The Saline County Poor House & Cemetery

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisFrom History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.

The Saline County Pauper (poor) House, located in Harrisburg, Illinois, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As early as 1819, the Illinois General Assembly enacted a “Pauper Bill” which required County Commissioners to appoint overseers of the poor. In an effort to care for the area’s poor, land was purchased in 1863 and construction on the village began in 1877 starting with a 2-story Victorian style home that is now fitted with a museum of local and donated artifacts from the 1800’s. Several log homes, a barn and blockhouse, an old Quaker church, jail house and a school complete the village.

Volunteers and visitors to the house have reported strange lights, voices, footsteps, cold spots and a chair that seems to rock on its own. Most anyone who has witnessed the activity of the home refuses to be left alone in the home or stay over night. The Pauper Cemetery contains some 263 crude stone markers with an estimated 60 belonging to children, dating back as far as 1849. Records indicate that not only people from the poor farm where buried here but that it was also the county burial site for unknown vagrants, rail road and coal mine victims or abandoned children.

The custom of the time was for those not having a proper funeral to be buried the same day as they where discovered dead which did not leave a lot of preparation time for headstones resulting in some rather crude burial notes to be carved on the markers. Some of these notes include; “Run over by a train at Wasson”, “Gun shot wound”, “Unknown baby found in sewer”, “Gunshot wound administered by chief of Police”, “Daddy”, “Lithuania-wife still in Europe”, “Found dead in ditch”, “Carnival worker”, “Murdered”, “Left of Charlie Yates-O-Gara,”, “#3 mined accident”, and “Shot by Charlie Birger at Ledford.” Despite the large number of graves that have already been located the Historical Society is still searching for, and finding more unmarked graves.

Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.




  1. I really enjoyed reading this historical account of the pauper house. The writer was well versed in his material & his style is easy to follow & made me want to read more when I finished. I liked the inclusion of the inscriptions on the markers, & the mind picture I got when reading about the chair that rocked by itself .


  2. Juli Velazquez says:

    You know how much I love Poor Farms Mike! Great Piece!


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