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Chapter 2 - Court-Ordered Relief

Relief and Guardianship
Mecklenburg County Poor House and County Home

The Wardens offered assistance to the deserving poor. In 1826, for instance, the August session of the quarterly court found

That William Goforth is poor and superannuated and has no means of subsistence, nor way to provide for himself, Therefore . . . [he] is entitled by law to be received by the Wardens of the Poor and entered on their list and receive such sums quarterly as they shall deem sufficient. (Minutes, Book 7, p.156)

Cases like Mr. Goforth’s called for no more than assistance in cash or in kind. In other cases, mental or physical health challenges prevented an unfortunate person from caring for him or herself. The county court would assess such a case and could then order another resident to serve as a guardian. In August of 1821, the court summoned a committee

To enquire into the state of Arthur Garrison’s mind. . . [T]hey are unanimously of Opinion that the Said Arthur Garrison is incapable of Transacting his Own Business. Ordered therefore that Andrew Moore be appointed Guardian for the Said Garrison who entered into bond with David Shields, Security, in the sum of $250. (Minutes, Book 6, p.351)

Under these terms Andrew Moore would look out for the interests of Arthur Garrison and be liable to the court for $250 if he did not fulfill his duty. (If he neither cared for Garrison nor paid the money, then his bondsman, David Shields, would have been responsible.)


Historically, the help offered in these two cases exemplified what Kirk (1936) called “outdoor relief, that is, direct relief outside of institutions." (p.10) Relief that did require the recipient to abandon a familiar environment for a state institution was called "indoor relief," about which more in Chapter 3.