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The Confederate Orphans' Home

 

The Confederate Orphans' Home of Mississippi

A Lauderdale County Web Exclusive
by Bill White

In it's first session following the War for Southern Independence, the Mississippi Baptist Convention considered the devastation brought upon the state by the recent hostilities. Not only had the "search and destroy" tactics employed by the Yankees virtually destroyed many parts of the state reducing to ash not only government facilities but homes, farms and warehouses used by the general population, but it had also ravaged the population of parents, both male and female, who left behind many dependant children.

Government estimates set the nationwide count for the number of women widowed as a result of the Civil War at 200,000. The estimate for the number of children who lost one or both parents during the war was determined to be approximately 400,000. In East Mississippi alone, according to the Reverend Dr. T. C. Teasdale (published in the New York Times on 2 March 1866) the number of orphans was approximately 10,000.

In this first post-war session the Mississippi Baptist Convention determined that it could best help the people by offering care to the many eastern Mississippi orphans and set about locating facilities and developing funding for the effort.

A Board of Trustees was appointed for the project and Rev. T. C. Teasdale was appointed agent for the organization. He traveled through the northern and western states and was able to obtain funding for the purchase of an eastern Mississippi location for the Children's Home. The property located at Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi was a former resort hotel prior to the war and housed portions of the Lauderdale Springs Confederate hospital during the war.

Professor Simeon Sebastian Granberry, formerly of Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi, was elected first Superintendent and charged with the task of organizing and carrying on the work of the Home. Professor Granberry was an experienced educator, a capable administrator and "a refined Christian gentleman, admirably fitted for the work of caring for and directing the efforts of women and helpless children. "According to the article "The Confederate Orphans' Home" by Mary J. Welsh [see below]).

Dr. Sidney Kennedy, of Lauderdale Station was hired as the resident physician.

The Children's Home opened late in the summer of 1866 and was immediately besieged by applicants. Orphans frequently just showed up at the doors of the institution without any warning at all. The initial enrollment of fifty jumped immediately to over two hundred in the course of a few months.

The residents were accepted from ages six to sixteen. Six was selected as the lower limit because the staffing did not permit the intense effort needed to attend to younger children and infants. However, occasionally exceptions were made depending on the circumstances and the availability of older children to assist in the care of infants.

The school at the home was in session year round and all residents were required to attend classes except for the week of Christmas and short periods during the remainder of the year.

The orphans were also required to work on projects befitting to their ages. Older boys helped with the maintenance of the building and grounds and managed the gardens where much of the food consumed by the orphans was grown, while older girls helped with the care and training of the younger children and assisted in the kitchens and school.

The school also published a semi-monthly newsletter called the Orphans' Home Banner and, about 1870 formed a concert band and chorus that traveled the country making appearances and generating contributions to the home.

Late in 1869, the orphanage was notified that because of legal problems with the title of the land, they must surrender the building and property at Lauderdale Springs to the heirs of the original owner. Fortunately, at the end of the war, the Federal government had built a nearby barracks to house the Federal militia charged with the preservation of law and order in the area. When the facility was abandon by the government, it was purchased by the Quakers who set about the work of educating the children of the recently freed slaves in the area. About the same time that the Children's Home was required to vacate the property, the Quakers decided to abandon the school and made that location available to the orphans.

On January 13, 1871, Superintendent, Prof. S. S. Granberry, died. His health had been on the decline but his loss was nonetheless a great tragedy to the orphanage. A secession of Superintendents followed in short order including many well known and important men of the era. However, in 1878 the home had lived out it's useful life. Many of the war time orphans had reached the age of maturity and moved out to start their own lives and the numbers of incoming children had been in the decline for a number of years.

At that time the orphanage closed it's doors and the property was sold to a private individual.

Nearly a hundred years after the closing of the Confederate Orphan's Home at Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi, a sole surviving copy of the orphanages' newsletter "The Orphans' Home Banner" surfaced. It was tattered and torn, obviously well read in its time and repaired with tape that had discolored over the years obscuring some of the underlying information.

However, "The Orphans' Home Banner: February 15, 1871 Number 3" still contained much discernable information of the time. The document was studied by Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History Volunteer Berdie Mae Rogers. Her abstract of the document is published by the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History in book (pamphlet) form along with other interesting stories, entitled "Bits and Pieces, Volume I, Studies in Lauderdale Counties Lore by Jim Dawson.

Mrs. Rogers work has helped to preserve this last remaining piece of history.  The "Banner" included stories called "Prodigals", "Mourning", "Orphans' Home", "Discourse on the Death of Superintendent S. S. Granberry", the February, 1871 Treasurer's Report and assorted advertising notes. There is also an interesting article, written by the children about the long walk from the old home west of the railroad to the new home on the eastern side of the tracks. It is well worth reading to those interested in Lauderdale County history and can be obtained from the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History.

Also included with this story, is an abstract from the 1870 Federal Census of Lauderdale County listing the names of Rev. Granberry's household as well as the names of the two hundred or so residents of the home.

On the following page is the list of the staff, faculty, and residents of the Confederate Orphans Home.  To visit the page, please click on the following link.

Confederate Orphans Home Listing.

The Confederate Orphans' Home of Mississippi, as published here, was based on the writings of Miss Mary J. Welsh. Her article "The Confederate Orphans' Home of Mississippi" was published in the Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society Volume VIII, Oxford, Mississippi, 1904, page 121. This document is freely available online at Google Books or other popular book search engines or you many download and read the complete document below.

Click to Download The Confederate Orphans' Home of Mississippi Article.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the "Bits and Pieces, Volume I, Studies in Lauderdale County Lore" by Jim Dawson, it is available though the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History and can be obtained through their web site at:

The Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History Web Site

Page Last Updated:   Friday, 21 July 2017

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