SOLDIERS' ORPHANS' SCHOOLS
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE
SUPERINTENDENT OF SOLDIERS' ORPHANS,
FOR THE YEAR 1880.
of the Inspectors
HARRISBURG, September 10, 1880.
To His Excellency HENRY M. HOYT,
Governor of the Commonwealth of
SIR: Although the
Legislature held no session in the year 1879, the usual report of the
Superintendent of Soldiers' Orphans was made, placed in your hands and
printed. The present report will, therefore, cover only the year
ending on the 31st day of May, 1880.
SCHOOLS IN OPERATION.
The following is a list of the schools
now in operation, with their location, and the number of children in each
at the close of the year; Chester Springs, Chester county, two
hundred and nineteen children; Dayton, Armstrong county, one hundred and
ninety-eight children; Harford, Susquehanna county, two hundred and ten
children; Lincoln Institution, Philadelphia, one hundred and eight
children; Mansfield, Tioga county, two hundred and twenty-four children;
McAlisterville, Juniata county, one hundred and sixty-eight children;
Mercer, Mercer county, two hundred and ninety-five children; Mount Joy,
Lancaster county, three hundred and twelve children; Soldiers' Orphan
Institute, Philadelphia, three hundred children; Uniontown, Fayette
county, one hundred and eighty-nine children; White Hall, Cumberland
county, two hundred and thirty-six children; Loysville Home, Perry county,
seventy children; Butler Home, Butler county, nineteen children.
Besides the children thus enumerated, there were, in scattered homes and
receiving out-door relief, thirty-one others; making in all under the care
of the State, two thousand five hundred and eighty. The number at
the same time last year was two thousand four hundred and thirty-one, the
increase being one hundred and forty-nine. The number September 1,
1879, was two thousand four hundred and sixty-two; the number September 1,
1880, two thousand four hundred and fifty-seven. This number has
been considerably increased by subsequent admissions.
CHILDREN WAITING ADMISSION.
Notwithstanding the number of children
under the care of the State is greater than last year, there are, at the
date of writing this report, nearly two hundred applications on file, that
have been acted on and accepted, and the children are waiting
admission. They are not admitted, because the expense of those now
in school will exhaust the appropriation made by the Legislature, and I am
unwilling to incur a debt. In addition, there are applications on
file in the Department, from some seven hundred children, that have either
been rejected or are held under consideration. Many of these,
doubtless, are deserving cases, but the evidence required to admit them
under the law is either insufficient or defective.
COST OF THE SYSTEM.
The cost of the system for the past
school year was $351,431.59, and the appropriation $360,000, leaving an
unexpended balance of $8,568.41. The whole ordinary cost of the
system from the beginning to May 31, 1880, was $6,313.526.80. The
extraordinary expenditures amount to $25,395.13.
WHERE THE CHILDREN COME FROM.
Pennsylvania furnished four hundred
thousand men in the war for the suppression of the rebellion. Of
these probably fifty thousand were either killed or died in the
service. They left large numbers of orphan children in destitute
circumstances. It was for the care of such children that the orphan
school system was established, and, during the earlier years of its
history, no others were admitted into the schools. Persons who have
not kept themselves informed respecting the changes made by the
Legislature in the laws governing the system, not unfrequently ask where
the children come from who now fill the schools fifteen years after the
close of the war. They inquire: "How can there be so many
orphans of soldiers when their fathers died so long
ago?" "Is not the system being perverted from its original
purpose?" These questions should be answered. The act of
1867 organizing the system of soldiers' orphan schools provided only for
the children of soldiers who had been killed or had died in the service,
and limited the admissions into school to those born before the 1st day of
January, 1866. If no subsequent laws had been passed changing these
conditions, the number of children would have become so small that, in all
probability, the schools would have closed before the present time.
But in addition to the fifty thousand soldiers who lost their lives during
the war, at least one hundred thousand came home disabled, sick, or with
the seeds of disease deeply rooted in their systems. Many of them
from the first, broken and crippled, could not earn a livelihood for their
families, and others, a little more fortunate, were able to work for some
years, but finally succumbed to wounds which broke out afresh, or were
laid up with disease which advancing years left them less strength to
resist. In every city and town, in almost every school district
throughout the whole Commonwealth there are numbers of these human wrecks,
sad witnesses of the horrors of war. In many cases they are the
fathers of children--children worse off oftentimes than those whose
fathers were killed in battle, and having an equal claim upon the bounty
of the State. Influenced by these benevolent and patriotic
considerations, the Legislatures of 1874, 1875, 1876 and 1878, by a series
of acts, finally opened the door fully for the admission into the orphan
schools of all children in destitute circumstances, without regard to age,
whose fathers either lost their lives in the army or were disabled or
contracted disease while in the service to such an extent as to prevent
them from earning a livelihood for their families or themselves.
More formally, the children now admitted under existing laws into the
soldiers' orphan schools belong to three classes, as follows:
1. Those whose fathers were either killed or died
of disease while in the army. Of this class, probably not more than one
hundred remain in all the schools.
2. Those whose fathers have died since the close
of the war of wounds or disease contracted while in the service.
This class probably constitutes two thirds of all the children now
in the schools. They are orphans, too, made so by the war;
and while they make up the bulk of the children in them, the soldiers'
orphan schools are not misnamed, as some have alleged.
3. Those whose fathers are living, but are so
disabled by wounds or disease contracted while in the army, that they are
unable to support their families.
In all cases the children must be under sixteen years of age and in
The question is now answered as to where the children come from, and it is
easy to see that there will be children of classes two and three eligible
to admission to the soldiers' orphan schools under existing laws, for a
good many years in the future. There are applications now on file
for the admission of children one and two years of age.
POSITION OF THE DEPARTMENT
There is a considerable number of acts
on the statute books relating to the soldiers' orphan schools, and, as a
whole, they are at some points obscure and contradictory. The
Department has along held that the admissions to the schools must be
confined to the classes above named, and that no child is eligible whose
father's death or disability is not directly traceable to circumstances
connected with the war. On the other hand, it is the opinion of
some, among them gentlemen learned in the law, that inability to earn a
livelihood or destitution, is the only condition of eligibility under the
several acts. The following is an extract from a very lengthy and
able opinion given by Attorney General Lear on the subject:
"The conditions of admission to soldiers' orphans
schools are, that the children must be destitute, that their fathers must
have been residents of the State, and engaged in the military service of
the United States, and must have died or been permanently
disabled in the service. Permanent disability from any other
cause will not alone fulfill the conditions."
This opinion confirmed the Department in its own view of the law,
and the decision has been strictly adhered to. Had it been
otherwise, the system would have acquired annual appropriations at least
$200,000 greater than have been made. If the Legislature wishes the
Department to be more liberal it should amend the law and provide the
While the applications for admission to
the schools were confined to children whose fathers had lost their lives
in the army, the task of deciding upon them was an easy one; but now it is
often exceedingly difficult to ascertain whether the death or sickness of
a soldier was the result of causes growing out of his service as a soldier
or of causes of more recent origin. The war ended fifteen years
ago. How is a soldier suffering with rheumatism, consumption or
chronic diarrhea to prove that he contracted the disease while in the
service? In some cases it is easy enough, but in others it is only
by tedious inquiry and lengthy correspondence that a satisfactory line of
testimony can be obtained. The fact that seven hundred
applications are now on file in the Department, most of them laid aside
while an effort is being made to obtain additional testimony, is
sufficient to show both the labor now required to determine cases of the
kind and the care taken by the Department to arrive at a just
conclusion. The superintendent examines every application
personally, and if mistakes are made the fault is his. As charges
have been made both in the Legislature and out of it, alleging that
children are admitted into the schools who have no right to such a favor
under the law, it may be well to give an outline of the testimony
In case the father is dead, the mother, guardian, or next friend makes the
application. In case the father is living, he makes the application
himself. In either case the fact of death or disability must be
sworn to and a statement given under oath setting forth the reasons for
thinking that such death or disability was brought about by causes
connected with service in the army. An acknowledgement of
destitution must be made in the same way. This done, the application
must be laid before the board of school directors of the district in which
the applicant resides, who, at a formal meeting, must pass a resolution
stating that they have carefully examined the application and found the
facts set forth in it true and correct, and directing the officers to sign
a certificate to that effect. This certificate is appended to the
application. Then come the sworn testimony of the physician who
attended the soldier in his last sickness, if dead, or who examined him,
if living; the sworn testimony of officers or soldiers who served with him
in the army, and of physicians or responsible citizens who were acquainted
with him at the time of his return from the army or since that time.
In short their must be testimony describing the death or disability and
extending back in an unbroken line to the cause. Of course such
testimony cannot be positive, but it can be made of such a character as to
be a safe guide. The following sets of questions will indicate more
in detail the kind of information and testimony required, and also show
the pains taken by the Department to instruct persons how to proceed in
1. Questions to be answered by the person making
application for the admission of a child whose father has died since being
discharged from the army.
1. What was the
2. Give the company and number of his regiment.
3. Give the date of his enlistment as nearly as you can.
4. Give the date of his discharge.
5. State the cause of his discharge.
6. Give the date of his death.
7. Was he wounded during his term of service? And, if so,
give the date and place, and describe the nature of the wound.
8. Was he at any time sick while in the army? And, if so,
state the nature of the sickness and the length of time he was off duty
9. Was he in a hospital while in the army, and, if so, where and
10. What was the condition of his health when discharged?
11. If not in good health, in what way was he suffering?
12. Did he continue to suffer from his wound or disease till
death, and was it the cause of his death?
13. Give the name of the physician who attended him in his last
illness, and state whether he has made the required affidavit as to the
cause of his death.
14. Are there surgeons, officers, or soldiers, acquainted with him
in the army, who would be willing to give sworn testimony showing that
the disease of which he died was contracted while serving therein?
If so, give their names and have them do it, in the form sent herewith.
15. If this cannot be done, are there physicians or responsible
citizens, personally acquainted with him at the time of his return from
the army, and since, who are willing to give similar testimony? If
so, give their names and have them do it, in the form sent herewith.
16. Did he receive a pension? If so, give the number of his
certificate and the amount paid him per month.
17. If he was not a pensioner, explain way not as nearly as you
18. What property had he when he died, and upon whom are his
19. What other evidence do you rely upon to establish the case?
2. Questions to be
answered by a sick or disabled soldier applying for the admission of his
1. What is your name?
2. In what company and regiment did you serve?
3. When did you enter the service?
4. When were you discharged?
5. What caused your discharge?
6. Does your disability result from a wound, or a disease
contracted while yet in the service?
7. If from a wound, describe it, and state when and where it was
8. If from a disease, describe it, and state when and where it was
9. Are you a pensioner? If so, give the number of your
certificate and the amount you receive per month.
10. If you do not receive a pension, give the reason.
11. Were you at any time, while in the field, off duty or confined
to a hospital because of your wound or disease?
12. Have you continued to suffer, and are you now suffering, with
the same wound or disease?
13. Give the name of the physician by whom you have been
personally examined as to the cause of your sickness or disability, and
state whether he has made the required affidavit as to the facts in the
14. Are there surgeons, officers or soldiers, acquainted with you
in the army, who could corroborate the above statement by sworn
testimony? If so, give their names and have them do it in the form
15. If this cannot be done, are there physicians or responsible
citizens who would swear that you were suffering with said wound or
disease when you returned from the army and are yet suffering in like
manner? If so, give their names, and have them do it in the form
16. What property do you possess?
17. What is your occupation, and in what way does your disability
interfere with you in following it?
18. What other evidence do you rely upon to prove that you
disability was contracted while in the service?
But with all our efforts to confine
this great bounty to those for whom it was intended, there are, doubtless,
children in school who ought not to have been admitted. We have
discovered a few and discharged them, and the percentage remaining
must be very small. If any one should think otherwise, in any case,
we beg him to inspect the papers on file relating to it. This
invitation is especially given to members of the Legislature.
IS THE DEPARTMENT OVER-STRICT?
In endeavoring to free ourselves from
any possible charge that might be made that children are admitted into the
schools, who have no right to be there, we have been censured for being
over-strict, for having too much red tape, for requiring testimony from
dead men, &c. In escaping the charge of being too loose and
admitting too many, we have thus frequently been blamed for being too
strict and admitting too few. Such censure is unjust. The
Department has not been over-strict. Its sympathies have always been
warmly on the side of the applicants when there was even a show of reason
for thinking they were the children of deserving soldiers. In
questionable cases such children have always received the benefit of the
doubt. But the law has been obeyed as we understand it, the system
has been carefully guarded from fraud, and the trust has been so
administered as to secure its benefits to those for whom they were
intended. It may seem strange that it should be the case in such a
matter, but the paid agents of interested parties have presented hundred
of applications without merit; the relatives of children abundantly able
to support them have repeatedly endeavored to get rid of the expense by
imposing them upon the care of the State; fathers and mothers in good
circumstances, but anxious to marry again, have striven to get their
children out of the way by placing them in the orphan schools, and
cold-hearted step-fathers and step-mothers, finding the care of a double
family of children troublesome, have sought without better reason to
banish from their homes the children of their earlier marriage and make
the State pay for their education and support. From all this and
more the system must be guarded, and in so doing it is very likely that
the deserving are sometimes made to suffer with the unworthy. But it
may be fairly claimed that no meritorious case has ever been knowingly
rejected--no soldier's child shown to be eligible with reasonable
certainty has ever been denied admission to the schools. The papers
are on file in every case. Let those who raise the questions satisfy
themselves by examining them. It should be added that no application
is placed beyond recall. Those not granted are simply laid aside,
and the applicants informed that additional testimony of a kind designated
is required; and further, it often happens that of hundreds of accepted
applicants waiting admission, only a few can be placed in school for want
of money to pay for them. In such cases, those that seem to be in
most pressing need are given precedence, and the boon made to reach as
many families as possible.
LEGISLATION OF 1878.
In making the usual appropriations for
the orphan schools, the Legislature of 1878 provided that no more children
should be admitted into them after the 1st day of June, 1882, and that
they should be finally closed on the 1st day of June, 1885. Should
this law stand, the system can be made to come to an end in a way both
creditable to it and to the State. The record it will leave will
form the brightest page in our history. It will have supported,
educated and prepared for usefulness twelve thousand of the sons and
daughters of dead and disabled soldiers, and will have expended in this
noble work the magnificent sum of $8,000,000. The whole world may be
searched in vain for another such example of patriotic benevolence.
Still it must be said that to close the schools under this law will be to
send prematurely to their impoverished homes some one thousand two hundred
children, and to shut out from the benefits of the system many just
deserving as those now enjoying them.
Assuming that the present law will
remain unchanged, the appropriations to be made for the support of orphan
schools for the next two years cannot be very materially reduced.
For the year 1881, $360,000 will be needed, and for the year 1882,
$340,000, making in all $700,000.
The last Legislature made no
appropriation for the salary of the male inspector and examiner of the
soldiers' orphan schools; but Major S. R. Bachtell, who was appointed to
fill that office after the resignation of Colonel Cornforth, made, without
compensation, one general visit to all the schools and special visits to
several of them. His expenses were paid out of the contingent fund
of the Department. Major Bachtell not only represented the State,
but, at the same time, the Grand Army of the Republic, having been for
some years the chairman of the committee of that organization on soldiers'
orphans. His report which will be found in its proper placed, coming
from a man entirely disinterested, is especially valuable. He
resigned his office at the close of the year.
Mrs. E. E. Hutter, the female inspector and examiner, continued her visits
to the schools as in former years. She has been connected with the
orphan schools from the first, and has rendered them a service that has
done an immense amount of good.
The county superintendents of the counties in which the orphan schools are
located, were requested to visit and inspect them. They did so,
making reports to the Department.
Personal visits by the superintendent were made during the year to nearly
all the schools, and in some instances these visits were repeated.
Annual examinations were held at all
the schools during the month of July. The officers of both the
Orphan School and the Common School Departments were engaged in conducting
them, as well as a number of county superintendents. On the whole,
they proved very satisfactory.
REPORTS AND STATISTICS.
Special attention is called to the
reports of the inspectors and principals of the schools, which will be
found in their proper places, as they contain many interesting details,
showing the condition of the schools and the working of the system.
The full tables of statistics presented will be found valuable by all
those who take an interest in the subject.
A FINAL WORD.
I prepared, in 1864, at the request of
Governor Curtin, the first bill providing for the organization of a system
of schools for the children of deceased and disabled soldiers. The
bill, in my own handwriting, can now be found among the records of the
House of Representatives. It did not pass, but is principal features
form the basis of all the laws subsequently enacted on the subject.
At the session of 1871, the Legislature abolished the office of
Superintendent of Soldiers' Orphans, and placed its duties in the hands of
the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Since that time, I have
quietly managed this great trust. The work has been heavy and
sometimes attended with great anxiety. The interests involved are so
diverse and conflicting, that it is almost impossible to avoid making
enemies and provoking opposition; but I have tried to do exact justice to
all parties, and now have little to regret. During my administration
I have constantly had the care of from two thousand four hundred to three
thousand six hundred children. In all, some eight thousand girls and
boys have been gathered in from homes of poverty and oftentimes of
sickness and distress, in every corner of the State, and fed, clothed,
educated, trained to habits of industry and sent forth reasonably well
qualified for the work of life.
The money handled has exceeded $4,000,000, but not a dollar of it has been
misapplied, and I am satisfied the investment has more than paid the
State, besides enabling it to discharge a debt of gratitude to the brave
men who saved the nation in the hour of its peril. Withal, the task
has been a congenial one, and I am thankful that it came in the order of
Providence in my way to perform it. Should my connection with the
system end here, I shall ever pray that the schools may continue
prosperous to the end, and that their close may be as honorable as their
conception was noble, and their history a source of pride to every patriot
citizen of the Commonwealth.
[The above information is from pages 1-8.]
REPORTS OF THE INSPECTORS.
REPORT OF SAMUEL R. BACHTELL.
Honorable J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL.D.,
Superintendent Soldiers' Orphan
SIR: I have the honor to herewith
submit my report for the year ending May 31, 1880:
The health of the children during the
past year, with the exception of some cases of measles, has been very
god. The sickness in the schools would be nothing to speak of, it it
were not that disease is occasionally brought into them by the admission
of new pupils from infected districts.
As a general thing, the clothing is
good. Each child receives its full allowance, and in some cases even
more. The boys are comfortably clad in neatly cut and well made
garments. The girls' clothing is tastefully and fashionably made,
and their hats are becoming, and shoes nicely fitting. The amount of money
allowed by the State for clothing each child is but small, and it
therefore requires studied economy on the part of the principals to do
justice to the children with such limited means.
The children are provided with good,
substantial, and wholesome food, well prepared and cooked, which the
healthy and robust condition of the children attest.
No regular bill of are is followed in most of the schools, but the variety
is all that could be expected or desired. The "quantity and
quality" is a matter which I have invariably inspected very closely,
and I have found it to be both abundant in quantity and good in quality.
Are well ventilated, and the beds and
bedding kept in a clean and comfortable condition. This is a
department that has been very thoroughly examined by me, and I have found
no grounds for serious complaint.
The fact of the matter is, the people in charge of the several
schools are willing and anxious that the children should be made
comfortable, and when improvements have been suggested in this or any
other department they have been promptly made.
It is to be regretted that the
Legislature has not heretofore made extra appropriations for the purpose
of teaching the boys and girls trades. However, the boys work two
hours daily at farming, gardening and choring about the buildings, and the
girls work the same number of hours each day at sewing, washing, ironing
and general housework. Let it be recorded to their credit, nearly
all the orphans who have graduated from these schools become industrious,
and make the best of men and women; and every dollar contributed by the
State towards their education and support will be returned tenfold, for
whatever is necessary to enter into the proper and healthful development
and administration of the State must first be found in the character of
the studies and of the children of our schools. All money invested
by the State in these schools compounds its interest.
All the schools very generally follow
the rules and course of studies laid down by the State
Superintendent. The teachers are able, competent, and well adapted
to fill their respective positions. My predecessor well said:
"There is no place in the soldiers' orphan school which an
incompetent teacher can advantageously fill." The pupils are
bright and apt to learn. The most of them are ahead of children of
the same age in our public schools. The education which the children
receive in the schools, will serve in after years to guide them in public
affairs, and improve their entire character, morally and socially. The
generality of the children display more than ordinary attention to study,
and a number have been educated as teachers, doctors, lawyers,
&c. Socrates very wisely said: "Better spend money in
teaching men to become good citizens, than to bring them up in ignorance
and support their crimes." How appropriate is the application
of this remark to the soldiers' orphan schools of Pennsylvania.
On the whole, the deportment of the
pupils is commendable. This is the result of constant watchfulness
and care on the part of the teachers and attendants. The manners of
the children are good, and, as a general thing, they use choice language
even when at play. Nothing can be said against the behavior of the
children, except some few isolated cases. When we consider the large
number of boys and girls together, this is remarkable.
This does not receive that attention it should, in
some of the schools. I would recommend that more attention be given
by the principals to drilling, as it certainly is an excellent mode of
disciplining the boys, and actuates them to manly deeds. A boy or
man imbued with a soldierly spirit is generally honorable and gentlemanly.
Moral and Religious Training.
The moral and religious training of the
pupils is looked after carefully. I notice particularly, on my
visitations, that great care is taken to employ teachers and attendants of
a religious turn of mind, so their teaching may be both by example and
precept. School is opened every morning with reading a portion of
the Scriptures, singing praises to God, and prayer, and at some of these
school-openings the scene is really affecting. In the evening,
before retiring, family worship is held. At meals, God's bounteous
gifts are devoutly acknowledged. The children attend church services
and sunday school every Sabbath.
The memories of childhood, after a mature age has been attained, are more
powerful than we suppose, and especially is this the case in reference to
the religious observances, which first arrest the attention of
children. Man is of a three-fold nature, intellectual, physical, and
spiritual, and the education of children, which has not reference to this
three-fold nature, is very imperfect. Each, in its sphere, is
important, but the three combined makes the perfect man.
In some of the libraries the books are
choice, and calculated to cultivate in the pupils a taste for good
reading, but there are some of the libraries I cannot say so much
for. I would suggest that the pupils be allowed a more liberal use
of these libraries. Quite a number of periodicals are sent to
several schools by liberal-minded publishers.
The cleanliness of the children is
indispensable to the healthy action of their skin, and through that, to
their general health. Therefore it is so much attention is given to
the wash-rooms and bath-tubs. Under this head, I might add that
personal cleanliness is considered a minor virtue among the
children. I have made it a point to look well to the waterclosets,
back-buildings and play-grounds, and I find great pains are taken to
prevent the accumulation of refuse and filth, thereby cautiously guarding
against generating disease of any kind.
Corporal punishment is not inflicted,
except in very exceptional cases. The system of governing is such
that the children are put upon their honor. The encouragement which
this system gives to the boy or girl to cultivate a truthful and honorable
line of conduct, in relations with each other and towards those placed in
authority over them, has the tendency of breaking down the subterfuge to
which boys and girls will so frequently resort to avoid punishment, where
a constant surveillance is kept over them, and corporal punishment the
result of detection.
Grand Army of the Republic.
The members of the Grand Army of the
Republic are wide awake to the welfare of the soldiers' orphans. The
interest manifested by the comrades for the children is paternal, true,
warm, and abiding, and they work with extraordinary energy and
inflexibility of purpose for their benefit. They have assisted many
a "sixteener" to be a good and suitable position, and have done
much towards shaping legislation for the general advancement of the
schools. They are brave men, who stood shoulder to shoulder in
support of the Union, and now they are standing shoulder to shoulder in
that God-like charity of caring for the widows and orphans made so by the
rebellion. The Grand Army has a most peculiar relation to the
soldiers' orphans, and one which cannot be fully understood and
appreciated except by a Grand Army comrade, and this relation, while it
places upon each soldier coming into the Grand Army a new or additional
obligation, is one, if not the chief reason why all good soldiers
should be Grand Army comrades. Every soldier must feel a paternal
love and regard for the child of his dead comrade, but of and through
himself can do but little to relieve the orphans distress, or care for,
nurture, and educate them, but as a member of the Grand Army he can add to
that unity of strength which can and has done so much for them, and will
continue to do while the Grand Army of the Republic has an existence and a
soldier's orphan needs its aid.
In conclusion, I desire to say that the
soldiers' orphan schools are not alone schools, but are also homes
in every sense of the word, which are now associated in the minds of those
beneficiaries who have grown to manhood and womanhood, with bright
memories of happy hours spent with loved ones, endeared by ties of
affection, and they will never, while life remains, cease to gratefully
remember the aid, encouragement, and support received from the good old
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I firmly believe, of all the
institutions of the State, none have done more real and acting good than
the soldier's orphan schools.
Most respectfully submitted,
SAMUEL R. BACHTELL,
Inspector and Examiner.
REPORT OF MRS. E. E. HUTTER,
To Honorable J. P. WICKERSHAM, LL. D., Superintendent of
Soldiers' Orphans Schools:
DEAR SIR: I take great pleasure in submitting my annual report of
the soldiers' and sailors' orphan schools, though nothing unusual from the
ordinary workings of the schools has occurred to render this report
strikingly new. At the close of the vacation the children returned
to their respective schools more promptly than is the case ordinarily,
and, as a general thing, with a more contented spirit, and a desire to
improve the time and opportunities for study.
Physical Condition of the Inmates.
The health of the children has been remarkably good, no
serious epidemic has prevailed in any of the schools. We regret to
refer to the death of Professor F. A. Allen, of Mansfield, conspicuously
connected with the orphan schools and other educational interests in the
State. He will be greatly missed in the educational convocations in
which he ever was an earnest worker, and also in his own orphan school,
and in the Mansfield Normal School, for which he labored so earnestly.
We find the children generally comfortably clothed, but not all alike
well. Some have better supplies for the same amount of money.
The amount allowed by the State for clothing barely covers the cost, and
the principals have in some instances generously expended more than the
amount allotted for this purpose. The clothing, too, is made in a
neat modern style, so that our girls feel themselves well dressed and
respected members of the community in which they live. The boys wear
a full blue cadet uniform, with State buttons, of which they can ever be
The bedding is clean and comfortable. The bed-rooms are, in the
main, well kept. We insist upon ventilation in the dormitories
particularly. Personal cleanliness among the children is
required. All the children regularly receive an entire bath
once a week. Cleanliness is a necessary law of health.
The food is plain, substantial and well-cooked, and with a sufficient
variety to maintain a good appetite and healthy digestion. We do not
often see a sickly child in these schools, except in cases of hereditary
disease; the children, as a class, are cheerful, rosy and healthy.
There is a cultivated taste manifested by the principals
and superintendents to render the "State Homes" of these
children of the Commonwealth as sightly as possible. The useful and
beautiful are most happily combined in many instances. During the
summer vacation, while the larger part of the pupils are absent from the
schools, the principals avail themselves of the opportunity to make all
useful and needful repairs to the buildings, such as to paint the
wood-work, and white-wash the dormitories. All this deserves
Every school has a library, some being very much more
extensive and valuable than others. Indeed, some of the schools may
be proud of their collection of books and magazines, which aid so much in
the cultivation of a literary taste.
The Grand Army.
Of all the many interested friends of these soldiers'
orphans' schools, none have shown a more substantial and abiding interest
than the brave men who stood side by side, upon the field of battle, with
those who bravely fought, suffered, and died for their country, and the
honor of the "dear old flag."
Each of the Posts has a committee appointed, called the soldiers' orphan
committee, whose especial duty it is to visit these schools at all times,
hours, and places, and see particularly that these children are well cared
for. In a number of my previous reports I urged the necessity of a
provision being made for the children of disabled soldiers. Our
Legislature has done wisely in allowing these children of the disabled
heroes to enjoy the same privileges in the State schools as the orphans of
Evening and morning family worship is maintained in these
schools. The children regularly attend church, and every orphan
school has a well organized Sabbath school; and the wards of the State are
trained up in christian civilization, to become good and useful citizens
of the Commonwealth.
To maintain a good condition of the physical frame,
exercise is necessary, and exercise with a fixed aim in view. The
detail system so conspicuous in these schools, furnishes this healthful
exercise. It has been found, from life tables, that no kind of work
is so conducive to a long life and a good sanitary condition in girls, as
housework in all its branches. The skillful housekeeper, in a single day's
routine, gives play to nearly every muscle of the body. We are proud
of our well-trained house-wives in these soldiers' orphans schools.
These girls are taught to sew by hand and on the machine, to make
button-holes, and cut and fit ordinary clothing, as well as to do fancy
work of various kinds, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery; to cook, to
bake, wash, iron, to starch, to goffer, to scrub, and wash paints--to
arrange a house, in fact, to do all the different branches of
house-work. They can handle the flat-iron as well as the pen or
drawing-pencil, and preside over the preparation of a dinner, or at the
piano-forte. Many of our boys learn farming. In a few of the
schools shoemaking, to a limited extent, is taught. The Dayton
School, however, has shoemaking and knitting taught fully. Also, in
one of the schools, different boys are detailed in the bakery, and become
good bakes. But we regret that the boys cannot, under the present
system and arrangement of the most of the schools, learn trades to any
The importance of this industrial training to society at large can
scarcely be over-estimated. Charles Loring Brace, in his wonderful
book entitled "Dangerous Classes in New York," refers to the
fact that when he asked the question of the criminal classes in the
different prisons, &c., whether they had a trade, the most universal
reply was: "If I had a trade I would not be here."
The selfishness and bad management of many of the trade unions, in not
allowing a mechanic to take more than one, or at most, two apprentices,
are depriving young Americans of the advantages of training in mechanical
trades, and the consequence is that we, as a nation, are obliged to depend
upon foreign countries for "skilled labor," and this, too, when
it is an acknowledged fact that of all nations, the Americans possess the
greatest amount of genius in "mechanical invention."
Therefore, I most earnestly recommend that large numbers of State
Industrial schools be built, and our young men and boys be trained in all
branches of industry, under skillful teachers and workmen. And
girls, also, could be trained in type-setting, wood-engraving,
telegraphing, &c. We believe that a mighty good has been
accomplished in the soldiers' orphan schools of the State, in the combined
training of head, hand, and heart. This naturally leads us to speak
of the educational system pursued in these schools.
The Educational Status.
It seems to us, increases with the increase of the years
of the existence of the schools.
The examinations this year have been highly satisfactory to the large and
interested number of spectators present. Nearly every school, upon
the day of the public examination, had a large score of visitors of the
most intelligent citizens of the community, who came to witness the
progress made. Are not the educational interests of the great
Commonwealth safe in the hands of these competent judges?
Teachers in the Orphan Schools.
The teachers in the orphan schools are, as a class,
"choice spirits"---men and women devoted to their work, and
fitted, by a liberal education, to train up their youthful charges in a
broad and liberal path of learning. The office of a teacher, in one
of these State institutions, is not a sinecure. But, as the years
roll on, the best educated teachers find in these schools a fair field for
labor, where their favorite methods of instruction can be successfully
developed, under the eye and direct inspection and approval of yourself,
as chief of the educational interests of the State.
Standing of the Soldiers' Orphans Schools.
From the very nature of things stated in this report, the
standing, before the public, of these soldiers' orphan schools is one of
honor and respect. These schools are now as much as a part of the
system of our State government and economy, as are the naval school at
Annapolis, and West Point, of the United States government. The
children, leaving these schools, are proud of being connected with
them. Often, after leaving, do they return with loving longing to
their dear Alma Mater. Wisely has our dear mother State done,
in thus training up her offspring, and ever will her children "rise
up and call her blessed."
ELIZABETH E. HUTTER,
Inspector and Examiner.
[The above is from pages 26-32]
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