Washington County Poor House

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Washington County Poor House
Opened 1867
Closed 1977
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Location Stillwater, MN
Alternate Names
  • Pine Point Nursing Home


Six years after Ramsey County established a poor farm, Washington County set aside 207 acres of land in Stillwater Township for one of its own. Harvey Wilson, the Washington County clerk of court, was instrumental in the purchase of the land. An 1881 history of Washington County described the poor farm as a "comfortable two-story frame building, affording all the necessary comforts for those who are in any way constrained to make this their home. It has two barns furnishing ample convenience for stock and grain."

John S. Proctor became the first superintendent of the poor farm and served in that capacity until he was appointed warden of the state prison in 1860. Following Proctor as the superintendent was Joseph N. Masterman, then C.A. Peterson, and then George Jarchow in 1895.

During the early years of the poor farm, its residents were men, women, and dependent children as well as the mentally ill and the insane. These people had nowhere to turn, no social security or welfare system that would help them get a foothold and re-enter society. There were some births at the Poor Farm as well as many deaths.

In 1890, the county physician reported seven deaths at the poor farm. In 1895 there were three deaths. A year later, four deaths were reported. If a resident didn't have any family to speak of, the person who had passed away would simply be buried in the unmarked "farm cemetery." It was an insane man that led the Washington County Board to call for the enlargement of the farm's barn "to build a suitable lock-up for the safe keeping of a crazy man on the poor farm," in September 1859. Another incident with the insane was told in the Stillwater Messenger of February 13, 1859. According to the paper, an insane woman was admitted to the poor farm, but it was learned that she was from Dakota County. The Washington County Sheriff then brought her back to Dakota County, with the newspaper adding, "our Dakota friends didn't play the dodge very well."

At the poor farm, the residents helped maintain the facilities as well as grow crops and help in the care of the farm's livestock. The farm was run by the county but tried to be as self-sustaining as possible. Those residents who could work on the farm were encouraged to do so. However, Superintendent Jarchow once noted that the "average pauper and laborer are not the best of friends." If more help were needed, the superintendent would hire out.

A lake on the Poor Farm property is named Lake Louise. Legend claims that the lake is named after a resident of the farm, named Louise or possibly a child named "Hannah Louise," who drowned in that body of water. There are no records that show that the drowning happened, so if it did, it must have happened in the early history of the Washington County Poor Farm.

In 1913 F. Ulrich took over as superintendent of the poor farm and stayed until 1919 when Albert A. Cran assumed that responsibility. In 1914, an inventory of the poor farm clearly shows how the farm tried to care for itself. By that time there was 247 acres of land, four brood mares, one old mare, 120 chickens, 12 cows and a pantry full of vegetables, foodstuffs, and kitchen utensils. Clothing and bedding including 43 pairs of overalls were counted in the inventory. The total value placed on the farm that year was $42,067.65.

As time went on, the number of residents at the farm continued to increase. By 1881, a two story framed building could hold 30 residents, but by 1922, the buildings were old and the number of residents was up to 39. Because of the increases and the age of the structures the county built a new, two story brick structure which was occupied on January 1, 1925.

With a new building came a new director, Mr. Henry Reier. Under Reier the farm grew and the building even received electricity in 1936. By 1937, a total of 360 acres were being farmed. When Reier took over, the name of the poor farm was changed to the "Washington County Home." By 1937 there were 63 residents making the farm their home. In 1941, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Schmidt took over the directorship, which wasn't a difficult adjustment for Mrs. Schmidt because she was the daughter of Henry Reier.

During the early 1940s, when war was raging throughout the world, the area northeast of the present acreage, on a hill adjacent to County Road 55, was used for spotting airplanes during the blackout times. The railroad siding, called the Kilty siding in the 1901 Washington County Plat book, was where supplies for the County Home could be unloaded. During the late fall, a boxcar full of coal was left there for three days and had to be unloaded at that time using only the horse and wagon from the farm.

Gradually the County Home became primarily a home for the aged. Under the laws of Minnesota, chapter 610 of 1951, the Washington County Home was renamed the Pine Point Nursing Home. In 1958, the county built a manager's living quarters across the street from the nursing home. This was the first time the manager/supervisor was not living directly with the home. It was also about this time, according to Superintendent William Schmidt, that the farming operation on the farm ceased supplying foodstuffs to the home due to new health regulations.

The Schmidts remained the administrators of Pine Point until 1975, when Mr. Dick Ulrich took over. It was only two years later, in May 1977, that Pine Point Nursing Home closed. The Home was closed due to increasing strict health and space regulations. It would have been just too costly to bring the Pine Point Nursing Home up to the new standards.

The brick structure sat vacant for several years, suffering damage from neglect and vandals. Then, in June 1981, there was some beginning discussions on selling the nursing home and 26 acres that surround it. The Washington County Board of Commissioners unanimously moved that the county staff prepare specifications and advertise for bids on the building and surrounding property. At the time, county deputy administrator Rip Riebel said "We decided that we'd better do something with the building soon before it deteriorates to the point of being useless."

It was also at this time that the county commissioners were asked to make an "unusual ruling" in the case of the "farm cemetery." At that time, the county was allowing a farmer to grow beans on the cemetery and it was deemed an "inappropriate use." Arthur Nelson of Cottage Grove pointed out it was the county's responsibility to care for the cemetery. However, County Attorney Robert Kelly said that the state statute indicates that counties "may" expend public money to maintain a cemetery but is in no way obligated to do so. The county did not appropriate money for the farm cemetery, and it is still today neglected and abandoned with up to 100 of the county's poorest people buried in it.

In May 1982, Leland, Linda, and Carolyn Gohlike placed a $78,000 purchase bid for the building and 26 acres of land. They hoped to create a lodge and restaurant. After some negotiations and a number of permits that had to be issued, the sale went through in November 1983. The Gohlikes made it into the Outing Lodge at Pine Point and a bed and breakfast facility with a meeting hall.

Courtesy Washington County Historical Society