Welcome to the Walla Walla County Poor Farm History Website
The Walla Walla County Poor Farm
The Walla Walla County Poor Farm was established in 1891, and at one point included 200 acres extending from the present 12th Street in College Place south to Taumarson Road, and from just east of Myra Road to College Avenue. The farm was owned and run by Walla Walla County as a place where indigent residents could live and work.
Poor Farm residents lived in the large house at the corner of what is now SE Scenic View and Robin Drive. The house, which is still standing, has ten bedrooms and a large attached kitchen. There were various outbuildings on the grounds, and a separate hospital and a tuberculosis sanitarium were connected to the house by covered walkways.
Many of the residents of the farm were ultimately buried in the Poor Farm cemetery at the corner of Mockingbird and Sandpiper in College Place. You will find signage regarding the Poor Farm and the Poor Farm cemetery placed by Walla Walla 2020 at both sites. You can also read a letter from Vernon Jordan, one of the owners of the Poor Farm House who died in 2013, and view additional photos with a narrative, and a map he created of the Poor Farm grounds.
The Poor Farm barn, constructed with wooden pegs in place of nails, is still standing on private property on Robin Drive just north of Scenic View.
A tuberculosis hospital building located behind the farm house has been moved to the corner of Scenic View and Larch where it is in use as a private home. The story of the Poor Farm and the tuberculosis hospital located there is partially told in a novel titled The Diary by Francis Potts, whose mother was employed and whose father was a patient there.
The Poor Farm was closed sometime after the federal Social Security system was created and counties were no longer solely responsible for indigent welfare. The last burial and the closure of the farm took place in about 1954.
The land, except for the cemetery, was then sold by the county and became a dairy farm for many years, before the establishment of a mobile or manufactured home community there. While the Poor Farm barn is used for storage as part of the mobile home park, the vacant Poor Farm house is in separate ownership.
The Poor Farm Cemetery
The Poor Farm Cemetery was also established about 1891. Deceased Poor Farm residents along with unclaimed remains from the Walla Walla County Coroner’s office were buried there in the cemetery in rows running north to south.
Most graves were marked with small concrete cylinders bearing only a number. Upright markers were later placed on several of the graves by friends or family members.
The names and location of people buried in the cemetery could be found by consulting records maintained at the county courthouse, which until recently were thought to have been lost.
After the Poor Farm closed and as the adjoining land was being developed as a mobile or manufactured home park, all large grave markers were removed, the small concrete cylinders were covered with soil, grass was planted over them, and playground equipment, footings for which are still visible, was installed on top of the graves. You can still see the graves on Google Maps.
Ownership of the cemetery was transferred by Walla Walla County to the City of College Place in 1965. This and other historic cemeteries are protected from further disturbance by the Washington Historic Cemeteries and Graves Act, adopted in 1990.
A partial list of burials is shown on a sign at the cemetery placed by Walla Walla 2020. A full list of the approximately 700 people buried in the cemetery is shown in the county records, copies of which are available via links in the right sidebar of this page. The last recorded burials in the Poor Farm cemetery took place in the early 1940s.
Thanks to the many individuals and organizations who assisted with this research and effort to learn the history of the Walla Walla County Poor Farm and to honor those who lived and died there, including specifically:
Bill Brown, whose grandfather was a resident of the Poor Farm
Joe Drazan, Photographer
Vern and Velda Jordan, owners of the Poor Farm House
Karen Martin and staff, Walla Walla County Auditor’s Office
Ben Case, Pioneer Title Company
Mary Meeker, Walla Walla 2020 researcher
Chris Baird, Walla Walla 2020 webmaster
Frances Potts, Novelist
Pat Reay & Jon Ricard, along with other employees of the City of College Place
Mark Spinks, Walla Walla County Public Information Officer
Angela Trimm & Kevin McMichael of the Department of Corrections sign shop
Connie Vinti & Diane Harris of the Walla Walla County Commissioners Office
Dell & Lenore Wagner, former owners of the Poor Farm property, and their daughter Gail Wagner Bobbitt
Steve & Theresa Wheeler, Country Estates MHC
We hope you will visit these and other sites in order to learn more about the fascinating history of the Walla Walla area.