Poor farms, which spread to the Midwestern United States in the nineteenth century, were intended to provide work for their residents. Existing literature indicates that the need for work and the ability of residents to work was limited on Midwestern poor farms and that it decreased with time. In the historical case study of a rural Minnesota poor farm presented here, data support contentions of the literature. Between 1889 and 1935, the Yellow Medicine County Poor Farm expanded and modernized the house, while allowing an originally modern farming operation to stagnate. Residents who accounted for most of the occupancy were old, disabled immigrant males, and became more so with time. Thus, the Poor Farm adapted to the problems these residents presented, and moved from a work-providing operation to a custodial facility.

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