What became of orphans, in any town USA, the deprived victims of society, what of their care and welfare? The course of action was showing children love, safety and giving of ourselves as a community. Charles Dickens wrote a novel concerning a certain young man named Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist was born in a workhouse and ultimately sold into apprenticeship to an undertaker. He escaped and lived in the streets as an orphan, only to get mixed up with some unsavory characters. Not all orphans follow that pattern though, and go on to a productive life.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark 9:37, about His love for orphans, saying “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…” John M. Simmons states that – “Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.” Orphans and the marginal of society have been with us for always. I wanted to know more about the historical children’s home in Scioto County. I contacted Rose Mowery to find out and indeed came across a treasure-trove of information. I had the pleasure of visiting – The Hillcrest Children’s Home Museum, 4480 old Scioto Trail – Phone (740) 250-6242. There I learned about the home that located in Wheelersburg and opened its doors on June 15, 1921 to the first 57 of many children who would come to live there. I learned from the curator, Rose Mowery that the children were brought by taxi to the home. The children were lined up in front of the building to have their picture taken after arriving. Rev. Howes was first Superintendent of the home. Their new home being, a 50-room building intended for 100 children, Hillcrest often housed double to triple that number. The extended community supported Hillcrest, providing entertainment, sponsoring activities, and donating presents for the children whose time there left indelible memories. The home closed in 1970 and was razed the following year.
I learned that before Hillcrest, Scioto County’s first Children’s Home was built in Portsmouth circa 1876, on Grant Street property that now is part of Mound Park. It closed in 1921 when Hillcrest Children’s home opened in Wheelersburg. I then thought, since Portsmouth was founded in 1803, what happened to orphaned children of that time period? Had there been another Home for Children before 1876? I wonder?
At the Museum, I looked at the pictures and newspaper clippings from over the years, concerning the Home. I asked Rose questions concerning the everyday routine of the Home. I heard the heartfelt story of a little four year old girl and her sister; who were cast into an environment that was overwhelming and confusing. They arrived at the home in 1964 and for the four year old girl, there for four years and adopted at age 8. The four – year old, who at the time of her arrival was to be the youngest at the home. One fond memory remembered was the kindness showed her and her sister at the Home. I found that the Home did have a variety of activities to nurture the children. The boys at the home belonged to the Boy Scout’s. Children and Staff planted gardens, had holiday celebrations, social events and developed never-ending bonds with one another. Some of those are still strong and enduring to this day. My visit to the Museum was very enjoyable, something that I would encourage everyone to experience. Curator, Rose Mowery is a fountain of knowledge- concerning the Hillcrest Children’s Home experience. You see – Rose was that little four year old girl who went to Hillcrest Children’s Home and lived there for a time.
There are many abandoned children in this present day that need the love that all children deserve. Let’s not let them fall into the clutches of what Oliver Twist experienced. A story of hope, I discovered, was that of Carrie Steele – “Carrie Steele was born into slavery in the United States and orphaned at a young age. After emancipation, she began working as a maid at the Union Railroad Station in downtown Atlanta. There, she discovered that babies and young children were often being abandoned and left at the station. She began to care for these children, selling her house and gathering additional funds from the community to build a home.” Learn more of the adoption process, through funding, ways to provide aid, and other creative ways to care for orphans. Maybe we need another Hillcrest, I don’t know, just saying!
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org