Sinclairville Senior Citizens hear talk on Dewittville Poor Farm

Submitted Photo Pictured is Cassadaga Historian John Sipos (left) receiving two old china dishes from Historian Walter Waite, which were used at the Chautauqua County Poor Farm in Dewittville from 1921 through 1961. The Dewittville Poor Farm was an important part of county history that helped many people in need.

SINCLAIRVILLE — Cassadaga Village Historian John Sipos was the recent guest speaker at the Sinclairville Senior Citizens luncheon. The senior group meets once a month for a luncheon and a program in the Sinclairville Fire Hall dining room on the second Tuesday of each month at noon.

Lunch was served first, with a ham being provided by Treasurer Charles Sylvester, and others bringing dishes of food and desserts to add to the meal. A fine selection of food with ample amounts was enjoyed by all.

Diman Smith of Sinclairville is the president of the group, and welcomed all to the luncheon. The blessing prior to the luncheon was given by Larry Downey. Festive table decorations were provided by Vice President Linda Parmenter. Betty Wielgasz is the sunshine chairman and reported on the cards sent for birthdays and to those who are ill from the group. Sipos, who also serves as the secretary, read the minutes of the previous meeting, and Sylvester gave the financial report of the group.

Sipos spoke about the Chautauqua County Poor Farm, which was located in Dewittville from 1830 until 1961. When the county was being settled, there was a realization that there was a need to take care of the poor people and those who were ill. In 1824, New York state passed a law in which counties were instructed to help people in need. For some, they were down on their luck, out of money and just ill.

A number of farm sites were studied, and the 90-acre Todd farm in Dewittville was purchased, and a home for the many people was constructed and opened in 1831. Those living there were self sufficient, as this was a place to live, and the people took care of themselves, cattle were raised, crops were grown and food was prepared. The labors of the people were important. Their ovens, built in the basement, would bake 200 loaves of bread a day for example. Each town in the county would provide funds for the farm.

This first building lasted for 35 years, and just wore out. A second building was constructed in 1867, and considered one of the more beautiful buildings in the county. Records were kept of the people who came there — their names, from where, and their condition. Some died on the farm and were buried in the Poor House cemetery located on the grounds. Eventually a newer building was constructed, and more barns. In 1961, it closed when the Chautauqua County Home on Temple Road in Dunkirk was constructed, and the people were moved to the new home.

The buildings were sold and eventually fell down from disrepair. All that is left is the cemetery with grave markers with numbers on them. Sipos did a fine job presenting an important part of the county’s history, using old photographs and pages of notes.

Historian Walter Waite was in the audience, and after the speech, stood up, and said he wanted to present something to Sipos. Waite had purchased the china dishes, which were used at the Poor Farm at the time of the closing of the farm, and wanted to present to Sipos two old dishes, dating to 1921, for use in his further speeches.

The next gathering of the senior group will be March 14 at noon. A corned beef and cabbage meal will be provided and those attending are asked to bring a dish of food or dessert to add to the meal and their own table service. New members are always welcome.