Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home, Xenia, Ohio

The stereoscopic view at left is of children playing on the lawn before one of the cottages at the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home in Xenia, Ohio. The image, one of a series, was given to Lucy Webb Hayes, who was instrumental in rasing funds to establish and support the orphanage.

The Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans' organization of Union soldiers who fought in the American Civil War, established the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home in Xenia, Ohio in 1869. GAR officials rented a two-story building, where some 50 children were housed.

Initially, children whose fathers had died in the Civil War or as a result of service-related wounds or disabilities were accepted. The need was so great that the city of Xenia donated more than 100 acres outside the city to establish a larger orphanage. A committee petitioned Ohio's General Assembly to assume control of the orphanage. In April 1870, the orphanage officially became an institution of the state of Ohio. That summer, the orphanage was moved to the land outside Xenia.

The first board members (1870 - 1874) were General Ralph P. Buckland, of Fremont; General James Barnett; General J. Warren Keifer; Barnabas Burns; General Manning F. Force; head of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Sandusky; General John S. Jones; and A. Trader.

Originally, the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home provided Ohio children who had lost their father in the American Civil War with a place to live. Eventually, the State of Ohio opened the institution to orphans of all military conflicts and the children of all veterans, including ones who had not died on the battlefield. In some cases, the children of a living veteran and/or his spouse, who were suffering financial difficulties could leave their children at the home. In 1901, more than 900 children resided at the institution. It was the largest institution of its kind in the world.

Children lived in cottages like the one featured in the image above. They received a traditional education and manual training. In 1978, the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home became known as the Ohio Veterans' Children's Home. In 1997, the Ohio Veterans' Children's Home ceased operation. More than 13,500 children had been cared for and educated. The Greene County Library maintains an online database of "Applications for Admission" to the home from 1877 - 1919.

As early as 1881, the Association of Ex-Pupils was formed. Members consist of former pupils of the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home or of the Ohio Veterans' Children's Home. You can read a 1901 article from the institution's newspaper, the "Home Weekly", reporting on some of the former pupils. For pictures of the home from 1901, follow this link to those displayed on Ohio Memory.

Each year, the association holds a three-day reunion on the former site of the home. They also operate a museum and have worked to improve the care of the Collier Chapel Cemetery. In 1963, a history, titled Pride of Ohio: The History of the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home at Xenia, Ohio, 1868-1963, was published. The association is now in the process of publishing a second history due out this year.

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