While researching local haunted places to write about I kept finding references to people being buried in the Poor Farm Cemetery. The strange part was that I’m very familiar with the cemeteries in this area and I had never heard of the Poor Farm Cemetery before. Most of the mentions of burials at the Poor Farm were of elderly people with no family to care for them or people who got sick and died while passing through town. The poor farm was also sometimes used as a pest house in the late 1800’s. Intrigued I started to see what I could find about the Poor Farm, where it was located, what happened to it, and most importantly where the cemetery is.
I didn’t find much information at first. It took quite a bit of research to piece together the history of the Poor Farm. Utah has a great website that will help you find where people are buried, or allow you to browse cemeteries by location. Possibly because this database is still being updated, I wasn’t able to find any information on the Poor Farm Cemetery until just recently. I found it listed under the Poor House Cemetery and there’s not much information given. The lack of information is strange for a few reasons. Usually, this website will list an address and dates of when the cemetery officially opened, as well as first and last burial. As you can see below, there’s little to no information given, and the cemetery status is listed as abandoned.
History of the Poor Farm
Before we get to what happened to the Poor Farm, and more importantly its cemetery, I want to give some background on the Poor Farm because it’s pretty impressive. The Poor Farm, which was the nickname for the Weber County Infirmary was located near 2700 W & 5600 S in Roy, Utah. Originally built in 1888 it was a small structure that was created to care for the sick, poor, and elderly who had no means to care for themselves.
The Poor Farm was situated on many acres of land and had a large farm that allowed it to be somewhat self-sufficient. They raised fruits, vegetables, cows, and chickens. The people who lived at the Poor Farm, who we would call patients or residents today, were referred to as inmates at that time. They were expected to work on the farm to the extent of their ability in return for their lodgings and care.
In 1921, a 70-year-old resident of the poor farm, Charles Reed started a fire with his pipe that destroyed a good portion of the building. Instead of fully demolishing the building, it was decided to remodel the old building, adding on much-needed space. In January 1922 the “new” infirmary was completed.
Weber County’s New Infirmary
In 1956 the county decided that a new, modern facility was needed. By 1958 construction had begun on the new county infirmary, changing its name to the Weber County Chronic Disease Hospital. (This was later changed to Weber Memorial Hospital). As you can see in the picture below, the new hospital was built directly behind the original Poor Farm house. The new hospital opened to patients in April 1960, and the building remains in use to this day as an assisted living facility.
What Happened to the Cemetery?
Given its history, it’s not surprising that there were many deaths at the Poor Farm. Most of the deaths were due to natural causes such as old age or illness. There were also a few pretty unusual deaths that occurred here.
What I can’t quite figure out, however, is why some people were buried in the Poor Farm Cemetery, and others were buried in the city cemetery. I assume that most of those who were buried here had no money or family in the area. It would have been simply easier to bury them here. There is also one killer buried here with an interesting connection to 25th Street and Electric Alley. I will share his story in a future post. Due to the lack of surviving records, it’s difficult to piece together the stories of those buried here.
From what very few records survived it appears that most burials took place from 1888 until approximately 1906. The state burial database claims 25 interments at this cemetery, but there could be upwards of 30. I’ve found a few newspaper mentions of funerals at the Poor Farm Cemetery that aren’t in the state burial database. Death and burial records in Weber County before 1905 are hit or miss. It seems as if there are no surviving records from the Poor Farm.
The Mystery of the 1980 Dedication Plaque
Here is where things get even stranger. After the old Poor Farm was replaced by the Weber Memorial Hospital, the surrounding land began to be sold off. In 1980 a dedication plaque was placed at the old cemetery. A ceremony was held, and there was talk among city and county officials of preserving the old Poor Farm Cemetery. However, that didn’t happen.
Instead of being preserved, houses were built in the area surrounding the old Poor Farm. The plaque was also moved to its current location, just west of the Roy Public Works building. The graves of those buried at the Poor Farm Cemetery were not moved. Let me just say that one more time, the graves of those 25-30 people who are buried at the Poor Farm Cemetery were not moved. According to a local genealogist friend of mine, houses were built on top of the Poor Farm Cemetery.
Poor Farm Cemetery Location
North of the old Weber Memorial Hospital there is a square area of land that is fenced off and undeveloped. It’s east of the corner of 5200 S 2700 W. It sits behind some houses and is owned by the Utah Transit Authority. That in and of itself isn’t too unusual. There are railroad tracks along the entire east side of the old Poor Farm land. Surrounding those tracks is undeveloped land owned by the UTA. What I do find unusual is a small, rectangular strip of land leading east from 2700 W. Owned by the city, it almost looks like it could’ve been the old path to the cemetery.
Were houses built on top of the old Poor Farm Cemetery? It’s hard to say for certain, but I believe it’s highly possible. I can’t figure out why the cemetery wasn’t preserved. Did people figure it was forgotten and not worth preserving? It doesn’t seem like setting aside the land containing the old cemetery would’ve cost the city a lot of money. I can guess why the developer chose to build over the graves and pretend the cemetery never existed. Due to the lack of records, it would’ve been incredibly challenging and expensive to try and locate all the burials and re-inter them in another cemetery.
So, the Poor Farm Cemetery is still in its original location. Where that exact location is, and how many are buried there, however, will probably never be known.
***Many of the locations featured on The Dead History are located on Private Property. Please do not trespass at these locations!!!***