Father went to the county seat and bid in a pauper

Posted by | January 29, 2016

In that back country in the 1870’s money was very scarce. Just how scarce we people of this day can hardly realize. Most trade in the store was exchange of goods for farm produce – eggs, butter, poultry, hides, feathers, ginseng, yellow root, etc. In order to get some real money Father went to the county seat, Sandy Hook (then called Martinsburg), and bid in a pauper.

The county had no poor farm those days and so the county officials let the paupers out to live at the homes of whoever of responsibility made the lowest bid for the pauper’s keep. I do not remember the amount Father was to receive for keeping this pauper but it was pitifully small.

The pauper’s name was Steve Hacker. He was of fine physique, about 6 feet tall and muscular. He had a reputation of being a bully in the vicinity where he had lived, but had had an accident which left him paralyzed from his waist down. Having no one or property to support him, and not being able to work, he was adjudged a pauper.

At the time he came to us he was maybe 30 years old and a handsome man – black hair and eyes and dark complexion.

Though for a time we got along very well with Mr. Hacker, his having lived an active life up to his accident, the quiet of his confinement to his bed and chair palled on him, so naturally he wanted out and was restless and cross toward us children when he didn’t get out. When helped to his feet he could stand and with a crutch and a cane – sometimes two crutches – he could walk a little by dragging his feet.

To get him outside took someone’s time, which was not always convenient, and when out he seemed to try to get in some situation that would require help, and then got angry if the help was slow in coming. This did not help matters any.

One day because help was slower than he wanted it in coming he threw his heavy cane with an iron tip at brother Jack, but Jack was alert and dodged it. Jane and I soon learned to keep out of his reach, for he would strike our heads with his knuckles or cane when Father and Mother were not present.

One day the family left Jane and me with Mr. Hacker and went to the cornfield to work – a very unsafe thing to do. We played around out of his reach until about the middle of the forenoon, when in some way Mr. Hacker managed to get on his feet and reach his crutches, and drag out to the yard gate, and through it and on a few steps to the little creek that ran by, and out to the deepest place, and then deliberately fell backward in the water and called to us to call the folks to come and get him out. Jane went and called them and Jack and Morgan Brickey came and lifted him up and helped him to the house and dressed him in dry clothes.

The next year one of our neighbors bid Mr. Hacker in, and he remained in our neighborhood until his death several years later. He became a changed man and left a neighborhood of friends when he died. What a pity that men like that cannot, or could not then, have work that they could use their physical and mental energy.

The Journal of William Franklin Mason
(b 1872, Horton Flats, Elliott County, KY)
Online at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ky/elliott/mason/mason29.txt

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