 70 inmates. In June 1986, a fire swept through the dairy barn area consuming the entire dairy barn and piggery, destroying a small number of heifers and a larger number of pigs. Reconstruction began that same year.
1987 ~ 2000
By June of 1988, the addition to the House of Corrections was completed. The same year, six old nursing home/house of correction/administration buildings were demolished. In 1992, a water filtration system was completed for the complex. The Farm Study report of 1994 supported the continuation of the dairy farm and suggested changes to increase its efficiency. 1999 saw the construction and opening of the Assisted Living Apartments. As of 2000, the House of Correction houses a general population of 84, up to 125 when necessary. The nursing facility has 148 beds available and 20 assisted living apartments.
Recognizing the public benefits of the Countys natural resources, Commissioners, management and staff have worked with Cheshire County UNH Cooperative Extension to increase public awareness and provide educational/demonstration opportunities at the complex. Since 1995, over 5,000 feet of nature trails and a demonstration garden have been developed. In addition, over 5,000 people have attended 20 public events held at the property.
Information compiled from Annual Reports of Cheshire County. July 2000/tw
Cheshire County Complex Today