Saint John almshouse (Saint John, N.B.)

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Saint John almshouse (Saint John, N.B.)

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Established in 1800, ceased operations by 1965


The first almshouse in Saint John, New Brunswick was established in 1800. A new building was acquired in 1819 and used until 1843. An act to "provide for the erection of an alms house and work house, and to provide a public infirmary for the city and county of Saint John" was passed in 1838. It was paid for by an assessment from the city and the parishes of Saint John, Portland, Lancaster and St. Martin's, and £1000 from the provincial government. In 1841 a site in the parish of Simonds was chosen and the contract awarded to Ewen Cameron and Edward Roche for £3330.

From the beginning, there were problems with the management. The commissioners directly responsible for inspection were appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council but supervised by the county Sessions and later by County Council. It was also included in the jurisdiction of the justices of the peace and the grand jury. The resulting conflicts lead to continual controversy. The first keeper was William Craig who remained until 1850. In 1846 he was tried and acquitted on charges of rape and larceny and his financial dealings were frequently suspect. He was followed by Robert Reed and shortly after, by William Cunningham. Cunningham, who remained for 33 years, was also dogged by rumours of corrupt and incompetent dealings The treatment of the inmates was often bad. All types of people were housed together and treated the same, including the old, children, women, the mentally disturbed and the physically ill.

In 1897 another act was passed in an attempt to improve conditions, but it appears to have been unsuccessful. In 1907 the name was changed to Municipal Home. In 1937 an in-depth investigation by John A. Barry, H.C. Schofield and Neil MacKellar identified such problems as the deterioration of the building, under-use of the farm, improper feeding and clothing, mixing of the able and the sick and conflict of interest by the Commissioners and Superintendent. If conditions improved, it was not for long since in 1949 another investigation by John Chard, Charles MacIlveen and Ernest Patterson revealed similar problems.

By 1957, the Municipal Home had evolved into a chronic care facility but conditions were still deplorable, according to a complaint by E.F. Mullay. In 1960 the Social Assistance Act replaced the Municipal Homes Act and by 1965 the Home had ceased operation.


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