The Ray County Poor Farm was built in the shape of a "Y" in 1910 at a cost of $19,491.That cost included wiring, plumbing, & heating. It has 14,424 square feet of floor space, and three floors with 54 rooms.
The eight masonry walls are 14" thick up to the roof, and fire doors at the wing entrances. The side porches are approximately 200 square feet each.
Its unique design earned the County Home a place on the National Register of Historical Places.
The building was used as a Poor Farm until the 1960's when it became a nursing home.
In the 1970's, this unique building became the Ray County Museum sponsored by the Ray County Historical Society.
The 1910 building was not the first Poor Farm in Ray County. The original Poor Farm operated around 1860 and was located near the intersection of what is now Highway B and Highway F. The farm had 126 acres of land.
The first Poor Farm Superintendent was David Rimmer and in addition to his own family, the farm housed six people that the county felt could not care for themselves for one reason or another.
George Cook was the last superintendent at the old Poor Farm. He was paid $25 a month plus room and board for his family.
When the county built the new Poor Farm, the pay was raised to $75 a month plus room and board.
The first superintendent in the new building was Sexus T Simms.
In 1928 the Board for the Visiting of Corrective Institutions paid their semi-annual visit to the Poor Farm and gave Andy Ballard, the superintendent, very high marks and recommended his salary be increased. Mr. Ballard received $100 a month, but had to pay for an assistant out of his own pocket.
People were placed at the Ray County Poor Farm simply because they could not take care of themselves and became wards of the county. The people who lived at the Poor Farm can be broken up in to two major groups -- medical and hard times.
The Poor Farm was the predecessor of the nursing homes and many who lived there were there because of old age and no family around.
There were a few privately run rest homes within Richmond, but those staying there (or their family and friends) had to pay to keep them there.
There are also cases of people who were blind and or mute being placed in the Poor Farm.
People were also placed at the Poor Farm through hardships. However, the Ray County Court had to give their approval before a person or family was allowed to stay at the farm.
Room and board were provided once the person was approved for the Poor Farm. But living there was not free.
The county wanted the farm to be as self sufficient as possible and everyone who could work was required to work on the farm one way or another.
Women did a lot of the cleaning and sewing and men had to help with the garden, the livestock, and with making general repairs around the farm.
At times, the Poor Farm provided temporary housing for families or individuals who needed a place to stay until regular housing could be found. Sometimes orphans sometimes stayed there while waiting for the Orphan Train.
There were a few cases where the Poor Farm was used as a shelter. In one case, a mother and her children were taken to the Poor Farm for safekeeping while the sheriff looked for the husband/father. He had been abusing them and threatened to kill them all.
Some people that were admitted to the Poor Farm simply because they did not have the money to take care of themselves and didn't have any family who could help.
The last group pertains to the jail. There were two totally different groups for this subject.
In 1917, the State of Missouri passed a law making it a duty of the county court to provide a place of detention for minor children who committed crimes. The place had to be separate and apart from "places in which are confined adults convicted or under arrest."
The Poor Farm was NEVER an insane asylum.
Rod Fields has spent hundreds of hours doing research on the Ray County Poor Farm and found that over 500 people lived there.
In writing about his research, he said, "they were poor, unfortunate people and families. These were real people with feelings and emotions that were down on their luck for one reason or another. The county judges did everything they could do to make everyone feel at home and part of a family, but I am willing to guess it was not the same as their own family."