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 servants.

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    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 satisfaction.

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     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.

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      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 without admonition. 

     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.

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Copyright 2001 - Ellen Pack - All Rights Reserved