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Cook Home (1877-1984) | Archives and Special Collections, Kathryn A. Martin Library, University of Minnesota Duluth

Name: Cook Home (1877-1984)
Variant Name: Poor Farm, Poor House, Chris Jensen Nursing Home, Arlington Home, Cook Nursing Home, Greenwood Cemetery

Historical Note:

Minnesota law effective March 4, 1864, made mandatory counties’ provision of a poor farm or a suitable substitute to care for the aged and infirm in need of such care. In St. Louis County, people without resources could only get assistance if they were located at the Poor Farm. March 15, 1877, St. Louis County Commissioners hired John Lindbeck "to rent and operate the County Poor House and Farm for one year, and to take full charge and board all paupers given in his charge for the sum of $50 plus $10/month for each pauper in his charge." Charles Stromberg, Alexander McLennan, Chas A. Banks, Alex M. Poirier and others were later overseers. In 1882, five people plus staff lived at the 160 acre farm that had a 200 person capacity. In 1895 a three-member St. Louis County Poor Commission was established. The name "Cook Home" was chosen in 1934 as a tribute to Arthur P. Cook, secretary of the Poor Commission. In 1937 the State legislature mandated each county to establish a welfare board to administer direct relief, old age assistance, aid to dependent children, aid to the blind, and child welfare. The local Poor Commission was renamed the St. Louis County Welfare Board and expanded to five members including two county commissioners. Later, relief to the poor was carried out by the Social Service Department’s executive secretary responsible to the Welfare Board.

The Poor Farm, or Cook Home, was originally located on 266 acres of land at 2501 Rice Lake Road, Duluth, Minnesota. Four acres were used as a cemetery from 1890 to 1947. Bids were let in 1888, and a Poor Farm House was built and improved from 1888-1890. Funds for a porch and fire escapes were listed in 1891.

Four acres were used as a cemetery from 1890. In 1896, a five acre cemetery was identified and a vault constructed. The Greenwood Cemetery burials date from February 22, 1890 -July 1, 1947. The use of the name Greenwood Cemetery was found in 1901. There were 4,768 burials (fewer burials than people).

The County Hospital (renamed Hearding Hospital in 1934) at 612 East 3rd Street was used as a county jail from 1884-1924. January 1, 1925 the jail was turned over to the board of poor commissioners for use as a county hospital for “destitutes”. The building was remodeled for $35,000, to a modern hospital that contained 100 beds and had X-ray equipment. About 100 sick inmates from the county Poor Farm, and the various hospitals of the county, were taken to the new County hospital on August 1, 1925. The Poor Farm would then house only patients that did not need hospital care.

In 1933 the Arlington Home (built in 1925) was added expanding capacity further. The highest population of the Cook Home was 612 persons in February 1934. In 1967 the Arlington Home was renamed the May Morrow Unit acknowledging the Arlington's long-time woman supervisor.  A new unit was built and named for Christ or Chris Jensen who was the superintendent of the Poor Farm from 1910-1916.

Under a 1951 law, all Minnesota homes offering personal and custodial care as well as nursing care were required to be licensed. The St. Louis County facility was licensed under the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare as nursing home units in the late 1950s. Livestock was kept and farming operations continued until the early 1970's. The legal description of the site in the 1980s indicated the site comprised about 144 acres. The original, main building was razed in February 1987. The original barn still stands. In 2012 Greenwood Cemetery was officially declared an inactive and historical cemetery.

Please see Digital Content for more information.

Note Author: P. Maus

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