Poor farms and homesteads in 1882 Stutsman County

Stutsman County held a special election in March of that year.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Jamestown was having some growing pains in 1882. Some of those problems dealt with the disadvantaged of the region.

Stutsman County held a special election in March of that year. Two questions were on the ballot dealing with the same issue.

One question asked if the county should spend $10,000 to set up a poor farm. A more conservative plan authorizing $3,000 for the same purpose was the second question.

The weather was bad on election day which probably was a big factor in the election turnout. In Jamestown, three people voted in favor of the $10,000 expenditure with 21 opposed. The $3,000 option passed in Jamestown by a 13-to-5 margin.


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There were only three other polling places in Stutsman County back in 1882. The voters in Spiritwood and Eldridge were unanimously against both measures. Spiritwood cast 15 no votes on both measures while Eldridge cast 14 votes against both measures.

The community of Alsop, located near present-day Cleveland, voted 5 to 4 to pass the $10,000 plane and 5 to 3 to pass the $3,000 option.

Tallying all the votes together, the measures both failed.

The Jamestown Alert did comment on some of the people struggling to get along.

“Wachler, the man who had his leg amputated and has been living at the expense of the county, is able to get around town and is wanting to go back to Arcadia, Wisc.,” wrote the Alert correspondent. “It seems to the Alert that it would be a good idea to have him go as he has been a big expense to the county and is a disagreeable individual to get along with.”


Not a very generous attitude.

While The Alert had editorialized against the poor farm, it did advocate an “immigration house.” This building would provide housing to new arrivals in the community a place to live while they sought out a permanent place to farm or live.

The newspaper and the community were counting on settlers who would build farms and homes in the area.

Disagreeable people need not apply.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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