Butler County Poor Farm Project

Throughout my digital history class, I have been working on the Butler County Poor Farm project. I have been a part of the Narrative and Exhibit team, while other teams have digitized, transcribed, and analyzed the records from the poor farm. My primary job has been to research the poor farm for the background information narrative. One of the biggest challenges that I have been presented with in this project is the difficulty of attaining information. There are not a lot of sources about the history of the Butler County Poor Farm. Looking for histories, scholarly articles, or just online databases proved to be a futile effort. Really the only dependable source of information on the topic was found in Newspaper articles, largely from Newspapers.com. By looking at what was being said about the farm at the time, I worked with my team to craft a timeline and a narrative of the history of the county home. My primary source research skills have been utilized in examining the articles that I have come across. I also feel that my communication and information accumulation skills have been bettered through this project.

This project has taught me a lot about the history of poverty in the part of the world that I call home. By reading about Butler, and Venango County for comparison, I was delving into the history of a people group that I hadn’t really looked at before. The conditions of the poor farm and the scandal that came out in the 1920s and 30s with regard to abuse was information that I hadn’t really considered. The people who called the poor farm home were people who had fallen out of luck. The fact that management had taken advantage of the situation that these people were in is disgusting. I think that my favorite quote from the Butler Citizen that I came across in my research was from the Grand Jury of 1912. “Reforms in the management should be made at once and the county home should in every particular be what it was designed to be– not a poor house for paupers– but a home for unfortunates.”

This was a really interesting project that I really enjoyed being a part of. I think that we could have benefited from more intergroup communication. It was difficult to gauge how far along the other groups were because we never had a class-wide discussion of the project and how it was coming along. I think that the groups don’t need to be so distinctly divided; they need to be encouraged to interact and help each other out for the best execution of the project.

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