By 1854, local government was established in the Portland area with the purpose of conducting elections, collecting taxes, building roads and bridges, trying court cases, and providing care for the homeless, poor and mentally ill. As the Portland population grew, so did the need to ensure a safe, sanitary community.
In the 19th century, daily life was a battle for residents. In addition to needing to survive in the new frontier, settlers faced contagious diseases like cholera, smallpox, typhoid fever, meningitis, measles, and scarlet fever.
In 1860, county leaders contracted with Dr. Joseph C. Hawthorne to care for the indigent sick. Within eight years, the needs of the poor had outpaced contracted services. And in 1868, the county appropriated $4,000 to purchase 160 acres of property on Canyon Road for a Pauper’s Farm. The indigent sick remained in Hawthorne’s care until 1876 when the commissioners transferred the care to the pauper’s farm, as well.