Faith Community Church of Great Bend will be celebrating 61 years of ministry and dedicating the new church addition at 10 a.m. this Sunday, Oct. 13. Speakers will include the Rev. Fred Kirkpatrick, founding pastor of 52 years, and Sandy Kennedy, senior pastor. The church is located 1 mile west of 10th St. and Patton Road.
The two-story brick building at the heart of Faith Community Church compound was originally built for the county poor farm. Blueprints dated Oct. 15, 1929, show the official name of the structure was the Barton County Home. Mann and Company, Hutchinson, was the architect.
Pastor Sandy Kennedy said the property had a barn and livestock, chicken house, silo, orchard and garden. The farm had underground cisterns for rainwater collection for use in irrigation.
“It is my understanding that every county in the state was to have or did have a ‘poor farm,’ she said. “It was a kind of welfare system.”
Kennedy admits she doesn’t know a lot about Kansas history on this subject.
“It is my understanding a ‘poor’ person could live there and work on the farm to help feed themselves. I can remember as a kid, people saying the phrase, ‘sent to the poor farm.’ I don’t know if they meant the county poor farms or not. It became more of a county home later, then eventually sold at action when the church bought it.”
Pat Keenan was the auctioneer when the property was sold in 1975. Kennedy notes that another party wanted the land and church members expected to be out-bid, but their rival either had a change or heart or got mixed up on the date of the sale.
“Man built it for one purpose, and God had a different purpose,” she said.
The Barton County Historical Society has a copy of the 1940 U.S. Census, which shows 21 people living at the “county farm,” including Earl Saling, who was listed as being “in charge.”
Beverly Komarek, executive director of the Historical Society Museum, recalls that by the 1950s the building was a home for blind and elderly residents whose families could no longer care for them.
An undated Hutchinson News article on file at the Historical Society shows there was an earlier “Barton County Poor Farm” located east of Great Bend, where a “pesthouse” was built in the 1880s. This isolated wooden house may have housed patients with smallpox.