Knightstown Soldier's and Sailor's Orphans' Home
W. C Banta, Martinsville Republican
February 8, 1889
In this article Martinsville Republican correspondent W. C. Banta describes his visit to the Knightstown Soldier's and Sailor's Orphan's Home in February of 1889. The Home was first established in 1866 as a home for disabled soldiers of the civil war.
The Home is located at what used to be known as the Knightstown Springs, and a very beautiful and healthy place it is. The new building erected on the same ground as the old one that was destroyed by fire…is completed, and is a grand building, sufficient to accommodate about 400 person. In this building are rooms for the officers and their families, governess and teachers, division rooms, dormitories, cooking and dining room, libraries, bathrooms, etc., together with a large hall just over the dining room, called "amusement hall."
Just south of this building is now completed a large brick building for schoolrooms and a chapel. East of the main building are two large brick buildings, for workshops, laundry rooms, printing office, etc. These buildings have been built by the State at the cost of about $100,000 as a donation, together with an appropriation of nearly $40,000 per year for the expense of the institution. There are now in the home 343 orphan children, about as many as the Home will accommodate comfortably. An effort is now being made with the present legislature for an appropriation of $60,000 to erect a building for a hospital, cook and dining room building, and six nice cottages that will accommodate forty children to a cottage, increasing the capacity to 600, and this will be occupied before many months pass. There are already quite a number of applications for admission before the board, and are coming in every month at an increasing rate. The effort of the G. A. R. Post all over the State, take all of the soldier's orphans out of the poor houses and asylum, and place them in this Home, is indeed commendable work---the value which will be seen for generations to come.
There are about 60 persons engaged in different departments of the Home to care for, instruct, govern and look after the comfort of these 340 orphans---in all about 400 persons at the Home. The officers are, A. H. Morris, superintendent; Mrs. J. R. Wood, matron; W. H. Lester, financial officer; O. E. Holloway, physician; seven teachers in the school; nine governesses; fifteen heads of departments with about twenty-five other helpers. Professor Butler is teacher for the band and Mrs. Evans is hospital matron.
I was truly gratified to see such a great change in the affairs of the Home, the comforts, brightness, the happy faces, and encouragement in all directions, from managers, teachers, helpers and the children, that the occupancy of their new building has occasioned. Every movement seemed to be on time, and the entire management run like clock work, entered into by all with a hearty goodwill that was, indeed, commendable. There was an expression of gratefulness, happiness and thanks in the faces of the orphans, that I had not witnessed before. I stood in the door of the superintendent's room and watched the divisions in charge of its governess, march past, as well clothed, with clean, bright faces, two by two with the steps of their soldier fathers, "Tramp, tramp," the orphans are marching to the dining room, surrounding tables, laden with roast beef, mashed potatoes, stewed beans, bread and butter, pickles and pie.
I stood at the head table after all were in place, everything nice and quite. One tap of the little bell and all are seated on their stools, again the bell sounds and all heads bow, another tap on the bell and 340 voices in audible concert, respond in thanks to the Great Father of all for his manifestation of goodness, and His remembrance of the poor orphan.
The hearty eating, the smacking of the lips and the joy and happiness expressed in the brightness and twinkle of the eye, and smile of the face, would make the heart of the miser leap with joy, could he realize that he had contributed even ever so little to dispense such great good.
Surely there is no more a nobler offering of thanks to the Great Ruler of destinies, for our prosperity than a home, carrying with it all that word means, for the orphans, of those who gave up their lives in defense of their country and left their dear ones to the mercy of the people.
The children are kept in the Home until they are sixteen years old, or until good homes are found for them; When they reach thirteen years of age, they are allowed to select, and are taught some trade, printing, shoemaking, tailoring, farming, meat cutting, dress making, engineering, gardening, carpentry, bakery, florist, laundry, telegraphing, shorthand, cooking, sewing, in fact, every calling to prepare the orphans for usefulness in the future, and make useful citizens and not tramps and beggars.
I was very grateful and very thankful, too, for the pleasant greeting, kind treatment and willingness to assist me in my investigations, given me by the Superintendent A. H. Morris and lady, Financial Officer W. H. Lester, Matron Mrs. J. P. Woods, Physician in charge O. E. Holloway and Hospital Matron Mrs. Lou Evans. I want to say, for them, that I am satisfied that their hearts are in their work, and they are trying to do all in their power for the good of the Home, the benefit of the orphans, and the protection of the State against unnecessary expense.
I do hope our legislators will look kindly into this enterprise and favor us with the appropriation asked for, and the Knightstown Soldier's and Sailor's Orphan's Home, of Indiana will become a home that the great dispenser of good, will smile upon, and the people of the State of Indiana will be justly proud of.
W. C. Banta