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Town Poor Farm (Alms House)

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154 Old Derry 2017 S

Garnett Home at 154 Old Derry (formerly the Alms House)

 

This home, located at what is now 154 Old Derry Road, became a part of our town’s history in 1828 when it was purchased by Nottingham West (now Hudson) and used as the town Poor Farm or Alms House. In those days the resident poor were kept at the town farm; those who could worked the farm in an effort to produce food for all residents of the farm. The town maintained this farm for some 40 years until 1868 when the farm was sold and the few paupers which existed at the time were boarded out to private homes at the expense of the town. It was common for towns in this area to maintain a poor farm, supervised by the Overseer of the Poor. It was, in essence, their welfare system. As uncomfortable as this concept makes us feel, we need to realize there were no pension plans, no social security, no food stamps, no insurance to address medical and or hospitalization expenses. Any number of life events could have caused one to end up at the poor farm: living beyond ones means, mortgage foreclosure with no options to refinance, not making plans for your old age or for your widow after your death. Couple any of these events with no family able or willing to to care for you could place one in this desperate situation.

By 1869, with the Town of Hudson providing for the poor by boarding them in private homes at the town’s expense, the town farm on Old Derry Road was sold to members of the Senter family. Proceeds from the sale were used to assist families of veterans of the Civil War.

The home at 154 Old Derry Road, the former Alms House, is now the delightful home of Al and Marikaye Garnett and their family. The Garnetts purchased the home some 25 years ago in 1992. I had the opportunity to visit with Marikaye in the living room of their home just before Thanksgiving. As you enter the home from the steps leading to the three season room (previously a summer porch); you enter the beautifully rustic but modern kitchen. From there we entered the living room. Sitting on one of the couches I had a complete view of their back yard with a fenced in swimming pool. Beyond fence was a field leading to a wooded area. Just before the wooded area one could see the iron chain fence installed by the Town of Hudson to identify the location of the Poor Farm Cemetery.

We spoke of the master bedroom which previously was the common area or social center for the residents of the poor farm. The stone fireplace, paneled walls, and large picture window gave no sense or memorabilia of the town paupers who called this house their final home. Any such reminders are behind the dry wall or the paneling or on the beams of the attic. Prior to moving into 154 Old Derry Road the Garnetts performed a tradition common to their faith, a house blessing. They went from room to room praying and telling Jesus they wanted to use this house for His glory. O yes, they have heard stories and experiences of previous owners; but for themselves, these past 25 years the house has been at peace.

Within my memory this house has been home to members of the Farrington (1985 – 1992), Gould (1970-1985), Mazzarella (1966-1970) and Dube (1940 – 1966) families. In 1940 Albert and Lydia Dube moved their family of five (Theresa, Gertrude, Alice, Leo, and Claire) into the old farmhouse. A second son, Paul, was born a few years later. The farmhouse was on one side of the road; the barn nearly opposite the house on the other side of the road. Here the Dube family resided; working and living on the family farm, delivering milk to the local dairy for processing, attending local schools, and participating in 4-H activities. When farming activity had ceased Albert and Lydia converted the barn into a house for himself and his wife, Lydia. After the remainder of the farm was sold in 1966, they continued to live in what had been their barn. This house at 157 Old Derry Road is now home to their grandson Neil Lavoie and his family.
Attached to the garage ceiling is a large antique hay fork . This was used to lift the loose hay from the hay wagon up into the loft of the barn for winter storage. This relic remains as a fond reminder of the farming days of their family.

Of the six members of the Dube family, five are living in New Hampshire and one in Florida. The oldest, Theresa at age 90, lives in a retirement community on Webster Street here in Hudson. Gertrude, next oldest, lives in Florida. Alice and her husband George Lavoie reside in Londonderry. Leo, the oldest son, graduated from Alvirne, served in the Air Force and later established a veterinary practice in Henniker. He has since retired. Claire graduated from Alvirne and she and her husband Paul Bouffard live in Bartlett, and Paul, the youngest is living in Hookset.

Today’s photo, taken by the author, shows the Garnett home, the former alms house, at 154 Old Derry Road as seen today.

 

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