RECREATION, HOLIDAYS, etc.
Children and grown people, too, must have periods
of rest and recreation. The school, of course, had regular hours of recess.
Then after supper (which was always eaten before sunset as “lamp oil” was
never abundant) the work division was free, and until the bell rang for
family worship all joined in noisy, jolly play. On Sunday after Sunday
school, in order that brothers and sisters or other relatives might meet
occasionally in untrammelled social intercourse, they were permitted to
assemble on the campus in summer, in the chapel in winter. This plan carried
out in full soon included all the children; for the very few who had no
relatives were by special favor granted the same indulgence. They were
always under the care of one or more person in authority who were not near
enough to restrain their reasonable enjoyment. They were free to enjoy
themselves in any way they pleased, if within proper bounds. Gamboling
on the grass or sitting about in groups they showed by their merry peals
of laughter how much this relaxation was to them; and it is only just to
them to say that they never abused this privilege.
Christmas was a week of freedom except for
necessary work, and, as all freely helped with that, it was little more
than play. Santa Claus never failed to come with his sleigh filled to overflowing
with all kinds of Christmas presents. Besides all manner of toys to please
and help make a noise, the children had a substantial feast and a dainty
dessert. Once we had a Christmas tree, but the affair was too stupendous
to be repeated.
An annual picnic on the grounds appointed by
the trustees became a settled feature. It was left to the option of the
Superintendent to select and announce the time of this event each year.
It was generally in the fall. On the appointed day companies of men, women
and children came from all parts of the State, bringing boxes and baskets,
filled with everything necessary to a feast. It was the orphans’ picnic,
given by their friends, who contributed so bountifully that the “left overs”
amply supplied the needs of the next day. On this occasion all work not
absolutely necessary was suspended. This day of free social intercourse
with friends was always pleasantly remembered. If the schedule of the trains
detained the company until in the night, the Home would get up a school
exhibition for their entertainment. Next day some members of the party
were tired, very tired in body, but refreshed in spirit.
The citizens of Lauderdale station, ever mindful
of their helpless neighbors, provided for their entertainment whenever
an opportunity presented itself. Knowing that whatever is called “a show”
has especial attractions for children and grown persons as well, they prevailed
upon the proprietors of sleight of hand performances, etc., to give the
Home a benefit whenever it was possible to do so. If it was an outdoor
performance, the Home was invited and accorded the best position for observing
it. If the young people of the town got up a home entertainment, they were
sure to give the children one evening's performance in their own Home.
Doubtless they were repaid by witnessing the children’s
hearty demonstrations of pleasure. So we were treated to many "shows,"
but never to a "circus."
As to employees, each one was permitted a vacation
of a month each year (one at a time). We could take it all at once
or in two divisions at our option. Some of us usually found time
the first division of two weeks; others took a vacation every two or three
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Besides whooping cough and sore eyes, already
mentioned, the Home suffered from an epidemic of malarial fever in the
summer and fall of 1869.
Comparatively few of the beneficiaries escaped
an attack; a score or more were sick at the same time and many of them
died, mostly girls. But to dwell upon this period would unnecessarily harrow
the feelings. The reader can imagine all the anxiety, weariness, care and
suffering incident to such a time. I should not mention it, but for the
fact that it was a true, though very sad, episode in the life of the Home.
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In the fall or early winter of 1869 the managers
were notified that the property of “The Springs” had reverted to the heirs
of the former owner by virtue of the sale’s having been effected during
their minority. So the orphans were again homeless.
The hearts of their guardians and friends trembled
with anxiety, but not for a long time,- Jehovah-jirch! During the last
years of the war, the Federal Government had established a military post,
a mile or more from Lauderdale station, on the west side of the railroad.
After the surrender, many superannuated negroes and colored children were
carried there and given a temporary asylum, much to the relief of their
former masters. When the soldiers were withdrawn, the Quakers took
possession of the post, with the intention of supporting and training the
negro children still on hand. The managers of this school were in
full sympathy with the work of the Confederate Orphans’ Home, and the Superintendent
of that institution sometimes visited us. But just as this seeming disaster
fell upon our Home, the Quakers for reasons satisfactory to themselves,
decided to abandon the work, and the place was for sale. Our officers bought
it and a small adjoining farm.
Forthwith the Home was moved by installments.
There were over two hundred of us with our personal and family belongings
to be moved a distance of three miles, more or less. We had at our disposal
for this purpose, two yoke of oxen, one pair of mules and two wagons, a
horse and buggy, and one pony, owned conjointly by the Home and the Superintendent.
This was a month of rollicking fun to the little ones. To the employees
and the older children the fatigue was mitigated by the satisfaction of
knowing it would never have to be repeated.
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THE NEW HOME
The post occupied two adjacent hills, connected
by a foot-bridge spanning the intervening hollow. The boys under charge
of the Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Jud. Thigpen, a teacher and necessary
domestic employees were domiciled on one hill, “the boys’ hill.” The Superintendent,
with the remainder of the inmates, occupied the other, “the girls’ hill.”
There was a comfortable settlement on the farm near by, and two trusted
employees with their children occupied the dwelling. Although we were somewhat
scattered, all met in the chapel on the “girls’ hill” for family prayers,
Sunday school and Sunday afternoon recreation in social intercourse. The
locality had no beauty, but it was high and had a dry, pure atmosphere
and plenty of good freestone water.
The buildings, roughly constructed, were sufficient
in number, but not so well arranged as those at the Springs; none were
ceiled except a few rooms in the Federal officers’ quarters. But the title
was secure and the situation healthful. The farm was also more productive
than the one we had left. So that what seemed to be an irreparable loss
proved a desirable gain.
The old Federal guardhouse, situated in the
one side of the yard on the “girls’ hill,” was turned into a printing office.
How shy, for a time, the little ones were of this building! They had known
something of soldiers with guns arresting men and taking them to prison.
They learned in some way that this house, with the sentry’s box near by,
was a prison; to their minds a prison was a jail, and a jail was a horror
to be avoided. It was long before they learned there was nothing in it
to be dreaded by them.
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LAST DAYS OF THE HOME.
On January 13, 1871, our Superintendent, Prof.
S. S. Cranberry, died. His health had been seriously declining for several
years, but he never gave up and when the summons came, he “fell at his
post.” This was a grievous bereavement; a personal loss to every
inmate of the Home. The Board of Trustees missed thereafter the helpful
counsel of a practical mind, and the whole community lost the silent influence
of a correct life.
Dr. T. J. Deupree, then of Noxubee county,
Miss., was chosen to succeed him. As he did not reside in the Home, Dr.
Sid Kennedy, of Lauderdale county, was appointed to act in his absence.
The former made us frequent and extended visits; the latter came
out almost daily and besides caring for the sick he took charge of contributions,
correspondence, etc. During the incumbency of Dr. Deupree a large
brick building of three stories was erected at very small cost. The bricks
were all made by the boys of the Home, and enough of them were sold to
almost, if not entirely, pay the bills of the brick masons. Much of the
lumber used was generously contributed by the mills on the Mobile and Ohio
railroad, below Lauderdale station.
In January, 1873, Rev. A. D. Trimble, of Tennessee,
who had conducted the concerts, was put in charge of the Home. After
him came Captain Tower, for a short time. He was succeeded by Rev.
R. N. Hall, of Raymond, Miss. The established routine of work, including
the publication of the Orphans’ Home Banner was kept up during the incumbency
of all the Superintendents. Rev. R. N. Hall also built and operated
a grist mill, which added materially to the support of the institution,
besides training some of the boys in a profitable industry.
In addition to the usual religious services
he preached regularly in the chapel, and in the course of time organized
a Baptist church there. He was the last Superintendent, his administration
continuing to the close of the Home, which resulted from natural causes
in the course of a few years. The purpose for which the Home had
been projected (that of caring for and training helpless orphans of Confederate
soldiers) had been achieved. For several years there had been but
few applicants. There were few, if any really helpless Confederate
orphans left. In fact, after a few years had passed and the condition
of the country had improved, mothers and friends of the children became
able to provide for them either in their own homes or to procure positions
where they could make a comfortable support, preserve a spirit of independence
and contribute something to the public weal. A few of the girls,
about four or six, by consent of the trustees married and thereby secured
Thus they left from time to time, till about
1878 the remaining ones were easily provided for in the outside world.
As the Home had done its special work and there was no opening then for
a change in its purpose, the property was sold to a private party.
Several years afterwards the large brick building was burned.
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