April 14, 2012

Prairie View Nursing Home - Friday, April 13, 2012

Another true story from Kaya the Wonder dog from New Lenox!

 Prairie View Nursing Home

One Friday April 13, 2012 Students and friends from Quincy University along with Brother Ed, OFM had the opportunity to investigate the abandoned Prairie View Nursing Home outside Lewistown, Missouri. 
We arrived at 6:45 P.M., the weather was cool, dark and cloudy. We managed to get an early start from Quincy, so by the time we arrived at our destination, it was still light. It rained earlier that day that made the grounds wet and damp.

The long driveway to the building in the distance caused the mood to be a combination of worry and restlessness. This was the first time this group from Quincy had the chance to investigate with Brother Ed. 

The group was looking forward to the investigation after having heard so many stories from other teams ventures into this quiet giant. Above, the group took a photo of itself for the remembrances’ of the night.

This building is currently in the care of the county commissioner (Mr. John C.) and is used for storage of highway department equipment. By looking around, you could see the remnants of parties by unsolicited guests. Our first responsibility was to make sure that there was no one else in the building. This was for safety reasons, as well as to discount any possible contamination of any evidence we might be able to collect during the enquiry. 

We noted that the rain had started to slow, but the lightening continued, creating a very interesting background for the remainder of the investigation. And with the easing of the rain, the frogs started to croak, which they did the remainder of the night. This would make audio very difficult for us.

Standing in the hallway in complete darkness, nothing was noted. The group next ventured into a huge area that was divided by a partition, where one side was for female residents, the other for male residents.
We appreciate the opportunity to investigate this wonderful, old building. We think that on return visits, the residents might be more receptive to our being there, and therefore hope to return in the very near future.

We all had a great night!
Brother Ed, OFM, moderator

Prairie View Rest Home 
Historical Research
On January 10, 1927, The County of Lewis purchased from Cora E. Porter, and George and Inez Humphrey 160 acres of land for the purpose of constructing a County Infirmary. In 1940, Lucius D. Patterson died, and in his estate, he left $27,126.39 in a fund under the custody of the county court, for use of the county home, for the support of poor and dependent and for no other purpose whatever. This money could be used towards land, materials, or upkeep of the property. With this money, an additional 160 acres at a cost of $6400 was purchased by Lewis County from William Z. Conner, and attached to the existing property. An additional $4000 was used to build a new barn on the property. In 1991, 10 acres was sold for $15,000 at site of the current County Aire Estates. But the history of Prairie View and The Lewis County Poor Farm goes a lot further back than this purchase.
The Missouri Statues of 1889 addresses the care of the poor. The statute states that poor persons shall be “relieved, maintained, and supported by the county of which they are inhabitants.” It also gives the county the right to “purchase and lease land, any quantity in the respective counties, not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres and receive a conveyance to their county for the same.” The county is to hire a superintendent, who must keep records of expenses, and can cause persons kept at such poorhouses, who are able to do useful labor, to perform the same by reasonable and humane coercion.”  Lewis County was ahead of its time, as it had already established a way to care for its poor and unfortunate.

The first Lewis County Poor Farm was at the home of Benjamin and Ann Pittsford, located 6 miles southwest of Lewistown. A transient person stopped at the home in 1854, and being too sick to travel, stayed with the Pittsfords. So many people stayed there due to illness or being unable to care for themselves, that the Pittsfords requested assistance from the state for the care. 

In 1873, Lewis County acquired land east of Canton, Missouri for $5999.53. The land amounted to 173 acres. The facility officially opened April 5, 1873, with the first registered "inmates" being on May 1, 1873. In 1985, Lewis County purchased additional land, the final total land size was 268 acres. The Platt map from 1917 shows the Lewis County Farm at the intersection of what is now Moosewood Street and County Road 526, having a total of 268 acres.
The facility served a very useful purpose, but violent deaths were not unheard of. In 1886, a 65 year old man, Pleasant Prophet, was attacked by another inmate, James Shelton (noted to have had dementia) with a hoe while working in the fields, he died as a result of that attack. In another incident, Lafe Thompson was struck by Frank Milton with a can, sustaining a fractured skull and death. Earlier, Thompson had raised his can against Lou Mazingo and Milton stopped him. Thompson had gone to an orchard to cut a can, apparently to complete the earlier attack when he was struck by Milton. There is also a listing for the death of a 6 year old boy in 1899, notation was that the boy did not have lower extremities (cause unknown.) The Lewis County Platt Map of 1878 lists this area as the "Infirmary," with later Platt Maps listing the facility as the Lewis County Farm, or Lewis County Home.  
When the property was reported to be no longer safe, it was decided that something had to be done about establishing a new facility.  Lewis County had taken steps to reduce the expense of the facility. In previous years, they had established additional taxes to be levied on property, with the additional going towards the building fund. Additional taxes were at 7 cents on $100, 3 cents, 4 cents in 1926, and 11 cents (for total of 15 cents) in 1927. This resulted in the building being paid for when it was completed. The cost of the facility was $50,527. The County purchased the 160 acres from George Humphrey for $13,000 and than sold him the previous Poor Farm site of 268 acres for $10,000. The corner stone of the building was laid on July 4, 1927, with a ceremony that was attended by 2000 persons. The three story building, measuring 50 feet by 100 feet was completed, and formally opened December 10, 1927. The first superintendent was William E. Underbrink and his wife Kittie. They had been listed as the superintendent of the previous facility starting in 1920. They continued to be the superintendent until 1954. 
The first floor, or the basement, was the location of the African American dormitory. Also on this level was located the laundry, the butter making room, the furnace and boiler room. There was also a dining room on this level to be used by the African American.

The second floor was accessed from the entrance into the lobby. From there, one side was the main dining room, used by the white inmates, with the superintendent's dining room and kitchen to one side, while the resident's kitchen was to the other side. From the lobby the other direction was the men's quarters. The third floor housed the superintendent's apartment which consisted of 6 rooms, and a reception room for visitors.
The women's quarters was located on this level, with 12 small rooms with a ed, 5 wards containing 8-10 beds each, and 5 bathrooms for residents use. Also on this floor could be found the porch, sewing room, and a guest room with private bath, closets, and electrical refrigeration. This area was separated from the rest of the building. Each bed was made of steel, with springs, two mattresses, plenty of blankets, and a bedspread. All beds were to be made regularly in the morning.

The building was very unique for its time. Self closing fire doors separated the coal room from the boiler room and adjacent corridors. There were chemical fire extinguishers throughout the building. The only wood used in the building was the roof, around the doors and windows, and the door and windows. The building was wired for radio with loud speakers in the corridors, with the control in the superintendent's apartment. Private rooms were available for married or related persons, the infirmed, the diseased, and the spasmodically demented. After the grand opening, visiting days were limited to Thursdays, to allow people to tour the building.

The Lewis County Home, as it was called in those days, was designed to be self sustaining. All able bodied inmates were requested to work to help out, and many took great pride in doing this. Those that were sick or unable to do these tasks were not punished.A big lake at one end of the property provided water for the facility's use. 

An article from 1932 shows the facility had 43 residents, had planted 34 bushels of potatoes, and 1 ½ bushels of onion sets. They had also killed 30 hogs the previous fall. Reports where that the residents ate very well, with full meals three times a day. Christmas was always celebrated in style. A tree graced the facility, and local merchants donated fruits, candies, wearing apparel, and tobacco. Santa Claus visited to celebrate the season.A full meal was enjoyed by all.

In an article dated January, 1933, reference is made to Mr. Underbrink having plotted the cemetery. Previous to this, the cemetery in the back of the property held unmarked graves. Mr. Underbrink made coffins for the inmates who died. Mr. Underbrink not only made the coffins, he also poured cement forms to fashion tombstones.

In an article from December, 1936, it was shown that the facility had a vegetable garden and a potato field. The farm also contained hogs, 4 head of fine horses, 14 dairy cows, a bull and heifers, and approximately 300 chickens. 

In 1953, the new water plant building was erected in the now Prairie View Rest Home. The land had now been expanded to 320 acres, and was leased to Mrs. Underbrink and her son Clyde. They show having 30 dairy cows, 250 hens, a few shoats, and last fall canned (in gallon jars) 100 gallons of tomatoes, and 150 gallons of green beans.

In 1955, Prairie View Rest Home was leased to private individuals, and out of the control of the county. On January 30, 1957 the facility became incorporated. Prairie View was listed as a 69 bed facility. In 1957, the county leased Prairie View to a non-profit organization, on a 1 year lease at nominal rental fee, to be able to have better control of the facility. The aim was to have a self supporting, and more comfortable facility. The first superintendents were Paul and Betty Shuman. On October 1, 1959 the Missouri Division of Health issued a Practical Nursing Home license to Prairie View Rest Home.

In 1975, the proposal was made for a new facility, due to changes in government regulations and the age of the building. In 1991, Country Aire Retirement Estates was completed, and the move completed into the new building in November of that year. The old building was considered as a site of a jail, but no additional information could be obtained for that venture. 

Review of the death records for the facility east of Country Aire Estates shows at least 173 deaths at the facility from the time the doors opened in 1927 until 1954. Some additional names are listed, but can not verify their deaths being at the home. No death of a child can be verified at this facility. Through 1947, death certificates list the facility as Lewis County Home. In 1949 the death certificates list the facility as Prairie View Rest Home. Have not been able to determine exactly when the name changed, but suspect in 1948.

The facility is now in the care of the county commissioners of Lewis County.