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That fines were imposed for nonattendanco at the stated meetings, but their collection was not at all times rigidly enforced. < The initiation fees appear to have been punctually paid, and from a small beginning the society had collected a very respectable medical library. Members were annually designated to deliver discourses on subjects relating to the practice of medicine, and members were invited to report special and unusual cases coming under their observation and care. The archives of the society must be replete with important and interesting information.
The common remark, "that Americans are careless of human life," is most strikingly illustrated in our treatment of this profession. We are quite as likely to deliver a valued friend or dear relative, laboring under some critical or latent disease, into the hands of some "quack doctor," who knows no more about the anatomy or organism of the human system, than a Malay does of ethics, as we are to search out the best-read and most experienced medical practitioner.
The county has sustained, if it did not produce them, several men of eminence and distinguished ability in this profession. But the avaricious grasp of the " almighty dollar" may strike down science and the arts and accomplishments, or" invite them to new fields of enterprise and exertion in the westward track of emigration, and leave us nothing but a dull stultified mass of imbecility. There is no reason, within human cognizance, why the country, and such a country as ours, should not uphold and maintain men of eminence in all the professions and pursuits of life. No man with us holds the tenure of his existence and his labor on a lease from another. None are so poor but he can cast in his mite to the erection of the splendid monument of American progress; there are thousands who lack the will. Progressive ignorance is a broad and steep declivity which must quickly land us on a platform of anarchy or under a throne of absolutism.
The Poor House Establishment.
i This county was among the first in the state to come
under the provisions of the act of November 27th, 1824. The board of supervisors met at Herkimer, May 5th, 1825, and appointed Abijah Beckwith of Columbia, Robert Shoemaker of German Flats, and William Griswold of Fairfield, a committee to examine into the subject of establishing a poor house in the county and to report at a subsequent meeting of the board. This committee reported on the last Monday of May, 1825, when the supervisors resolved to purchase the property in German Flats, near the line of the canal formerly owned by Mr. Gillespie, for the sum of two thousand dollars, to be appropriated to the purposes of a county poor house; appointed Samuel Etheredge and Gideon Johnson to negotiate the purchase, and Rudolph J. Shoemaker, Alfred Putnam, Lauren Ford, John B. Dygert and Caleb Budlong superintendents. The supervisors also directed their clerk, as soon as the proper officers had taken possession of the house, to cause public notice of the fact to be published in the Herkimer American and People's Friend.
On the 16th November, 1827, the supervisors resolved by a vote of 10 to 6 to abolish the distinction between town and county poor in accordance with the provisions of an act of the legislature then recently passed. Up to this time each town had supported its own poor at the county establishment, that is, such persons as had according to existing laws become settled in the respective towns, were, when supported at the public expense, known as town paupers. The new system had not worked to the public satisfaction, either through defects in the management or want of proper accommodation as to buildings and grounds. On the 16th of December, 1827, the supervisors resolved to ask the legislature for authority to sell at their discretion the "present county poor house establishment, and purchase a more suitable piece of land and erect buildings thereon for the future reception and accommodation of the paupers of the county." A law was passed to this effect, but no immediate action seems to have been taken under it. In November, 1829, the supervisors authorized the county superintendents of the poor to provide for support out of the county house, idiot and lunatic paupers. In 1837, the question of disposing of the poor house was again agitated, although at the annual meeting that year the superintendents were authorized to purchase a part of the Steel farm for the use of the county, which was subsequently effected. In 1839 and 1840, the question of a sale and change of location was discussed by the supervisors, and there appears to have been a settled opinion that something should be done, but what it should be, was very difficult to settle upon. The legislature again passed laws on the application of the board of supervisors, allowing a sale and change of location. In 1842 the superintendents were authorized by the board of supervisors to sell the "present poor house and the small piece of land contiguous thereto for five hundred dollars," a pretty clear indication that the house was not considered of much value and was deemed entirely inadequate to the purposes it had been devoted. It was agreed on all hands that the time contemplated by the resolution of 1828 had fully arrived, but the difficulty about the new location and the plan of a new house were not very easily settled. The legislature in 1844 vested in the board of supervisors full power to sell out the old establishment, purchase a new site and erect suitable buildings thereon.
An active and exciting controversy of nearly three years' duration was kept up in the county before a majority of the supervisors made a final disposition of the subject. That body was almost equally divided on the question of the new location. The centralists were very urgent to keep it on the south side of the river, or near the centre of the county, while the supervisors of the northern and eastern towns were very zealous to have the poor house establishment removed from the Erie canal. While the contest existed, the towns placed their best and most influential men in the board of supervisors, when Greek met Greek in the tug of war. After the board had appointed commissioners to select a new site, the friends of the river location carried a resolution at a subsequent meeting of the board, to rebuild on the old site, and after repealing all former resolutions of the board relating to this subject, adjourned. Before any further action was taken in reference to carrying this project into effect, this resolution was repealed, and the matter was again entirely afloat, and continued undetermined some time.
At a meeting of the board, on the 17th March, 1846, the supervisors, by a vote of 11 to 7, sanctioned the contract for the new buildings, made by the commissioners previously appointed, and directed the superintendents of the poor to deliver and assign to the said commissioners all moneys and securities belonging to the county poor house establishment. The board had, at a meeting held on the 15th January, 1846, fixed upon a new site, by a vote of 10 to 9. The commissioners who superintended the erection of the new establishment were, George W. Alton, George Burch and Cornelius T. E. Van Horne.
The new Poor House is located in the town of Herkimer, on the west side of the West Canada creek, on the road from Herkimer to Newport, and about two miles south of Middleville, and far enough from the canal and rail road thoroughfares to discommode roaming mendicants, which I conclude was the leading object of the advocates of the change. The establishment is large and commodious, and well adapted to the benevolent purposes for which it was erected. The supervisors of this county now perform all the duties in respect to pauper relief that formerly devolved upon the overseers of the poor by law.
County Agricultural Society.
A society to promote the improvement of this important branch of our industrial pursuits, was organized under the act of April 7th, 1819. The objects of the society met the approval of the non-agricultural portion of the people of the county to a considerable extent, and some exertions were made to induce the farming community to attend the annual fairs and exhibitions, but the coercive tax authorized by the act to sustain these county institutions was not looked upon with favor in that quarter, and after one or two efforts to make a respectable show, the affair was abandoned.
A reorganization of the society was had in the county, under the act of May 6th, 1841, and the annual exhibitions which have taken place have been highly creditable to the agricultural, manufacturing and mechanical interests of the county. It could not be expected that the extent and variety of show would be as large as in the more populous and wealthy counties. The proceedings of this society are found published with the annual transactions of the State society, and I will not recapitulate them. I notice with regret, the fact, that of late years the society has been sustained mainly by the population in the southern and western parts of the county, while the northern and eastern sections do not seem to have participated in these annual social meetings and industrial exhibitions, with the zeal and alacrity which might well be expected from an intelligent, wealthy and progressive population.
I must close this notice of the society with giving the last annual meeting of its executive officers.
At the annual meeting of the officers of the Herkimer county agricultural society, held pursuant to adjournment, at the Remington House, in Ilion, on the 2d day of January, I 855, the following members were present, viz.: Messrs. McKee, Morgan, Bonfoy, Smith, Jones, J. B. Smith, D. Ben- foy, Hawks and Wilcox.
Resolved, That Wm. Stewart, Esq, be appointed chairman, pro tern., and Hon. Jonathan Jones, secretary.
The following gentlemen were elected officers for the current year:
President—Geo. B. Judd, Frankfort.