SOLDIERS' ORPHANS' SCHOOLS
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE
COMMISSION OF SOLDIERS' ORPHAN SCHOOLS
REPORT OF JOHN M. GREER.
BUTLER, PA., August 9, 1890
To the Commission of Soldiers' Orphan
GENTLEMEN: In submitting my first annual report of my inspections of the several
soldiers' orphan schools under the management of the Commission, I take great
pleasure in stating that the schools are all in a satisfactory condition. No
admissions have been made since June, 1887, and consequently the number of
children is decreasing, and a less number of schools is required.
In the last year the schools at Mercer, McAlisterville, Mansfield and Chester
Springs were not opened, and the Commission started out with Butler, Uniontown,
Tressler Home at Loysville, Perry county, White Hall at Camp Hill, Cumberland
county, Mount Joy, Lancaster county, Harford, Susquehanna county and Northern
Home, corner Twenty-third and Brown streets, Philadelphia. On the 31st of May,
1890, White Hall was closed and discontinued and on June 30, 1890, Mount Joy was
also closed, to be opened no more by the Commission. On account of the
discontinuance of these two schools it became necessary to re-open Chester
Springs, an institution about thirty miles from Philadelphia, and formerly
occupied as a soldiers' orphan school.
The children placed at White Hall, who had homes or places to go to, were
furloughed until the opening of school on September 2, 1890, when they will be
assigned to Chester Springs or some other place more convenient and desirable,
and those without homes or places to go to were sent to Mount Joy, where they
remained until June 30, and were sent with others from there in like condition
to Chester Springs, which was then opened and in charge of Prof. J.H. Smith, who
has been in charge at Mount Joy for some years past.
The Commission had the management of Uniontown, White Hall, Mount Joy and
Harford, employed the managers, teachers and employes, furnished the provisions
and supplies, and had the entire charge. The buildings and personal property,
beds, bedding, dishes, towels, furniture and all outfit needed in keeping up the
schools, were leased from the owners, and a manager was placed at the head of
each school, whose duty it was to take charge of and manage the institution;
teachers and employes were furnished as required. Children not provided for in
one of the above-mentioned places were placed at either Butler, (St. Paul's
Orphan Home), Loysville, (Tressler Home), or Philadelphia (Northern Home), where
the Commission paid their boarding and furnished their clothing. Although these
institutions were managed by their own directors, trustees or managers, who
employed the teachers and help, and controlled the institutions, the Commission
kept a constant supervision over them, made the necessary criticisms and
suggestions, recommended the employment and dismissal of members of the
different faculties, when they believed the welfare of the children demanded it,
and carefully examined the supplies and equipments used in the schools. On
December 1, 1889, all the children over twelve years of age at Northern Home,
Philadelphia, were transferred to other schools, some to Mount Joy, some to
White Hall and others to Tressler Home, leaving none but smaller children
remaining in the Philadelphia school. A number who were so transferred obtained
discharges and did not continue longer in the school, but found other homes or
means of support.
I made it a point to inspect each school as often as I believed necessary,
visiting none less than three times during the year, and some as high as five
and six times. I made reports of all important inspections, which are on file in
the Department of Soldiers' Orphan Schools at Harrisburg, Pa., where they can be
seen and read by persons who are interested in them.
The health of the children during the past year has been remarkably good. A
large number at Uniontown had measles, but recovered without serious results.
During my visits I found very few in bed or in the hospital with sickness.
Sometimes one or two, and I think they're at the highest. They had colds and
other ailments, not serious. One case of typhoid fever at Philadelphia.
Sometimes I would find a broken arm or dislocated shoulder with the boys,
sometimes a sore foot or boil, but all through the health has been exceedingly
good. Some of the children on returning from vacation will bring skin disease,
which is very annoying and troublesome to those in charge of the school, but
with prompt action and good management the spread of the disease is prevented
and the child cured.
The children are generally happy and contented; some few cases of running away.
This more frequently occurs immediately after vacation, and is due to some
extent to bad influences at home. The schools at White Hall, Uniontown and
Loysville were much annoyed in this way. There may have been some local reason
at these places. We seldom find many boys go away without leave of absence where
the school is fortunate enough to have a good male attendant.
The personal appearance is generally fine, no signs or appearance of either
sickness, pain, trouble or over-work. The children are remarkably polite and
show that they have generally been taught good manners. In one or two of the
schools there is great room for a stronger effort in this line, and I believe
the next year will bring about better results.
With the exception of the boys at White Hall and Tressler Home, the children
were generally very clean, faces well washed, heads combed, clothes neatly
brushed and shoes blacked. I found the every-day clothing generally in good
order and repair. Seldom would I find a button of or a rent in the clothing. In
order that we may have this condition of things it requires the most constant
care and watching on the part of the matron and male attendant. Half an hour
with the boys will satisfy a careful observer as to the qualifications and work
of the male attendant. Without the proper person in this department the best
trained boy will soon become careless, slouchy and disobedient and increase the
worry and labors of their teachers, and others whose duty it is to work for
them. As a general thing the clothing is very good. It is purchased by the
committee on supplies, and the children have no lack in anything that is needful
for their comfort or appearance. The amount of supply is abundantly sufficient
and the quality generally good. Some of the shoes did not come up to the
requirements of the Commission, and the stockings were not good. They were
almost all returned to the persons from whom purchased.
The boys are dressed in blue suits, with brass buttons on their coats and wear
The girls' clothing is tastefully and fashionably made, neat hats, nicely
fitting shoes, ribbons, bows, etc. In this dress the girls present an excellent
appearance. The amount allowed by the State is not large and it, therefore,
requires studied economy on the part of the manager to do justice to the
children with the limited supply provided by the Legislature.
The supply of food is abundant, and is substantial and wholesome, generally well
cooked and prepared. No one who carefully examines the children can have any
doubts as to their food supply being sufficient. No regular bill of fare is
prescribed by the Commission or inspectors, but each school is required to
return weekly statements to the Department showing the provisions furnished at
each meal during the week. This statement is certified by the manager, and he
also certifies that the supply of provisions is sufficient and properly cooked
and served. In addition to this the schools at which the Commission boards
children make monthly statements showing the number of children and others
boarding at the schools and the amounts of provisions furnished and consumed
during the month. I am of opinion that these statements are doing much good for
the children. Managers do not like to be in the rear of other schools, and
ambitious cooks do not want other cooks of other schools to outdo them in
variety of and number of dishes prepared. The monthly statements gave the
Commission and others an opportunity to compare amounts furnished by schools at
which they are boarding children, and those at which the Commission furnishes
the supplies and the inspectors are enabled to criticise and regulate the kind
and amount of provisions furnished.
It is not necessary to speak of the grounds and buildings at White Hall or Mount
Joy, as they have both been discontinued and closed. Butler has built a very
fine, large, new school buildings. It is of brick, slate roof, hard wood finish,
and about 40 by 48 feet, with two stories. This is an excellent building, well
lighted, heated and ventilated, and was much needed. A new dining room and
kitchen have also been added to the main building, increasing its size and
increasing the sleeping room very much. A frame addition has been added to what
was the school building, and all used for the boys dormitories. This school now
has abundant room for all the children assigned to it, and more. The whole
institution is in first-class order and repair, and the grounds in splendid
shape. The water supply abundant, and the lavatories all that can be required.
At Loysville, there are not sitting and reading rooms enough provided. If the
managers of this institution will build a new school building, similar to the
one at Butler, and turn their present school room into reading and sitting rooms
for the children, their institution will then be about complete. This change is
greatly needed. The sitting rooms here are entirely insufficient, for the
comfort and good management of the children. This school has not been kept as
clean as health and comfort demand, but with this change and the appointment of
a good male attendant, this can be overcome. My inspection reports show the
condition of the house-keeping, as I found it on my visits, and I will say
nothing more on this. I have great hopes for the future of this school.
The Uniontown grounds and buildings are in excellent shape, so are the beds and
bedding. The dining room and tableware are not what would be expected in an
institution with so many other excellent appointments. The bread is passed
around in large tin pans and they have no table-waiters, neither is the
appearance of the dining room up to what it should be, nor do the children go in
and out, in as good order as they should. I think the male attendant is
responsible for the want of better discipline here. He must brush up and do
better in the future.
The buildings and equipments at Harford are not what is wanted. There are no
other or better buildings that can be obtained for the purpose in that part of
the State, and the Commission can do no better than keep them for the present.
The dormitories are old and very cold in winter. The kitchen and dining room not
at all what are wanted and needed. The school rooms are not up to the other
schools. The water supply is limited, and the laundry is at the creek, a
distance from the home. The grounds are good and in good condition and
everything is clean. No institution in the State has been better managed, in
respect to cleanliness and discipline, than this one. When I was there last
winter, I thought the covering on the beds was not sufficiently warm and
complained to Mr. Clark, the manager, about it and he promised to supply more if
the winter kept cold. If he has not done so a large supply must be provided for
this winter. Children must have plenty of covering in dormitories as cold as
these, and, with all, these old buildings, open and cold, I never saw children
in better health. They are almost perfect in appearance, lively, active,
contented and happy, and they (the children) believe that Harford is the only
good school in the State. The educational department is high up, and in manners
and politeness, the children have no superiors anywhere. They are very clean,
neat and pleasant, and the very best of order and discipline prevails. This
school was most fortunate in having the services of Mr. C.A. Widel, as male
attendant, and Miss Annie McKillip, as matron.
At my visit here in November, I requested Mr. Clark to put up railings at the
sides of the plank walks to the water closets, so as to prevent the children
from falling off and being hurt, as the walks are high enough to be dangerous,
but as yet he has not seen fit to do so. This can be done at a very small
expense, and is greatly needed. I insist that another winter shall not pass
without this much-needed improvement. Should the winter be as cold as we may
expect, the dormitories must be heated with stoves. A watchman is placed on duty
every night. This is necessary and one should be furnished every other school.
No material change has been made upon the grounds at Northern Home,
Philadelphia. They always have been large, substantial and commodious, and can
comfortably room a large number more than they now have, as only some sixty
soldiers' orphans are in this institution. I am glad to know that the Commission
has leased the buildings and grounds at Chester Springs, and will have repairs
and improvements made, to make it one of the best institutions in the State.
This school is most fortunately located, convenient to Philadelphia, and to a
very large number of children, abundance of the best water, thirty-eight acres
of land, and with the improvements being made by the Commission, and the
equipments and outfits to be furnished, this will certainly be a superior
With Chester Springs, as the Commission is making it, Butler and Uniontown and
Loysville (if improved as I have recommended), the orphan children of the old
soldier will certainly be provided with good homes, schools and surroundings and
will receive the care and attention the people of Pennsylvania demand. With the
exception of Harford, the sleeping apartments of all the schools are good, and
the children are provided with good beds, beddings and dormitories, generally
well ventilated and furnished with proper fire escapes. They usually retire
about 8.30 PM, larger ones about 9 PM and are called about 6 AM. They are given
abundance of time for sleep and play. The schools are divided into four
sections. Each section works two hours and attends school six hours, giving each
child two hours of some kind of work, chopping wood, working in garden or about
the buildings and grounds, caring for stock, baking, mending shoes, cooking,
sewing, washing, ironing, patching or some other useful employment, and six
hours in school.
All the schools generally follow the rules and course of study followed by the
school during the former system of management. The English branches, algebra,
physiology, philosophy, history and book-keeping are taught. Considerable
attention is paid to drawing especially at Uniontown, Mount Joy and Harford. The
teachers are generally able and competent, and fill their respective positions
with credit. Heretofore the annual examinations were held before June, on
accountof the time of the Superintendent being occupied by examinations at the
normal schools, in that month, but this year the Commission arranged to have the
examinations later, and immediately before vacation. This was an important
change, as the time after examinations is seldom occupied as profitably to the
children as before.
The examinations for 1890 were as follows: White Hall, May 27, which was
attended by Governor Beaver, Clerk Pomeroy and others; Butler, June 16 and 17;
Union town, June 18 and 19; Tressler Home, June 20 and 21; Mount Joy, June 23
and 24; Philadelphia, June 26; Harford, June 27 and 28. Vacation commenced on
June 30 and runs until September 2, 1890, when the children will return and
The members of the Commission were generally present at the examinations.
Butler, Gobin and Davis; Uniontown, Gobin, Davis, Magee, Boyer and T. J.
Stewart; Tressler Home, Gobin, Davis, T.J. Stewart and Boyer; Mount Joy, Boyer,
Wm. Stewart, T.J. Stewart, Magee and Kaufman; Philadelphia, Davis and Stewart;
Harford, Dvis, T.J. Stewart, Boyer and Magee. Both the inspectors were present
at all the examinations except White Hal. I am glad to say that at all the
schools there were delegations of Grand Army men, teachers, ministers and other
intelligent friends of the soldiers' orphan boy, who took great interest in him,
and expressed great satisfaction as to the progress of the schools.
Professors Brooks, Bachtell and Pierce, and Chaplain Sayers were present at
Northern Home, in Philadelphia, and assisted in the examinations. The children
all did well. I have frequently stated heretofore, and have no hesitation in
repeating, that in the branches taught, the children in the soldiers' orphan
schools will compare favorably with the children of their age in any other
school in the State. They are receiving thorough, practical training in the
studies they will most need when discharged. They are usually very bright and
ambitious, prompt and correct in their answers and exceedingly polite. They
generally display more than ordinary attention to study, and many have an
ambition to be educated as teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Military drill is
receiving fair consideration and attention. The boys mostly performed this part
of their training with great credit. A large number of the Commission are
military men, served their country in the capacity of soldiers during the war,
and are prepared to correctly express an opinion as to the marching and
movements of military companies when on drill. I am pleased to say that they
were agreeably surprised at the soldierly bearing, good marching and correct
movements of the boys in every instance. The managers and male attendants at the
different schools certainly deserve credit for the pains and attention they have
given this department and the officers and boys the congratulations of the
The girls are all well trained in calisthenics, and display excellent results.
They go through the movements with great uniformity and precision. Their ability
to perform proves that they are practiced in this very important branch of their
education. Their wide chests, erect bearing, well-formed bodies and bright faces
show the benefit they are receiving from the drill.
The moral and religious trainings of the pupils are not neglected. Prayers and
reading of the scriptures are had in the chapel in the morning and evening. They
sing well and many can repeat psalms and chapters from the New Testament. Sunday
school is held in each school every Sunday, and prayer meeting once a week. The
children are usually at church once on Sabbath. Sometimes they attend church in
the morning and have a short sermon or address in the afternoon or evening. Fair
libraries are provided in most of the schools, yet money could be very
profitably expended in adding to the stock of books on hand. The boys at Harford
took a premium of thirty dollars for best military drill at Susquehanna county
fair. They expended the money in books, and take great pride in showing their
modest little library to their visiting friends. They are fond of reading
newspapers and generally express a wish for a more extended supply.
But little complaint can be made as to want of cleanliness in the children.
Since I have been inspector, I never found the boys at White Hall as clean as
desired. This was due to the carelessness and want of proper attention on the
part of the manager and male attendant, but as the school has been discontinued,
I will not dwell on this unpleasant subject. Bath tubs are provided for the boys
at Butler and Mount Joy; pools at Uniontown, Tressler Home and Philadelphia, and
at Harford they wash from buckets. A complete wash is taken once a week, under
the supervision of the male attendant, who examines the skins and manages to
prevent skin disease. The girls' bathing is arranged and managed by the
matron--their appearance denotes attention in this line.
It is seldom that severe punishment is resorted to. In some cases it has been
found necessary. Firmness is always required. At some of the schools the system
of governing is such that the children are put upon their honor. Sometimes they
are managed by details of other children, whose duty it is to overlook their
actions, conduct and behavior, also to report as to the condition of their
clothing, etc. This course seems to be successful.
I am sorry to say that so few of the children have any knowledge of the company
or regiment in which their fathers served during the war, and for the last year
or more have been trying to get their attention in this important matter. I have
asked them to make inquiry as to commands in which their fathers served, and
then read up as to the engagements and marches they were in. I find them much
interested in the subject.
I would suggest that the Commission furnish corps badges, letter of company and
number of regiment in which the father served, for each child, so that it may be
more interested and study the history of the command of its father, and in this
way get valuable history concerning the war.
The people are slow to understand that no more children are admitted to the
schools. Scarcely a week passes that some one does not write me a letter or
speak to me in regard to the admission of one or more, who are destitute, and
should have the advantage given others no more meritorious or needy. I think the
legislature should open the door and receive such as are destitute.
It is estimated that Pennsylvania, with a population of over five millions, has
about ten thousand dependent children (I do not mean soldiers' orphans alone.)
One child to every five hundred persons. It would be well for the four hundred
and ninety-nine persons to take chare of this child, clothe, feed, and educate
it, and give it such mental, moral and religious training as to save it from a
life of crime and misery in the future, and relieve the State from the burden of
its support, as a criminal in after years. The child saved is rescued from years
of pain and suffering, as well sometimes as a life of shameless sin. Children
not rescued may become the progenitors of another dependent or criminal race,
entailing misery and expense, which cannot be foretold. Punishment may reform
the criminal, but it can never restore the self-respect of the man, and it is
far more expensive than the humane system of starting the child upon the right
road. Prevention is always better than cure. Pennsylvania has her sixty-seven
court houses, sixty-seven jails, two penitentiaries, one reformatory institution
at Huntingdon, houses of refuge, asylums for the insane, poorhouses for the old
and infirm, and a place for weak-minded children, but, with the exception of the
soldiers' orphan schools (and they are limited to a small number) no institution
to take charge of the thousands of bright and beautiful children that are
running wild. Our State is not too poor to save them. She is rich in everything,
appropriating millions of money at every session of the legislature. She has
appropriated large amounts to the support, maintenance and education of the
soldiers' orphans, and it has been of untold benefit to her people. We have
soldier's orphans to day occupying most excellent positions in our professions
One of the best attorneys in western Pennsylvania received his education at a
soldiers' orphan school. He is to day at the head of the bar in his county, and
is looked upon as soon to be a leading man in the State. We have lawyers,
doctors, preachers, teachers, merchants, mechanics and farmers all over
Pennsylvania who have been helped to their present respectable positions by the
soldiers' orphan schools. They are not failures, they are grand successes.
It has been estimated by those in position to know, and giving the matter
attention, that the life of the average solider in the late war of the
rebellion, has been shortened twelve years on account of disabilities, caused by
wounds, disease or prison life, has been rendered less valuable, and many are
unable to procure, by their labor, the necessary amount of wages to comfortably
supply their wives and children with the provisions and clothing their wants
demand, much less provide their children with the means of education they
deserve. It is not too much now, for the State with her abundant wealth, to say
to these men: "You have done well in helping to save our great country,
giving fourteen years of your lives to its salvation. You have suffered and are
suffering now, and on account of this gift of time and health are unable to give
the full measure of justice to your children. They shall be taken, and, at the
expense of the State, supported, maintained and educated for a few short
This is a great relief to the old veteran, and not this alone, he takes pride in
the fact that his services have been appreciated, and hope in the prospect of
his child's future.
Every dependent child should be cared for and educated, if possible. Michigan,
for seventeen years, has been caring for hers, about two hundred, at a State
public school, at Coldwater, in that State, at an annual cost of but little over
one hundred dollars each, the State owning the buildings, furniture, equipments,
and personal property, needed in running the institution. What will Pennsylvania
do in the near future?
There are now but 1,122 children on the rolls of the soldiers' orphan schools.
The list is becoming shorter every month, on account of pupils arriving at the
age of sixteen and being discharged. Others find homes and employment and manage
to take care of themselves. The number will soon be reduced, so that two or
three schools will accommodate all. Should the state see proper to adopt the
Michigan system, excellent locations can be provided at Chester Springs and
Jumonsville, and persons with experience can easily be obtained to manage the
schools and teach the children.
The inspectress, Miss Jennie Martin, has been very faithful in the discharge of
her duties, and careful to visit and thoroughly inspect all the schools in the
state, often as necessary. She has been especially beneficial to the departments
in charge of the matrons. She is a daughter of a comrade, who perished at
Andersonville rebel prison and has spent almost her lifetime in soldiers' orphan
schools, as teacher, matron and inspectress. She has had valuable experience,
and being a soldiers' orphan herself, has the heart and will to apply her
knowledge and experience in the best possible way.
The gentlemen, constituting the Soldiers' Orphan Commission can certainly look
back with pride and satisfaction to their first year's work. The business was
entirely new to them, but they gave it time and attention, and have made it a
remarkable success. With an acquaintance with the business, and the benefit of
last years' experience, I am sure the next year will give excellent fruit.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
JOHN M. GREER,
[The above information was transcribed from pages 37-46.]
REPORT OF MISS JENNIE MARTIN.
DAYTON, August 13, 1890
To the Commission of Soldiers' Orphan Schools:
GENTLEMEN: My first annual report is hereby respectfully submitted. The health
of the children has been good during the year, Butler being the only school
where a death occurred. The children are well clad, and the clothing is
generally well made. The every-day clothing in some of the schools, especially
that of the boys, in the latter part of spring, was considerably worn, but now
all are much better supplied. The garments are so issued that all have their
heavy suits during the winter. At the recent examination, I satisfied myself
that the children's clothing was in good condition for their coming vacation.
During the first of the year in one or two of the schools the food was not what
it should have been; but the Commission took prompt action in the matter, and
required an itemized statement kept of each meal to be made, and sent to the
office of the Commission at a specified time. A record was also kept and
forwarded of the quantity used. The members of the Commission were thus enabled
to tell what was provided in schools where they did not do the buying. This
produced a good result. I am satisfied of late that the children are supplied
with as much wholesome food as could well be desired. Some improvements might
still be made in the table service.
The beds are generally fair, and the bedding most always found sufficient and in
The usual effort has been put forth during the year to inculcate habits of
industry among the pupils. The two hours devoted to detail work are profitably
spent. On leaving the school at the age of sixteen, most of the girls can do all
kinds of work done at the schools in a neat and creditable manner. The boys do
farm and garden work, and usually all work connected with their own departments,
under the supervision of the person in charge.
Mr. Greer has frequently examined the children educationally and on general
information, as well as to the thoroughness of the branches taught, which I
cannot but feel has resulted in great good. The girls all practice calisthenics,
and the boys are taught military drill.
Religious exercises are conducted in all of the schools. Worship night and
morning, grace at table, Sabbath school, and the children also attend church at
the school or elsewhere. Parents and friends are permitted to visit their
children, thus giving them an opportunity to know of the treatment and care they
are receiving, and to discover wrongs if any such exist.
Members of the G.A.R. were present at most of the examinations, and seem to keep
themselves informed in regard to the care of the children . . .