Part of the PAGenWeb


(aka- Loysville Academy; Loysville Orphans' Home)

According to the book,
History of Perry County, Pennsylvania; H. Hain; 1922


"This wonderful institution, where so many hundreds of children have found an early home, is the result of an early academy opened in the basement of Lebanon Church, at Loysville, in 1853, of which Josiah R. Titzell was principal.  J. T. Ross succeeded him for a year or two.  Education was then a leading topic, and there was a demand for an institution for higher education.  In 1855-56 Col. John Tressler erected a three-story brick building, with a large auditorium on the first floor and twenty rooms on the other floors to which the school was transferred.  The first principal was John A. Kunkelman, who was succeeded by a son of the found, David L. Tressler.  In 1862, when the dismemberment of the nation was imminent, Mr. Tressler accepted a captaincy in the United States Army and with him went almost the entire male enrollment of the little institution.  

"The property later was again in charge of David L. Tressler.  Opened in 1865, it was one of the first soldiers' orphan schools in the United States, he war having bereft thousands of homes.  Of its history as a Soldiers' Orphans' School a description appears just preceding.  The attention of the Lutheran Church was attracted to it.  Rev. Philip Willard acting in the capacity of representative of the Lutheran Publication Society, of Philadelphia, and accompanied by Daniel Eppley, of Harrisburg, visited the institution with a view of securing it for his denomination.  In October, 1867, delegates from the East, West, Central Pennsylvania and Allegheny Synods met at Loysville, and on October 30, petitioned the Perry County courts for a charter for a corporation, to be known as the "Tressler Orphans' Home of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the United States of America."  The charter was granted January 6, 1868.  In the meantime the building had been leased to Philip Bosserman, of Newport, and both Church and soldiers' orphans were admitted.  As late as 1886 the proportion of soldiers' orphans was seventy-on to seventy-nine Church orphans.  
The academy and its grounds, comprising five acres, was purchased February 20, 1868, for $5,000, from the Tresslers, (Capt.) Rev. D. L. Tressler donating his share in the property ($500), and in appreciation it was named the Tressler Orphan Home.  Twenty five additional acres were purchased from the Tressler farm at a cost of $90 per acre.  Rev. Willard was appointed superintendent and sent to the different synods and churches to solicit subscriptions.  He secured over $4,000 within a year.  The first trustees, who applied for the charter for the school and supervised its early management, were Rev. P. Sahm and Jacob Crist, of the Central Pennsylvania Synod; Rev. Jeremiah Frazer and D. K. Ramey, of the Allegheny Synod; Rev. Philip Willard and Henry L. Hummel, of the East Pennsylvania Synod, and Rev. J. H. Menges and J. Carver, of the West Pennsylvania Synod.  Almost at its beginning as a joint school for the orphans of the state and of the Church (June 1, 1869) there were eighty soldiers' orphans and eighteen church orphans.

"Improvements began almost immediately upon the transfer to the Church, and have never ceased, but have kept abreast of the times.  In 1872 a frame building was erected for a dining room and dormitory, later being used as part of the Industrial School.  In 1874 a two-story kitchen and bakery was built, and in 1875, a large and substantial barn was built.  These buildings sufficed for about a decade.  Then, in 1884, a large building with basement and three stories was erected at a cost of $10,000.  Its purpose was for schools, kitchen, and boys' dormitory.  In 1887 the adjoining George Shaffer property, a house later used as a hospital, and thirteen acres of land, were purchased for $2,300.  Two years later fire escapes were added to all buildings to comply with a new state law.  During that year Rev. Philip Willard, after twenty-one years of persistent and splendid labor in the upbuilding of the Home, retired from the superintendency.  He was temporarily succeeded by Major J. G. Bobb, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from November, 1889, to July, 1891.  Charles A. Widle had come to the institution in July, 1890, as disciplinarian, and upon the retirement of Major Bobb in July 1891, he became temporary superintendent until June, 1892, when he was elected to fill the position, and has been continued in office ever since, a period of thirty-one years, counting the temporary service.  mr. Widle had been a teacher in the public schools of Butler and Lawrence Counties, from whence he had been called to the service of Soldiers' Orphans' Schools, first to McAllisterville, then to Chester Springs, and later to Harford, Susquehanna County, from which place he came to the Tressler Home in 1890.

"During that period of time when the soldiers' orphans were cared for there remained services for which the Home was not compensated, and in 1890 a check for $21,000 was received from the state in full for all overdue payments and for any services for which compensation had not been made.  The present excellent library was started in 1892, under the directions of Miss Emma Eppley, who was the matron, with about 700 volumes.  The Home issues a small monthly paper telling of its work and needs which was started in may, 1892, a printing plant having been put in that year.    Its principal work is that of the Church.  Through its installation many of the boys of the institution have been enabled to learn the printing trade and hold positions in many states.

"In 1894 an extension, 39x15, was added to the original academy building for a girls' dormitory and bath rooms.  In the same year steam heat and gas light were introduced into the main buildings.  The following year a steam pump was added to the water machinery, and in 1896 a steam laundry, with bakery and storerooms was built, the industrial school building erected and the Children's Memorial Chapel begun, its dedication taking place June 20, 1900.  

"And then, with the end of the century (1900), Mr. J. Harry Fritz, of Somerset, Pennsylvania, purchased the adjoining John Minich farm of twenty-two acres, for $3,500, and presented it to the home as the Fritz addition.  In 1901-02 Mr. Fritz had erected and presented to the institution a fine two-story building, known as the Fritz Memorial Library and Girls' Dormitory, its dedication having been on June 5, 1902.  Mr. Fritz was a real estate dealer of Somerset and had a large place in his heart for needy children.  He also gave $1,100 towards the erection of the Children's Memorial Hospital during the same year.  The heirs of Samuel and Rachel Kunkel, two early benefactors of the Lutheran Church whose homes had been in Harrisburg, where their impress has been left upon Lutheran work for all time, presented a fine two-story building--the Kunkel Memorial Children's Nursery--to the institution.  It was dedicated June 13, 1901.  During that year the steam plant, from which all buildings are heated, and the acetylene light plant were installed.  In 1902 a large cistern and rain water system was installed.  In 1903 an adjoining tract of land containing fifty-two acres was purchased from George W. Loy, for $2,500, the funds being supplied by private contributions.  A year later the Samuel Burkhart farm, near Bloserville, in Cumberland County, was left to the Home by will.  Owing to its separation from the Home by a great mountain and a long distance, it was sold by order of the Cumberland County courts and the funds placed in charge of a trustee for the benefit of the Home.

"The reservoir and sewer system was constructed in 1904, and a boys' dormitory and school building in 1905-06.  Owing to the increasing size of the Home and the necessarily increasing size of the number of employees, a double frame house was purchased in Loysville for $2,000 in 1909, for their accommodation.  The Jacob L. Minich plot of ten acres of fine farm land adjoining the Home, was purchased during the same year, and also a tract of twenty-two acres from John H. Shumaker, for $2,000.

"The Annie L. Lowry Memorial Hospital was erected in 1909, being a gift through her executor, Elwood Bonsall, Esq., of Philadelphia, who donated $8,500 from the residuary funds of her estate under a provision of her will, which directed that such funds be applied to "such charities as he deemed most worthy."  In 1910 a modern system of sewage was installed to replace the old and then obsolete system, at a cost of $1,556.  During 1910 the old hospital was removed to a new location and fitted up for employees of the home, and upon its former site a home for the use of the superintendent was erected at a cost of $4,500.  In 1913 the ice house was built, and in 1914 brick refrigerating rooms of an approved type were installed.

"During 1913-14 the Sharetts Memorial, costing $10,000 was erected by Luther T. and Edward H. Sharetts, of Keymar, Maryland.  It houses the printing department, now grown to considerable size, the gymnasium and the band room.  In 1914 the Emeline Loy Murray Memorial was erected.  It is a one-story brick building, 26x45 feet, being a modern and up-to-date kitchen.  During 1913-14 a deep well was sunk to augment the water supply.

"The year 1914 is important in the life of the Home from another standpoint.  As noted the Home had increased its acreage at various times, but in 1914 the large and fertile Arnold farm adjoining the Home, consisting of 182 acres with farm buildings, and a number of valuable springs, was purchased for $18,225.  Its purchase was made possible through a gift or annuity of $14,000 from Fred and Margaret Mehring, brother and sister, of Keymar, Maryland.

"In 1909 a movement was begun for the installation of electricity for lighting purposes, and in 1910 the Sherman's Valley Electric Light, Heat & Power Company, connected with the institution, was chartered by the commonwealth.  Bear's mill, in Madison Township, had been abandoned some years before for milling purposes.  The mill, with all its water rights, was purchased from Jos. B. Lightner.  The dam was rebuilt of concrete and all the waterways renewed and a new turbine wheel with new electrical outfit placed in the mill, where, since, January, 1910, electric current is made to light the whole institution, also all residences and churches in Loysville.  All industrial operations of the Home are driven by this plant.  It is now planned that in 1921 the power of the Weaver mill will be added to this plant, which will enable the company to give service to Landisburg, Elliottsburg and intervening points as well as serve the growing institution.

"During the spring of 1915 the Bear Mill farm, surrounding the light plant, with a total acreage of 132, of which sixty is in cultivation, was purchased.  Its purchase was not made from the point of desirability in so far as the farm land is concerned, but as an essential to the water-power and the electric plant.  

"On the first day of the year, 1919, the Home got possession of the Weaver mill, an old, well-established and well patronized flour and feed mill, for which $5,000 was paid.  With it was a house, barn and sixteen acres of rough land.  The management foresaw that the capacity of the light plant would soon be overtaxed with only the power from the Bear mill, which was the reason for this purchase.  An additional twenty-eight acres of bottom and adjacent hill lands were purchased for $375, in order to be sure of title to all necessary water rights.  April 1, 1920, the Home paid $4,000 for the David H. Kleckner place, just east of and adjoining the Home buildings, consisting of a house and five acres of land.  It was purchased on account of water rights, as water from the springs on the Mehring addition flowed through it, and for that reason the home was not at liberty to decrease the flow of the stream.  These springs have since been enlarged and connected with the water main and an electric pump installed, and this valuable additional water supply made available for the institution.

"Owing to incapacity it became necessary to replace the sewage plant in 1917 and a new plant of the Imhoff type was installed.  It was built after plans approved by the state and is supposed to endure for a long period of years.  Cement porches were added to the Fritz dormitory in 1918-19, through a bequest of $2,000 from Mrs. Charles S. Weiser, an original member of the Board of Lady Visitors.

"In June, 1919, one of the most modern of all the group of buildings was completed and given over to the Home by the Pittsburgh Synod.  It is known as the Pittsburgh Synodical Dormitory, and is the home of forty boys from eight to twelve years of age.  Its cost, with furnishings, was $20,000.  

"The Home grounds was the scene of much building activity during the summer of 1921.  Among the projects is a large pavilion, seating 1,300 persons, on the campus for out-door entertainments; a second nursery building, by the West Pennsylvania Synod for the home of twenty children from three to six years of age; a dormitory for girls of eight to twelve years, by the Allegheny Synod; a dormitory for forty older boys and a vocational school building, by the East Pennsylvania Synod.  The completion of these projected buildings will see the plans of the present management fairly well through.

"The printing plant at this institution is most complete, having grown from a few fonts of type and a small job press to its present size.  There is printed the Orphans Home Echoes, for which a charge of fifteen cents per year is made, with a price of ten cents per year in clubs.  Its circulation is over 8,000.  For thirty years, or since its beginning in May, 1892, Mr. W. L. Gladfelter has donated all paper used in its publication, which in the past year alone amounted to five tons.  Thirty-three church papers are printed at the plant, most of them being monthlies, and from four to thirty-two pages in size.

"This institution closed its year in June, 1919, with an enrollment of 262, and the year of 1920 with an enrollment of 282, which shows its wonderful growth in taking care of orphan children of the Church since its start with but the small number of eighteen under Rev. Philip Willard in 1869.  During the last year twenty-five boys and twelve girls were sent from the Home, and thirty-five girls and twenty-two boys admitted.  There is always a large waiting list.  The health of the children is unusually good; on only a few occasions in the fifty or more years of its existence have epidemics brought death to the inmates.  The public schools of the surrounding districts have a seven-months' term, while the Home has a nine-month term, with grades from the kindergarten to the third year in high school.  Of the teachers during the 1919-20 session, one was a college graduate, four State Normal graduates, and two held provisional certificates in the county.  Vocal and musical instruction is under the charge of a special teacher.  There is  girls' orchestra and a boys' band, each under the instruction of a tutor.  These musical organizations go on tours and give exhibitions in Lutheran communities.  During 1920 the band was on a lengthy tour to western Pennsylvania.  Religious instruction is a part of the daily program, morning and evening services of a brief nature being conducted as the children sit at table in the dining room.  A Sunday school is conducted in the chapel.  That idleness is detrimental is taught in the Home by assigning to the pupils such tasks as they can perform.  The boys assist in the housekeeping in their own quarters, and with the heavier work about the kitchen, dining room and grounds; with such farm work as they are able, and in the printery and elsewhere.  The girls are employed at the various phases of housework, in the kitchen, dining room, laundry and sewing room.  Plans are being made for vocational training.  The Alumni Association devotes its fund to helping pupils to a higher education.

"The farming operations on the lands belonging to the Home are in themselves no small matter, and it is from them that comes much of the product which sustains it.  The yield of wheat last year was 1,220 bushels; of corn, after filling two 100-ton silos, 4,225 bushels, and of other crops accordingly.  Forty fat hogs were butchered and twenty-two large steers fed and marketed.  Two tractors are used in the cultivation of the lands.  Donations from individuals and the various congregations connected wit the synods supporting the Home are of frequent occurrence and consist of a variety of things from valuable and useful articles down to the smallest things of use in the home.  A modernly equipped dairy furnishes all the milk and butter products from the Home herd.  Not considering the products of the Home it costs about $48,000 annually to sustain the Home.

"In a word we are proud to have within the borders of Perry County this wonderful institution, supported entirely by voluntary contributions.  As a native Perry Countian the author believes that he expresses an opinion that is unanimous.  Children who are deprived of either parent, or of father and mother, are denied or deprived of many of the inherent rights of childhood, and it is into this breach that the Tressler Orphans' Home steps and gives orphan children of Lutheran parents a home, plenty of food for the development of their bodies, proper clothing for their protection, a liberal education and the ability to work.  A nurse is in continual attendance and a physician within a moment's call.  It is a creditable work that has been so successfully conducted for a period of over a half-century by practically two men, Rev. Philip Willard and Charles A. Widle, the present superintendent and one of whom the great Lutheran denomination should be proud."

(The above information was extracted from the book, History of Perry County Pennsylvania; H. H. Hain; Hain-Moore Co.; Harrisburg, Pa.; 1922.  Chapter XVIII.)


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.