Poor House Farm Cemetery

Photo added by G Giebner

Poor House Farm Cemetery

Also known as Smith Family Cemetery

Devil's Race Track Rd (Road 93)
Simpson, Fairfield County, South Carolina, USA Add to Map
Memorials 73 added (1% photographed)

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Burials by Fairfield County in this place were not secret, yet the general public had little, or no, knowledge of everyday events - or life - there.

Fairfield County's Poor House farm and cemetery, long ago dissolved and abandoned. Evidence of possibly more than 100 graves; all graves but one are unmarked and unidentified. 72 of the 73 interments listed here have been identified either by Death Certificate, newspaper announcement, or other reports; the earliest on record was 1880, the latest was 1929. The numerous other burials are unaccounted for. Interments are mixed - both black and white, both male and female, and at least one child.

Most graves are just shallow depressions, laid out in still very visible rows. A few are marked with simple fieldstones. The cemetery site is approximately one acre in size. There is, in fact, a small pile of "ready-to-use" fieldstones to one side.

Only Mary Young Smith (died 1893) has a tombstone here. Thus, this cemetery was miss-identified as the "Smith Family Cemetery" in a local cemetery survey book because of the single tombstone; also, the original compiler(s) totally ignored (or missed or discounted?) all the many other graves; some were there long before the Smith grave. (Her connection to the Poor House and its graves is not known.)

The Poor House Farm, and accompanying cemetery, seems to have existed from about 1830 or even before. No one remembers ‘why’ the Poor House went out of existence but the whole property (295 acres) was sold at public auction in 1945 when it became private property and was renamed "TANGO HILL" by the new owner. (Note: This has NEVER been known as Tango Hill Cemetery.) The Poor House was supported and maintained by Fairfield County, and which usually employed a matron and a keeper/overseer. The keeper’s monthly salary varied from $18.50 to $20 in 1905. The Poor House and farm was reported in the News and Herald, Winnsboro, SC, to be annually inspected and its condition reported to the presiding judge of the Fairfield County Grand Jury. Summary expense reports and County Supervisor’s Reports, with costs to the county and individual claims against the Poor House for goods or services rendered were reported in the newspaper. Examples: In 1905, Mr. R.W. Phillips furnished 9 wooden coffins for $3.50 each, and Mr. C.B. Rabb, an undertaker, furnished one for $3.21. (Five burials are noted for that year.) This Mr. Philips is NOT connected to the present day Phillips Granite Co, Winnsboro, which came later. Also during that period, several doctors were paid $1 each to attend to sick inmates. Interestingly, there was one claim for “whiskey for sick pauper” at $1.76. Many newspaper accounts from the News and Herald have been found covering a 50-year period, from 1876 to 1926; little information is found after 1926. These Grand Jury reports lumped the poor house, 'outside' poor, jail, and chain gang into one mixed bag seemingly indicating that the county considered these entities under one umbrella with regards to funding and support.

Individuals at the Poor House were generally referred to as inmates and occasionally as paupers, and all seem to have been there at the assent of the county, but not necessarily incarcerated. No mention is found of this being a debtors-type prison as was known in the UK and other countries at the time.

The post-war financial panic of 1873-1878 with the depressed price of cotton and small crop was blamed for an increase of inmates at the Poor House; the ‘colored’ populace were called the greatest sufferers of all classes, but all classes were ‘embarrassed.’ In truth, the depression did not end in the South with the flip of a calendar page after 1878; economic hardships, particularly for the ‘colored,’ continued on for years and the local need for the Poor House continued on. A March 20, 1877 editorial in the News and Herald called attention to this and further proposed a separate penal farm to be run by the sheriff, rather than a suggested increase in the Poor House operation. They argued that the lazy vagabonds awaiting court proceedings were just living a life of absolute idleness, being fed free in the county jail, and thus should be put to work on such a farm; the savings to the taxpayers could be used to allow for more ‘indigents’ at the Poor House. ‘Pauperism’ and ‘indigents’ were popular words used by the News and Herald. Evidently, this proposal fell on deaf ears.

Over the years, the declining population of inmates was reported to be:
• 31 in 1877 - a mix of both 'colored' and white, both men and women (this prompted the above editorial);
• 15 in 1905 - 12 ‘colored’ and 3 white;
• 13 in 1906 - 8 ‘colored’ men, 2 ‘colored’ women, 2 white men, and 1 white female;
• 5 in 1916 – 4 ‘colored’ and 1 white; and,
• 2 in 1921 – one of each sex, near its end.
Also in 1921, the buildings (plural) were reported to be in bad condition, with all needing replacement, except one.

Some inmates stayed, grew old, died there, and were buried in unmarked graves in wooden coffins. We find also that at least one death, and probably others, occurred at the county jail and was buried here, unidentified, un-named, and forgotten. The Poor House Cemetery was a convenient and no-cost place to bury such individuals, except that the county paid $5 to a gravedigger for each burial. One dead inmate was reported to be a Confederate veteran (Samuel Y. Crossland) yet his grave is unmarked; another burial was reported to be a "lunatic" who died in the county jail. Most inmates just seem to have been indigent, without family or support – the homeless/hopeless of the time. There was a real social stigma if you were one of these poor; they were the poorest of the poor and went there and were forgotten, yet the county saw that they were housed, clothed, and fed for approximately 100 years (+/-).

The Poor House included a small farm operation, worked by those inmates able-bodied enough, plus individual laborers paid by the county. Cotton, corn, sweet potatoes (mentioned once), fodder, peas, and hay seem to have been the main cash crops, plus a garden, all to help support the inmates of the Poor House, the jail, and the chain gang. 500 pounds of cured bacon was mentioned once which presumably was to be sold. Several reports indicated that numerous bales of cotton were hauled to Winnsboro for market. A very small number of farm animals are listed; hogs, pigs, shoats, mules, several cattle, calves, horses. Various newsprint reports to the grand jury mention the farm had 100 acres of woodlands, 70 acres of corn and unknown acres of cotton, so it was not a large operation, even at 295 acres.

One current county authority reports that she remembers exploring this property as a youngster in the 1970s and seeing a dilapidated two story building, which was all that remained of the Poor House facility. Additional structures, such as barns, corrals, smoke house, a well, and possibly an outside kitchen would have existed also. The actual location of the facility’s buildings is no longer remembered, even by the land owner – it’s believed to be about 2000’ NE (25º) from the cemetery on a knoll and some 500’ due west of Road 93. More research is needed, however no public records other than newsprint reports have been found.



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  • Added: 27 Mar 2012
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #2443259