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Children's Home of the City of Wheeling: History of Wheeling City and Ohio County Entry

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▶ Children's Home of the City of Wheeling

-from "History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens," edited and compiled by Hon. Gibson Lamb Cranmer, 1902.

The Children's Home of the City of Wheeling.

It is always interesting to not the beginning of things, more particularly such as conduce to the general welfare and advantage of humanity, hence the inception, growth and history of an institution, which has for its object the promotion of the morals and virtues of society at large, demands and should receive the cordial support and encouragement of the citizens generally.

Such an institution is the Children's Home of the City of Wheeling, which had its origin at a regular meeting of the members of the Young Men's Christian Association of Wheeling, held in their rooms on February 7, 1870, when Rev. S. B. Barnitz submitted the following preamble and resolution, which was adopted:

"Whereas, the Young Men's Christian Association of this city seems not to have before it an object sufficiently definite to enlist the hearty sympathy of our citizens, and whereas, the want of a home for neglected and orphan children is being sorely felt in our community, and the establishment of such a home, a necessity to the moral and religious welfare of hundreds of children who are now growing up in the vice and immorality.

"Therefore, Resolved that a committee of five be appointed to report at our next meeting a plan for the establishment of such an institution with a constitution and by-laws for the government of its managers and such other arrangements as shall at once put it into successful operation." In accordance with the terms of the foregoing preamble and resolution, the following gentlemen were appointed as committee, viz: Rev. S. B. Barnitz, Samuel Laughlin, William B. Simpson, Benjamin Davenport and M. W. Miller, each of whom contributed the sum of $100 toward the furtherance of the work.

At the next regular meeting of the association, the committee, through Benjamin Davenport, Esq., reported that a charter for the institution had been obtained,--that all necessary legislation had been granted, and that on the succeeding day in the afternoon, a public meeting would be held to complete the organization and to put the movement into practical working shape, whereupon T. M. McNeely submitted the following resolutions, which, on motion, were adopted:

"Resolved, That we approve of the report made by the committee and congratulate them upon the work done.

"Resolved, That the committee be continued to represent the association at the meeting of the incorporators, and to report to this association what action it had, at its next meeting."

At the next meeting, which was held on the 21st of March, the committee reported the organization by the incorporators as complete and was discharged with the thanks of the association for the successful consummation of the purpose of the appointment. Subsequently, at a meeting held on the 18th of April, Benjamin Davenport, Esq., made a further report to the effect that the work was progressing finely and that soon a large field of usefulness would be opened.

The committee found a ready response on the part of our citizens and were greatly encouraged in the prosecution of the undertaking, and at a meeting held at the residence of Samuel Laughin, Esq., the members individually pledged themselves for the payment of the rent of a suitable house for the first year. The corporation promptly proceeded to the election of officers and at the same time adopted a constitution and by-laws.

In the meantime a location for the home had been secured on the corner of Market and Seventeenth streets, which was known as the mansion house of James H. Forsyth, Esq., which occupied the site of the present St. John's German Independent Protestant church, of which they took possession on the 1st of April next following.

From the start the wisdom and foresight of the originators of the enterprise were justified as well as demonstrated. The first inmates admitted were a degraded and wretched woman and two destitute children, who were rescued from a condition of abject want and misery.

During the first year 28 children were received and admitted to its shelter and protection.

The experiences of the home during the second year of its existence were gloomy and forbidding in the extreme, and were well calculated to shake the faith of its founders, as a crisis had arisen which for a time seemed to threaten its very existence and destroy its influence for good.

In the beginning of the year it was visited with an epidemic of sickness among its inmates, now increased to 40 in number, with such diseases as smallpox and whooping cough, by one or other of which nearly every member of its community was prostrated. The president of the board was assiduous in his attentions to the inmates in the furnishing of medicines and such necessaries as were deemed essential to the welfare of its occupants. In this trying period the matron, Mrs. Jane Oldham, was fearless and faithful in the discharge of the onerous duties devolving upon her. The directors, though discouraged by the prevailing sickness and the poverty and want which stared them in the face, yet nevertheless had not wholly lost faith in the ultimate success of the experiment. At the beginning of the month of March, 1872, the institution was indebted for household supplies and expenses in the sum of $1,000. The prospect at this time was a dreary one, and was made more so by the additional fact that, with a dependent family of 32 helpless children, there was a strong probability that they would have to vacate the premises, and be turned out of doors on the approaching first day of April.

But by the persistent and indefatigable efforts of the board of directors and the blessings of Providence, the dark cloud which threatened the future of its existence was dissipated and light shone through the lurid surroundings. A subscription paper was started for the purchase of an eligible site for a permanent home, to which the following gentlemen contributed the sums affixed opposite their respective names, viz: D. C. List, $1,000; J. L. Hobbs, $1,000; W. B. Simpson, $1,000; H. K. List, $1,000; J. L. Stifel, $1,000; Samuel Laughlin, $500; A. G. Robinson, $500; Robert Gibson, $500; J. N. Vance, $500; W. L. Hearne, $500; S. H. Woodward, $500; S. McClellan, $500; C. Oghbay, $500; L. S. Delaplain, $500; and Henry Wallace, $500,--the whole amounting to the sum of $10,000.

These gentlemen purchased the property situated on the corner of Thirteenth and Jacob streets, in the city of Wheeling, for the sum of $6,000. With the remaining $4,00 they enlarged and repaired the same and it was conveyed to D. C. list, as trustee, for the benefit of the Children's Home. This property was occupied by it on the first day May, 1872, and was formally transferred to the corporation, March 222, 1882, and is owned by the home, free of debt. The first matron of the home was Mrs. Jane Oldham and was succeeded in that position by Mrs. M. D. Boyd, Miss Maggie Glenn acted as teacher.

The incorporators of the institution, at a meeting held on the 8th of March, 1870, elected the following persons as officers for the ensuing year, viz: President, Chester D. Hubbard; 1st vice-president, John L. Hobbs; 2nd vice-president, James Paull; secretary, S. P. Hildreth; treasurer, Thomas Hornbrook. Board of directors; Rev. S. B. Barnitz, W. B. Simpson, Samuel Laughlin and Benjamin Davenport. Board of lady managers: Mrs. Daniel C. List, Mrs. L. A. Hagans, Mrs. Robert Morrison, Mrs. W. F. Butler, Mrs. J. R. Dickey, Mrs. J. L. Hobbs, Mrs. J. R. Greer, Mrs. E. Stewart, Mrs. M. L. Todd, Mrs. George W. Franzheim, Mrs. S. B. Barnitz, Mrs. J. N. Vance, Miss Amelia Nelson, Miss Rowley and Miss Maggie Ott. Of the lady managers, Mrs. L. A. Hagans was elected president; Mrs. J. N. Vance, vice-president; Mrs. W. F. Butler, treasurer; Miss Maggie Ott, recording secretary; Miss Amelia Nelson corresponding secretary; and Mrs. Jane Oldham, matron.

About the time of its settlement in its permanent home an endowment fund was started which, by liberal donations and bequests, made from time to time, has increased until it has now reached to an encouraging amount, of which neither principal nor interest has been used, but is sacredly devoted to the purpose and wishes of the donors and devisors to the permanence and welfare of the home throughout all coming time. The aim is to increase the accumulations of this fund until an ample amount is secured, when its charitable influences and usefulness can be more widely extended. The economical and conservative manner in which the home has been conducted in its past history gives assurance of what may be looked for in the future and should recommend the growth of this endowment fund to such as have been blessed with means by a kind Providence, and the object should commend itself to them that they might remember it by gift or legacy; as it derives no revenue from taking children to board, nor does it receive aid or support from municipal taxes or funds, but is wholly dependent for its support upon the kindly sympathy and generous liberality of such as are charitably disposed, to whom heretofore they have never appealed in vain.

The exact number of children admitted during the last thirty years can not be arrived at with accuracy from the fact that the records kept by the lady managers during the first seven years of the existence of the home were unfortunately consumed in the fire which destroyed the Grant House, April 30, 1877. Owing to its present limited capacity no more than 30 at one time can be provided for in the home, but with the completion of the new building now in course of construction this number can be largely increased.

During the thirty years of the existence of the home, not less than 500 children have been provided with suitable and comfortable homes, thus averaging per year over 16 children who have been thus provided for. Many gratifying letters have been received from time to time from foster parents and guardians who have these children in charge, expressive of their appreciation of their acquisition of these little ones, who in many instances have taken the place of beloved children parted from their parents by death. And in many instances when death has taken the adopted child, the stroke has been felt almost as keenly as if the child so taken was their own natural born off-spring.

The greatest precautions are taken by the board of lady managers, and especially by those who are members of the binding committee, as to the welfare and comfort of the children sent out under the beneficent influence of the institution, as each person supplying for and adopting a child is required to furnish unquestioned references as to competency and character, and to enter into a bond with good and sufficient security in the sum of $1,000, conditioned for the faithful performance of duty. The following is a summary of the number and disposition of the children received into the home during the thirty years of its existence, and has been kindly furnished by Mrs. J. J. Jones, chairman of the binding committee: Of this number of 500 children there are now 23 in the home at the present time. There have been sent out to homes during that time, generally to places in the country, 261 children; returned to parents or other relatives, 189; placed in reformatory institutions (3 boys, 2 girls), 5; transferred to other children's homes (boys), 2; died while in the home (3 boys, 6 girls), 9; retained in the home until of legal age (1 boy, 2 girls) 3; ran away and were not brought back, 3.

Of the children returned to parents or other relatives some were only in a home a short time, while others were kept weeks and months before the relatives could give the management satisfactory evidence that they could keep them comfortably and send them to school. Of the boys who ran away at different times, they were boys for whom we failed to secure homes and in most instances were large enough "to earn a living and fretted at the restraint of the home discipline, so for the good of the home they were not, after the second or third offense, brought back.

Of the children placed in different homes, throughout the state, 16 have died, --eight boys and eight girls. Two of the girls had married, one of whom left three little children, the other girl died soon after her marriage. One of the boys was drowned, one killed by a falling tee, and one, who was learning to be a railroad engineer, was killed by being struck by an engine, --he was about twenty-four years old at the time of his death, and was married.

At the annual meeting of the board of directors, held June 9, 1900, the following officers were elected: W. B. Simpson, president; G. L. Cranmer, first vice-president; Myron Hubbard, second vice-president; John C. Lynch, secretary; John K. List, treasurer. Board of directors: W. B. Simpson, G. L. Cranmer, B. W. Peterson, George A. Laughlin, A. L. White, John C. Lynch, Myron Hubbard, W. A. List, J. J. Jones, Dr. R. H. Bullard, John K. List. Officers of the board of lady managers: Mrs. J. C. Hupp, president; Miss Laura Lawson, secretary; Mrs. J. J. Jones, corresponding secretary. Members of the board of lady managers: Mrs. John Frew, Mrs. Guy R. C. Allen, Mrs. Anne Morris, Mrs. John C. Lynch, Mrs. R. Harden, Mrs. B. W. Peterson, Mrs. George Kurner, Mrs. George E. Stifel, Mrs. Louis White, Mrs. Walker Frissell, Mrs. S. P. Laughlin, Mrs. A. J. Brown, Mrs. B. F. Gatch, Miss Amanda List, Miss Mary McKee, Miss Jennie Wise, Miss Hettie M. List, Miss Kate Allison, Mrs. John Moffat.

The following have been presidents of the home: Rev. S. B. Barnitz, D. D., now of Des Moines, Iowa; Rev. W. B. Thompson, now of Detroit, Michigan; Rev. E. H. Dornblaser, now of Springfield, Ohio, and Henry K. List, of Wheeling, until his death in May, 1900.

Presidents of board of lady managers: Mrs. L. A. Hagans, to the year 1872; Mrs. W. F. Butler, to the year 1879; Mrs. J. P. Harden, to the year 1888; Mrs. J. C. Hupp, to date.

Matrons of the Home: Mrs. Jane Oldham, Mrs. M. D. Boyd, Mrs. Josephine E. Northrop, Mrs. M. A. Eoff, Miss Louisa Forney, deceased, Miss Lizzie Forney at the present time.

At a meeting of the board held September 6, 1900, the building committee reported that they had purchased the McCrumm property, in Woodsdale, about two miles distant from the city, easily accessible by the motor line or by carriage and other vehicles, the purchase having been made in accordance with a resolution of the board held on March 5, 1901, both plans and bids were submitted for the erection of the new building, which we unanimously approved. The gross sum for the new building was not to exceed the sum of $30,000 when complete. The building is to be ready for occupancy by the first day of December, 1901. A committee consisting of Messrs. Laughlin, White and Lynch were appointed to arrange a programme for the laying of the corner stone to take place on Monday, June 24, 1901, and the ceremonies attendant thereon.

In the death of Louis C. Stifel, a member of the board of directors and secretary of the board for twenty years, which was so sudden and unexpected that not only was the board called upon to mourn the death of a faithful and devoted member who had the interests of the home at heart, but the entire community realized that they had lost and honorable citizen and upright man whose place would be hard to fill. At the time of the happening of the accident which resulted in his death, he was in the full vigor of manhood and a bright future seemed to be before him. Modes and unassuming in nature, he was warm-hearted and liberal and the home had no warmer friend.

In May, 1900, the board and the community was called upon to mourn the loss of the president of the Home, Henry K. List. He was elected president of the home July 13, 1880, which office was continuously held by him from that time up to the time of his death. In him the board lost not alone a wise counselor and earnest officer, but one who contributed by his labor and means to the best interests and welfare of the home.

The loss of two such noble, worthy and disinterested men produced a shock the effect of which will not be recovered from for years to come. Each erected to themselves monuments more enduring than these of brass or marble, for good deed never die, their influence being felt and recognized not alone in Time, but throughout the ages of Eternity.

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