The Confederate Orphans’ Home of Mississippi
was established, as its name indicates, expressly to take care of the destitute
orphans of Confederate soldiers. At the end of the War between the States
the number of helpless and destitute children in the South was appalling.
It was felt that something must be promptly done for their relief, but
how to help them most effectively was perhaps the hardest and most serious
problem that confronted the Southern people in the impoverished condition
of the country. Different sections attempted to solve it in different ways.
This paper will contain a history of the most noteworthy effort of the
people of Mississippi to meet the situation. It will be borne in mind that
owing to the existing condition of the South this institution differed
in many ways from every other home of the kind in Mississippi either before
or since the war. It therefore stands alone in the history of orphanages
in the State in respect both to its constitution and to its methods of
The Mississippi Baptist State Convention during
its first session after the war, in the fall of 1865, directed its attention
to the needs of the orphans of the State. After earnest, prayerful deliberation
it decided upon founding an institution where these unfortunate children
could be gathered, cared for comfortably and educated properly, in order
that they might become useful, honorable, self-reliant citizens.
‘For some facts and dates mentioned in this sketch the writer is
pleased to acknowledge her indebtedness to Dr. 17. J. Deupree, now of Jackson,
Tenn., the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of The Home; and to Prof.
J. A. Cranberry, of Oklahoma, a son of the first Superintendent. Prof.
Cranberry was a boy at the home, and like any wide awake boy became cognizant
of many things that would not be noticed by an employee with whose work
they were not especially connected.
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BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
To forward this work the first step was to
select a board of trustees. These were gentlemen of known ability and high
moral character, drawn from different sections of the State. This board
was to contain a certain number of Baptists, the remainder were to be of
different denominations or no denomination. In their long and intimate
association with the inmates of the home they proved themselves to be true,
manly men, considerately courteous, strictly, but kindly just and keenly
alive to the best interests of their helpless charges. “Our children,”
as they called them, were objects of their warmest solicitude, and all
employees, by virtue of their relation to the children, received a corresponding
share of this sympathetic interest.
The board met at the Home regularly about every
six months to discuss matters pertaining to the interest of the institution.
They spent the day examining affairs, taking account of all needs and deliberating
upon the best methods of supplying them. They met the inmates at table,
three times, and at family worship once during each of their sessions.
On these occasions one or more of them would give an encouraging, sympathetic
talk. Of course the employees as well as the children kept at their usual
work and were naturally “on their best behavior” for the day. I presume
they felt something like a company of soldiers passing under review of
their commanding general. Yet these trustees were so genial that their
visit was a pleasant memory and soon became a pleasant anticipation. They
reported annually to the Convention through their secretary, Rev. W. S.
Webb, who always followed his report with a speech that thrilled the hearts
of the audience and aroused an active, substantial interest in the cause
for which he plead. Their only compensation was that which arose from a
consciousness of having obeyed the Master’s injunction to “do good to the
poor” according to “opportunity.”
The first duty that presented itself to this
board was to find and secure a locality for the projected institution.
A veritable one was in sight and available. The Rev. T. C. Teasdale, of
Columbus, Miss., was appointed an agent to raise the necessary funds for
carrying out the plans of the Convention. He soon collected, principally
in the Northern and Western States, sufficient funds to purchase Lauderdale
Springs, a noted watering place in antebellum days. He also secured donations
of supplies, furniture, etc., sufficient to fit it up for a beginning.
It required much deliberation for the trustees
to decide upon an appropriate name for the proposed institution. “Aslyum”
was too cold, too formal; “Refuge” was suggestive of crime; “Retreat” was
pleasing, very, but it savored too much of leisure, if not of idleness,
and this was intended to be a busy place. But “Home,” that dear word that
thrills every human heart, fully met their conception of what this place
should be to its inmates. Hence the institution was named "The Confederate
Orphans’ Home of Mississippi,” and its affairs were always administered
in accordance with this idea.
The locality was a very desirable one. The
large inclosed campus was covered with a thick carpet of grass and surrounded
on three sides by hills with a heavy growth of trees, many of them evergreen.
The swampy ground on the south and southwest abounded in mineral springs,
red and white sulphur and Chalybeate. It had been a popular summer resort,
but in time it proved to be unhealthful for constant residence. The buildings
were sufficient in number and were conveniently arranged around three sides
of the campus, with two large ones in the center. But, as was the case
generally throughout the South at that period, they were somewhat out of
repair; and having been intended only for summer use they were not ceiled.
It is well to add they never were ceiled.
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Pending the election of a permanent superintendent,
Rev. W. C. Buck was given the temporary charge of the property and of the
small advance guard of children who arrived soon after the purchase of
the property. He was pastor of a country church (Sharon) in Noxubee county
and on each visit carried supplies contributed by his warm hearted congregation.
He was an able divine and a guileless Christian.
In the meantime Professor Simeon Sebastian
Cranberry, formerly of Mississippi College, Clinton, Miss., was elected
first Superintendent to organize and carry on the work of the Home.
He was an experienced educatar, a man of sound, practical wisdom, of fine
administrative ability, a refined Christian gentleman, admirably fitted
for the work of caring for and directing the efforts of women and helpless
children. Dr. T. J. Deupree, now of Jackson, Tenn., who as. Treasurer
of the Board of Trustees was closely associated with him for five years,
thus writes of him: “He was one of the noblest, purest, best man I ever
Professor Cranberry also possessed that which
is requisite for a man’s highest success in any vocation — a wife in full
sympathy with his work. She was a safe counsellor when perplexities
arose, a mother to the children and a sympathtic friend to all employees.
These statements may be considered irrelevant, but justice demands that
I pay this small tribute to the memory of the two persons with whose lives
I was closely associated for six years, sharing their work, their cares
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Early in the first year, a young man, Mr. Sam
Goodwins, of Hinds county, directed and assisted the little boys in their
outdoor work. He remained only a few months, however. Late
in the next year Professor Williams, of Hinds county, was elected to this
position. As he was in delicate health he lived only a few months.
Perhaps a year after his death, Mr. Judson Thigpen was chosen to succeed
him, and remained nearly throughout the existence of the Home. These were
all well educated gentlemen, and efficient in their positions.
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A physician was employed by the year. This
position was held by Dr. Sidney Kennedy, of Lauderdale Station. He
was skilled in his profession, sympathetic in his ministrations, and responded
promptly to all calls. A part of his duty was to examine all applicants
on arrival at the station to ascertain if they had any contagious disease.
In spite of this precaution we had, at different periods, epidemics of
whooping cough and sore eyes.
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