By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tales of Effingham's pauper farm
Lester H. “Buzzie” Morgan Jr. stands in the middle of what was once the Effingham County pauper farm. Morgan now owns that land. - photo by Photo submitted

Sometimes a true story is very hard to substantiate and this is definitely one of those. Information passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth is often all that exists. This time I got lucky and found a few pieces of written information to document this story.

Information passed down to Lester H. “Buzzie” Morgan Jr. was that property he owned was at one time Effingham County’s “Pauper Farm”.  His father told him the location of the farm on the property he owned and over the years the plowing in the field, which is located north of Springfield off Highway 21 on Morgan Road, has yielded debris like bricks, pieces of dishes, etc., on what is believed to be the vicinity of the old house site. Mr. Lester, Buzzie’s father, told him it was a farm the county operated and when people were down on their luck, they were allowed to go there to have somewhere to live and have work in the fields and garden so that they could survive.  An underground spring, providing water to a standing pool, is near the site just outside the fence line of the field. It probably supplied fresh water there.

My father Arthur Exley recalls that my grandfather, J. Bruce Hinely, who was born in 1905, said it was a “right big house” there and that it was a working farm with fields growing crops and a garden operated by Effingham County.
Mr. Arte Heidt lives nearby.  Born in 1919, Mr. Arte knows that the Pauper Farm existed and its location but does not remember seeing the house in his lifetime.

Some research at the courthouse turned up some interesting finds.  A surveyor’s plat by Mr. Powers, the county surveyor, made in 1882 and recorded in 1892, shows an area in a zig-zag square labeled “Plantation” and the location compares to the site in other plats. A deed in 1906 registered to George W. Brinson, who purchased tracts in the area when he was building the Brinson Railroad, refers to the 90-acre property as “the former Pauper Farm.”  The same deed conveys an additional tract known as “The Old Academy Tract” to Brinson. Norman Turner, local historian, says that it was Brinson’s pattern to acquire large parcels of property containing the needed right of way and then sell off the excess.  Buzzie Morgan has the next clue in the story which is a land plat and deed from the Federal Land Bank of South Carolina conveying the tract, formerly of Lorenzo Hurst, to his father Lester H. Morgan Sr. in 1937.  

The times when the Pauper Farm existed were days preceding any government or social programs to take care of the destitute who at that time were referred to as paupers.  A chat with Mr. Lawton Nease of Guyton explains references in the 1916 minutes of the Effingham County Commissioners to the Pauper Roll. The Effingham County commission would discuss a certain person and their circumstances and would provide a menial monthly income of about $2 a month to the person discussed and placed them on the pauper roll which was recorded in the minutes. Certain individuals distributed these funds in each community.  Mr. Nease recalls going with his relatives to do this.

Sometimes it appears the store owners or the person who owned the property where the tenant or pauper lived in each community distributed the funds for the county.  

The following references were found by Mrs. Betty Renfro in the microfilm of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners minutes: September 5, 1916:  name, living on the place of Mr__________, was placed on the Pauper Roll at $5 per month as his condition is most deplorable and calls for much care, the stipend will date from July 1st and will be sent to Mr. ________ in Egypt, Georgia.

Nov. 7, 1916 - The following were added to the Paupers Roll:___name_ _ $3 per month to be sent to Mr.____ Wilson in Egypt; and ___name___ $3 per month to be sent to R. B. Mallory, Clyo.

Pauper burials were also paid by the county. Mr. Harry Zittrouer recalls that there were “pauper burial boxes” sold to the county through the Mingledorff and Bird Store. These were stored upstairs at the store and were very crude, less substantial and much cheaper compared to normal caskets.  

Later on, social services programs took over the care of the community’s poor as the programs evolved and were set up by our government. The Pauper Farm was apparently the forerunner of the Department of Family and Children’s Services, Social Security and Aid to Dependent Children.  It appears that in the late 1800s into the 1920s those in charge of our county provided for those who were unable to care for themselves due to illness or misfortune.  

Although we cannot define exact dates of operation of the Pauper Farm, on what is now known as Morgan Road north of Springfield, we know that it existed. It appears to have operated in the late 1800s and may have been over by 1906, according to the deed to Brinson referring to it as “the former Pauper Farm.”  

Thanks to all who helped piece this story together.

This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society.  If you have comments, photos or information to share please contact her at 754-6681 or email: