SOLDIERS' ORPHANS' SCHOOLS
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE
SUPERINTENDENT OF SOLDIERS' ORPHANS,
FOR THE YEAR 1879.
REPORTS OF THE INSPECTORS.
REPORT OF REV. C. CORNFORTH.
J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL. D.,
Superintendent of Soldiers' Orphans'
SIR: I herewith submit my annual report of the
condition of the Soldiers' Orphan Schools for the year ending May 31,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
ELIZABETH E. HUTTER,
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.