Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse aka Poor Farm

Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse

The Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse aka Poor Farm was established in 1789 and torn down in 1959. A modern jail is on its site on Seven Locks Road near Falls Road. Photo taken by Lewis Reed.

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.

Source: The Washington Post, June 30, 1985

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

6 responses to “Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse aka Poor Farm”

  1. Lisette M. says :

    Interesting article and photo…thanks!

  2. Kathy Darnell says :

    Hello. Thank you for this article. Family history tells me that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother “ran” the “poor house”….I’m presuming until just before his death in August of 1959. Charles William Darnell and Sophie McVey Darnell. I know your article says there’s not much written about it, but do you know where I can find what is available? Thank you so very much.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hi Kathy, Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave your comment. There really is not a lot of information about the poor house online. I do know that after speaking to an historian from Montgomery History, that there are only two photographs of the poor house in existence, and this is one of them. The June 30, 1985 Washington Post newspaper article was the only source I could find: Montgomery Graveyard Sale Is Questioned

      Best of luck in your search and thanks again for visiting!

      Jeanne

    • Jeff Hawkins says :

      Hello, As a child growing up in the Hungerford neighborhood and also I lived for a time in the house on the corner of East Argyle St. & Monroe St. we used to play and explore in that area. There were people buried right behind Dogwood Park. We would come across a freshly dug grave and put a sheet of plywood over it, come back the next day and someone would be buried there. With a little metal plate with a handwritten name on a piece of paper, after the first rain…..the name was gone. It was used for this right up until the mid 60’s about the time Dogwood Park was developed. Many people were buried back there along the road we called “The Trails”.

      • Reed Brothers says :

        Hi Jeff! You have such fascinating stories! I had never even heard of a poor farm until I came across the photo in my grandfather’s album. My mother identified it and told me what it was. I’ve heard stories that the area served as a playground for local children, but it would have been way too creepy for me. It is indeed a sad part of Rockville & Montgomery County history.

        Thanks for stopping by!
        Jeanne

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