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Old West Festival at the Kaufman County Poor Farm Promotes Historic Restoration

This video was shot entirely on the iPhone 6 and edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CC

If you heard gunshots in Kaufman near FM 1388 and Washington St this August, it wasn’t mid-day target practice – it was the talented re-enactors of Legends of Texas, performing at the Kaufman County Poor Farm’s Old West Festival, a benefit for the Kaufman County Historical Commission.

At the festival, vendors with wares ranging from soaps to snakeskin guitars, history enthusiasts, antique collectors, and period-clad re-enactors brought the Poor Farm to life.  Ronnie Oldfield, Kaufman County Treasurer, is one of many contributors and county residents to aid in the preservation of the Poor Farm.  Oldfield has also been a voice in commissioners court, speaking on behalf the Historical Commission’s restorative efforts to the site.

“In 1869 the State legislature in Texas said that counties would be responsible for indigent care, so Kaufman County established the poor farm in 1883,” he began, looking around the property.  As far as we know, this is the only surviving poor farm in the State of Texas, and we have not been able to find another surviving poor farm in the United States, so we are very excited to have this historic treasure surviving here in Kaufman County.”

Pointing to a building at the center of activity, Oldfield continued. “This is the first building that is going to be restored.  The historical commission has been interviewing architects that have the proven ability to do a restoration like this, and we’re very excited to an authentic, period reconstruction of this building.”  Mr. Oldfield continued from site to site, at every stop giving quick trivia and meaningful details about the original construction and uses of the various buildings.  “We have residents of Kaufman County who were alive during the operation of this Poor Farm, and we are actively seeking out their oral histories of the Poor Farm, to help paint the whole picture as we attempt to preserve this historic treasure.”

The poor farm was listed as ‘Most Endangered’ in the 2012 Preservation Texas list of historic sites. Efforts by the KCHC hope to keep the nation’s sole county-owned Poor Farm from falling back into that category.  One thing is certain, the Old West Festival was a terrific glimpse at living history near the heart of Kaufman.

LookUp Kaufman will be working with the Kaufman County Historical Commission to document some of these oral histories as residents share their memories of it’s operation, as well as to document and share more stories related to the ongoing preservation project at the Poor Farm.

Special thanks to Kaufman County Treasurer Ronnie Oldfield and to the Kaufman County Historical Commission.

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