The treatment of Halifax’s poor house dead during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

“By 1799, only three hospitals continued to function in the city: the hospital for the Maroons at Dartmouth, the naval hospital, and the poor house hospital.”

“It appears from the archival records that the manufacturing of coffins proved to be a significant source of revenue for the institution, supplying coffins for the use of the town, the Cholera Hospital, the Richmond and Melville Island Hospitals, Dartmouth Hospital, Waterloo Hospital, the Bank Head Hospital, as well as the City Home. In the account books recorded on October 21, 1827, the sum of £15.s5 was received by the poorhouse for 61 coffins supplied to the Bank Head Hospital. In August 1834, 101 large coffins and 15 small coffins were made and sold to the town of Halifax and the cholera hospital bringing in a revenue of £32.s6.d6. Another £13.s0.d0 was received in December 1847 for 26 coffins supplied to the Richmond and Melville Island Hospitals.

Interestingly, though inmates were employed to manufacture coffins for the town and local hospitals, they were also fabricating their own final resting place. In 1827 when the smallpox epidemic spread through the poor house killing 116 men, 67 women, and 64 children, 247 coffins were made for the dead of the institution. Such bleak work was not an uncommon task for inmates.”

Simpson, Cynthia. “The treatment of Halifax’s poor house dead during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” A Thesis Submitted to Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Atlantic Canada Studies, August 2011