The Johnson County Historical Society's

Asylum and Poor Farm




Background | Asylum | Today


The asylum was made up of small cubicles that were barred and locked from the outside. Heat was provided by a small stove in the center that was not sufficient enough to heat the entire asylum. Treatment was nonexistent and the physical care would be considered inhumane by our standards today. The mentally ill received care that was no better than the hogs that resided in the asylum years later, but at the time was considered “above the average county institution” standard of care.

Ten to twelve persons were crowded into one “apartment”. The ventilation was insufficient because there was only a single stove. The packed “apartments” consisted of very sick and unclean people. Sanitation was not a top priority at the time and treatment was administered through working the farm. Finally, the county approved an enlargement of the farm and charged the inmates one and a half dollars a week to live there. The inmates usually paid their rent by caring for the livestock or farming the land. It was an economical way to care for these people and a good investment. In 1863 the farm made a surplus of five hundred dollars.


Door to a cell in the asylum that has been worn down by hogs over time

Quotes courtesy of articles written by Verne Kelley and the Division of Historical Preservation.



For questions or comments, please contact Catherine Stewart