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House of Refuge Inmates

When people hear "House of Refuge inmate", they usually assume these people were in trouble with the law. This is not the case. In the early 1900's the term "inmate" was used to describe people in several situations:


Inmate, noun
1. a person who is confined in an institution such as a prison, hospital, etc.
2. Archaic. a person who dwells with others in the same house.

Language and Terminology

Please note that labels like “inmates”, “idiot”, “lunatic”, “dumb”, “feeble minded”, etc. refer to the inmates at Cornwall’s House of Refuge. These statements are taken directly from archival documents and County Council minutes. I have included these statements throughout my website to keep recordings historically accurate, and to reflect the realities these people faced in a time that was harsh and demeaning. These are not terms I use, nor would I describe any of these people the way they are recorded in the House of Refuge register.

Inmates from Wellington County's House of Refuge (in Fergus, Ontario.)

Their Stories