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The overseer of the Poor had its hands full

September 26, 2013

HOPKINTON – “There’s no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty”, once stated 17th century Irish dramatist George Farquhar. As the centuries passed, that statement remained true in the eyes of the helpless and destitute. Over-come with hopelessness, loathe to take charity, and well aware that more people would whisper about such a condition than try and alter it, the stigma of poverty has remained what it always was; a scandalous and shameful way of life.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there were well-to-do residents in Charlestown, Hopkinton and Richmond just as there were in most American towns. Like the majority of the rest of the country, most of the population here would have been considered middle-class for the time; an all work and no play policy allowing ends to meet but with little left over for anything extra. And then there were those who were financially unable to provide even the basic necessities for themselves or their families. Poverty-stricken, down on their luck residents who would be publicly announced in the local newspapers and discussed in letters passed between town authorities and the Overseer of the Poor.

In 1910, it came to the attention of the Overseer of the Poor in Richmond that there was a family living in Woodville who were in great need of help. Mr. and Mrs. Beede were Canadians who had settled here with their five children; the oldest being thirteen years and the youngest just a few days old. Mr. Beede worked as a woodchopper, bringing home an income that wasn’t nearly enough to support his family.

Read more about it in the Sept. 26 edition of The Chariho Times.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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