Admission Books, 1800-1910
On February 27, 1798, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed “An Act to provide for the erection of houses for the employment and support of the poor, in the counties of Chester and Lancaster”. With the passage of this law and the subsequent election of the Directors of the Poor, the process of selecting a site and erecting the county poorhouse began.
As their first order of business the Directors viewed several potential sites and eventually agreed to purchase the three-hundred-and-five-acre farm of Stephen Harlan in West Bradford in November 1798. On March 11, 1799, William Hawley, carpenter, who “offering the lowest Terms,” was selected to begin construction. The process took over a year and a half and on November 12, 1800 the Directors “received the Poor from 19 Townships” into the newly erected poorhouse.
The same 1798 law required that the Directors submit an annual list of all poorhouse inhabitants, their “ages and sexes of the persons maintained and employed in the said house … or supported or assisted by them elsewhere, and of the children by them bound out to apprenticeships.” This provision led to the keeping of admissions books, which were generally maintained by the steward or under steward, most of which have survived with one exception. The volume covering the period from 1827 until 1842 is missing. While not reflective of all the information contained in the missing volume, the years between 1827 and 1842 have been supplemented by the reports the Directors submitted to the Court of Quarter Sessions (RQS).
Below is a list of terms found in the index:
Absconded/Left without permission/Ran away/Eloped – This individual left the poorhouse without permission, which was required.
Aided or Assisted – This individual received financial support to stay out of the poorhouse, usually boarding with someone in their community.
An order to bring in/Order brought for – This individual was formally declared a “pauper” by a local Justice of the Peace, usually by request of township officials, and physically brought into the poorhouse.
Bound – A child who was bound or apprenticed to a master. Boys were generally bound until 21 and girls until 18.
Dismissed or discharged – This individual was determined to no longer need the assistance of the poorhouse and allowed to leave.
In/Out – Came in/left the poorhouse with permission.
Removed or transferred – Sent to another poorhouse. County poorhouses would attempt to determine the residency of each pauper. If it was determined that the pauper belonged to another county, the Directors would actively attempt to remove or transfer them to that county.
RQS – This entry comes from the yearly Directors reports submitted to the Court of Quarter Sessions.
Supported in the poor house – Individual who are physically supported in the poorhouse.
Taken out for a trial period – Many children were taken out on a trial basis by prospective masters before they were formally bound or apprenticed.