The Relief Program started in September, 1932, grew rapidly. By January of 1935, Daviess County alone paid out over $71,000 for relief purposes. At this time the county had over 1,600 people either partially or wholly on relief.

In the 28-month period of the program, the county distributed not only cash assistance but also such things as

      • 180 blankets
      • 31,245 pounds of flour
      • 15,660 pounds of smoked pork
      • 9,930 pounds of salt pork
      • 1,800 pounds of butter
      • 1,000 pounds of fresh beef
      • 3,360 cans of canned beef
      • 5,100 pounds of lard
      • 9,500 pounds of potatoes
      • 780-dozen eggs
      • 60 sacks of oranges
      • 1,300 packages of cereal

Many people in Daviess County had made applications for old age assistance which was not a pension. The applicants were asked to prove their ages by such things as their Bibles, marriage certificates and other credentials. One of the restrictions in the law was that no pension was to be paid to any individual owning property valued at $1,500 or to couples owning joint property valued at $2,000.

The number of people who had applied for the pension by 1936 was 210. The oldest person to apply was a lady 92 years of age. The pension bill called for a maximum pension payment of $30 a month to single persons and $45 a month to married couples who reached the age of 70.

From the period from February 1936 to July 1, 1937, approximately $149,000,000 had been spent by the government to aid the elderly people of our nation. The average pension check varied from place to place. The following example gives us an idea of the average Old Age Pensions from each individual recipient: Daviess County, $14; State of Missouri, $11.43; and for combined federal, state, and local, $18. A Jameson man  received the first old age pension in Daviess County in 1935 bearing the amount of $7.

By 1935, an investigation found that many people had found jobs, but were still on the relief rolls. Other families had one working member while the rest of the family was on relief. Consequently, government stipulations were added to the relief rolls since so many people had applied for some type of relief. For example, people who drove cars were no longer eligible for relief. Some people were coming to the relief headquarters in cars better than the average citizen could afford. It was thought that if people could operate a car, they shouldn’t be eligible for relief.

Another stipulation was people who owned dogs were no longer eligible for relief. It was believed it was too expensive to own dogs; instead, the money should be used to help buy the family’s food.

With the exception of cripple and handicapped people, people were now being required to work out their relief checks instead of getting them as charity.

Men could do such things as mixing grasshopper poison or working on the streets. Women could work in the community gardens where the foodstuff that was produced would be canned and used for school lunches and served to the children the following winter. In some instances, the women could clean the town’s churches.

A poll was made of over 20 men concerning the subject. Only one objected to it, 19 were highly in favor of it, the last said it didn’t make any difference to him just as long as he got something to eat and a place to stay.

— written, researched and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO (2003)