Hello Donna (and others)

Poor Lots are found across the state and I presume other states in the
nation, probably even Canada ...

They were often parcels which were set aside for the benefit of the poor,
sometimes being sold to generate cash, or sometimes actually used as the
basis for the poor farm proper.

In the days before the opening of the poor house (1826 in Madison County)
the Town Trustees would annually elect a person or persons to be the
"Overseer of the Poor" and they would be charged with seeng to their
welfare of the poor within the Town - this usually meant finding them work
or a home - not necessarily providing a communal dwelling for them.

Similar benefit lots may be found in townships, with an individual lot or a
cetain portion of a lot being set aside for to raise funds for improving
the highways, schools or religious and educational institutions in the
area.  Often they were set aside originally, but they could also be given
at any time by a wealthy landowner who had land to spare and give to the

The state also did this with whole tracts - such as the "Road Township" of
25,000 acres in Cazenovia, the proceeds from which went to building a road
from the Delaware River to the south end of Cayuga Lake in 1791.  If I am
not mistaken there are also more than a few state-created "School & Gospel"

In the New Military Tract of Central NY each township had lots reserved for
"gospel" and "literature" and in some cases for a post office.  This was
not meant to be the future site of a school or post office for the
designers knew those places would sprout where most convenient to the
populace - it was simply a source of income for such institutions.

It was not unusual to raise money for funding these projects by lottery,
and often the money went to actually buy land in certain areas.  Usually
though, it was raised and kept by the community much as a bond issue would
be today.

How to identify what lots were Poor Lots or for other benefactions, I
havn't a clue!  Usually they are well bragged-about in county histories,
illustrating the charitible character of the early inhabitants.  But in the
Deed records you would have a myriad of possible name combinations if it is
entered or indexed at all!

I had heard about the Smithfield Poor Lot, but the Fenner Poor Lot is a new
one on me!  Its location on "Mutton Hill," a barren, bleak and forboding
(but incredibly beautiful) place most of the year, tells me it was not one
of the best lots in the region!

What lot is the Fenner Poor Lot on?  I had heard that the Smithfield poor
lot was on Lot 22 in the 2nd Allotment, but that is on the northern edge of
Mutton Hill:


        Dan W.

Donna Burdick wrote:

With all the recent questions about Poor Houses, could someone explain the
purpose of a Poor Lot in a town?

I have some information that there was a Poor Lot on Mutton Hill in the
Town of Smithfield, Madison County, that was given to the town by Peter
Smith, the original landowner, for the benefit of the poor.  When the Town
of Fenner was formed in this section in 1823, the lot was sold and the
proceeds were used to support schools.  I also have further information
that there was a Poor Lot in the Town of Smithfield at a much later date,
somewhere near the hamlet of Siloam.

Were crops raised on these lots as a "benefit to the poor"?  Were they
administered by the person called the "poor master"?  What was the timespan
of Poor Lots - did they exist into the 20th century?  How can you pinpoint
the specific location (lot no.) of a Poor Lot?  In other words, how would
you search deeds?  I'd appreciate any background/suggestions.  Thanks so much.

Donna D. Burdick
Smithfield Town Historian