Letter to the Overseers of the Poor, Haverhill and West Newbury 1836

In the 19th century towns were required to support those residents who could not support themselves. This might mean paying people to take on the support of the poor within their own households, or creation of a “poor farm” to group a large number of the poor together. This practice sometimes led to arguments over which town might be responsible for the upkeep of people who were born in one town but chose to live in another. This letter from West Newbury asks the town of Haverhill to pay expenses for a woman whom they are supporting.

To The Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Haverhill

Gentlemen, You are hereby notified that Betsy (Noyes), now residing1 in the town of West Newbury hath become poor and has applied to the Overseers of the said town of West Newbury for relief and understanding that the legal settlement2 of the said Betsy Noyes is in the (town) of Haverhill in the County of Essex – You are hereby required to make immediate provision for the support3 of the said Betsy Noyes and remove her to the said town of Haverhill and pay the charges that have ready accrued4 for her support, which amounts to thirty five dollars – We shall continue to charge the expenses to your town until she is removed —
Dated at West Newbury this second day of March A.D. 1836

Otis Little
Eliphalit Emery
David Sawyer

Overseers of the Poor of West Newbury

March 11, 1836 Wrote the Overseers of West Newbury Denying Betsey Noyes having any legal settlement5 in this town.

N. Webster

1 Residing = living
2 Legal settlement = legally where she is said to be living
3 Provision for the support = spend money on her housing and food
4 Accrued = added up to
5 Legal settlement = rights to being supported

Newburyport August 1, 1823


John Hastings, his wife & three Children
Inhabitant of your town, is now in our Almshouse1. We give you this information, that you may order their removal as soon as possible. We have charged the expense of their board2 to your town, from — at $6.50 per week and shall continue it during the time they shall remain in our Almshouse. We are, Gentlemen, very respectfully,

Your most obedient servants,
Arthur Knapp Secretary for the Overseers of the Poor

The Gentlemen Selectmen Or
Overseers of the Poor
For the Town of
Haverhill, County (of) Essex

1 Almshouse = house where the poor are kept
2 Board = money spent for housing and food


Letter to the Overseers of the Poor, Haverhill and West Newbury, (1836). The Haverhill Public Library, Special Collections, Haverhill, MA.