Seal of Caroll County, Maryland

Farm Museum

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History of the Carroll County Almshouse

When Carroll County was created by an act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1837, legislation was also passed to make Westminster the County Seat; to build a courthouse, a jail, a register's office, a clerk's office, and a poorhouse (almshouse).

It was the custom in 19th Century America to house the poor in a building called an almshouse since there was no welfare, housing subsidy, or food stamps as we have today. It was not until 1852 that the County Commissioners decided to borrow funds to build the Almshouse. A contract was made on July 6, 1852, for the purchase of 307 acres at a cost of $17,826 or $58.065 per acre. Records indicate that the Almshouse was built in 1852 and 1853. Public notice was given that paupers would be received on May 23, 1853.

In the early years of the Almshouse, also called the "County Home," the chief position was the "Steward of the Almshouse," who was paid $400 yearly. Other workers included a Teamster at $150, a Fireman at $150, a Matron at $75, a Maid at $84, and a Washwoman at $75 yearly.

At times as many as fifty people lived here. The Steward lived on the second floor and the women on the third floor. The men's dormitory sits at a right angle to the house. Residents who were able helped to work the farm to raise food for themselves.

People other than the poor from Carroll County lived here as well. It was a favorite stop for hobos and tramps. Sometimes the insane or criminals were placed here. Windows were barred in some rooms, and doors were lined with sheets of metal.

During the Civil War, Westminster served as a point of entry and a service center for Gettysburg. At different times during the week of June 28 to July 4, 1863, both Confederate and Union troops, with their wagons and mules, camped on Almshouse grounds on their way to the Battle of Gettysburg.

In 1965 the Almshouse closed its doors to the poor forever. It had outlived its usefulness, being replaced by new government programs assisting low income families. Fortunately, a far-sighted County Extension Agent had another idea for the property. With the devoted expertise of a County Administrative Assistant, the Carroll County Farm Museum was born.

Landon C. Burns had been a County Extension Agent for 37 years and held a strong interest in rural life. He convinced the County to create a museum honoring our agricultural heritage. The original Resolution 65-10 of the Carroll County Commissioner stated that:

"The Carroll County Farm Museum is an educational facility created to promote the prestige and general welfare of Carroll County by fostering "the preservation and proper appreciation of the rural culture of Carroll County and the spirit and the values which this culture typifies."

Accordingly, the goals of the Farm Museum with regard to collections management are as follows:

  1. To collect artifacts relating to the lifestyle of rural Carroll County and rural America; i.e., to the occupations, recreational activities, socialrelationships, beliefs, attitudes, shelters, and means of transportationand communication which typify this culture.
  2. To preserve these objects by providing them with adequate storage and display conditions, proper cleaning and maintenance, and if necessary, restoration.
  3. To display these objects to the public and institute educational interpretive programs explaining their use and historical value.
  4. To study and research these items and subjects relating to rural culture in general and to present the findings of this research to the public in the form of educational exhibits, programs, and publications.
Some of the beautiful trees in front of the Museum came into being on November 23, 1974 when the "County Commissioners proceeded to the Almshouse farm and laid out the grounds in front of the Almshouse to plant trees."

Today the Carroll County Farm Museum has blossomed into a historical and educational facility for all to enjoy.