Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse aka Poor Farm
A Poor Farm in Montgomery County? Yep. Although a lot of people have never heard of “poor farms,” they were once common across the nation. Various terms have been used to describe the “house for the poor,” and often the titles were unique to the part of the country where the house was located.
This is the Almshouse (aka Poor Farm). The 50-acre tract which includes the pauper’s graveyard was once part of the Montgomery County Poor Farm, established in 1789 as a place where the poor and homeless went to live, work, and, if they died, to be buried.
At the time, the farm was located well beyond the bounds of what was then the town of Rockville. But growth eventually caught up with the property. The farm house was razed in 1959 to make way for a county jail, and another chunk of property was dedicated for I-270. At least 75 graves were identified during a 1983 survey of the property by state archeologists, but according to George R. Snowden, funeral director, there may be as many as 500 people buried in the potter’s field.
Although the county’s poor farm existed for almost 170 years, virtually nothing has been documented about it, said Jane Sween, a librarian with the Montgomery County Historical Society. The property was deeded to the county in 1789 and expanded in 1825. After the Civil War, the farm’s almshouse was rebuilt, and until it was razed a century later it was home to an average of 40 indigent people, she said. The state paid for burial but did not pay for grave markers or upkeep on the property.
The Montgomery County Poor Farm Cemetery is no longer in existence. The National Park Service conducted an archaeological dig in 1987, which resulted in the removal of 38 bodies to Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. Montgomery County sold the land to a private developer.