SOLDIERS' ORPHANS' SCHOOLS
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE
SUPERINTENDENT OF SOLDIERS' ORPHANS,
FOR THE YEAR 1877.
REPORTS OF THE INSPECTORS.
REPORT OF REV. C. CORNFORTH.
J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL. D.,
Superintendent of Soldiers' Orphans'
SIR:--My annual report of the Soldiers'
Orphans' Schools is herewith submitted.
1. HEALTH.--The Health of the children has been good.
Uniontown is the only school where any unusual sickness prevailed.
At this school, soon after the children returned from vacation, diphtheria
appeared and spread till about one hundred were more or less affected by
it. It proved fatal in two cases only.
2. CLOTHING.-- The everyday clothing of the children, especially
that of the boys, is often in the latter part of spring and during the
early fall months considerably worn and patched; but all have better suits
in reserve. The issue of clothing is so timed, that all are
comfortably clad during the severe winter weather. In every school
more is expended in making the girls' best suits than is allowed for that
3. FOOD.-- This has been about the same as in previous years.
Every child has been allowed as much wholesome food as it desired; though
the variety has not been so great as is found on tables of some private
4. TABLE CLOTHS AND BUTTER KNIVES.-- The former have not always been
found clean, and the latter sometimes have been wanting. Nothing can
be more revolting than a filthy cloth spread upon a table, or the practice
of dispensing with butter knives. It is hoped that it may not again
be necessary to refer publicly to these defects, so often complained of in
5. WORK.-- The chief object aimed at, is to inculcate habits of
industry. But little is or can be done, under existing regulations,
towards teaching trades. The two hours, however, devoted daily to
work are profitably spent. At the age of sixteen most of the girls
are capable of doing all kinds of work done at the school-home, in a neat
and creditable manner. The boys do farm and garden work, and
generally take the entire care of their rooms (under proper supervision,)
make their own beds, and do chores. At Dayton, Mercer, and
Uniontown, a shoe-shop has been in operation, in which, at each of these
schools, about a dozen boys have been employed. The age at which
they leave school and the expense of providing facilities and instructors
in sufficient number and variety, render it impracticable to teach trades
to any great extent, under the present organization of the Orphan School
6. EDUCATION.--- Most of the schools have made creditable
progress. The admission of the children of disabled soldiers,
brought into the schools a large number of quite young pupils which
lowered the average grade of scholarship. Great care should now be
taken to secure the best possible talent to teach the primary
classes. The topical method of recitation, when it can be used, has
been recommended, though not in all cases adopted. Where this manner
of reciting has been employed and supplemented by judicious questions, the
best of results have been obtained. When teachers occupy most of the
time allotted to recitations in talking about or explaining the lessons,
but poor progress has been made. The teachers' volubility is taken
advantage of: lessons are never learned, but merely glanced
over. "As one is required to recite a lesson so will he study
it; and as he studies it, so will it profit him." The fault is
always regarded as that of the teacher and not the pupils, when classes
under his tuition do not recite and read unstandingly and in a clear,
distinct tone of voice. Geographies of enormous size for text books
are used in too many schools and the children are required to learn
a great many things hardly worth knowing. As for grammar, the same
use, or abuse, is made of this study in may of the Soldiers' Orphans'
Schools as in other institutions. The pupils learn a great amount of
stuff; they analyze and parse, with no practical results. To be able
to use the English language correctly is an invaluable acquirement.
But the proper use of language is something quite distinct from the
scientific study of language. Speaking and writing good English is
an art, and like all other arts, can be acquired only by practice.
If our schools would give to this practice the time and labor now bestowed
upon the study of grammar, the results would be much more practicable than
From recent observations, I am, if possible, more convinced than ever
before, that no institution should receive the support of the State which
does not afford to the orphans the full amount of educational advantages
contemplated in the act of 1867, which provides for their "education
7. PUNISHMENT.--- Pupils can not be expelled from a Soldiers'
Orphans' School, no matter what the offense may be, or how incorrigible
the offender. As things are, it is not strange that cases
occasionally occur which require severity. Corporal punishment is
sometimes inflicted as a last resort. But the habitual use of the
rod or strap for every slight offense is a brutal and brutalizing
practice, which, when discovered, has been rebuked. A home-like
feeling pervades most of the schools.
8. GUARDS AGAINST ABUSES.---Mothers and friends are permitted and
often do, visit the children while at school, and during these visits they
eat and mingle freely with the pupils, thus affording a favorable
opportunity, either by observation, or from the children themselves, to
discover wrongs, if such exist; besides this, at the annual vacation, the
orphans visit their friends, when it is hardly probable that they would
conceal grievances, if such they have. And in addition to this,
whenever complaints reach the department, from any source, they are always
promptly and carefully investigated, and if well founded, the cause is
9. SELF-RESPECT.--- The orphans are proud of the fact that they are
members of a Soldiers' Orphans' School. Those who have graduated at
these institutions regard, with a justifiable pride, the State which
timely befriended and aided them. If those who attend our free
public schools and our heavily endowed colleges and universities, and our
national military and naval schools, which are entirely supported by the
general government, retain their manliness and independence of character,
much more may the children of our slain and crippled patriots attend the
schools which a grateful State has provided for them, without any loss of
Inspector and Examiner.
REPORT OF Mrs. E. W. HUTTER.
To HON. J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL. D.,
General Superintendent of the
Soldiers' Orphan Schools of the State of Pennsylvania:
DEAR SIR: The Soldiers' Orphan
system is no longer an experiment, it is a successful reality. It
has become a matter for history, and both friends and foe are now obliged
to acknowledge the wisdom of educating these orphans of our fallen
heroes. The money appropriated by the State for the maintenance of
these orphaned children has proved to be well expended; in truth, the
funds, given for the education of these children, is the best investment
of money the State of Pennsylvania has ever made.
I have often spoken of these soldier's orphans as "children,"
but now I can speak of may of them as children no longer, but as
true men and women--good citizens of our brave old Commonwealth which took
them by the hand in their helplessness, and nurtured and trained them up
Many, many of our orphan boys are now doing business for themselves,
filling positions of honor and trust, some of them on a fair road to
Many of the girls are married, and have homes of their own, where the tidy
little housekeeper of our Soldiers' Orphan School now finds an appriate
sphere for her skill, for all the girls are trained in cooking, sewing,
washing, scrubbing, mending, and the other "mysterious arts" of
good house-wives. I have heard young men of enterprise say, "If
I whish a good wife, I can find one in these Orphan Schools."
Others of our girls are teaching, having availed themselves of the wise
provision made to allow worthy and bright girls, in our Orphan Schools,
one year at one of the State Normal Schools.
The Principals of the different Normal Schools, who have had these girls
under their care, generally bear testimony to their god conduct and
studious habits. Nearly all the soldiers' orphans who have been
admitted to the different Normal Schools have been among the best in their
I might cite a great many cases to illustrate what I have been saying, but
I will only mention the fact that one of our Soldiers' Orphan boys,
William Kilpatrick, has gone to the far west, has taken up 180 acres of
land, has settled, is making money rapidly, and I predict for him, that
one of these days he will be sent to Congress to help make the laws for
his country, which he loves so well. Could our law-makers but see as
I see the fruits of the system, they would be convinced that this
investment of money for the education of Soldiers' Orphans pays ten
VISITATIONS.---A kind Providence has again enabled me during the past
year, to visit the Schools with regularity. These visits have cost me many
miles of travel. When it is called to mind that the Soldiers' Orphan
Schools are located on both sides of the Allegheny mountains, and some of
them from fifteen to twenty miles from any railway station-and that these
Schools can only be reached in a private conveyance, over rough roads in
all sorts of weather---it will be seen that the office of Inspector is far
from being a sinecure. In all these visitations I am
delighted, from time to time, to notice a marked improvement in the
CHANGE IN PRINCIPALS.---The School at Mt. Joy, has changed its
Principal---Mr. Jesse Kennedy retiring from the School, and Mr. George W.
Wright, of Mercer, taking charge.
EDUCATIONAL.---Give a child a good plain English education up to the age
of sixteen, together with habits of industry, and it is but seldom,
even in these proverbially "hard times," that there will not be
an opening for him, where a good trade may be learned by which in after
years he or she may gain an honest livlihood.
To my mind it appears to be one of the encouraging signs of the times,
that men of wealth and position are now putting their sons to
trades. I am happy to report that one young man, whom I well know,
who has inherited $175,000, I saw this summer, with sleeves rolled up,
hard at work learning his trade. The mechanics and farmers are the
bone and sinew of our country.
In all our Schools the educational standard, I am glad to say, is
rising. I was pleased with what I saw and heard at annual
SUGGESTION.---It would be well, as far as possible, to make the awarding
of the State Diplomas to the worthy sixteeners, a feature of
examination day. The public awarding of these testimonials from the
State to her wards would have a pleasant effect upon the audience gathered
at these examinations, and the day would be happily remembered by those
who then left the School, which had indeed proved to them a
Your wise plan in arranging that every child must go to school six
hours, I take particular pains to see carried out by the principals,
and when I do find that the six hours of school are interfered with, I insist
upon it, that the law be religiously carried out, and that no child is
deprived of the full six hours of schooling.
THE FOOD.---The food is of good quality, well cooked, and generally well
served. Butter knives are still needed, and the table cloths are not
changed often enough in some schools. A great improvement has taken
place in the table service during the past few years, and the good
Of the children in all these Schools is
largely owing to proper food, proper exercise and regular habits of
I am glad to say that but comparatively few have been on the sick list and
a very small proportion of deaths are recorded.
Taking them as whole, there is not a happier, healthier band of children
anywhere to be found, than those in the Soldiers' Orphan Schools of
Pennsylvania. I really feel that these Orphans appreciate the
advantages afforded to them by the State.
CLOTHING.---Considering the very small amount, $25, appropriated for each
child, the children are well clad. They are very comfortable.
The beds and bedding are also in very good condition in nearly all the
Schools. In insist upon cleanliness--in person, in clothing, and in
bedding; for "cleanliness is next to godliness."
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT.---I must again mention this subject, for it is one
that lies near my heart. I am opposed to corporal punishment, except
in rare instances. Children are good judges of character. They
read a teacher as quickly as a teacher can study their dispositions.
If children feel that the Instructor has a true desire to do them good,
that the control to which they are subjected is not a matter of caprice,
but a means of true education and discipline, they will nearly always
submit, without any severe measures. The rule of love is,
after all, the most potent. Well says Scott:
"In peace, love tunes
the sheperd's reed;
In war, he mounts the warrior's steed;
In halls in gay attire is seen,
In hamlets dances on the green---
Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
For love is Heaven, and Heaven is love."
TEACHERS.---In this connection I am
glad to pay a well-deserved compliment to the Teachers in the Soldiers'
Orphan Schools. They are a noble band, working in season, and out of
season, giving more than the stipulated time to their charge. They
are competent and conscientious. Holidays are hailed with joy by the
weary teacher in the public schools, they find these days a glad respite
amid their toil.
But to the teacher in the Soldiers' Orphan School, comes no such breathing
space, except in the summer vacation. Holidays are for them the very
hardest of the year. They live in the midst of their charge, and if
ever the technical phrase, in the school law, was realized, it is
here. Surely the Soldiers' Orphan teacher does stand, "in loco
parentis," in the place of a parent.
THE GRAND ARMY.---I must again speak of this noble organization, who feel
so deep an interest in the welfare of the children of their fallen
comrades. I have in many of my reports referred to their gallant
conduct, with reference to the children in the Orphan Schools and I would
here renew my confidence in them. They have also taken a deep
interest in having the children of disabled soldiers admitted into the
The Grand Army men are truly posted with regard to the condition of
many of their disabled comrades, and feel the great necessity of having
this class of their children cared for, and admitted under the kindly
protection of the schools. The members of the Grand Army of the
Republic urge this matter simply because they are acquainted with the
facts, and would urge the members of Legislature to cast their eyes around
and see the good, the incalculable good, that is being done by these
schools. They would, then, not fail to pass a law explicit enough to
reach every worthy case of a child of a permanently disabled
soldier. There are still many of these out of the schools, that
should be reached. I am heartily glad that the last Legislature did
pass the appropriation for these children, and I only wish that every
needy child could be placed in the schools, and be properly educated, for
the State will never be impoverished by these wise appropriations, for
there is a "giving that enriches, and a withholding
I desire, in conclusion, to express my sincere thanks to Governor
Hartranft, for his continued interest in the Soldiers' Orphan Schools.
ELIZABETH E. HUTTER.
[The above was extracted from book, Annual Report of the
Superintendent of the Soldiers' Orphans, 1877; pages 28-33.