Miss Sophia Herriotts
The Home for Friendless Children In Wilkes Barre
Its Organization Many Years Ago -- Facilities Must Be Increased or The Work will Suffer -- Some Plans That Have Been Considered.
Daily Record April 1 1904
The Record received yesterday in pamphlet form the report of the Home for Friendless Children for 1904. There is given an interesting account of the organization of the "Home" as Follows:
A meeting of a few ladies in the parlor of the residence of Mrs. William S Ross of South Main Street, in the year 1862, was the commencement of the Wilkes Barre Home for Friendless Children.
Of the number of persons then present and who afterwards joined the charity and were elected managers, but three are living: Mrs. Eliza Covell, Miss Hetty Wright, and Mrs Welding F Dinnis. Of the number of trustees first chosen, one is living, Agib Ricketts of this city. The home was opened in a small building on Gildersleeve alley, given for the purpose by W. C. Gildersleeve, the "object and aim being the educating and providing for friendless and destitute children.
A charter was procured, a board of sixteen trustees and twenty-four lady managers elected.
A matron was selected who was at the head, and economy, then as now, was practiced in every form. Sewing, mending, and teaching was at that time done by lady managers.
About three years ago the cost of maintaining a child for the entire year amounted to but $60, but since the rise in wages and cost of provisions, expenses have largely increased.
The work in the kitchen and laundry is entirely done by girls of 12 years and under and the bread is made by them -- averaging 12 loaves per week -- would do credit to a skilled baker. For this they are paid and each child deposits the amount she has earned in the bank under her own name, clothing being provided by the home. The work however, does not interfere with their education, for three hours each day they are in the school room, under Miss Goulden , an efficient teacher, provided by the city school board.
Miss Sophia Herriotts has filled the position of matron for nine years with thorough satisfaction. She rules the children with firmness, but kindness, and it is surprising to note the change which a few weeks under her influence and discipline will make in a wayward, disorderly child.
Interest in the home has never flagged, for when funds or greater accommodations were needed, friends have rallied around the institution and generously supplied its wants. No Strife or variance for the forty-two years of its existence has ever been known to enter the counsels of the board of lady managers, and perhaps this is one of the reasons the institution has been so successful. Of the five presidents that served since the commencement of the charity two are living --- Mrs E.G. Scott, who resigned on account of prolonged absence from the city, and Mrs. J.C. Phelps, our present president. Miss Mary Bowman, Mrs. William C Gildersleeve and Mrs Priscilla L Bennett have been called to a higher service. Three more beautiful Christian characters could not be found. They were saintly women and left behind them a record most precious and enduring; an influence reaching, which will direct all their followers, if heeded, to a successful rendering of their work.
The work of the home has been done quietly, but most effectually. Many of the boys who came in its doors, ragged and friendless, after careful training have risen to positions of honor and influence.
Miss Katherine Hill of Montrose, Pa., who was twenty years was the faithful beloved matron -- and left only on account of illness -- has received many letters from "her boys," who are grateful for her care and training, desire her to know of their success in life.
Experience is a great teacher. Many homes found for the children, although vouched for by neighbors and even clergymen and physicians, have been found unsatisfactory and persons signing indenture papers discovered not fulfilling promises made. Consequently some of the children have had to be brought back to the home. Since then the board of lady managers has passed a resolution "that all homes shall be investigated by the committee before the children are given out." And this, although requiring great labor on the part of the committee, proves far more satisfactory.
The children's Christmas has become a red letter day since the recipt of the Mae Turner Conyngham fund of $3,000, the interest of which is to be devoted exclusively to their pleasure. A toboggan slide was erected last year, and each child allowed to express its wishes as to gifts. One little 7-year-old girl, being particularly fond of the animal kingdom, asked for a frog and a dog.
With difficulty a frog of large dimensions was procured, which had served in a drug store window as an advertisement for medicine, "Frog in Throat, " and the little one made happy. Last summer she had played with a live on in the garden and one evening the matron found she had carried it to bed with her.
The further success of the institution and all others of a charitable nature, must depend upon having an endowment fund sufficient at least to pay a considerable portion of their necessary expenses and in order to obtain such a fund it must be that friends will feel the work is worthy of their remembrance. During the past year Mrs Pricilla D Bennett of this city and Joseph Stickney of New York each left the home by will, $5000 for this fund. Also Rev. N.G. Parke of Pittston, $500 and Miss Martha Bennett $10,000. But this latter amount will be available for an indefinite period which may be many years.
It is hoped that other friends may be stimulated to also remember the home by will and thus in time prevent the oldest established charity of Wilkes Barre from being obliged to send out yearly appeals for its maintenance.
A member of the State Board of Health who visited the institution gave it the distinction of having the finest record as regards contagious diseases in the state. Owing to the generosity of one of the board of lady managers there is an infirmary, which, however, as the number of children increase in the home, proves inadequate.
Dr. Levi L Shoemaker, the home physician, has been untiring his gratuitous attentions for fifteen years and it is owning to his care and vigilance that so few contagious diseases or deaths have occurred at the home.
He has lately performed two successful operations for club foot; brothers, 3 and 5 years, badly crippled. Strange to tell the unnatural father strongly objected to anything being done for them but the doctor was persistent and accomplished his end by performing operations which were so successful that -- the matron took them to Philadelphia and had them fitted for shoes. Now they are walking quite well and two happier boys could not be found.
Surely these children, if too young to appreciate what has been done for them now, in after years will have great cause for gratitude to the doctor for what he has spared them.
A serious question has lately been discussed, not only by the board of lady managers, but also by the trustees --- "Whether it is advisable to change the location of the home to some place outside the city limits, or add to the present building a school room with dormitory above for the boys, which is much needed." There are many reasons pro and con. It would be impossible to purchase elsewhere and retain the present site, as the endowment fund cannot be used for building purposes, and there might be difficulty in selling as there is little demand for real estate. The average number of children in the home is sixty and the sum spent for clothing and maintenance from 1902 to 1903 amounted to $2,745.53.
Salaries for the year, which include the matron, assistant matron, nurse and man of all work, $1,730. Money donations from 1902 to 1903, $2,286.67; from 1903 to 1904, $2,517.10.
It is to be regretted that many more if those who liberally contribute to the maintenance of the home do not also make themselves familiar with its workings by occasional visits.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, .... Ye have done it unto Me."
This information was collected from an article published in the Wilkes Barre Record April 1904. It was typed by Tammy Lamb
The Following information was collected and added by myself:
1870 Census of Friendless Home
1880 Census of Friendless Home
Other Articles on This School:
Other Orphan Homes in Pennsylvania:
Visit the Harford Military Orphan School in Susquehanna County
Visit the Mansfield Orphan School
Visit the McAlisterville School in Juniata County, at McAlisterville, PA
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