Landscapes Remember

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010

to live on the Dade County Farm. In 1904, 12 inmates occupied the farm, on which they were supposed to raise crops and support themselves. But researchers learned that none of the residents of the Dade County Farm was able-bodied. Charles A. Ellwood, a professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, reported that nine of the inmates were insane, two were feebleminded, one was blind, four were crippled and one was paralyzed. These unfortunate people ended up on the poor farm because there was no place else for them to go.

By 1933, the county had built two brick dormitories and a dining hall for residents and a white frame house for the superintendent. Under the New Deal's Works Project Administration (WPA) program, federal workers built new entrance gates on the farm property. In the winter of that Depression year, 16 inmates lived on the farm. Of these, according to records, three were mentally disabled, one apparently blind, four paralyzed and three incapacitated by advanced age.

Social Security, disability benefits and other government programs of the 1930s and 1940s helped to make the poor farm obsolete. By the end of the 1930s, the number of occupants dwindled. Elois Sloan, a longtime Dade County resident, recalled that five women and one man lived at the county farm when officials closed it down.

In 1947, Elois Sloan and her husband, Dr. O.D. Sloan bought the farm at an auction on the courthouse steps. Although the Sloans used the land for a dairy operation, they carefully preserved the old county buildings. Forty-five years later, Elois Sloan donated the property to the Conservation Department.

A team of historians and archaeologists, led by Craig Sturdevant, studied the Dade County Farm and submitted a report of their findings. Researchers measured and photographed the buildings and uncovered information about the farm in county and state records. The Conservation Department commissioned the study in order to document the property and preserve its history.

Conservation Department policy mandates archaeological and historical investigations whenever development plans threaten sites that may contain evidence of past human habitation. In 1980, the Conservation Commission made protection of cultural resources a high priority. The agency's attitude rests upon the principle that "Missouri's cultural resources are nonrenewable, of growing importance and of special concern to scientists, students and others interested in development of man's cultural systems."

The Conservation Department follows federal guidelines for identifying and protecting cultural resources. In the

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