OPENING OF THE ORPHANAGE.
On the arrival of the Superintendent, Prof.
S. S. Granberry, late in the summer of 1866, Dr. Buck retired. Though the
movement had been on foot only a short time the country was in a state
of expectancy and it was not necessary to announce that the Home was ready
for the reception of children. They came and continued to come in such
large numbers and, in a majority of cases, in such a forlorn plight as
to prove beyond question the crying need of such an institution. None were
turned away. The institution was established, fostered and controlled by
the Mississippi Baptist State Convention, but applicants were received
irrespective of religious creed, or no creed, of the parents.
They came without warning. Their application
was made at the gate or at Lauderdale station at the farthest. Before Christmas
there were at least fifty on the roll; and in less than two years two hundred.
The number of children in the Home varied from time to time, as mothers
or relatives became able to provide for their children. Once it was
sadly depleted by sickness. The vacancies were soon filled, however,
by new arrivals.
The age limit was from six years to about sixteen,
subject to the discretion of the management. Children under six were
debarred because the home was not able to meet the requirements of infancy.
Girls and boys of sixteen, or thereabouts, were not only destitute but
helpless, since in the impoverished condition of the country they could
get no employment. In truth they had received but little education or training
and were not therefore qualified for employment. But they were a
great help to the home. With a little direction and help in each
department they did all the work, thus obviating the necessity of employing
Back to Menu
The question was sometimes asked then and has been
since, “What kind of children were these for whom all this provision was
made ?“ It is a natural question and this is a good place to answer it.
Briefly, they were children in every respect. Compared with the same number
of children elsewhere, they averaged pretty well. Their educational
advantages had been very limited during the preceding four years.
In natural endowments they ranged from the fairly bright to the very ordinary,
and from a natural refinement of feeling and manner down to rudeness and
stolid indifference. They proved to be tractable and in disposition
affectionate. Having previously known no will but their own, they
were pretty fair specimens of “Young Americans.”
All of them needed training in every respect.
The first year was an especially trying time on the faculty. The
children came in so rapidly that before one consignment had been reduced
to order another was on hand; then another, and another following in such
quick succession that it required wise judgment and a firm hand to hold
the situation, but our Superintendent was equal to the demand. He
was a man of versatile talents, an excellent disciplinarian for children
and grown persons as well. His kindly nature inspired a corresponding
kindness in others; while his reasonable methods and firm will quelled
all thoughts of rebellion.
In time, earliest arrivals, having been partly trained,
served somewhat as a police force, and materially assisted the management.
After the children had learned the first lesson, obedience to authority
(of which many of them had no conception at first) the other lessons became
easier for them. Gradually things began to run smoothly, but just as it
is in the outer world, the vigilance of the “law and order party” could
never be relaxed. They had all of a child’s instinct for mischief,
and delighted in successfully perpetrating it. This was usually harmless
and passed over, but sometimes a case demanded an investigation.
Then the combined vigilance of the faculty and other employees would be
requisite to detect the culprit; for every child examined was as innocent
as a dove and as ignorant as the average citizen before the grand jury.
When at last detected the offender was so submissively penitent and so
profuse in promises never to “do so again” that no one had the heart for
any severer punishment than a reprimand and a private lecture. If
the culprit was a girl, this last duty usually fell to me, and in justice
let me say that in every instance the girl thanked me for the interest
taken in her welfare and promised to heed the advice given. This
was pay in good coin; and it is still paying a large dividend in genuine
Back to Menu
School was conducted five days in the week
the year round; vacations of only a day or two were granted in extreme
weather and once for several weeks in a time of severe sickness. Occasionally
there were three, but generally only two, teachers in the school. All of
these were ladies with the exception of Mr. A. T. Farrar, who taught a
short time. To equalize the labor and the school advantages the beneficiaries
who were eight years old and over were separated into divisions, each of
which worked and went to school on alternate days. All children under eight
went to school every day.
The large ballroom of the Springs was converted
into the principal schoolroom and called “The Chapel,” because all religious
services were conducted in it. The textbooks used were such as were presented,
both new and second hand. Other necessary equipments, such as desks, paper,
pens and ink were also liberally given. By having only half the children
in school each day the demand for equipments lessened.
Back to Menu
The work was done almost entirely by
the beneficiaries arranged in details. In case of the girls, at first four
afterwards six, of different ages were detailed from each division for
the different departments of housework, under the direction and with the
assistance of an employee. These employees were in almost every instance
mothers of children who gladly worked for a support and the privilege of
being with their children. All children of working age in a division, who
were not in a work section for the day went to the sewing room for that
day, the divisions alternating day after day. Eight girls were drawn from
the school room each day to wait on the tables. After these details had
been arranged and put into regular working order there was very little
trouble. Each girl soon learned her place and went to it every morning
Sometimes a vacancy would occur. If it
was in a work detail, one from the sewing room would be substituted;
if in the table service, one from the school room. These details were always
arranged and managed by the same teacher, thus preventing confusion. As
the boys worked in garden and field, the only detail necessary for them
was by the week or month to furnish wood for the various departments, and
in winter for the fireplaces. This was managed by the Assistant Superintendent
if there was one in office, if not, by the Superintendent. Each employee
also had his or her own work and was responsible for it, but that did not
give him or her the privilege of refusing any other work that needed to
be done. No one interfered with another, but if one was sick or absent,
one or two others assumed extra duty, “closed ranks” and moved on harmoniously,
uncomplainingly though a little wearily.
Once, in a great strait, the most scholarly
teacher in the institution, Mrs. Mollie Williams, worked in the kitchen
for several weeks, at another time under a similar strait another teacher
worked in the sewing room; and once, when a vacancy occurred in the school
room, the Superintendent taught until it could be filled. All the
work of the place was done by hand. Very few labor saving machines ever
reached the Home. A washing machine or two were tried but they were of
such a crude kind they failed to serve the purpose. Washing and ironing
went on from Monday morning until Saturday noon. A few sewing machines
were also presented but the girls were taught hand sewing almost entirely.
Some of them became very neat seamstresses.
Besides the regular daily work, the buildings
needed repairing, and the long dining room of the Springs had to be widened
to accommodate our large and increasing family. For this job a citizen
of the neighborhood was employed in the earliest years of the institution.
The lack of freestone water was in time pro- vided for by conveying it
from a spring outside the campus by means of underground wooden pipes.
In these jobs the boys of the Home rendered all the needed assistance.
The sawmills along the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad presented the
lumber. The only negro employed did the work that was too rough and heavy
for the little boys. He was a “Radical” in politics and thought it incumbent
upon him to “vote ‘long wi’ de party wha’ turned we all loose.” So he did,
no one objecting. Nevertheless, he knew his place and kept it, giving no
trouble. He was submissive to authority, doing his work quite satisfactorily.
He remained with us several years.
Back to Menu