Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
History of Tompkins, Schuyler, Chemung, Tioga 1879
Chemung County Section - Chapter 37
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Court-Houses and Jails—Clerks’ Offices—The Trials and Tribulations of the Board of Supervisors in harmonizing Different Opinions—Poor-Houses and Paupers—Cost of Charitable Emotions—Orphans’ House, and its Work and Founders—The State Reformatory—Correction, not Punishment—Manhood versus Total Depravity.


The facts concerning the first and second court-house and jail erected in Elmira will be found elsewhere in this work. The lot of ground chosen for the site of the second one was a portion of the present grounds occupied by the public buildings of the county, and was conveyed to the county by William Maxwell, of Elmira; John H. Avery, of Owego; and John Cowden, of Northumberland Co., Pa., and was described as follows: "Beginning on the east bounds of Lake Street; thence east 3 chains 33 1/3 links; thence north 2 chains 25½ links; thence 3 chains 33 1/3 links to the east bounds of Lake Street; thence south 2 chains 25½ links to beginning, containing three fourths of an acre." The jail limits were laid out in February, 1824, and contained an area of 399 acres.

At the joint meeting of the Boards of Supervisors of Tioga and Chemung Counties, the county treasurer of Chemung was instructed to call on the court-house commissioners, and demand of them the balance of the building fund in their hands. Up to the time of the division of the county of Tioga, in 1836, no report was filed with the Board of Supervisors of that county of the cost of the court-house at Elmira, so far as the records and files of that county now show. One-half of this balance was to be paid to Tioga County. At their annual meeting in November, 1836, the supervisors appropriated $1500 for repairs on the court-house, and $1000 for the erection of a clerk’s office. This sum was subsequently increased to $2000, and the commissioners to build the office were Lyman Covell, Charles Orwan, and Elijah Sexton, who reported the building completed Nov. 14, 1837. A bell was also bought and hung in the court-house.

In 1848 the Board of Supervisors memorialized the Legislature for authority to borrow $4000 with which to build a new jail, the old one having been condemned by D. D. Spencer, State’s prison inspector, and the report approved by the county judge. The inspector recommended the building of the new jail in the rear of the court-house, and the law of Dec. 14, 1847, made it obligatory on the board to build a sufficient one in the county. A committee was appointed on plans and specifications, and at a special meeting, held April 26, 1849, the Board voted to build a jail, the cost not to exceed $4500, and to borrow the sum of the State. The plans of Ichabod Konkle were adopted, and in June following Mr. Konkle’s bid to build the jail for $6000 was accepted, and B. W. Judson, Erra Mallett, and Richard Baker appointed building commissioners, and an additional loan of $1500 authorized. In 1850 the jail was completed and accepted by the supervisors. The loan of $6000 remained unpaid until 1873. In 1849 and 1850 repairs were made on the court-house amounting to $2383. In 1856-57 repairs were made on the jail to the amount of $3298.

At the annual meeting in 1869, on the report of a committee appointed for the purpose of examining and reporting on the necessity for a new court-house, the Board of Supervisors voted to build a brick house, the cost not to exceed $20,000, and appointed Hon. Hiram Gray, Judge A. S. Thurston, commissioners, and authorized them to appoint a third commissioner, and as such board to negotiate a loan of $20,000 for a term not longer than twenty years, and with the proceeds to build the house, and also to sell the old court-house, A. C. Ely was appointed the third commissioner, and the business was proceeded with. The loan was effected with the State at seven per cent per annum, payable Jan. 1, 1870, and the money deposited in the Elmira Bank at five per cent interest. A contract was made with David Wilcox, of Syracuse, to construct the building complete for furnishing for $18,150, and the old court-house was sold to the city for $350, and removed to its present location, where it is now known as the city hall. Concert Hall was leased for court purposes until the new court-house was ready for occupancy.

The building was completed in 1862, at a cost of $20,458.34, furnished ready for use; $855.31 were received for interest on the funds, which, added to the original loan, left a surplus of the appropriation, which was returned to the treasury.

Judge Brooks was added to the Board of Commissioners in 1861. In accepting the court-house from the hands of the commissioners, at the annual meeting of 1862, the supervisors adopted a series of complimentary resolutions, from which the following is an abstract:

"Resolved, That we acknowledge the faithful and gratuitous performance by said commissioners of the trust committed to them; that this Board has carefully examined the new court-house now completed, and unhesitatingly pronounce it a model for its architectural beauty, convenience, and durability, and that it is in all respects worthy of the county of Chemung."

It is a beautiful structure. On the first floor the offices of the county judge and surrogate, sheriff, grand and petit jury rooms are located, with rooms for the occupancy of the janitor. The second floor is occupied by the court-room (54 by 72 by 29 feet) and witness-rooms. The material of which the building is constructed is red brick, hard burned, and scabbled dressed limestone. The cornice is elegant, and, together with the foundation walls, has the appearance of massiveness and durability. The façade on Lake Street is supported by massive stone pillars, from which spring heavy brick arches. The angles of the building project from the northern and southern sides, giving the appearance of towers or buttresses, the southeastern angle rising into a well-proportioned square tower with open brick arches and stone pediments, in which the bell is hung. The ground area of the building is about 68 by 84 feet, exclusive of area projection of some ten feet. The height of the building from ground to top of cornice in front is 45 feet, and the tower some 15 feet above the roof, which latter is of tin.

From the tower a fine, comprehensive view is had of the city and its environing hills. To the southwest in the distance is seen the Reformatory in ample proportions, the reservoir, with its white, uprising jet a little to the left; to the north the valley of the canal opens a fine vista; to the east the Water-Cure lies against the overtopping summit of the hill; to the south the valley of the Chemung widens, and is there closed in by the approaching hills on either side; and beneath the beholder’s feet, on every side, spreads out the city, embowered in maples and elms, through whose leafy canopy the spires of its churches and domes of its schoolhouses and palatial residences rise, giving evidence of the culture, wealth, and intelligence of the people who build them.

The court-house loan of $20,000 is yet unpaid. In 1860 the Board of Supervisors voted to purchase additional grounds adjoining the court-house lot on the south, at the corner of Lake and Cross Streets, belonging to William Beach, B. P. Beardsley, and S. G. Hathaway, Jr.; but the conditions of the purchase—that the city of Elmira was to raise an equal sum ($5000)—were not complied with, and the resolution was rescinded at the next meeting of the Board.

A vote was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 1865 to buy the William Street school lot, lying in the rear of the court-house lot, but the sale was not consummated until the following year, when it was conveyed to the county by the city for $5000, and bonds payable in 1871 issued for the same.

The lots adjoining the court-house lot on the south were purchased by the county, in 1869-70, for $15,660, and bonds issued for the amount.

A committee on a new jail reported one necessary, and a committee on plans and specifications was appointed, consisting of Messrs. O’Hanlon, Patrick Kingsbury, Decker, and Ogden, who reported at the next meeting (1870) plans and estimates for a jail, and the Board voted to build one and appropriate $20,000 towards the work, by a vote of 15 to 2. The old building on the school-house lot was sold for $156. The committee reported the working plans of J. K. Vaughn, architect, and the same were adopted by the Board of Supervisors, the architect directed to make and report estimation, and the cost of the building limited to $55,000. The committee was also authorized to contract with responsible bidders for the execution of the work, and secure its completion by July 1, 1872, and the treasurer authorized to negotiate a loan of $35,000 to begin operations with. Mr. Decker resigned as one of the commissioners, and W. A. Kingsbury was appointed to fill his place. At a special meeting in April, 1871, J. K. Vaughn was appointed architect, and the commissioners reported a contract with John and Sylvanus M. Clark, of Elmira, to put up the jail for $55,000, including the architect’s commission. At this meeting complaints having been made of unfairness in the letting of the contract, the commissioners reported their doings, alleging full opportunity had been given for all bidders to examine specifications, etc., and that they had let the contract to the best bidders. After some discussion in the Board between the attorney of the complainants—General H. S. Diven—and the commissioners, the contract was laid before the Board, and was referred to a committee, who reported subsequently that it was not in conformity to the resolutions of the Board in several important particulars; among them, that it did not limit the cost to $55,000, the architect’s fees and commissioners’ services not being provided for. This report of the committee was agreed to by the Board, who appointed Hon. A. S. Thurston and Daniel Stephens additional members of the building commission, and instructed the commissioners to amend the contract by limiting the contact price to $52,500, and to employ their own architect or superintendent.

Charges of corruption in the letting of the contract and the erection of the building having been made in the public prints, and privately, at the annual meeting of the Board in 1871, on a petition of leading citizens of the county for an investigation of the commissioners’ and contractors’ doings, a committee was appointed to make a thorough examination of all matters pertaining to the new jail, and report their findings. This committee consisted of Messrs. Lockwood, Murray, and Hoffman, who made a majority and minority report at a special meeting held April 29, 1872, both agreeing that the building was not being constructed according to the original plans and specifications, and which original documents were not to be found, reputed copies only being exhibited as being in use. The majority report, signed by Messrs. Lockwood and Murray, charged the substitution of brick and galvanized iron for cut-stone trimmings in several instances, and that the plan had been changed in its ornamental finish, stability, and general appearance to an inferior and cheaper plan. Many other changes were charged, reducing the security of the jail materially, and that the work was being improperly done. They placed the cost of the building according to the original plans at $65,000, and as it was being constructed at $42,500. The majority charged, too, that the building was not being erected in accordance with the plans the3n in existence, which latter, if followed faithfully, would make the building cost about $48,500. The minority report was signed by Mr. Hoffman, who reported the contract let properly, so far as the commissioners were concerned, two bids only being received,--one without and one with security, the former the lowest one; that the contract provided for the payment of the architect’s fees by the contractors; that the security of the contractors was a question of law; that the cost of the building according to the original plans would have been $38,850; that the architect was incompetent, and the commissioners loose in their methods of business until Messrs. Thurston and Stephens were added, since which time everything had been well done; that the work was being done substantially according to the contract as amended by the Board; that the variances were not material; that the brick work was an ordinarily fair job, and if completed as begun the building would be as good as the contract called for, and would cost all there was paid for it; that the Board should test it in certain particulars, and if these proved satisfactory and according to contract, then it should accept the building and pay for it, and not before. Both reports were accepted and laid on the table, and payments stopped on the work until May 16, when the reports were again considered and again laid on the table, and new bonds in $20,000 ordered to be given by the contractors, on execution of which the payments were to be made as before. Judge Thurston being absent from town, Thomas M. Hewitt was appointed on the commission in his stead.

At the annual session of the supervisors of 1872, the building commissioners on the new jail reported the building complete, and "well done according to the specifications and contract," and the following as the cost of the same:

Contract price
Architect’s fees
Extra work by contractors
Sewerage, etc.

The report of the commissioners was accepted, and their recommendations for the payment of the bills outside of the contract concurred in. Their own bills, amounting to $1604.82, were discounted fifty per cent and allowed.

At a special meeting held April 14, 1873, called to provide for necessary repairs on the new jail buildings, a committee reported the jail unsafe, and on May 9 a committee reported estimates for proper work to make the jail secure at various figures, according to the amount done and plan adopted, ranging from $5000 to $8000. The Board refused to order the repairs, and to save expense directed the sheriff to confine all prisoners in the old jail. At the annual meeting one of the members of the Board offered a resolution, declaring the new jail a "source of disappointment and expensive vexation" and to end the trouble recommended it to be sold. Another resolution proposed to tear the building down and rebuild it with stone; another to line the cells with boiler-iron; all of which expressions of distrust and disgust were snuffed out by laying them on the table. Mr. Ferguson called up his resolution, offered at the last meeting, to line the cells and corridors with iron, but it failed to pass; whereupon a committee was appointed to resolve the problem of "What to do with the jail question?" This committee reported in favor of Mr. Ferguson’s plan of lining the cells and corridors with boiler-iron at a cost of $10,000. Mr. Hoffman moved as an amendment to abandon the new jail and return to the old one, but had no supporters, and the committee’s recommendations were concurred in. At a special meeting, held Nov. 24, the county treasurer was ordered to borrow the money to make the repairs, and did so, issuing bonds to the amount $9000. The contract was let, after due advertising and careful deliberation, to Reed & Cooper for $8350, for lining the cells and corridors with boiler-iron; and the painting and flagging necessary to be done cost about $455 additional; the total cost of the repairs being $8805.

In 1875 repairs on the roof and new floors in the jail were needed and ordered. In 1876 a committee on public buildings, John D. Williams and M. McHenry, reported at the annual meeting concerning the jail as follows: "Of that institution, considered as brick and mortar, the less said the better." Eight hundred dollars were appropriated for repairs the same year; a portion of this amount for grading, however.

The jail building stands on the school-house lot in the rear of the old jail; and fronts on William Street; the rooms on that street being occupied by the sheriff as his residence. The building, as a whole, presents an imposing appearance, with its turreted towers and battlements. The old jail, which is built of stone, with a brick front for a jailer’s residence, stands immediately in the rear of the court-house. In some of the extensive repairings it has had, a female prison has been constructed of the same height and width as the jailer’s residence, extending northward from the latter, of which it is a continuation. The building is now occupied by the city poormaster, who confines tramps therein under the enforcement of the act against vagrancy.* Since that law has been enforced, these fellows have been put at breaking stone for the streets, and hence they are not so frequently seen in the old jail as formerly.

(*Chapter XX, Part First, Title 21, General Statutes.)

A contract was made in 1860 with the Monroe County penitentiary to receive and hold the prisoners of Chemung County, whose sentences were sixty days and over, in the county jail. This arrangement has been continued to the present by renewals of the contract, at an agreed price per man, according to the term of his sentence. The amount paid for the year ending Nov. 6, 1877 was $2304.04. The total amount paid that institution in November, 1877, is about $15,000.

A vote was taken by the Board of Supervisors to memorialize the Legislature for power to contract with the Reformatory at Elmira for such confinement and care, but so far no contract has been made with this institution.

A committee on a proposed work-house for Chemung County, reported in 1863 that such an institution on the plan of the Monroe County penitentiary would cost $30,000, and nothing further was heard of the proposition.

An idea of what the criminal business of the county costs the public treasury may be gathered from the single item of the sheriff’s bill for 1877, which was allowed at $8664.05 for dieting and transporting prisoners, and other official duties chiefly pertaining to the criminal docket.

In 1869 the bar of the county memorialized the Board of Supervisors on the subject of a new fire-proof clerk’s office, declaring the old one inadequate for the needs of the county as well as insecure; but the interest of the people then being centered in the new jail, nothing was done in respect to the memorial until 1874, when, at the annual meeting, a committee was appointed on plans and estimate, consisting of Supervisors Gibson, Reynolds, and Kingsbury. On their report at the same meeting they were directed to procure three plans, one for a building to cost not more than $10,000; another, $14,000; and another, $17,000, with twenty copies of the specifications for each plan, and to advertise for bids on the several plans, subject to the action of the Board. At a special meeting held Dec. 15, to consider the plans for a new clerk’s office, there were presented twelve bids for erecting the building according to the several plans submitted, of a single story and a two-storied structure. The board by ballot adopted the plan of W. H. Hayes, whose estimates were under $15,000; but reconsidered the vote the next day, which was the beginning of a series of ballotings, adoptions, and reconsiderations that kept the clerk busy calling the roll and putting the members on the record. The plan of Mr. Perry for a two-story fire-proof, at $17,000, was carried; but on the mover of the resolution saying he did not suppose the upper story was to be fire-proof, the vote was reconsidered in a twinkling. Then a plan for a fire-proof not to cost over $20,000 was adopted, and Messrs. Reynolds, Gibson, Van Duzer, Beach, and Arnot appointed a committee on plans and estimates, and a respite from balloting was taken until Jan. 14, 1875. The committee reported a plan of Mr. Thomas, modeled after the lower room of the Broome County clerk’s office; first story fire-proof, 55 feet deep, 23 feet wide in the main part, and 33 feet in record room, to cost $19,500. The report was rejected, and the Board resolved to build nothing less than a two-story building on the site of the court-house grounds, and thereupon more plans were presented. Mr. Thomas said his plans were for a fire-proof, and Mr. Perry made a similar declaration, and added it would cost just $20,000 to build it; Kingsbury’s plan would close out $22,600; Mr. Hayes’ plan once before adopted and again rejected, fire-proof throughout, would cost $20,000. The committee again reported, recommending Mr. Thomas’ plan "as now understood," and were discharged, and then more balloting on the question of adopting the report and other plans had. Finally, the Thomas plan was adopted by a vote of 11 to 7, and a committee appointed to receive proposals and get working plans, consisting of Supervisors Reynolds, Van Duzer, Kingsbury, Arnot, and Beach. The county treasurer was authorized to borrow $20,000 for the work as it progressed.

The contract for the clerk’s office was awarded by the Board of Supervisors, at a special meeting held Feb. 4, 1875, to Gerity & French, for $19,274, by a vote of 12 to 4, several other bids being received. The building commissioners were the last committee named, except Mr. McHenry took the place of Mr. Arnot. The treasurer was authorized to issue bonds for $22,500, payable four years after Feb. 1, 1875; the additional sum of $2500 to be expended for furniture and fixtures.

The building was completed in 1875, and cost, complete, ready for occupancy, $21,890.85, and was admitted by all parties to be an excellent piece of work.

It is constructed of red brick, with rock-dressed limestone for trimmings and corners, and presents a very pleasing and attractive appearance. It is about 45 by 72 feet on the ground, two stories in height, and is considered fire-proof from top to bottom. The ceilings are formed of iron beams, from which spring brick arches, and between the brick and the floors cement is filled in. The floors are concrete tiling. The wear of this material is so rapid, however, that it has been covered on the lower floor with linoleum. The roof is of galvanized iron. The lower floor is occupied by the clerk’s office and the recording-room, and the upper floor by the supervisor’s rooms and two committee-rooms. The former is furnished with black walnut furniture, and presents a very neat and tasty appearance. The room is about 28 by 44 feet, and 12 feet is the clear between joints. An iron stairway leads from the lower floor in the southwest angle of the building to the second floor, and corrugated iron shutters close all of the window.

The basement is light and dry, affording ample storage for old documents and records not in use, and contains a furnace, by which the office on the lower floor is warmed, stoves doing that service on the upper floor. The outside plan of the building is similar to that of the court-house, as will be seen by the sketch. The angles project into tower-like proportions, the main one (the southwestern) forming the entrance, and rising above the roof with heavy stone coping.

In 1875 an appropriation was made for repairing the old clerk’s office, and fitting it up for the office of the district attorney. The work was done in 1876, and since that time the building has been occupied by that official. It stands next north of the court-house, and is built of brick, and has a tin roof.

In 1866 a fire damaged the court-house and jail to some considerable extent, but after some delay and discussion, the insurance companies carrying risks on the buildings repaired them as the cheaper method of paying their losses.


An act of the Legislature was passed by that body April 18, 1829, authorizing the (then) county of Tioga to raise by tax the sum of $3000, in each of the two jury districts into which the county was then divided, with which to build a poor-house in each district, the sum raised in either district to be exclusively used in that district. This tax, however, was not levied, but a farm was leased for poor-house purposed, and in 1836, on the erection of the western jury district of Tioga into the new county of Chemung, the property on the farm owned by the county of Tioga was sold, and the proceeds divided equitably according to the valuation of the jury districts, by order of the boards of the two counties in joint session assembled. The funds and debts of the poor-house were also divided and assumed according to the same rule.

At a special meeting held Oct. 21, 1836, at Spencer, the Board of Supervisors of Chemung County directed the superintendents of the poor to ascertain and fix upon a site for a county poor-house, and report at the annual meeting in November following. At this meeting the superintendents were directed to purchase a farm at a cost not exceeding $3000, and to borrow the amount at six per cent, for a period not to exceed six years, which the superintendents proceeded to do,* and purchased 183 acres in the town of Horseheads, on what is known as lot 2, in the Gore, so called, in the southeast section of town 4, and the south half of lot 42, southwest section town 5, of Watkins and Flint purchase, 102¾ acres of Henry Remsen for $440, and 76 12/100 acres of John Livingston (the last described lot) for $304, the re-survey disclosing the surplus land. Eight acres of the farm was cleared only, and susceptible of cultivation.

(*The loan was made by act of Legislature of the school fund for four years, but it was not paid until 1867.)

In April, 1839, the question of a new poor-house was agitated, but the Board of Supervisors voted it was inexpedient to build a house at that time, and authorized repairs on the old house to the amount of $100. In December, 1841, a committee was appointed to report on the poor-house system, the present location of the farm, and on the subject of a poor-house; and on the report of the committee, made Feb. 22, 1842, the Board voted it was inexpedient to exchange or sell the farm, and authorized the superintendents to build a new house on the farm, at a cost not exceeding $1500. One was accordingly erected costing $1490.09, but it was so poorly constructed it was condemned by a committee of the Board, who were instructed by the Board to reconstruct it. The committee reported it "worse than worthless." In 1844 it was voted to lease the poor-farm and paupers together. Committees have been appointed and votes passed at divers times to sell the poor-farm or exchange it for a smaller one, but to no purpose. The original farm bought in 1837 is yet owned by the county, unshorn of a single acre of its original proportions. A new building was erected on the farm in 1854, costing $500.

In 1860 the Board appropriated $1000 for repairs on the poor-farm buildings, but the sum was exceeded by the superintendent and committee by considerably more than double the amount. The buildings erected were a barn 30 by 40 by 16 feet; a cow-house, 20 by 60 by 16 feet, with loft for hay; sheds 16 by 40 by 12 feet, with loft for storage and fowls; a wagon-house, stable and granary, 30 by 60 feet, a hog-house and wood-house, 24 by 100 feet, with bakery and washing-rooms below, and sleeping-rooms above. The cost up to the date of the report of the committee, in November, 1861, had amounted to $2025.60, and the main house was yet unfinished. In 1862 the main building was completed at a cost of $3564.81, which was reported by the committee to be built substantially and conveniently arranged. The old building was removed, but fitted up as an addition to the new buildings. The new building was 41 by 61 feet on the ground, with 26-feet posts, and contained cells for the insane, strongly built of oak plank, and had a cellar under the whole house. The additional building expenses for the year 1863 were $1741.63. The value of the property at that time was estimated as follows: land, $3500; buildings, $7200; live-stock, $508.75; produce on hand, $1470.20; farming utensils, $272.55; furniture, $1166.34; miscellaneous, $363.82; total, $14,481.66. An appropriation of $400 was made for a lunatic asylum in November, 1863, but it was not built until 1865, when $300 were also expended for new fences.

In 1861 the distinction between county and town poor was revived, and each town in the county and the city of Elmira was required to support its own poor. Such paupers as had not gained a residence in any particular town were deemed county charges. The temper of the Board of Supervisors has been tried several times since then to reverse this method and remand the poor and their care to the county as at first, but without effect. In 1876 a committee on the public buildings, consisting of Messrs. John D. Williams and M. McHenry, reported on the poor-house as follows: "The idea of having a superintendent of the poor who is expected to devote a good portion of his time to the interests of the county for the paltry sum of $300 per annum is indicative of ‘a cat under the meal’ somewhere. The whole system of poor and poor-house, as demonstrated in this county, seems to your committee to be radically wrong. The farm, for the best interests of the county, should be sold and a smaller one procured, better adapted to utilize a portion of the pauper labor.

An investigation into the management of the poor-house by the superintendent of the poor for 1870 was ordered, and the committee subsequently reported charges of gross malfeasance in his office and corruption. These charges were preferred against the superintendent to the Governor by the Board, who petitioned also for the removal of the superintendent, whereupon that official tendered his resignation, and his place was filled by another. He was subsequently arrested on a charge of forgery, on which he was tried, and sentenced to State’s prison for a term of years. He was in collusion also with another party, who made good his escape from the clutches of the law, as will be seen by a reference to the records of the Board of Supervisors of November, 1876, the report of the committee reciting the facts in full.

A committee was appointed to arrange a system of bookkeeping for the superintendent, and also a more satisfactory method of payments and drafts. This system was inaugurated for the years 1877-78. In 1877 a committee of the Board of Supervisors visited the Willard Insane Asylum, and from what they saw and learned there of the treatment of that unfortunate class, were convinced, and so reported, that "any movement looking to the confinement of the insane poor in the poor-house, or anywhere else but in a well-regulated insane asylum, was a step backward in the march of humanity and philanthropy;" and the committee, therefore, recommended no additional provisions for the keeping of the insane on the poor-farm.

During 1877, the sum of $2049 was spent for cows, furniture, fixtures, improvements, and repairs on the farm. The salary of the superintendent was increased to $500 per annum, on the election of John P. Brees, Jan. 24, 1877.

The inventory of the poor-farm property filed November, 1876, estimated the value of the property as follows:

Real estate and buildings
Personal property, including supplies
Improvements were made on the property in 1876, Valued at

The expenditures from Feb. 1, 1877, to Nov. 1, 1877 on the farm were as follows:

For paupers’ support
For stock, furniture, etc.
For old bills allowed of the year before
Salary of commissioner

The whole number of paupers cared for from Feb. 1, 1877, to Nov. 6, 1877, were 400; discharged, died, and sent to Orphans’ Home and insane asylums, 340,--leaving 60 in the poor-house at the end of the year. An average of 67½ were kept during the year, at an average cost of 99 1/5 cents per week. There was paid for the care of insane paupers, in the Willard and New York State Insane Asylums, the sum of $7032.73 and $3943.02 respectively,-- making a total of $10,975.75. There was paid by the county for the same time, for the support of children in the Orphans’ Home, the sum of $3774.99,--making the total sum paid for the year from the public treasury for the care and support of the poor, exclusive of the amounts paid by the different towns and the city of Elmira out of their individual treasuries at home, $17,190.67. Of this amount, $768.98 were the charge against the county treasury proper, and $10,236.84 the amount charged to the city of Elmira. The total amount paid for charity by the county treasurer for the period of the civil history of Chemung as a county, from 1836 to date, 1878, aggregates the magnificent sum of $332,742.56, and more. From 1857 to 1870, the excise funds received by the county treasurer were appropriated to the support of the poor, and amounted to over $50,000, including the fines assessed under the excise law.

Beside this magnificent charity are the untold gifts and donations from private charities of church and city, the Orphans’ Home, as will be seen, being largely supported by private gifts. Verily, the people of Chemung realize to a commendable degree the saying of One of old, who inculcated charity as a grace, "The poor ye have with you always."


in public buildings and institutions for the benefit of Chemung County is as follows:

Old clerk’s office, 1837  
Poor-farm, 1837
Interest on the loan
Poor-house building, 1842
" additional and new buildings
Interest on account of same
Jail, 1849
Interest paid on the loan
Jail, 1872
Interest paid on bonds
Repairs, 1874
Interest to Feb. 1 , 1878
Court-house, 1861
Interest to Feb. 1, 1878
Clerk’s office, 1875
Interest to Feb. 1, 1878
Repairs on court-house and jail at sundry times  
Additions to court-house grounds:    
William Street school lot
Interest paid on bonds
Additions south
Interest on bonds
Interest to be paid on outstanding bonds: *    
Clerk’s office, $5,000  
Jail repair bonds, $9,000  
Court-house loan, $20,000  
Total public buildings  
State fair grounds, 1872
Interest to Feb. 1, 1878
Interest to Feb. 1, 1882
Interest paid and to fall due on public buildings  
On State fair bonds  
Interest paid and to be paid:    
Public buildings
State fair bonds

*The outstanding bonds fall due as follows: Clerk’s office, Feb. 1, 1879; jail repair bonds, Feb. 1, 1879 and 1880, one-half each year; court-house loan fell due 1870, but it is held by the State, and will run as long as the county chooses to pay interest. The State fair bonds fall due $5000 per annum, the last bond becoming payable, Feb. 1, 1882.


This institution, one of the noblest charities of the Southern Tier, had its inception in the necessities created by the war for the Union. In the latter part of the year 1864 the ladies of Elmira, whose hearts had burned with the fires of patriotism and charity, seeing the wives and children of many of the soldiers for the Union and the discharged soldiers themselves suffering for the necessaries of life, conceived the plan of affording relief to the needy and destitute by a joint and systematic effort. Their thoughts and communings took practical shape, and crystallized in the "Elmira Ladies Relief Association" on Oct. 12, 1864, and was duly incorporated December 28 following. Prominent among those merciful ministrants were: Mrs. David Decker, Mrs. Richmond Jones, the Misses Tyler, Mrs. A. Frisbie, Mrs. Andrew Hathorne, Mrs. George Steele, Mrs. R. Badger, Mrs. Cottrell, and Mrs. L. N. Murdock. The Association was organized by the choice of the following officers: President, Mrs. David Decker; Secretary and Treasurer, Mrs. R. Jones; Secretary of Receiving Committee, Mrs. A. Frisbie; Secretary of Industrial Department, Mrs. A. Hathorne; Cutting Committee, Mrs. George Steel, Mrs. R. Badger, Mrs. Cottrell, Mrs. Murdock.

Its object was declared to be "the care of needy soldiers, and soldiers’ wives and children." The industrial department supplied sewing for soldiers’ wives. "To carry out the objects in view, there was a place needed to take the sick women and little children where proper attention could be given. To this end efforts were made to raise money by subscription for the erection of a building where cheap rent and employment might be given to soldiers’ families, while their husbands and fathers were periling their lives in the service of their country. A sum of $2000 was raised for this purpose, but proved much too small, and a building was procured of John Reynolds, Esq., at a low rent, on the northwest corner of Magee and Third Streets, where for nearly two years the charities of this institution were dispensed." Thousands of soldiers now living can attest to the deeds of humanity here performed.

After the close of the war the Association purchased of Mr. Holdridge a building in the Fifth Ward, for which $2500 were paid, and possession taken Jan. 1, 1866. On the 15th January two women with their children, who had been dependent on the Association for support, were placed in this building to take care of the sick adults and the little children with whom the house was soon filled. Applications were so numerous, and the accommodations so contracted, the number of admissions at one time was limited to twenty. The war having closed and the relatives of soldiers having received pensions and bounty from the government, the Association decided to exclude adults and admit children only, and thus the home was changed to an orphan asylum. Feb. 14, 1868, the Legislature of the State changed the name of the institution to the Southern Tier Orphans’ Home, by which title it has since been known.

The first board of officers of the Home was as follows: viz.: President, Mrs. David Decker; Vice-Presidents, Mrs. P. A. La France and Mrs. A. Robinson; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Luther Caldwell; Recording Secretary, Mrs. J. B. Dunning; Treasurer, N. P. Fassett.

In 1867 the house was enlarged for the accommodation of thirty children, and in 1868 an addition to the grounds was made, the lot on which the Home is located containing at the present time between two and three acres. The present building, which was completed in 1877, is an imposing brick edifice of three stories, admirably arranged for the purpose it is designed for. The ceilings are high, the rooms capacious, the halls wide, the dormitories well ventilated, and the windows large. The whole house is kept in a remarkably neat and wholesome condition. A branch of the public schools of the city is taught in the institution, Miss Carrie F. Searles being the present teacher. Thirty-five pupils attended the present term, just closing (June 27). While the children are not apprenticed, so to speak, to any special industry while in the Home, yet are they inculcated in the habits of industry so far as is compatible with their age and physical condition. The girls are taught to do the lighter duties of the housework and sewing, and the boys saw wood, bring up coal, tidy up the lot, and in a very unique manner do the scrubbing of the halls, using their feet for mop-sticks, and by a shuffling back and forward step perform a very neat and satisfactory piece of work. Children from the various almshouses of Broome, Tioga, Tompkins, Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben Counties find a home here, the law of the State making it obligatory upon the Boards of Supervisors to maintain the pauper children at other institutions than the almshouses. If any one is skeptical concerning the benefits of this Home, let him go to its sunny and well-ordered rooms and see the devices arranged to bring joy and gladness into the lives of the waifs thrown upon the sea of humanity by misfortune and vice. Let him look in upon the school-room and see the eager looks that are bent upon the books or blackboard, as the rudiments of a good English education are placed within their reach. Let him listen to their songs of praise and faith and trust, and then ask himself, Is this not worth what it costs? The institution is managed by a board of trustees selected from each of the Protestant churches of the city of Elmira, of which the president is always one from her own church. Once each month the ladies of the city to a considerable number gather at the Home, on the morning of the day appointed, bringing their baskets of provisions for a picnic dinner, and engage in sewing all the day for the Home, in whose wardrobe their handiwork is stored for use as wanted. Each child who leaves the Home is provided with two good suits complete of clothing, and busy fingers are needed to keep the stock on hand well filled. At other times, too, the ladies of the city come in and do the same work. Mrs. R. H. Close is at present filling the position of matron and superintendent, and manages the institution in-doors and out, having one male and eight female assistants, besides the teacher of the school. She buys in all supplies, hires and pays all help, and is general manager. Her fitness to hold this responsible and delicate situation is guaranteed by the fact that eleven orphans of no kith or kin to her have been cared for by her, have grown up in her own sheltering arms, and gone out therefrom into respectable and honorable positions in the world; and if further proof was wanted, her motherly care and solicitude as she walks amid the tender fledglings of her trust would stop all cavil.

Seven hundred and forty-six children have been received into the Home since its establishment, of whom 25 were half-orphans. There are 60 in the Home at the present time, within eight of as many as have ever been inmates at one time; 46 are males, and 14 females; 48 white, 12 colored; native born, 38; foreign, 6: unknown 14. The Home would accommodate 200 children easily, if circumstances should require such effort.

The early history of the Home was one of struggle and determined effort, but illy seconded. The funds were raised by various make-shifts, such as concerts, tableaux, etc. The citizens donated clothing, provisions, furniture, and some money. The Legislature made some appropriations later, as did the Board of Supervisors; and now the Home, though not endowed, is so firmly established in the hearts and generous impulses of the citizens of Elmira, its foundations may be said to have been laid in enduring brass.

From the report of Hon. N. P. Fassett, treasurer of the Home since 1866 to the present, made June 18, 1877, on the completion and dedication of the building now occupying the corner of Franklin and Fulton Streets, and before described, we gather the following financial statistics:

The receipts from Nov. 16, 1864, to Jan. 1, 1868, were but $874.80; but from Jan. 1 to April following the activity and success were marked. An appropriation from the State was secured of $1912.97, and a subscription to a building of $1461.85, amounting in all to $3377.82. Twenty-five hundred dollars were paid towards the grounds of the Home, and other payments, $511.31 were paid to Mr. Fassett, as the incoming treasurer May 1, 1866. The amount received by Mr. Fassett for the current expenses of the Home, in the eleven years of his stewardship has been $44,730.81, from the following sources:

From Chemung County, voluntary appropriations
From Chemung County for board of children
From the State appropriations
From individuals for board of children, about
From voluntary gifts and contributions of citizens
From Hon. H. Boardman Smith, donation
Paid from this fund for current expenses
Leaving a balance June 18, 1877
The building fund has been created as follows:  
1871—Appropriation by State
1872—Appropriation by State
1873—Avails of fair, three days
1875—Avails of fair No. 2
Individual donations
Interest on May 1, 1876
1876—Individual subscriptions
Borrowed by the Home
Paid for lands, fences, and new barn
Paid for new building
Total receipts
Total expenditures
Balances in Treasury
Less note outstanding
Net balance
Land and buildings
Personal property
Amount of receipts from June 18, 1877, to April 1, 1878
Balance in treasury

The present officers of the Home are: President, Mrs. R. H. Ransom; Vice-President, Mrs. Frederick Hall; Treasurer, N. P. Fassett, Esq.; Secretary, Miss Fannie Wheadon. Board of Trustees, Mrs. R. H. Ransom, First Presbyterian Church; Mrs. David Tuttle, Lake Street Presbyterian Church; Mrs. Nye, Park Church; Mrs. David Decker, Hedding Methodist Episcopal Church; Mrs. Luqueer, Firth Methodist Episcopal Church; Mrs. St. John, First Baptist Church, Madison Avenue; Mrs. Tompkins, Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church; Mrs. Frisbie,* Grace Protestant Episcopal Church; Mrs. A. Robertson, South Main Street Methodist Episcopal Church, ----

----, German Lutheran Church.

*Deceased in June, 1878.


One of the State’s institutions has its location in Chemung County, and as such deserves more than a passing notice at our hands. The Reformatory, while it is a place designed for the confinement of convicts, is not one founded solely for the punishment of its inmates, but, as its name indicates, is established for their correction and reformation.

The act for locating the same was passed April 29, 1869 (chapter 408), and authorized the Governor to appoint five commissioners to locate the institution in the Sixth Judicial District, the commissioners to receive by gift, or purchase for the State, the lands necessary for the purpose. The commissioners were Joseph Warren, Theodore W. Dwight, Charles H. Winfield, George W. Hubbell, and Robert Earle, who proceeded to make choice of a site two miles north of the centre of the city of Elmira, being portions of the farms of L. G. Bancroft and James and George S. McCann, and reported their action to the Legislature, which approved the selection March 28, 1870 (chapter 108), and authorized the commissioners to purchase the same. The purchase was made for $34,731, Bancroft receiving $5625, James McCann $12,056, and George McCann $17,050. In 1871 an act was passed (chapter 715) authorizing the purchase of additional lands, and the same was made of Bancroft for $1927, and George McCann $1394, making a total of $38,052 for about 280 acres. In 1870, by the act approving the first purchase of land, five building commissioners were appointed, to wit: C. C. B. Walker, of Corning; S. T. Arnot and F. H. Atkinson, of Elmira; A. H. Miller, of Owego; and Amos Pilsbury, of Albany. The last-named gentleman, however, resigned and Joseph Warren, of buffalo, was appointed to fill the vacancy.

These commissioners proceeded to procure plans for the proposed building—those of William L. Woollett, of Albany, being adopted. Mr. Woollett was appointed principal architect, and A. J. Warner, of Rochester, who was one of the unsuccessful competitors on plans, supervising architect. The reservoir was also built about half a mile from the building, on lands of the institution, and at an elevation of 90 or more feet above it. The dam of the reservoir was thrown across the ravine, and is 140 feet wide at its base, 13 feet wide at top, and 630 feet in length on the top. The water overflows about five acres, and the capacity of the reservoir is 13,000,000 gallons, and is calculated to hold a year’s supply. It cost $34,165.74. The original plan of the building was for one principal or east front, 508 feet 8 inches long, with north and south wings, 241 feet 8 inches each, with a warden’s or superintendent’s residence in advance of the principal building, 70 feet 8 inches by 80 feet 8 inches, to consist of a sub-cellar, basement, principal, second, and attic stories. The dimensions of the building are unchanged; but the roof, which was to have been a Mansard, has been changed to a different and less costly style. The original plans called for a stone building, for which brick has been substituted above the basement line. The expenditures for the first year amounted to $136,895.10. The appropriations for 1870 and 1871 were $275,000.

In 1872 the building commissioners were increased to nine, and an appropriation of $200,000 was made. In 1873 no appropriation was made; but instead thereof an investigation was ordered of the action of the former commissioners, the committee being General H. S. Diven, S. D. Hodgman, H. Pritchard, and C. S. Decker, who reported that notwithstanding certain extravagant expenditures of the commissioners, the building could be completed in two years within the original estimates.

The commissioners of 1872 were William Dundas, Frank H. Atkinson, Samuel C. Taber, John Davis Baldwin, and Stephen T. Arnot, of Elmira; C. C. B. Walker, of Corning, Charles D. Champlin, of Urbana; Ezra S. Buckbee and Abram H. Miller, of Owega. J. Davis Baldwin was Chairman; S. C. Taber, Secretary; William Dundas, Treasurer. In 1874 the appropriations amounted to $300,000, and the Governor was authorized to appoint a superintendent builder to take charge of the construction of the building. In 1875 another appropriation was made and drawn for the work, amounting to $100,000, making the appropriations, up to 1876, $875,000.

In 1876 the Legislature appointed Louis D. Pilsbury, of Albany; Sinclair Tousey, of New York; Wm. C. Wey, of Elmira; Rufus H. King, of Elmira; and Judge Ariel S. Thurston, of Elmira, a board of managers for the Reformatory, and by the act (chapter 207) gave them general charge and superintendence of the institution, and charged them to conduct the same on non-partisan principles. They were to have no compensation for their services, but were to have their reasonable traveling and official expenses paid, and were to hold to their office as follows: Pilsbury five years, Tousey four years, Wey three years, King two years and Thurston one year from the passage of the act; their successors to hold five years. Judge Thurston was appointed his own successor. The board was to appoint a general superintendent, and in May, 1876, Z. R. Brockway, of Detroit, was appointed to the position, which he at present most worthily fills.

Since the present management took charge of the Reformatory the appropriations have been as follows: 1876, $160,000; 1877, $185,000; 1878, $50,000; total, $95,000. Of this amount the sum of $30,000 was expended in 1876 for maintenance and salaries, and an appropriation of $50,000 was made for the same purpose in 1877, leaving the amount received for construction to be $365,000.* The report of the managers of 1877 shows the board organized for business on May 9, 1876, by choosing Manager Pilsbury chairman, and Manager Thurston secretary and treasurer, which positions they still retain. At this time the principal building and south wing only were erected, two blocks of cells and a small part of the outside wall of the north wing was in progress of construction. The south wing was unfinished, and there were no inclosure walls, no outside doors, no facilities or furnishings for subsisting prisoners or guards. Making temporary provision for the safe-keeping of convicts, requisitions were made on the state prisons at Auburn and Sing Sing for the same, for the purpose of completing the building as soon as the contract work was done, which was completed in July, 1876. 194 convicts, including 10 sentenced direct from the courts, were received the first year, who rendered, up to January, 1877, 13,000 days of labor on the buildings and grounds, and in the domestic work of the establishment, thus reducing the cost of the work very materially. At the date last named 312 cells were ready, the south wing, central building, and officers’ quarters were finished and in use, the foundation for the inclosure wall was complete, and a brick wall 20 feet high, 20 inches thick, supported with strong pilasters every 12 feet, with suitable sentinel towers and gateways, all coped with six-ing stone coping, was abuilt around the inner inclosure of 625 by 575 feet. A workshop 50 by 200 feet, of two stories of 14 feet each, was also built, with an engine and boiler-room to the rear, 25 by 40 feet. Suitable buildings for gas-works, and a kitchen and laundry building 50 by 125 feet, with a vegetable cellar 8 feet deep underneath the whole building, was well under way. The north wing was ready for the roof, and 70 acres of the farm were prepared for the spring sowing. Up to this date (Jan. 10, 1877), the managers had drawn and expended of the appropriation of $160,000 the sum of $125,949.48; the balance, $34,050.52, being exhausted between that date and that of the appropriation of 1877. Since then the north wing, the inclosure walls, and the barns and outhouses have been completed, and much grading done; the Reformatory now being in successful operation, with cell accommodations for 504 convicts.

*A portion of the appropriation for 1878 is for maintenance.

Brush- and harness-making are now carried on successfully, and all of the iron-work of the north wing has been made in the shop, except for the castings. A foundry for small castings and hollow ware is about to be erected, and another shop of the same size as the first one also, both shops to be operated by the present powerful and beautiful engine now driving the machinery of the present works. The culinary department is well managed, as is also the laundry, now lately established. It is expected that the present appropriation of 1878, $50,000, will complete everything, and place the Reformatory upon the self-supporting basis, by the industries within its walls and on its lands. The number of convicts, July 3, 1878, was 221.

The situation of the buildings is an eligible one, being on an elevation above the general level of the valley of some 70 feet. From the parlors of the superintendent’s dwelling a fine view of the valley and surrounding hills, with the city in the distance, is obtained; lending a charm to the surroundings that is most agreeable.

The managers, with their report in 1877, submitted a bill embodying their views for the regulation of the convicts under their charge, and the manner of their sentences thereto, which became a law, substantially as reported by them, on April 27, 1877. The act of 1876 provided that the Reformatory should receive all male criminals between the ages of sixteen and thirty years of age, not known to have been previously sentenced to a State’s prison on conviction for a felony. The discipline was to be reformatory, and the managers were given discretionary powers to see such means for the accomplishment of the ends of the institution as they might deem expedient. The courts were to sentence such criminals as the Reformatory was authorized to receive to the Reformatory, instead of to the State’s prisons; and convicts were to be transferred from the prisons to complete the work on the buildings when required by the managers.

The act of 1877 authorized the managers to terminate the term of sentence of any convict sentenced thereto by the courts; the latter sentencing to the Reformatory simply, but not fixing a limit to the sentence as regards the duration thereof. The clerk of the court wherein the convict is tried and sentenced forwards with the convict a full record of the trial, names and residences of the judges, jurors, and witnesses in the case, copy of the testimony, etc., for the inspection of the managers. An officer of the Reformatory conveys the convict to the same, in lieu of a sheriff. Paroles may be granted to such of the convicts as the managers may deem worthy to receive such an exhibition of confidence to go outside of the walls of the Reformatory for such time as the managers may deem judicious. The managers are to keep such control over the prisoners as shall prevent them from committing crime, best secure their self-support, and accomplish their reformation. When any prisoner shall be received into the Reformatory upon direct sentence thereto, they shall cause to be entered in their register the date of such admission, the name, age, nativity, and nationality, with such other facts as can be ascertained of parentage, of early social influences, as seem to indicate the constitutional and acquired defects and tendencies of the prisoner, and, based upon these, an estimate of the then present condition of the prisoner, and the best probably plan of treatment. Upon such register shall be entered quarterly or oftener minutes of observed improvement or deterioration of character, with notes as to methods of treatment employed; also all orders or alterations affecting the standing or situation of such prisoner, the circumstances of the final release, and any subsequent facts of the personal history which may be brought to the knowledge of the board of managers. A system of markings for credits and discredits (known as the Irish system) is to be kept in operation; the credits being gained for good personal demeanor, diligence in labor and study, and accomplished results; the discredits following derelictions, negligence, and offenses. An abstract showing the status of each prisoner in the matters before specified is to be filed semi-annually with the Secretary of State, and the prisoner is to know his standing from month to month, or oftener, if he desires. "When it appears to the managers that there is a strong or reasonable probability that any prisoner will live or remain at liberty without violating law, and that his release is not incompatible with the welfare of society, then they shall issue to such prisoner an absolute release from imprisonment, and shall certify the fact to the Governor and the grounds thereof, and the Governor may, at his discretion, restore the prisoner to citizenship. But no petition or application for such release shall be entertained by the managers." The Governor, however, may exercise the executive clemency and pardon offenders, as in other instances.

From the directions and requirements of the law, it will be readily seen that the methods of treatment of convicts in vogue in the Reformatory are not founded on the old dogma of total depravity, but, on the contrary, on that higher conception of human nature which holds that deep in every human heart lies a chord that will vibrate to kindness, and beat responsive to acts put forth by others for the good and reformation of the possessor of that heart. Hence the practical workings of the institution all tend to the uplifting of the beginner in crime, to arrest his downward march, and to give him an impetus in the opposite direction. Its system of gradation and markings places the convict upon his good behavior, and draws out what of manhood he has, be it much or little, and makes the most of it. As he looks upon his record from day to day, and sees its accumulating deposit of credits, he is nerved to more assiduity, or, being warned by the counter-drafts of discredits, he is awakened to greater vigilance and more determined effort, and firmer resolves to be worthy of the trust reposed in him. To all, the pleasing prospect of regained liberty and restored responsibility, like a clear-burning Pharos in a dark, tempestuous sight, is a leader and guide to safety and happiness.

Already have three young men received their first parole of six months, and so far have not abused the trust and confidence reposed in them, but have gone to work and make their first report July 1, 1878. The superintendent, by means of the postal and telegraph facilities of the land, is Argus-eyed, and has them within his reach; and if perchance they shall stumble and fall again into error before their parole expires, he can bring them back again into the Reformatory for further discipline. A full release at the end of six months awaits the faithful "ticket-of-leave" man, and the Governor’s pardon restores him to honorable citizenship.

Thus every motive of self-interest, of right-doing, of liberty, of respectability, is enlisted to bring up the man from the slough of despond into which he has fallen, and out of the quagmire of vice into which he has wandered, and set his feet on the solid ground of virtue and morality, of hope and confidence, and with his eyes fixed steadily on the heights of manhood he can attain thereto if he will, and be safe.

Much of the success already attained is due to the efforts of Mr. Brockway, the efficient superintendent, to whom the board of managers most cheerfully and heartily award the praise and credit. He is by nature and education admirably fitted, for the work he has in hand, and under his guidance it is rapidly progressing to a well-demonstrated success. When one visits the institution and witnesses the workings of it, and listens to the explanation of the system, and the recital of individual experiences therein by the superintendent, it is easy to accord to him the office of one who is "taking the blind (morally) by a way they know not; leading them in paths they have not known, and making darkness light before them and crooked things straight."

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