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Alms House Memorial

Alms House tombstone.

Alms' House Tombstone

This is at the North East Corner of where the Knox County Nursing Home sits.

It reads, " In Memory of the Former Residents of the Knox County Nursing Home Buried Here"  I don't know why it says Knox County Nursing Home.  This used to be the site of the Knox County Alms' House. There was once a Cemetery here for the people that lived at the Almshouse.

In the background of this photo is where the former Knox County Alms House stood and now stands the Knox County Nursing Home.

Looking back South East is the Knoxville Cemetery.  You can

see the Mausoleum in the foreground and tombstones in the background.


You may click on the photo to left to see a bigger view.

This photos was submitted to me by Harriet Stairs. Thanks, Harriet.  It seems to be winter here in the photo.


If you'd like to donate photos to any part of the web site just email them to in .jpg format and I will find a place for them.  I love old photos.  The more the merrier. Thanks and Happy Gene Hunting.....

A Bit of History

Taken from the 1878 History of Knox County, Illinois by Chas. C. Chapman & Co., pages 253-262.

"Alms-House "

For several years the committee on the poor-house farm, in making out their annual reports, spoke at length of the unhealthful condition of the buildings.  As a sample of several statements of this nature submitted to the Board from 1856 till the alms-house was built, we give one appended to the report made in January, 1865.  The committee was composed of T. W. Miles, John S. Winter and Cephas Arms.

"Your committee do not feel willing to let this meeting pass without calling the serious attention of this Board to the condition of these poor misfortunate beings whom God has committed to our especial care, - a trust that your committee feel this honorable Board has not discharged.  There is but one very poor building for the poor-master's family, and the paupers have six rooms below and two small chambers above.  A hall running through the building divides the lower rooms.  Two rooms and a small store-room on one side are occupied by the family.  On the other side the two larger rooms are used during the day by the paupers, and the small room has been fitted up as a grated cell for crazy Hannah, a grated partition separating her from the stove.

"At night the paupers, many of whom are idiotic or insane, are locked up in the two small chambers; and this with the present class of inmates has to be done, irrespective of number, and almost of the condition of the paupers.  From this brief statement it will be seen how really adapted the premises are to  the purposes of a poor-house, even when all are in health; but when any one is sick it is impossible to make them comfortable; and especially is this so, when, as in the case of the man with the frozen feet, it becomes as a loathsome pest-house, not only to the paupers, but to the poor-master and his family; the stench from the gangrened foot filling every part of the building, and sickening the inmates.

"In view of these facts your committee most earnestly call upon this Board to take some steps to make such improvements, that it may no longer with truth be said 'that the poor-house is a disgrace to Knox county.'"

Crazy Hannah, referred to in the above statement, was certainly a pitiable subject of charity, and her sad condition touched the finer feelings of the committee, as shown in a report made to the Board in 1863.  This committee was composed of John S. Winter and Cephas Arms.  We give below the portion of this report referring to the unfortunate being who is still an inmate of the alms-house, although in a much improved condition.

"We cannot pass this matter and justify our consciences without referring to a case known as 'Crazy Hannah,' who has been confined in a small room over three years, unsafe to permit to go out and breath the fresh air of heaven, compelled to live within four close walls until her destiny is fulfilled.  During all the cold days and nights of winter that poor demented girl cannot approach the fire.  Between her and it, at a safe distance from her hands, has to be placed strong iron bars, lest she should set fire to the building.  With all the modern improvements for heating buildings suitable for persons in her condition, are we, as citizens of Knox county, doing our duty to the unfortunate of our county?"

March 5, 1856, the Board of Supervisors purchased of M. G. Smith the west half of the southwest quarter of section 21, Knox township, for a county poor-farm.  The deed, as recorded, states the consideration to have been $3,000.  Two additions were made in 1866 during the agitation of building the alms-house, - on June 15, of 36 acres from Wm. Y. Miller.  The deed states the consideration to have been $2,340, but by an order by the Board we find it to be but $17.50 per acre, which would be $630.  The other was 33 acres from John Eads, June 17, for which, according to the deed, $3,000 was given.  In 1866 the Board appointed Rufus W. Miles, L. E. Conger, and Cephas Arms a committee to build an alms-house.  Considerable interest was worked up in selecting a location.  The citizens of Galesburg tried to have it located near that city instead of the present site, which is that of the former building.  At a meeting in April, 1866, a committee consisting of the following members of the Board, were appointed to select a location:  E. S. Hardin, Orrin Beadle, L. E. Conger, Cephas Arms.  A majority of this committee selected and bought the northeast quarter of section 24, in Galesburg township, for which they paid $8,000.  While this action of the committee was approved by the Board, yet the land was not used for the purpose for which it was purchased.  It was afterward sold for $9,000.  Supervisor Gale, on behalf of the city of Galesburg, offered to give $10,000 if they would erect the building on the site; but the Board secured additional land adjoining the old farm and decided not to remove or change the location.  Thus the location was finally settled upon, and immediately the contract of erecting the building was let to Wm. Armstrong for the sum of $26,000.  Only one wing and the main building were erected at this time.  The full amount expended for the erection of this portion of the building, for furnished heating apparatus and stocking the farm, amounted to $39,037.21.

The following is a description of the building, which rates only second to the best county charity institution in the State:  The plan was drawn by W. W. Boyington, of Chicago.  The building is of Gothic style of architecture, and is constructed of limestone and red brick.  It is two stories above the basement in height.  The ground plan is 166 feet front by 80 feet in depth, relieved by projection bay windows, and a general irregular outline.  The grounds are large, thickly set with shrubs and trees and well kept.  The exterior view of the structure presents an imposing appearance from whatever point approached.  From exterior observation it rather resembles a sea-side hotel than a country alms-house.  The accompanying engraving [not included with this transcript] so fully represents in detail the exterior of the building that any minute description would be but repetitive.

The interior of the edifice is in keeping fully with that of the exterior.  It is finished throughout in a neat and substantial style, and furnished with all the modern conveniences, which are especially adapted to the accommodation of the class of inmates that are retained there.  The many improvements adapted in the construction of the east wing were suggested by the matron, Mrs. Cleveland, whose experience, coupled with her superior judgment, eminently qualified here to dictate alterations and additions to the plans of the architect.  Each and every room is amply ventilated, and the provisions for lighting are all that could be desired, there being a large double window in even the smallest chamber.

There are 97 rooms in the building, besides large, well lighted corridors.  Of these, 27 are sleeping-rooms for inmates under medical treatment, 23 are cells or, properly, screened rooms for the insane.  The remaining 47 rooms are devoted to various purposes, each class or condition of inmates having a department to which they are assigned.

The western portion of the structure is used for men, and the eastern part for women.  In the men's department on the main floor are dining-hall, sitting-room and chapel (in the latter apartment religious services are held semi-monthly), and sleeping-rooms, with bath-rooms attached.  On the second floor in this division is the department for the insane, being a tier of screened rooms, sick rooms, school-room and nurse's rooms.  The eastern division has similar apartments, and in addition has a large sitting-room, quiet room for old women, convalescent department, and working department, where all clothing is manufactured.  Every article of clothing, except boot and hats, are manufactured within the building.  In the basement story is the department for the uncontrollable insane, the laundry, ironing rooms, and the culinary department, which includes bread room, grocery room, milk-house, and large kitchen.  The building, besides these apartments, is well supplied with bath-rooms, closets, and numerous miscellaneous rooms.  The whole is heated by steam radiators supplied from heating apparatus in the basement of the west wing.

The following items of an historical and statistical nature will be found of interest, and are compiled after careful research.  Their correctness may be relied upon:

From October, 1872, to September, 1878, 439 paupers were admitted as inmates of this charitable institution.  These included 15 different nationalities.  Of this number 229 were natives of the United States, 104 of Sweden and Denmark, 55 of Ireland, 1 of France, 13 of England, 12 of Germany, 4 of Switzerland, 1 of the West Indies, 2 of Norway, 4 of Canada, 1 of Poland, 9 of Scotland, 3 of Whales, and the nativity of 1 not known.  Total, 439.  Of this number 287 were males and 152 females.  There are at present 109 inmates, of whom 66 are males and 43 are females.  Of the 109 inmates, 25 are insane.  The largest number ever admitted any one year was in 1870, when 121 were received.  The number of deaths occurring since 1863 are 69, none having occurred since January 1, 1878.  The number of births, 30.  Number of married persons admitted, 153.

The following item connected with pauperism in this county should be noted by the tax-payers.  Though startling, it is based upon stubborn facts, and should be a warning to those who indulge in a moderate use of intoxicating liquors, and to the young man whose lips have never been tainted by the wine cup.  When we consider that three-fourths of all the persons admitted in the Knox county alms-house are brought there from the curse of intemperance, we learn some of the direful effects and consequences of the use of intoxicating liquors.  No contagious diseases have ever prevailed to any extent.  The oldest person ever admitted was George Felter, who became inmate January 16, 1877, at the age of 89.  Mr. Felter, who is still an inmate, was a soldier on the war of 1812, and is probably the only one living in the county who fought the British foe at that time, or indeed that ever did.  The oldest person in the house at present in 91 years old.

In 1874, in consequence of the failure of a supply of water at the alms-house, it was deemed expedient to bore in one of the wells, which was done to the depth of 175 feet.  At 119 feet a vein of good coal, four feet in thickness, immediately below three feet of slate, was passed through.  Failing to find water at that depth, they abandoned the boring and sunk a large well.

Ere a decade had passed, the alms-house had become too small to afford the best accommodations to all the inmates.  Accordingly, at the July meeting of the Board, in 1876, the alms-house committee recommended the building of the east wing.  In the original plan all arrangements were made for the necessary additions that might be needed.  Thus in less than ten years this addition is required, although the unfortunate could and did receive better care with the capacity of the portion already constructed than in most of the counties of the State.  At a special meeting in August, 1876, 21st day, the contract of building the east wing was awarded to Parry & Stevens, their bid being $17,000.  The construction of this addition was rapidly pushed to completion, and to-day the structure stands a harmonious whole, complete in detail, beautiful in design, and perfect in ordinance and symmetry of architecture.  Thus perfected, as shown in the accompanying engraving [not included with this transcript], Knox county unquestionably has one of the most beautiful and superior alms-houses in the Northwest.  The Superintendent, Mrs. Cleveland, is endowed with native ability that especially qualifies her to have the charge of such a motley class of humanity as are gathered under the care of an institution of this nature.  In referring to the excellent manner in which Mrs. Cleveland discharges every duty devolving upon her, Dr. McClelland, the county physician, in his report of January, 1878, in speaking of the house, says:  "As usual, and in accordance with our duty, we passed through the house, closely examining every division of it, and to our satisfaction we realize that the care exercised over it was manifest in the order in which we found it.  Its condition throughout entitles the matron having the care of the premises to the heart-felt gratitude of all who have an interest in those who are kept there from necessity."  Again we quote the Doctor's language.  "In passing through the house, closely examining every department of it, we have realized what has frequently been stated by the agent of our State public charities, - that for cleanliness, freedom from offensive odor, and a manifest bestowal of vigilant care exercised over the premises, the Knox county alms-house stand unrivaled in our State as a model of praiseworthy order, and worthy of imitation by other institutions of the same character in the State.  Our worthy matron is not especially limited in her capacity for keeping affairs therein in order, but she possess additionally the rare ability essential to the managing and keeping subject to her will all those unruly elements that are submitted to her charge."

We can give no better detailed description of the manner of caring for the unfortunate of this society than is found in Dr. McClelland's report to the January meeting of the Board of Supervisors of 1872, which we give bodily, as it also compares the mode of conducting this institution with that generally adopted by public charities:

To the Honorable Board of Supervisors, Knox County, Illinois: - The undersigned beg leave to submit the following report:  Since the last annual meeting 127 person have received aid at the almshouse.  Of this number 85 are at present inmates, - an increase of 10 over the number present Jan. 1, 1871.  During the year there were deaths, by apoplexy [paralysis due to stroke] 1, old age 1, exhaustion incident to insanity 1, typo-malarial fever 1, albuminoidal 1, consumption [tuberculosis] 3; total 8.  There have been during the same time 3 births.  Of the inmates at present in the house 84 are white and 1 colored.  Those not protected by previous small-pox vaccination have been recently vaccinated.  The good condition of the house in respect to ventilation and cleanliness forbid the occurrence of any endemic disease.  If not considered intrusive, I would desire to call the attention of the honorable Board to certain faults found by the Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities in the management of paupers in the various counties of the State, to show that so far as Knox county is concerned we can plead "not guilty."

First, the farming out of paupers to the lowest bidder.

Second, the payment, under any circumstance, of a weekly stipend per capita for food and other necessities of life.

The third fault found has reference to the medical care of the family.  Whatever medicines or medical appliance, the pauper family need they receive, the county at no time restricting the physician in this matter.

Fourth, has reference to a certain annoyance which in this county is reduced to a minimum.

Fifth, pauper children are almost without exception uninstructed and untrained.  This county is an exception.  Children of the proper age are sent to the city schools, and the fault is with them if they are not instructed.

Sixth, refers to the condition of the insane and idiotic.  This class receives an abundance of light and air, are kept clean and warm, have an abundance to eat and good beds to sleep on.

Seventh, refers to epileptics.  Same answer may be returned as to fault sixth.

Eight, clothing and bedding plenty and good.

Ninth, "houses slovenly in appearance and inmates unsupplied with proper appliances for personal cleanliness."  Knox county alms-house speaks for itself.  Our paupers would not be known by their clothes.

Tenth, refers to classification of paupers.  This cannot be done in out alms-house till the building is completed.  (Editors Note: This has since been done and the inmates assigned to their various departments.)

Eleventh, "scarcely a county in the State in which any attempt is made to impart either secular or religious instructions to the pauper."  the matron has assumed it as one of her duties to read to the family on the Sabbath, and from time to time the pastors of the city churches have exercises in the alms-house chapel.  Publishers of the Galesburg Register and the Knox County Democrat have kindly sent copies of their papers regularly to the alms-house the past year; and in behalf of the pauper family I would return them grateful thanks and ask a continuance of the favor.  There have also been Swedish papers sent to the family, but how many and by whom I am unable to state.  For them, we return thanks.

The comforts provided by Knox county for the relief of paupers doubtless contributes to increase their numbers.  For this the honorable State Board suggest enforced industry.

The nature of the causes which have made a large number of our family fit subjects for public care will be understood from an inspection of the annexed table, which gives nationality and sex:

Nationality   Male Female
America 31 29
Sweden 24 21
Norway 1 1
England 4  
Ireland 7 3
Scotland - 1
Wales 1  
Switzerland 1  
Denmark 1  
West Indies   1
Germany   1    


71 56

It may be a matter of interest to know that Knox county stands first in the amount invested for the care of its poor, $56,200 being the value of buildings and farm.  Peoria counts stands next, having $55,550.  Cook stands third, with $39,565.

These statements are made in answer to inquiries that are frequently made of persons that are in any way associated with the management of the institution."

The above typed by Kathy....

The Almshouse

page #642

     For Twenty-five years after the organization of Knox County, the paupers were farmed out to the lowest bidder; but after township organization was adopted, this system was thought inadequate, and the Board of Supervisors, finding a convenient tract of land for sale cheap, determined to purchase a county poor farm. On March 05, 1856, they purchased of M. G. Smith for the sum of $3,000, the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 21, Knox Township. The farmhouse already on the land was converted into a poorhouse; but it furnished wretched accommodations, and the complaints that ensued were loud and frequent, even the committee of supervisors exclaiming against it.

     Finally, in 1866, the Board determined to erect a new almshouse and R. W. Miles, L. E. Conger, and Cephas Arms were appointed a committee on building. The people of Knoxville, being naturally a great deal interested in the matter prepared plans and submitted them to the Board. But the plans were for a building as large as the present one, which rather dismayed many of the supervisors and temporarily stopped the project. Then the Galesburg members proposed a committee, appointed in April, 1866, to secure a location for the building. At the instance of W. Selden Gale, L. E. Conger bought for this committee the northwest quarter of Section 24, Galesburg Township, for $8,000. On behalf of Galesburg, W. s. Gale offered the Board $10,000 to locate the almshouse on this site. but the Knoxville people rallied their friends, asked that only a portion of the proposed building be built and secured the erection of the almshouse on its present site. The Board sold the Galesburg property for $9,000 and purchased, on June 15, 1866, thirty-six acres adjoining the old poor farm, from William Y. Miller, for $2,340; and two days later, thirty-three acres from John Eads, for $3,000.

   The contract for the main building and west wing was let to William Armstrong, for $26,000. The furniture, heating, and the stocking of the farm brought the total cost to $39,.037.21. The east wing was built by Parry and Stevens, of Galesburg, in accordance with the original plans, the contract being let August 21, 1876, for $17,400. The design was by W. W. Boyington, of Chicago, in Gothic Style. The building is constructed of brick and limestone,, 166 x 80, with two stories and a basement.

In 1890, the number of insane in Knox County was larger than the state asylums would take from the county, so the erection of an annex for the insane became necessary. W. s. Gale, J. S. Simpson, William Robson, H. M. Sisson and James Rebstock were appointed a committee to consider the matter, and they adopted plans of I. A. Coleman (really their own plans approved by Mr. Coleman) for a three-story building, corresponding to the almshouse, to be attached to the west wing by a corridor. March 18, 1890, P. O. Munson, of Galesburg, contracted to build it for $26,459. In 1898, the building was again found inadequate, and the Board determined on an annex for insane females, to be erected at the 3east side of the building, according to plans prepared by Gottschalk and Beadle. The contract was awarded to Munson and Tingleaf for the sum of $20,000, exclusive of heating and lighting, which will probable be $6,000 more. The contract was let in the latter part of July, 1898, and the annex was finished in the summer of 1899. a new laundry building also became a necessity, and the contract for this was awarded F. W. Hawk, of Knoxville, on September 27, 1898, for $16,000, the work to be done as soon as possible. It was finished early in 1899. and with these improvements, the almshouse was one of the handsomest, and most convenient in the state. The poor farm comprises about one hundred and fifty acres.

   When the almshouse was built, Dr. L. J. Cleveland and his wife took charge. Soon after Dr. Cleveland died, and Dr. M. A. McClelland was appointed to the place. Mrs. Cleveland (afterwards Mrs. M. A. McClelland) was a most efficient matron and superintendent, and retained her position until March 01, 1886, when M. P. Delong was appointed superintendent, which position he filled until February, 1892. the Board at that time appointed John Cook, the present superintendent, the change being made on account of Mr. DeLong's ill-health.


The below tabled of some of the people that was buried in the Almshouse Cemetery was typed up by Kathy Mills.  Thanks Kathy....

 1 LOGQUIST John 7/11/1906 age 73 yrs
 2 MAGNUSON Olof 5/14/1904 age 62 yrs
 3 McMANN Charles 4/24/1882 ----
 4 MELVILLE E. 6/17/1895 age 44 yrs
5 MORFOOT Clayton 9/24/1895 age 70 yrs
6 MORGAN William 10/3/1905 age 45 yrs
7 McNULTY ---- 9/24/1881 age 82 yrs
8 McNULTY Hannah 9/10/1883 age 83 yrs
9 MITCHELL Thomas 7/6/1903 age 73 yrs
10 MOORE Tillie 12/3/1909 age 33 yrs
11 MOSIER Willis 9/11/1895 age 5 mo's
12 NELSON Charles 11/12/1904 age 76 yrs
13 NELSON Harry Leon 10/25/1886 2y 11m 13d
14 NELSON Helma 4/23/1886 age 34 yrs
15 NELSON Hester Caroline Aug 1878 age 3 mo's
16 NELSON John H. 8/17/1885 age 67 yrs
17 NORBORG John 5/5/1905 age 59 yrs
18 NORD Christopher 7/27/1885 age 55 yrs
19 O'CONNER Mike 6/27/1895 age 60 yrs
20 OKASON Hannah  (cert) 9/21/1885 age 78 yrs
21 OLESON Christopher 1/30/1880 age 26 yrs
22 PARRISH Andrew 3/21/1884 age 21 yrs
23 PELLON Jesse 11/7/1905 age 33 yrs
24 PERKINS Francena 3/21/1884 age 53 yrs
25 PETERS Chrissie 12/16/1902 age 77 yrs
26 PETERSON Louis 1/27/1881 age 43 yrs
27 PETERSON Martha 3/9/1908 age 75 yrs
28 PHILLIPS George 3/28/1906 age 62 yrs
29 ROSENBERG Betsey 6/25/1887 age 68 yrs
30 ROUNDS Nancy 11/24/1886 age 77 yrs
31 SHAFFER John Peter 12/12/1877 age 91 yrs
32 SMITHERS James 12/25/1904 age 70 yrs
33 SPENCER William 7/20/1879 age 22 yrs
34 TEST George 2/10/1910 age 64 yrs
35 TRAINOR Rose 4/7/1907 age 69 yrs
36 VER GUNIR? Carl 7/16/1907 age 67 yrs
37 VAN FLEET Priscilla 8/27/1905 age 75 yrs
38 WADE Hiram 11/7/1888 age 95 yrs
39 WALDRON Mrs. J.B. 3/6/1908 age 81 yrs
40 WALLEEN Peter 12/5/1885 age 77 yrs
41 YOUNG Eliza 3/27/1886 age 29 yrs
42 YOUNG Ferdinand 6/8/1891 age 39 yrs
43 YOUNG Myrtle 12/24/1884-85 age 1m 7d
44 LUNGREEN? Charles Nov 1882 age 30 yrs
45 SMURC Amelia 11/25/1886 age 52 yrs
46 ---- Foundling 11/9/1881 age 1 mo. --- abandoned baby left on door step.
47 Anderson John Jan 28, 1884 83
48 Anderson John Oct 30, 1894 82
49 Ashley George Mar 7, 1886 26
50 Ashley Ida Aug 6, 1883 21
51 Barry Katie Jan 27, 1910 31
52 Beckman Augustus May 16, 1884 32
53 Benson Charles June 24, 1916 5mo 29da
54 Benson William Dec 10, 1882 78
55 Besse George Jan 19, 1908 62
56 Bloomquist August May 18, 1909 69
57 Bull H. C. May 31, 1905 50
58 Bull Sarah March 20, 1903 47
59 Burns Thomas Oct 20, 1907 81
60 Burk C. C. Sept 15, 1907 73
61 Campbell Thomas July 28, 1882 63
62 Cannon Lewis Sept 5, 1882 ---
63 Carlson Charles Apr 15, 1886 36
64 Carlson Jettro May 28, 1884 81
65 Cassidy Eliza A. Jan 8, 1908 84
66 Castle Aaron A. Dec 22, 1885/86 44
67 Cline Stephen Feb 9, 1917 94
68 Condor Frank May 25, 1904 35
69 Connors Vint? Mar 13, 1902 48
70 Cook Mode May 5, 1904 54
71 Conway Arius? Jan 26, 1908 84
72 Cousey H. T. Jan 21, 1886 ---
73 Dahlgren Hilda Dec 3, 1907 36
74 Dalton Jacob July 29, 1882 35

There will be a link below to two newspaper Articles about the Pauper Cemetery at the Alms-house.  One is just about a rewrite from the histories of Knox County on the site and the other one tells how the Tombstone Marker from Lackey's above came to be. Also, in the Article a woman found to be or thinks but not proven 101 people buried here but not sure and on this listing is only 74 people.  At one time there was 539 people living in the Alms House and they stayed until they died. So, there should be more people buried here. Click on the link below and when I get more time will do some more research on this.

Alms House Article One submitted by Tom Lundeen.

 Thank so much Tom!

1900 Almshouse Census contributed by Tom Lundeen  

The census is from Excel to Frontpage takes 2 minutes over slow dial up to download. Sorry & Thanks!


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Thursday, February 08, 2007 11:52:44 AM last update & uploaded.

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