Almost immediately after statehood, Minnesota counties began providing "indoor relief" care for the needy in poorhouses.
"Inmates" (as they were known then) included the very poor, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, epileptics, abandoned children, unwed mothers and the occasional drunk and petty thief.
At the time, a poorhouse was thought to be more economical than giving aid directly to individuals. Poor farms were considered superior to poorhouses because a well-run farm could break even or turn a profit.
The Blue Earth County Poor Farm originally sat on 160 acres seized from the Winnebago in 1863. According to newspapers from the time, poor farm managers (who got the job by offering the lowest bid) farmed and cared for the poor. A story in the 1916 Mankato Daily Review reported: "The soil is a rich black loam and the crops are abundant as may be seen by reports made to the county commissioners." And, of the 19 residents at the time: "no work is required of the inmates and they may read, rest, or spend their time upon the lawns, as best suits their fancy."
A 1937 Mankato Free Press article described the Blue Earth County poor farm as "a veritable rural hotel" housing "20 inmates and three prisoners." The farm residents consumed $3,108 worth of the $6,993 in produce that was raised there; the balance was sold.
After the Social Security Act and its various amendments were passed in the 1950s, the Blue Earth County Poor Farm became the Oak Grove Home for Retired Rural People, which operated into the 1980s. The farmland was sold off over the years, and the home and 4 acres switched hands several times in the 1990s.
The structure fell into disrepair until the Frinks bought it in 1998 for $163,000.