San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Early Families: Poor Farm Stories

San Francisco Call  8 Feb 1906 p 6
The County Poor Farm was home to many personalities, including supervisors and inmates.

Perhaps the most controversial was Albert Eikerenkotter, Supervisor of the farm in the early twentieth century.  In February of 1906 the Grand Jury charged him with perjury in regards to his testimony before them about dealings on the farm.

They stated he was incompetent and grossly negligent in his duties and accused him of living well on items ordered for the farm, while the indigents were living in terrible conditions.

While it does not appear that he was found guilty of a crime, the charges went on, as late as Jan 1909 the County Grand Jury recommended strong censure for Al Eikerenkotter, as superintendent of the county farm and for the supervisors having supervision over the place, which was, as conducted, "not fit to be occupied by human beings." They reported that their visit to the farm showed that the indigents of the county were living in deplorable conditions. They also called for an investigation into Al's use of the pension money of Edward Hart, a veteran who was a resident at the farm. (SF Call 31 Jan 1909)   A search through newspapers of the time brings up many other articles about Albert and the investigations surrounding him.

SF Chronicle - 20 Feb 1912 pg 9
Charles Ford replaced Eikerenkotter as Superintendent.  In 1912 he also ran into trouble when he struck August Herbst, an inmate and knocked him down.  Ford continued as Supervisor until 6 Jan 1913 when he was replaced by James Eubanks, a butcher.

August Herbst a 66 year old carpenter was a resident of the farm from February until December of 1912.

San Francisco Chronicle
16 Jan 1915 p 5

In 1915 the grand jury was unsure what to do with their discovery of a three month old baby living at the farm.  They debated whether the information should go in their report.  The Burlingame Women's Club intervened and found a home for Mrs. H A Jones and her baby in Capitola.

San Francisco Chronicle pg 3
The oldest resident of the poor farm was Jacinto Floria who died at the age of 114 in 1923.  Born in Mexico City in 1809, Jacinto joined the Mexican army as a bugler at the age of 12.  Wounded two months later he left the army after his recovery, traveling by ship to San Francisco. He left San Francisco within a short time and took a job with a Russian nobleman in Santa Cruz.  Two years later he came north to Pescadero where he lived for more than half a century.  Jacinto finally gave up working and entered the poor farm in 1919.  Over the next few years he could be found tootling around the county with Poor Farm Supervisor James Eubanks who became a friend.

Then there was Basilio Tocchini who was admitted to the farm in 1915 after falling ill in his flower store.  He was thought to be penniless, but in fact has an estate worth over $10000.

These are just a few of the thousands who entered the poor farm, which was also the county hospital until 1923.  Some stayed a few days, some stayed years, some were dead before they came.

A few were only found in one record and little is known about them.  This includes Mary Tilty, Freddie and two babies (one might have been Freddie) who entered the farm before Aug 1916 and were there until at least October when Mary was provided a pair of stockings. Who was she, what happened to her babies, did only Freddie survive? 

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