Part of the PAGenWeb







Superintendent of Soldiers' Orphans' Schools:

SIR:  I herewith submit my annual report of the condition of the Soldiers' Orphan Schools for the year ending May 31, 1879:

1.  HEALTH.---The schools have been blessed with remarkably good health.  Fevers and diphtheria prevailed in the vicinity of several of our institutions; yet these diseases did not enter them in an epidemic form.  Isolated cases appeared here and there; and that scores of our pupils were not afflicted is a cause of devout thanksgiving.

2.  CLOTHING.--- The children in the schools, as a whole, were never so well clad as at the present time.  The quantity in nearly every school is all that could be desired, and the amount is sufficient for comfort and cleanliness.  This is the result of purchasing wisely, using materials economically, and mending judiciously.

3.  FOOD.---As compared with previous years, the variety has been greater.  Rarely have I found poor bread.  In some instances, schools have suffered temporarily from inexperienced or careless cooks; but causes of complaint of this kind have been speedily remedied or removed.  The quality of the groceries at the schools I have uniformly found to be good.

4.  SLEEPING-ROOMS.---These are cleanly, and as abundantly supplied with fresh air as rooms with no other means of ventilation than windows well can be.  The beds are clean, and comfortable.

5.  INDUSTRIES.---These are in about the same conditions as in former years.  Dayton and Uniontown schools are to be commended for what they have done in the way of teaching trades.  For a full statement of what has been attempted in this direction, and with what results, I would refer you to the reports of these schools.  In all the schools the children are taught to be self-reliant, and self-helpful; that it is a duty to be always industrious and self-supporting from the earliest proper age; that all honest work is honorable, and that an idle, useless life of dependence on others is disgraceful.

6.  EDUCATION.--- The corps of teachers in each school is full, and they devote themselves with fidelity to their work.  The course of study as now arranged is adapted to the necessities of the pupils, and generally strictly pursued.  The importance of employing competent teachers for primary as well as more advanced grades, is
universally admitted. For thoroughness of instruction and progress made, no institutions in the State, of the same grade, surpass our Soldiers' Orphan Schools.

7.  DEPORTMENT.---The behavior of the children, while in the school-room, at work or play, is very generally satisfactory.

8.  LIBRARIES AND READING-ROOMS.---In most of the schools more attention should be given to general reading.  Libraries are not so well supplied with new and attractive and useful books, and reading-rooms with newspapers as they should be.

9.  MORAL AND RELIGIOUS TRAINING.---To secure this end, the same means have been employed, and the same constant effort made as in previous years.

10.  PERNICIOUS TALK.---Sometimes addresses are made to the children by well-meaning persons that are positively injurious.  It is not wise to remind the children of soldiers of the State's boundless indebtedness to the, and fill them with thoughts of their measureless consequence in view of what their fathers have done and suffered, and it is criminal to induce them to believe that their fathers' surviving comrades will, with wise and friendly counsel and ready aid, assure their success in life.  This kind of bosh has, in more than one instance, been indulged in ad nauseum, and never fails to kindle in the children a spirit closely bordering upon insubordination; to inflate them with false ideas of their importance; to unsettle their minds and disqualify them for honest study and work, and to induce them to give up all thought of working their own way in the world by their own worth, industry, and perseverance, and to listlessly and vainly wait, in the spirit of unmanly dependence upon others for help.  It is needless to say that those who accept such teaching will surely and woefully deceived.

11.  VALEDICTION.---In submitting this my last report, a few parting words may not be inappropriate.  It is hardly necessary for me to say that I sever the connection which I have sustained towards the Soldiers' Orphan Schools for the past twelve years with reluctance; but ailing health compels me to do so. While taking this unwilling step it is very gratifying to be assured of the regrets and best wishes of all with whom I have had the honor to be so long associated in the Department of Soldiers' Orphans, and to receive the many kind words that come to me from the principals of the schools and their co-laborers, and best of all from the children themselves.  
I can not forbear to here record my thanks for the indulgence which an ever partial public record has shown me, and for the kindness extended to me on every hand.  To the host of my Grand Army of the Republic comrades, who have counseled and assisted me, and approved of my work while in the discharge of my peculiar duties to the children of less fortunate associates in arms, I am under particular obligations.
I would also express a desire that the good work may go on till every child made necessitous by the late war for the Federal Union may be cared for and rendered capable of self-help, and that the blessing of God may rest upon the children who may yet share in the generosity of a grateful State, as well as upon those who may devote themselves to their training and culture.
In leaving the office of Inspector and Examiner, I have the consolation of reflecting that during the twelve years devoted to this service, I have never consciously been guided by sentiments other than those of honor and duty, and devotion to my sacred trust; and the humble part I have taken in this, the grandest beneficence of our Christian civilization, will always be remembered by me with feelings of special gratification and pride.

Inspector and Examiner.

Report of Mrs. E. E. Hutter.
Honorable J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL. D., Superintendent of the Soldiers' Orphans in the State of Pennsylvania:

DEAR SIR:  I beg herewith to submit my annual report.  And, first, feelings of pleasant remembrance prompt me to acknowledge your uniform kindness in all the official relations in which we have been so intimately associated.  Your words of confidence have never been wanting, and we are sure you must feel satisfied as you reflect upon the work that has been accomplished in these Soldiers' Orphan Schools during the years that they have been under your guardianship. 

OFFICIAL VISITS.---In this connection, I must acknowledge, with gratitude, the kind Providence that has enabled me to visit all the schools at least three or four times, and some of them seven or eight times during the year.  When it is remembered that the schools are situated on both sides of the Allegheny Mountains and that some of them are reached by the slow and tedious stage-coach of a past age, the labor of visiting these schools in rural districts will be appreciated.  We have journeyed in the aggregate about twelve thousand miles in making our official visits during the year.  But I do not wish to be understood that I am in any wise complaining of this labor.  I find a pleasant compensation for all my toilsome journeyings in the kindness of the officers in charge of the schools, but more especially in the tender, almost filial love of the many soldiers' children gathered in them.  It is a delight to me to look upon my visits.  Well do I remember the bloody fields of battle where there poor fathers fell, and, as I visited the hospitals during the late war, it was my privilege to assure many a dying soldier that his dear children would be cared for.  Nobly has the State of Pennsylvania fulfilled her pledge to the brave men who bled for her liberties.

SANITARY CONDITION OF THE SCHOOLS.---In the main, the health of the schools has been of a very gratifying character.  No epidemic has prevailed in any of the schools this year, and the bills of mortality have been smaller than usual, notwithstanding the severity of the extremes of the summer's heat and the winter's cold.

CLOTHING.---There has been no material change in the manner of clothing the children.  The boys are generally clad, every day, in light blue kersey pants and a dark blue jacket.  In the cold weather they wear a flannel shirt.  For dress they have dark blue pants and coats.
The girls wear a nice bared flannel dress for school, with a gingham apron; on the Sabbath, a dress of better material, such as merino, alpaca, cashmere or poplin, nicely made in a fashionable style.  Also, in the warm weather, the girls have gingham or calico dresses for school, and is some of the schools white dresses for Sabbath, which are always neat and pretty. They have tastefully trimmed hats for summer, in some schools a white leg-horn.  In winter, dark felt hats.  The boys wear the regulation cap.  Upon the whole, the children are comfortably clad, though I am sorry to say that the schools are not all alike in this respect.  Some of the schools take much better care of their clothing, and consequently always have much larger supplies.  There is a difference in the timely providing of the clothing, so that the children have their change of clothing ready for use as the seasons change.  I always insist that the clothing be made in time, and that this can be accomplished by a provident management on the part of the principals.

DORMITORIES.---Better care is now being exercised in the sleeping apartments, so that the rooms are properly ventilated, and the beds and bedding are kept neat and clean. It is true that in some instances the bed-rooms have been over-crowded, but this has been only a temporary evil.

FOOD.---As a rule, the food is such as would favorably compare with that furnished in our best boarding-schools, seminaries, and academies.  The table services are generally clean and neat.  We are sorry that in a few schools the children get butter only twice a week.  We think liberality in food saves expense in medicine.  The food should be well cooked and of wholesome quality.  Good cooking is as important an item in the matter of food as judicious catering.  This fact should be recognized and acted upon.  The stomach is the source of much uneasiness, both to the physical and mental structure, when loaded with unwholesome food. The bread, in particular, at the schools is nearly always found to be sweet and good, a great improvement in this respect upon former years.

EDUCATIONAL.---The supply of text books for the schools is generally ample.  Nearly all the schools have a library for the use of the pupils.
The grading of these schools has been carried to a nice point of perfection.  The children in these institutions do not only receive an ordinary English education, but study the higher branches, such as are taught in our best grammar schools and academies, as history, literature, physiology, philosophy, algebra, geometry, book-keeping, rhetoric, &c.
The high standing the pupils have taken in the normal schools is a proof of the excellent training they have received in the orphans schools.  I am happy to be able to say that some of our orphan boys and girls, who are now teaching in the public schools of this State, received certificates of a higher grade than any other teachers who were examined at the same time.  
However, now so many small children of disabled soldiers are being received into the schools, we must have the best experience in the primary departments of teaching.  The children should be taught to speak and read with distinctness.  In some of the schools this is not the case.  The free use of dictionaries in all the schools should be insisted upon. Let the children learn how to use all good books of reference, and then gain knowledge for themselves.  Teach them self-reliance.

MUSIC.---Vocal music is taught in nearly all the schools as a regular branch of study.  In a number of the schools instrumental music on the piano and organ, receive due attention, and in at least two schools, a brass band has been formed among the boys.  The Kindergarten systems of education has been introduced into several of the schools.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT.---Here, as heretofore, I express my disapproval of corporal punishment, except in extreme cases.  Let the rod be the last, not the first, resort of the teacher or other officer having the care of the children.  Kindness and judicious firmness will nearly always win a child back from the ways of folly and sin.  "Be patient."--"Forbear threatening!" are the words of the inspired Apostle.  Never punish in anger.  Control yourself, and you will be able to control others.

EXAMINATIONS.---The public examinations in July were well attended.  These examinations were conducted with openness and fairness, in the presence of a large assembly of clergymen, professors, teachers, school directors, and educated ladies and gentlemen.
The children were examined by the State examiners, and in both their written and oral recitations, showed a thorough understanding of the subjects in hand.
Many of these examinations were attended by yourself, and you could judge for yourself as to the improvements in both teachers and pupils.
His Excellency, Governor Hoyt, honored with his presence the examination at the Soldiers' Orphans' Institute, Philadelphia, and he expressed himself more than satisfied with the workings of the Soldiers' Orphan School system.
The Governor, himself a soldier, has shown a deep and heartfelt appreciation of, and sympathy with, these children--wards of our great Commonwealth, and has given his high official sanction to the noble work of educating them to become good citizens.

MORALS.---To educate the head, and at the same time neglect the heart, is to train up men and women to be smart villians; but in these schools the Bible is made the standard of morality.
The children attend divine service each Sabbath morning.  In nearly all the schools there are well organized Sabbath schools, of the children attend in a neighboring church.  Connected with some of the schools are beautiful chapels.
The international lesson leaves are in use, and prayer meetings among the children are frequent.

INDUSTRY.---The old adage is, "the child is father of the man."  If this is true, how important are habits of industry.  The hand and the brain should be taught to work in unison.
"Manipulation is a new sense."  What could the surgeon accomplish without the manipulation of the skillful hand trained by long usage, to know by the mere sense of touch what part of his complicated body is affected?
How important then that our boys and our girls should be reared in habits of industry.  Is it not enough that their intellects are cultivated, but the hand also should be trained to obey the dictates of a mind that is well stored with knowledge.  Thus will we accomplish the highest style of life.
The detail system is almost universally adopted in the Soldiers' Orphan Schools, aims at teaching the children habits of industry, while at the same time giving them the advantages of a liberal English education.  By this detail system a part of each day is spent in work.  The girls learn all the secrets of the "fine art of housewifery," and the boys are taught farming and other kinds of handicraft.  What we are striving to do is to train up in these schools useful men and women, good citizens of the good old Commonwealth, their foster mother.

CONDITION OF THE SCHOOLS.---For these Soldiers' Orphan Schools we do not claim perfection, but we do assert that the system is working nobly; that it has done and is doing a grand work; that the continued support of these schools is the State's best policy of economy.  "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."  Such is the word of Sacred Writ.
The money expended on the orphan and soldiers' children of Pennsylvania is a grand investment, and a saving from the expenses of criminal courts and places of correction.
The system is now much advanced, and is yearly gaining in efficiency.

BUILDINGS.---Many improvements have been made in the buildings from year to year.  The beautiful as well as the necessary and useful has entered into the ideas of the principals, and those pleasant ornamentations of house and grounds which add so much to refining culture and to the pleasures of life are not forgotten.  As the system grows older there is more leisure for the display of taste and beauty.

NORMAL SCHOOLS.---We deeply regret that the appropriation so well made by the Legislature for the further education of our soldiers orphaned "Sixteeners" in the different State Normal Schools, has been cut off.
We hope at the next meeting of the General Assembly this matter will be favorably reconsidered, for the money thus expended for the higher education of the children was a constant source of advantage to those who were selected for this extra privilege.  We are happy to state, in this our annual report, that Reverend C. Cornforth, our co-laborer, is much improved in health since his change of residence to the far west, deeply as we regretted that he was obliged to resign, on account of his failing health, the post duty which he had so long and so faithfully filled.  We had been long associated together in this work for the Soldiers' Orphan Schools.  We trust that he may be fully restored to health and usefulness and to his family.

GRAND ARMY.---During the past year, in a wider sense than ever before, the Grand Army of the Republic has acted as the legal and proper guardians of the children of their fallen and disabled comrades.  They have been earnest, energetic, and successful in their good work of caring for these children so naturally coming under their protection.  Nearly all the posts of the G.A.R. have appointed efficient committees on visitation, employment, &c.  The gentlemen of these committees have been vigilant and active, and have done much to awaken a renewed interest in the mind of the public at large in the welfare of these wards of the State.

Respectfully submitted,
Inspector and Examiner.
PHILADELPHIA, September, 1879.

The above information was extracted from the book, Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Soldiers' Orphans; pages 26-32.



This site is maintained  by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.  All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on:   03/14/2009

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.