Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Berkeley County Poorhouse Farm

The Poor House Farm is now located on the grounds of Poor House Farm Park, owned and maintained by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board.

In August of 1766, 400 acres west of Martinsburg were granted to David and Elizabeth Crochett by Lord Fairfax.  In 1776, the Crochetts sold part of the land to John Snodgrass, and when he died in 1788, his portion went to his sons.  This would later be the land  for the Poor House Farm.

Around the year 1844, John and Elizabeth Emert owned the property, and built a log cabin, which would later be converted into the stone building standing today.  The Emerts also added a wash house and a smoke house before selling the property in 1850 for use as a county poor farm.  They received a sum of $5,626 from the county for the property.

In 1881, a frame sick house was added.  During this time, the house also suffered from overcrowding.  An 1882 census report showed that there were 49 people living in the home, and there were six deaths/three births that year.

By 1906, the term poor house or alms house was considered politically incorrect, and the property became known as the "county farm."  Ten years later, a brick steward's house was added by JP Talhem.  By the 1950s, the welfare system had replaced the need for poor farms, and the buildings were leased to private individuals and for the use of group homes.  The Kester family rented the brick steward's building until 2002, and the main stone house was used by the Eastern Panhandle Mental Health organization until 2001.

The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board has owned and operated the farm lands since 1994.  The frame infirmary house built in 1881 was razed, and the stone house received a new roof.  There are at least three graveyards on the area, and two potters' fields.  The Emert family is buried behind the brick steward's house.

The original stone house is said by many to be haunted.  The area near the fireplace has a heavy feeling, and there are several spots in the house where there is a heavy, hard to breathe feeling.  The apparition of a soldier is also said to be seen on the grounds.


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