The name "Poor House" has always had an unhappy connotation. People who had been accustomed to personally caring for their old and sick, felt a sense of shame if it became necessary to abandon them to someone else's care. As well, folks who entered the poor house system, felt shamed and abandoned, as shown in the following poem published in 1927.
  
 OVER THE HILL TO THE POOR HOUSE
 by Will Carelton
  
 Over the hill to the poor house
 I'm trudgin my weary way -
 I, a woman of seventy,
 And only a trifle gray.
 I, who am smart an' chipper
 For all the years I'm told,
 As many another woman
 That's only half as old.
  
 Over the hill to the poor house
 I can't quite make it clear!
 Over the hill to the poor house
 It seems so horrid queer!
 Many a step I've taken
 A-toilin' to and fro,
 But this is a sort of journey
 I never thought to go.
  
 What is the use of heaping on me
 A pauper's shame?
 Am I lazy or crazy?
 Am I blind or lame?
 True, I am not so supple,
 Nor yet so awful stout,
 But charity ain't no favor
 If one can live without.
  
 I am willin' and anxious
 An' ready any day
 To work for a decent livin'
 And pay my honest way.
 For I can earn my victuals
 And more too, I'll be bound,
 If anybody is only willin
 To have me around.
  
 Once I was young an' han'some.
 I was, upon my soul.
 Once my cheeks was roses,
 My eyes as black as coal;
 And I can't remember, in them days,
 Of hearin' people say,
 For any kind of a reason,
 That I was in their way.
  
 'Tain't no use of boastin'
 Or talkin' overfree,
 But many a house an' home
 Was open then to me;
 Many a han'some offer
 I had from likely men,
 And nobody ever hinted that
 I was a burden then.
  
 And when to John I was married,
 Sure he was good an smart,
 But he and all the neighbors
 Would own I done my part;
 For life was all before me,
 An' I was young and strong,
 And I worked the best that I could
 In tryin' to get along.
  
 And so we worked together
 And life was hard, but gay;
 With now and then a baby
 For to cheer us on our way.
 Till we had half a dozen,
 An' all growed clean an' neat,
 An' went to school like others,
 An' had enough to eat.
  
 So we worked for the child'rn
 And raised 'em every one;
 Worked for 'em summer and winter,
 Just as we ought to have done.
 Only perhaps we humored 'em,
 Which some good folks condemn,
 But every couple's child'rns
 A heap the best to them.
  
 Strange how much we think
 Of our blessed little ones!
 I'd have died for my daughter,
 I'd have died for my sons!
 And God he made that rule of love,
 But when we're old and gray,
 I've noticed it sometimes somehow
 Fails to work the other way.
  
 
 Strange, another thing;
 When our boys an' girls was grown,
 And when, exceptin' Charley,
 They'd left us there alone,
 When John he nearer an' nearer come,
 An, dearer seemed to be,
 The Lord of Hosts he come one day
 An' took him away from me.
  
 Still I was bound to struggle
 An, never to cringe or fall
 Still I worked for Charley,
 For Charley was now my all;
 And Charley was pretty good to me,
 With scarce a word or frown,
 Till at last he went a-courtin'
 And brought a wife from town.
  
 She was somewhat dressy,
 An' hadn't a pleasant smile.
 She was quite conceity,
 And carried a heap o' style;
 But if ever I tried to be friends,
 I did with her, I know;
 But she was hard and proud,
 An' I couldn't make it go.
  
 She had a edication,
 An, that was good for her;
 But when she twitted me on mine,
 'Twas carryin' things too fur;
 An' I told her once, 'fore company
 (an' it almost made her sick),
 That I never swallowed a grammar,
 Or et a 'rithmetic.
  
 So 'twas only a few days
 Before the thing was done.
 They was a family of themselves,
 And I another one;
 And a very little cottage
 One family will do,
 But I never have seen a house
 That was big enough for two.
  
 An' I never could speak to suit her,
 Never could please her eye,
 An' it made me independent,
 An' then I didn't try;
 But I was terribly staggered,
 An' felt it like a blow,
 When Charley turned agin me,
 An' told me I could go.
  
 I went to live with Susan,
 But Susan's house was small,
 And she was always a'hintin,
 How snug it was for us all;
 And what with her husband's sisters,
 And what with child'rn three,
 "Twas easy to discover that
 There wasn't room for me.
  
 An' then I went to Thomas,
 The oldest son I've got,
 For Thomas' buildings'd cover
 The half of an acre lot.
 But all the child'rn was on me
 I couldn't stand their sauce
 And Thomas said I needn't think
 I was comin' there to boss.
  
 An' then I wrote to Rebecca,
 My girl who lives out West,
 And to Isaac, not far from her
 Some twenty miles at best;
 And one of 'em said 'twas too warm there
 For anyone so old,
 and t'other had an opinion
 The climate was too cold.
  
 So they have shirked and slighted me,
 And shifted me about
 So they have well-nigh soured me
 And wore my old heart out.
 But still I've born up pretty well,
 An' wasn't much put down,
 Till Charley went to the Poor Master,
 An' put me on the town.
  
 Over the hill to the Poor House,
 My children dear, good by!
 Many a night I've watched you
 When only God was nigh;
 And God'll judge between us;
 But I will allays pray
 That you shall never suffer
 the half I do today.
 

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last updated May, 2015