The administration of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Orphans’ Home was required to publish a report which was sent to the Governor of Ohio. The usual format was a small booklet which included photographs of the board and superintendent along with a list of the students and other pertinent information which was useful in determining if the administration was doing a good job managing the Home.
The entire operation was under the direction of Superintendent James L. Smith, a retired Colonel who had served in the Civil War.
The facility 110 years ago consisted of 31 Cottage Matrons, two Supply Cottage Matrons and two Assistant Cottage Matrons. A total of 21 teachers provided regular classroom education. This included two teachers who provided education at the high school level. At the end of the calendar year there were 670 children living in the home.
In addition to the usual reading, writing, mathematics and science classes children could participate in music, drawing and penmanship, physical culture and reading. There were two teachers assigned to teach domestic economy, another instructed cooking classes and another cutting a fitting of clothing, Additionally, telegraphy, typing and telegraphy classes were provided for students.
The industries and trades department listed printing, mechanical and electrical engineering, machinist training, engineering and water plumbing and steam fitting. Other skills taught included clothing and dressmaking, baking, shoemaking, farming, woodworking and carpentry and much more. At the high school level bookkeeping was available for those students who were proficient in mathematics.
The campus was quite large with a number of buildings. The administration building had a large dining room attached. There were 20 single cottages, 10 on the East and 10 on the West of the main building. Additionally, there were six double cottages, two schoolhouses, a chapel, armory, hospital and four cottage hospitals.
Other necessary structures included the laundry, industrial buildings, boiler and engine houses, electrical power house, mechanical building,water pumping station, greenhouses, slaughterhouse and a number of farm buildings, including a very large barn.
Expenses for the year included a contract for carrying the mail at $35 per month. The chapel organ was kept in repair at a cost of $50 for the year. Steam and heating coal cost $2.80 per ton. A concrete retaining wall was constructed around McDowell Lake at a cost of $1,288.62 and a local plumber received $1053.98 to install 27 six foot and two 5-foot bath tubs in the cottages.
Fire safety was a primary concern and so interior piping for fire protection was installed along with fire escapes on the administrating building, industrial building and both school houses.
McDowell Lake (long ago filled in) was most useful for swimming in the summer and harvesting ice in the winter. It was a great place to ice skate as well. Many local kids also used the Lake.
When a student attained the age of 14, he or she was expected to select a trade which would be taught during the remainder of the student’s time at the Home. Students who learned trades at the school were very much in demand upon graduation.
The majority of the clothing worn at the Home was manufactured on site by students in the domestic classes and shoes were made and repaired by those who would, upon graduation be proficient in that trade.
The Superintendent was pleased to report that the students were capable of constructing new buildings as well as repairing existing structures. Two wards of the hospital had been “practically rebuilt” by the students who repaired, plastered and painted.
Religious services were held in the Chapel each Sunday with clergymen from the Xenia Ministerial Association providing the services. The United Presbyterian Theological Seminary was located in Xenia at that time so those studying for the ministry provided Sunday school classes in the various cottages.
The Superintendent was responsible for all purchases and accountable for all expenditures. During the year 5337 pounds of starch, 477 pounds of tea, 2921 pounds of mincemeat and 112 pounds of honey were purchased. Other purchases included 35 pounds of yarn, 292 dozen spools of sewing thread, 113 dozen boys stockings and 79 dozen girls stockings. Buttons were purchased by the gross and the boys needed ties and suspenders as well.
Crackers must have been a staple since 13,152 pounds were used in a year along with 8,000 pounds of coffee and 46,337 pounds of granulated sugar. Brown, powdered and cubed sugars were purchased as well.
Then of course, school supplies such as typing paper, notebooks, carbon paper, ink and ink wells and typewriter ribbons were necessary. The complete list of supplies covered several pages, but it was necessary to account for every penny of the State’s money.
The home was indeed a home and a place of education for hundreds of children.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.