Sandpoint and Surrounding Communities History
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The Bonner County Poor Farm

by Bob Gunter

Pat Gooby has lived in Sandpoint all his life and as a child did chores at the old County Poor Farm. I asked Pat to tell me a story about the farm and here is his story. Due to lack of space some editing was necessary.

My understanding about what happened, and it is my understanding of what I was told, was the Hunt family had a brickyard south of the County Poor Farm. The holes are still in the ground where they dug the clay. Mr. Hunt built a two-story home for himself that was approximately the eastern third of the old Poor Farm. When he built his home he started out about three feet in the ground with his foundation and he used bricks for a foundation. Back then they used a lot of lime in their mortar which over time weakens the mortar. The Great Northern, which was a railroad here at that time, was a fast track. Over the course of time with the vibration of the railroad the bricks and the mortar began to separate and disintegrate. The part the county added to the home and the original Hunt residence was separating from the rest of the building. It is also my understanding that the Hunt family lost the home to the county for taxes. Whether that is fact or not, I am not sure.

There is a sad story about something that happened while the Hunts were there. They had been having problems with coyote's trying to get their chickens. One night they heard a noise and Clarence, a son, went out back without his father's knowledge. Mr. Hunt got his shotgun and went to check on the chickens. He saw a movement and not being able to see he shot his son in the face. It did not kill him but he had very poor eyesight for the rest of his life. I was told that Mr. Hunt never got over the accident.

At that particular time it was estimated that the City of Sandpoint was going to be located out in the general area of the Poor Farm and away from the eastern side of Sand Creek. When the county acquired the Hunt property it was their desire to have a County Hospital and with brick left over from the Hunt factory they went ahead and added the two-thirds of the western part of the old County Poor Farm. There was a swing in sentiment at the time and they went ahead and developed Sandpoint as we know it now. It was at that time that the County converted what was to be a county hospital into the County Poor Farm. It was primarily designed to take care of elderly men and gentlemen who could not take care of themselves and had no means of support. This was prior to Social Security and other programs offering help.

Charlie and Alice Albertson, the caretakers, lived in the part that had been the Hunt residence. The county hired them to come in and take care of the old gentlemen. They would see that they were fed and that things were done the way the county wanted them done. It was designed to be self-sustaining because they raised their own meat, and their own dairy products, and they had a large garden. Some of the people who lived there did what they could to help. The county not only had the caretakers but they would allow the caretakers to hire kitchen help and farm help. Typically these were foster type children of high school age and they would receive $25 a month plus room and board.

When we moved here in 1942 I knew some of the boys that worked over at the Poor Farm for two or three years. They later left and my Dad didn't think us three boys had enough to do hand milking fifteen cows twice a day and he went over there and got us the job of doing the chores at the Poor Farm. So we did the chores there, my brothers and myself, for ten years. I ate two meals a day there for almost ten years. Mrs. Albertson had her meals always on time and they were good meals. One of my jobs was to cut wood and keep the wood box filled. I don't remember ever cutting one stick of wood because every day there would be a hobo there wanting something to eat. He would fill the wood box to pay for his meal. The people who came to the Poor Farm for help were well taken care of. I never saw any abuse by anybody. The men who stayed at the Poor Farm were good people. Some of them were young and had been hurt on the job or they couldn't work due to the weather. They always got good treatment. They were good neighbors and it worked out well.

We worked there until the county closed it down and leased the property to two doctors just prior to their opening of what was called Sandpoint Manor. They operated it as their rest home for about two years and then moved to their new place. About 1960 the county put the property up for sale and we as a family purchased the majority of the County Poor Farm.

 

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All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.

 

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