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From Poor House to Haunted House

Although Ashmore Estates gained notoriety during the time it was a psychiatric facility and later abandoned, for most of its history it was known as the almshouse on the Coles County Poor Farm. The Coles County Poor Farm sat on the same property outside of Ashmore, Illinois for 89 years, between 1870 and 1959. The current building, as it stands today, was built in 1916. At any given time, the building was home to between 30 and 40 “inmates,” many of whom, because of the age at which they came to the farm, died there. It is estimated that over 100 inmates died on the farm in its 89 year history.

My article, “From Poor House to Haunted House: The Coles County Poor Farm,” was recently featured in the August 2011 issue of Historic Illinois, a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. It is a shortened version of a paper I read at the 2010 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield, and it chronicles the history of the poor farm from 1870 to the present day. To download and read the article in .pdf, click on the cover image or click this link (pdf will open in new browser window).

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Ashmore Estates is just one of many strange and fascinating places in Coles County. Read about them all in Tales of Coles County, Illinois (2010) by Michael Kleen. Join me as I weave four tales around events like the Charleston Riot, the Second Battle of Blakeman Mill, and the Airtight Bridge Murder. Plus, read the story that inspired some to believe that the ghost of Elva Skinner haunts the halls of Ashmore Estates!

This edition of Tales of Coles County also contains a new section on the legends and lore of Coles County. There, I reveal over a dozen hidden stories from the area’s past and present. What is the history of Coles County’s ghost towns? Does a werewolf stalk the Charleston Stone Quarry? When did a poltergeist terrorize one rural family in Pleasant Grove Township? Is there buried treasure in Coles County? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this definitive volume. Go here to order in paperback and Kindle.

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