"Who helps a child helps humanity." To provide for the bodily needs, mental training and heart culture of poor, neglected and homeless children is one of the great practical expressions of modern Christianity.
The Children's Home of the City of Wheeling came into being to minister to the orphaned, the destitute and the unfortunate. For thirty-four years it has been a messenger of love and pity and help. Hundreds of children have been reclaimed from conditions of degradation and want to be trained and educated and inspired with noble ambitions. The lessons taught and the good seed sown have yielded a rich reward. Many of these little ones have passed from the Home into good families and have proved a blessing to the homes and hearts opened to them.
As a moral and economic measure the Children's Home has promoted the public good. it has touched the city problem at a most vital point by extending a hand of mercy to a class of children that become, if neglected, a dangerous element in society. An intimate relation exists between bad environment and bad morals. Ignorant and vicious children, exposed to every influence, gradually grow into petty crimes, vice, intemperance and pauperism. But removed from their debasing surroundings and placed under good influence while their minds are plastic they are saved from becoming criminals and grow up to true manhood and womanhood.
This work of extending a helping hand to needy children touches a tender chord in the human heart. Without even an advocate it appeals strongly to common humanity.
At a regular business meeting of the members of the Young Men's Christian Association, held in their rooms on the evening of February 7, 1870 - a time when that Association had no clearly defined policy and when its work was indefinite in character - Rev. S. B. Barnitz, pastor of the First English Lutheran Church and an active worker in the Association, submitted the following preamble and resolution:
"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 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."
The foregoing preamble and resolution was adopted, and Joseph Willetts, President, appointed the following committee: S. B. Barnitz, Samuel Laughliin, Wm. B. Simpson, Benjamin Davenport and M. W. Miller. This committee continued to represent the Association until proper legislation was enacted, a charter obtained and theHome fully established.
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The late Horace Mann, the eminent educator, in delivering an address at the opening of a reformatory institution, remarked that if only one boy was saved from ruin, it would pay for all the cost and care and labor of establishing such an institution. After the exercises had closed a gentleman privately rallied Mr. Mann upon his statement, and said to him: "Did you not color that a little when you said that all that expense and labor would be repaid if it only saved one boy?" "Not if it were my boy, was the solemn and convincing reply.
Those who rightly estimate the value of a human life will not question that all the cost and care and labor of establishing and maintaining the Children's Home of the City of Wheeling has been amply repaid. During the years of its existence it has been fulfilling its noble mission of rescuing helpless, hopeless, suffering little children, alleviating their temporal condition and meeting the demands of their eternal interests.
Children between the ages of two and twelve years, from the city of Wheeling and the county of Ohio, whose parents or relations are willing to give up all claim to them, are received into the Home. Sad circumstances that are hard to believe exist in a Christian community attend nearly every case admitted. Many a pathetic story of terrible cruelty, shameful neglect and appalling destitution could be related. Ill-fed, ragged and dirty children, with marks of cruelty set deep upon them; children whose fathers were drunken or dead, whose mothers were wretchedly bad and who lived in misery, amid corrupting influences, have been reclaimed by the Home and released from the hardships and poverty to which they had been subjected.
Cases brought to the attention of the managers often fill their hearts with sadness and their eyes with tears. Squalid homes, homes in name only, are visited and efforts made to persuade dissolute and cruel parents to give their children to the Home, where they would receive much better care and training than they were getting. Children from such places are not infrequently committed to the Home by the County Court.
But not all of the little ones received are utterly friendless or ill-treated. Not a few are from the households of honorable poverty. Poor mothers, worthy women, are often left to struggle in vain to support their families. After trying by every honest means to provide for their daily needs they place the children they love in the Home rather than see them suffer for proper food or have them neglected when obliged to go out to work. Fathers are sometimes more distressed than mothers when left with helpless little ones. They are able to provide for their bodily needs, but having no one to care for them turn in despair to the Home.
Bright, healthy boys and girls of pure and faithful, but unfortunate, parents, are resigned to the care of the Home as well as hard-visaged, unkempt and unlovely children of sin and woe. The following are specimen cases and man such could be given:
A bright little boy of three years was entered by his mother, who appeared to love him tenderly, but could not obtain employment as a domestic while cumbered with the care of him. The father had left home two years before in search of work and was supposed to have been killed.
A mother placed two innocent children in the Home. Her husband was dead and she had struggled for two years to support herself and her children, hoping soon to have the assistance of her oldest son, but he turned out badly and became a source of greater trouble instead of comfort.
A half-famished, half-naked mite of a boy, who had not where to lay his head, was found. Upon investigation it was discovered that his parents were dead and that he had run away from a relative who had treated him cruelly. The relative showed great willingness to resign him to the Home.
A little girl not quite six years old was rescued from a pitiable condition. She had been placed by her unnatural father under the care of a woman who kept a house for immoral purposes. The managers hearing of this investigated the case, and the Court, upon proper evidence, committed the child to the Home.
Twin brothers were admitted. One had previously been in the Home for a short time. Their parents died, leaving them homeless and friendless. Knowing the Children's Home they walked a distance of thirty-three miles to reach it.
All the interests of the Home are closely watched, and the needs and comforts of the children carefully looked after each day. It is gratifying to see how quickly the changed moral and physical environments bring color into wan cheeks, new life into shrunken and starved frames and smiles of satisfaction to little faces that show contentment with their new surroundings.
It the purpose to give these little ones the same comforts and enjoyments that children ordinarily have in a well-regulated family. Their clothing is sufficient and the food is of good quality and well prepared. They are given time and opportunity for play as well as for instruction. Those of proper age attended the Third ward public school during all the time the Home was located at Thirteenth and Jacob streets, and their scholarship was alike creditable to the children and their teachers. Since its removal to the country the school has been held in the building, which has been found to be of great advantage. There not being room in the Leatherwood school house to accommodate the children of the Home, in addition to those of the village, the school commissioners furnish a teacher, while the Home provides a room in the building. The Home is fortunate in having as teacher Mrs. Bessie Williams, who works conscientiously and devotedly and her interest in the children is shown by their gratifying progress.
Every effort is made to instill in the minds of the children a sense of right and wrong and the principles or morality, integrity and goodness. The older ones are usually taken to one of the churches Sabbath morning. During the thirty-two years that the Home was in the city the First English Lutheran Sunday school was attended, and since occupying the new building at Woodsdale the children attend the Vance Memorial Presbyterian school.
The general healthfulness of the Home family has been remarkably good. Careful nursing is given in case of sickness, and every effort is made to avoid contagion.
The entertainments and outings of the Home are a source of joy and happiness. An annual picnic is held at Wheeling Park and the children are given a free ride over the Wheeling and Elm Grove road and the privileges of the Park. The rides on the merry-go-round, the swings, the sports and the big dinner under the trees combines to give an all-round good time. Other picnics, trolley rides and outings are given in the summer that prove a lasting pleasure. In the winter entertainments of songs and speeches contribute to their enjoyment, and holidays are made eventful by the kindness of friends. On the Fourth of July they have fireworks, and at the glad Easter season they are remembered with colored eggs and candy rabbits. On Thanksgiving, when family reunions are taking place and family dinners are being enjoyed, there is always good cheer and happiness at the Home. The children have a bountiful dinner peculiar to the day. This has long been provided by the Lady Managers and consists of all the good things from turkey to ice cream.
Christmas, the anniversary of Him who said "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," is a day so joyous that it lives among their most cherished memories. Each child is told in advance to make a list for Santa Claus. The desires are many and the lists comprise dolls and books, candy and fruits and toys of all descriptions. These, with the tree and the general Christmas joys, make a happy lot of children.
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By the persistent and indefatigable efforts of the Board of Directors, and the blessings of a kind Providence, the embarrassing conditions were overcome. A subscription was started tp purchase property for a permanent home and the following gentlemen contributed the needed amount: J. L. Stifel, D. C. List, J. L. Hobbs, Wm. B. Simpson, H. K. List, each $1,000,00, and Samuel Laughlin, A. G. Robinson, Robert Gibson, J. N. Vance, W. L. Hearne, S. H. Woodward, SamuelMcClellan, Crispin Oglebay, L. S. Delaplain and Henry Wallace, each $500.00.
The property situated on the northwest corner of Thirteenth and Jacob streets was purchased for $6,000.00, and the remaining $4,000.00 was used in enlarging and repairing the building. The property was conveyed to D. C. List, Sr., as trustee, for the benefit of the Children's Home, and was formally transferred to the corporation March 22, 1882.
Several of the churches of the city assisted in furnishing the building, and it was occupied by the Home on the first day of May, 1872.
Here for three decades the work of The Children's Home of the City of Wheeling was quietly and unostentatiously, yet effectively and successfully carried on. Sheltering arms were ever extended to the orphan and destitute. An average of from twenty to twenty-five children were daily cared for; the maximum number that could be accommodated being thirty. It is difficult to portray such work by facts and figures. To tabulate results is impossible, but there is tangible evidence of much good accomplished. None but the Heavenly Father can rightly estimate the real good done, the misery averted and the happiness begotten in that old building.
After the new building at Woodsdale was occupied the property in the city was sold.
May 24, 1898, marked an important period in the history of the Home. One that day the first definite steps were taken toward securing a new building suited to the purposes of the institution, which was a long cherished desire; a long-felt and pressing need. At a meeting of the Board of Directors a resolution was adopted authorizing the appointment of a committee to consider the advisability of erecting a building. This committee soon reported that it seemed wise to build, and a committee was appointed, vested with full power to make all necessary arrangements for the new building and proceed with its erection and equipment. The building Committee was organized March 20, 1899. Several changes were made later in the personnel. The active members were Wm. B. Simpson, chairman; John C. Lynch, secretary; B. W. Peterson, W. A. List and D. C. List, Jr. The committee proceeded to get information about modern buildings of similar institutions and engaged the firm of Giesey & Faris as architects. Perplexing difficulties were encountered in deciding on a location, and much time was spent in considering and inspecting numerous sites both in the city and in the country. The Board of Lady Managers having been asked to express their desire as to the location voted unanimously in favor of the country. A location at Woodsdale was finally agreed upon, and the committee was authorized by the Board of Directors to make the purchase of a parcel of ground. Later an additional piece was secured.
Ground was broken Thursday, March 28, 1901, and work on the building commenced. W. A. Wilson & Sons were the general contractors. The corner stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies on Thursday afternoon, June 27, 1901. The building was occupied Monday, April 28, 1902. The cost of the ground was $6,050.00 and of the building $36,450.00, making a total of $42,500.00. The building is located at Woodsdale, two miles east of the city and about three minutes' walk from the Leatherwood station on the Wheeling and Elm Grove electric line. It occupies a commanding position on a tract of more than three and one-half acres of ground, graded and terraced in front and sloping upward in the rear. The building fronts 111 feet, and is of attractive exterior. The underpinning is of stone and the superstructure of buff colored brick, with Cleveland stone and terra cotta trimmings. The roof is broken with dormer windows and covered with black slate. A brick porch nine feet wide extends about two-thirds across the front of the building.
The cellar, under the entire building, contains laundry, bake oven, furnace room, ample storage and play room.
There are three entrances to the front of the building; one at either end and the main entrance in the centre. This opens into a hall ten feet wide, which is intersected by a hall of the same width extending the entire length of the building. At each end of this hall is a wide oak stairway. To the left of the main entrance is a reception room, which opens into the parlor or Lady Managers' room. These rooms are separated with double sliding doors. To the right of the entrance is Matron's room, and connected with it is the children's play room or chapel, 25 by 35 feet. The dining room, across the hall, is the same size. This is separated from the kitchen by the pantry. One the second floor the corridor corresponds with the one on the floor below. The boys' dormitory is on the north corner front and the girls' dormitory is at the same end of the building back. Bath and locker rooms connect with these. There are also rooms for attendants. Matron's bed room, sewing and storage rooms and linen closets on this floor. On the third floor is the school room, 25 by 25 feet, well ventilated and completely furnished. There is also a room of ample dimensions for storage and a servants' room. On the south corner of this floor is the contagious ward, and on the north corner front is the Oglebay memorial ward, each with bath rooms. The ward for sick children was fitted up by Mr. Earl W. Oglebay as a memorial to his mother, Mrs. Caroline Scott Oglebay. This carries with it a touching memory of one who in the early days of Home was ever on the alert for its welfare and support. The ward is completely equipped with all necessary modern appliances for hospital use.
All the main partition walls are built of brick. The floors throughout are maple. The inside wood work is finished in its natural state. The building is heated by steam, and the main rooms are provided with mantels and fire places.
The building is well planned, not only for its present use, but with a view to future enlargement of the work. The construction was done with thoroughness and as great economy as possible, and in point of beauty and character the edifice is one to be proud of. It is destined to be productive of great and enduring good to the community and to humanity.