Silver Creek Museum History

2954 S. Walnut Rd
Freeport, IL 61032
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Museum Building

History of the Museum

In September 1825, the Stephenson County Board appointed a Committee to investigate the need for a County Poor Farm to house the indigent and provide work for them. In 1854 the first "Poor House", and a house for the Warden to live in were built.

On January 28, 1859, the Poor House was destroyed by fire. The blaze originated in the room of one of the patients, Lavinia Kohn, sometime after the Matron made her evening rounds. The patient, who was locked in her room since she required restraint, died in the fire and another patient was badly burned. A new building of stone was completed that same year. It had seven rooms and a dining hall on the first floor and ten rooms upstairs. A two-story brick building with ten cells was also constructed in the spring of 1859. This was to house the insane, and when required, cases of contagious disease. It was known as the "Asylum" or the "Pest House".

In 1872 the County Board approved the erection of a farm house to house the Superintendent. This house was occupied until it was torn down to make way for an addition to the present Stephenson County Nursing Home.

The Poor Farm was located on 10 acres. There were several outbuildings on the site including a large barn. The farm provided much of the food eaten, such as milk, butter, eggs, pork, potatoes and vegetables. All the bread was made in the home's bakery. Women's clothing and men's shirts were made at the home. There was a barber and a cobbler who mended the shoes and boots. Every able-bodied person had a job to do, either in the barn, in the garden or in the house.

The Poor House was supported by money from the townships. Townships were each charged the cost of supporting the inmates that their township Supervisors sent to live there. Records show the cost per inmate in 1900 was $1.08 per week and $5.00 per week in 1915.

In a report made by the County Board in February 1900, there were "sixty-two paupers, twenty-six of whom are crazy, five who are weak and three who have fits."

In 1902 a three-story stone building was erected in front of the old building at the cost of about $20,000. There was room for 100 people. The stone for the new building was brought from the Smith Quarry just off Walnut Road and about two miles north of the building site.

In 1912 the name was officially changed from "Poor Farm" to "County Home."

In 1914 there were 101 inmates. A few paid board but many were without money. There were the old and infirm, epileptics, alcoholics, many retarded and some insane. Often inmates were children or mothers with small children. If children had no parents they were cared for in the Superintendent's home and efforts were always made to find homes for them.

In July of 1927, a fire destroyed the building, leaving only its heavy stone walls. A new building was erected using the original native stone walls. This time the building had only two stories instead of the original three. This is the building today.

A County wide referendum was passed to build a new, one story, State approved Stephenson County Nursing Home. It was built and equipped to house ninety-eight residents. The decision was made to build North of the site of the old County Home. The old building was used as a shelter care facility for fifty-six residents.

On May 16, 1987, a new addition to the present County Nursing Home was ready and the last sheltered care residents were moved from the old building to the new one.

The Stephenson County Antique Engine Club acquired the old County Home building. In the spring of 1989 the Silvercreek Museum opened its doors.