The social safety net that existed in earlier times in Scarborough was organized much differently than what we recognize today. Before Social Security and other ways of providing relief for people in need, a system was in place to reach out to poor people, at that time referred to as paupers.

In the 19th century, the primary arm of support for paupers was a town farm located on the Broadturn Road. The town financed the farm by purchasing food and supplies for its residents and paying workers to maintain the farm. But occasionally, an ill person needed additional care.

Such a case involved Betsy Moody. The various bits of ephemera in the historical society’s collections doesn’t explain why Betsy was considered a pauper, but the 1850 census lists her as a 66-year-old widow. Over a decade later, a receipt dated February 11, 1867 shows that Major Plummer was paid $92 for supporting Betsy Moody from March in 1866 until her death on January 14, 1867, including sickness and funeral expense.

Image of a receupt supporting Betsy Moody dated 11 February 1867

Others pitched in following Betsy Moody’s passing. Town Treasurer Ebenezer Libby paid J.P. Johnson $4.40 for providing grave clothes for Betsy Moody, and B. Libby was reimbursed for supplying her coffin. In the final step, on February 23, 1867 Enos Libby signed a receipt to acknowledge payment by the town for digging the grave for Betsy Moody, town pauper.

Image of a E Libby receipt from 1867.
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