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County House Scenes

County House Scenes image
Parent Issue
Day
20
Month
January
Year
1891
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

That one-half the world knows not how the other half live is one of the most universally accepted proverbial truths, and brought to its logical reduction the fact applies with equal force to the several sections of any community. Every one is cognizant of the exïstence and cost entailed by paupersm and the grudging support it receives from the public purse - grudged not through lack of charity for the unfortunates, but because of the demonstrated fact that nineteentwentieths of it would be preventible were it not for vicious contributiveness of the paupers themselves. All this is apropos of a recent enforced sojourn oí a week by the writer, a traveling newspaper man temporarily disabled and without means. Upon being made acquainted with the circumstances, Superintendent Edwards, of Ypsilanti, kindly furnished the requisite order, and for once I became an inmate of the Washtenaw county poor house. In the course of a somewhat extended career as a general journalist, many similar institutions had been casually visited and described, but the opportunity for close and continuous observation of such an institution and its inmates modified many previous impressions of such places and their beneficiaries and resulted in others of a better founded character. While gratefully acknowledging considérate treatment at the hands of Keeper McCormick, there is neither wish nor necessity to indulge in fulsome praise of the house or its management. To say that both are in the highest degree creditable to the people of the county and their officers is strictly within the truth, and as a result of inquiry of casual tramp lodgers who have enjoyed wide experimental knowledge of such houses in this and other states, t should incline to consider the many excellencies of this one as quite exceptional. In the important matter of room, the conditions are most advantageous, the facilities not being taxed beyond one-half their extreme caDacity - a fact which, in conjunction with the scrupulouscleanliness maintained, results in the best sanitary conditions, the general health being much above the average, as appears from the fact that the attractively appointed hospital contains but one nmate out of 90, and he a sufferer :rom incurable disease. The food is abundant, varied, admirably served and in quality altogether wholesome and excellent and no limit is placed to any one's appeite but repletion. Paupers needing t are supplied with warm, serviceable clothing, and are in every respect cared for in a humane and considérate spirit. The government, though sufficiently and necesarily firm, is of a really paternal character, Mr. McCormick seeming n a very happy degree to combine he qualities essential for his place, vhich involves the government of a peculiarly intractable class. For a man in the full possession of his faculties to become suddenly .ependent for social intercourse upon such an assemblage as constiutes the sitting room auditory of a poor house is a somewhat strange xperience. He finds himself de endent for companionship_[on the halt, the lame, the blind, the idiotie, the imbecile, the insane, but, worst of all, the cranked, in which latter class are embraced all not included in the foregoing classes. Crankiness takes multifold forms in varied conditions of life and individuality, but it can nowhere be so conspicuously odious and trying to the average as in such a company as this. One is prepared for the more or less shocking contemplation of physical wreekage or unshapeliness of various kinds and degrees, and pitifully tolerant of the often annoyingly obtrusive vagaries of the feeble minded, but the determined, unremitting, carefully contrived vand indictively executed cussedness of the pauper crank constitutes an assault upon one's patience and forbearance which must be experienced to be realized. These poor wretches seem to have treasured up all the real or imaginary wrongs of extended, and for the most part, ill spent lives for contemplation in their declining days, and the splenetic consequences are apparently as natural as they are disagreeable. It is quite surprising to find thai a sentiment of gratitude toward either keepers or tax-payers is absolutely wanting, and scornfully decried. In effect they argue that of all taxes that for their support is paid most reluctantly and that as it is wrung by law from unwilling hands they owe no thanks to the payers. Though the number is limited there are some cases among these paupers which are calculated to excite a special degree of sympathy and commiseration. A quite handsome oíd fellow whose brother is in business in this city, makes a very intelligent and agreeable companion in conversation up to a certain stage, when sooner or later he insists on repeating an ingeniously constructed narrative of his experiences in and final escape from heil including minute details of the method which others may use with equal success. Another who was for many years a prosperous resident and property owner in Ann Arbor would be quite the bright old fellow he seems if he had not unfortunately through exposure on a severe winter's night had the blood frozen in his veins, a circumstance which places him in constant peril and expectation of bursting if he gets too warm. Numbers of the men and some women have relatives who could, and in the case of children should be made to support them, notably an old colored man dying of consumption to whose prosperous son the winter carried a pathetic appeal to be taken home to die in decency. No experience, however untoward, is wholly valueless or wasted. The conclusión from that of the week briefly alluded to, is that if all men in their prime might have a similar chance to view the closing scènes of wasted and viciously directed lives, the result would prove salutary in many cases.