The Home for Orphan & Friendless Children at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

Located on 18th Street, on the Juniata College campus, until June 1929, when the entire operation was moved to 1903 Moore Street, the former home of J.H. Cassady, now known as Swigart Hall.

Watercolors by David Emmert of the early homes occupied by the children

The Orphans Home was founded in 1881 by David Emmert, an art teacher at the Brethren’s Normal College (now Juniata College.) The Home operated on what came to be known as the Huntingdon Plan, which actively sought foster and adoptive homes for the children it cared for. The operation of the Home was supported by contributions from churches and the community and was administered by a board of community citizens. The Home’s work was taken over in the 1930’s or early 1940’s by the State agency for Children and Youth Services. [See below for Emmert’s account of the school’s early days.]

Ongoing research is bringing more information to light concerning the Orphans Home and its youthful residents. Stay tuned as more material is being added frequently.

Documents from the Early Years

An appeal for funds for the Orphans Home

The Orphans Home's financial report for its first five years

The contribution envelope

Orphans Home Residents
Transcribed from Federal Census records by Nancy S. Shedd
It should be noted that some of the names were hard to decipher. There are almost certainly errors in spelling in the lists that follow.

Emmert, Jesse B. 26 Supt.
Newcomer, Emma 45 Matron
Dilling, Sue 28 Asst. Matron

Children: 19
Bebee, Roy 7
Crownover, Austin 4
Grove, Harry 7
Geissinger, David 4
Harshbarger, Paul 2
Lowe, Herman 6
Livingood, Elmer 11
Nash, Earl 7
Peterson, Charles 2
Rinker, George 4
Ratterford, William 10
Montgomery, Steven 10
Livingood, Mary 4
Peterson, Naomi 9
Lotta, Verna 10
Binker, Pearl 11
Keith, Sarah 11
Gearring, Thomas [can’t read it]
Nash, Frank 10

Keeny, Emma 52 Matron
Davis, Maggie 52 Cook
Kruger, Blanch 16 Cook
Guyer (?), Clara 29 Cook
Harley, William 30 Laborer

Children: 29
Davis, Lois 16 [may be daughter of Maggie (cook), who is a widow]
Taylor, Clark 14
Taylor, John 12
Taylor, Mary 8
Taylor, Zelda (?) 6
Taylor, Frank 4
Wakefield, Edward 10
Wakefield, Oliver 8
Wakefield, Sarah 6
Wakefield, Robert 4
Brininger, William 10
Brininger, Jesse 8
Brininger, James 6
Brininger, John 4
Smiley, Mary 10
Smiley, Lucy 7
Fleck, Theodore 6
Fleck, Blair 4
Sneath, Hobert 10
Sneath, William 8
Geissinger, Pearl 10
Geissinger, Alfred 8
Geissinger, Scott 6
Foster, Mary 6
Foster, Roy 4
Warner, Charles 7
Warner, Luther 5
Manveck, Nelson 8
Bennet, Ruth 10

Kenny, Emma L. 62 Matron
Miller, Olive 33 Maid
Griffith, Lucy 22 Maid
Lohr, Mary 19 Maid

Children: 15
Brode, Charles 4
Brode, Esther 8
Feely, John 11
Layton, Walter 6
Maffit, William 8
Maffit, Gerald 6
Morget, Pompeii 7  b. Roumania
Morget, Dan 5   b. Roumania
Polozzie, Joseph 8 parents b. Italy
Polozzie, Frederick 6  parents b. Italy
Polozzie, William 2  parents b. Italy
White, Emma 6
Walker, Esther 13
Walker, Anna Mae 8
Walker, Florence 6

Home moved to 1903 Moore Street in 1929.

Miller, Tressa 58 Matron
[A news article mentions that Mrs. Miller’s 2 children live with her at the Home, but the 3 Miller children listed below (John, William and Emma) are not hers. They were the children of Herman and G. Alverta (Kelley) Miller.]
Information on the Miller family was posted by Misty Kagarise.

Bradley, Cora 24 Cook
Smith, Clara 16 Cook

Children: 18
Bare, Margaret 10
Bare, John 6
Bare, Samuel 4
Brodbeck, Charles 8
Brown, Viola 8
Conrad, Earl 11
Conrad, Ralph 9
Heffner, Richard 4
Heffner, James 8
Heffner, Chester 7
Miller, John 6
Miller, William 9
Miller, Emma 12
Powell, Samuel 10
Port, John 2
Reed, Albert 3
Reed, Loretta 8
Reed, Thomas 6

Although some records indicate that the Orphans Home still existed in 1940, the newly released 1940 census clearly shows that the residence built at 1903 Moore Street to house the institution has been sold and is occupied as a private home at that time.


Children Transferred to the Orphans Home
From the Huntingdon County Almshouse
These records were transcribed from a ledger that recorded the inmates in the Huntingdon County Almshouse at Shirleysburg on a monthly or several-month numbered register. Most residents were adults, who were elderly, indigent, ill, or disabled. A number, who were classified as insane or idiots, were transferred to institutions elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Some were pregnant young women, probably unmarried, who gave birth there; some stayed, with their babies, for months or even years. Some families of children were admitted with their mothers, whose husbands may have died or deserted them, and who were without resources to care for themselves and their children. Other children were admitted without a parent and may have been orphaned or, at least, motherless.

While the register is written in a clearly readable hand, the writer often spells phonetically. Fortunately, this affects various notations he makes, more than the names he records. Nevertheless, a bit of imagination may be needed to interpret his rendering of some of the names.

All of the children listed below were transferred from the Almshouse to the Orphans Home at Huntingdon.

From statement pasted in front of ledger:
1883, Dec. 19
Grace Clayton
Carl Clayton, placed in Maryland

1884, Apr. 17
Margery Campbell
Junie Campbell
Andrew Campbell, placed in Bedford Co.
James Campbell, died June 19

1884, May 22
James Wiland, placed in Virginia
Benj. Wiland
James Wilson

1884, July 7
Annie Straitiff, placed in Virginia
Will Straitiff, placed in Virginia
Myron Straitiff, placed in Virginia

1885, Jan. 12
Wallace Banks

From ledger’s register of inmates:
1884, May-June
Ben Wiland, 8 yrs. old
James Saucerman, 13
James Wiland, 13

1887, Dec. 14
Eliza Chilcoat, 13
Cora Chilcoat, 10

1888, Jan. 14
Daniel Chilcoat, 14
Arthur Chilcoat, 6
Frank Smyth, 5, came back May 1
John Broadbent, 2
Ida Broadbent, 4

1889, Dec. 4
Grace Bruner, 9

1890, May 7
Nettie Long 2

1891, July 8
Viola Hamilton, 3
John H. Gehunger, 5

1894, Oct.-Dec.
child of Aramuth Miller, name and age unrecorded

1895, Jan.-Mar.
2 children of Mrs. Mahan, names and ages unrecorded

1896, Mar. 18
Child of Emma Bigley, name and age unrecorded

1897, Apr.-June
James Miller or Miles, 10
Andrew Miller or Miles, 6

1897, July-Sept.
Thomas Marks, 10

1898, Jan.-Mar.
2 children of Mrs. Nolan, names and ages unrecorded

1898, July-Sept.
Austin Cremmer, 2 ½

1899, Jan.-Mar.
Dana Hagan, 11
Elsie Reed, 9
Tillie Reed, 3

1900, Sept. 26
Lewis French, 2
Alice Miller, 14
Gertrude Miller, 10
Edith Miller, 5
Eunice Miller, 3

1903, Feb. 9
Scott Snare, 8
Florra Leane, 12

1903, June 6
Lucie Griffus, 6

1904, Jan. 2
Thos. Hockenberry, 8
Fred Hockenberry, 6
Belle Hockenberry, 14

1904, Apr. 9
Herbert Rhyne, 12
Dewey Rhyne, 6
Mabel Rhyne, age unrecorded

1905, Jan. 5
Louie Walen, 12
Aaron Walen, 8
John Walen, 3

1905, Jan. 2
Leuese Walen, 13
Margaret Walen, 6

1905, Apr.-June
Charlie Secrest, 7

1906, Sept. 24
Bessy Swartz, 2
Lewis Werthy Wilson, 5
Emma Elen Wilson, 3

1907, Apr. 18
Wallace Wilson, 2
Jessie Marlen, 6
Rhoda Marlen, 4
Nevelle Marlen, 2

1907, Dec. 10
Archie J. Platt, 11

1908, Mar. 20
Carl Dick, 12
John Dick, 11

1908, Aug. 14
Fannie Miller, 11

1909, Oct. 5
Charley McDonald, 2

1910, Mar. 19
Lizzie  Gearringer, 12
Albert Gearringer, age not recorded
Scott Gearringer, age not recorded

1910, July 6
John Joseph Feely, 2
James E. Feely, 2

1910, Dec. 10
Josephine Feely, 10

1911, July 15
Flora Flasher, 2
Melvin Flasher, 3

1912, Oct. 4
Ralph Smith, 2

1915, June 10
Glen Rhoads, 7

1915, Sept. 16
George Albert Zell, 11

1916, Jan. 7
Walter Leighton, 2 1/2

1917, July 12
Beryl Hesbox, 4
Hildred Trout, 3

1919, Jan. 30
Peter D. Stains, 12

1919, Aug. 19
Chas. Brode, 5

1919, Aug. 26
Flora Flasher, 11

1920, Aug. 22
John Feely, 11

1920, Oct.-Dec.
Joy (Ivy?) Runk, 6

The Sunday school transplanted from the little Chapel in the building where the school started began a vigorous growth on the hill. The students were active and earnest in all good work. A particularly destitute family was one day reported, and a few of their needs were suggested. The girls were eager to make clothing, and a committee of boys was sent to take necessary measurements of the children. The result was a fine lot of new clothing, which we were pained to see hopelessly ruined within a week. An Aid Society was organized which for several years did much valuable service in house to house visitation.

The attic of the college building was strung with old clothing which the students were glad to donate, and during the winter season it was generously distributed. These zealous missionaries gathered in many painfully destitute and neglected children. It was no uncommon sight to see in the boiler-room a company undergoing a thorough cleansing of hands and faces, and in the summer time, of feet as well. Some of the same children came daily to the college kitchen door for fragments of food from the table. The system seemed to develop a tendency to dependence, if not of genuine pauperism, so there came a proposition to establish a “Home” for the care of the most needy ones. All sorts of schemes were in mind, even to getting possession of several abandoned houses below the hill and moving them to one corner of the campus. The formal step to effect an organization was taken at a mid-week prayer meeting. At this meeting it was stated that there were “twenty cents” in hand and a promise of twenty-five dollars towards the work. A collection was taken up and a committee appointed to secure a house.

The people of the town heard of the movement and came, voluntarily, to offer help, and thus “The Home for Orphan and Friendless Children,” which stands across the street at the rear of the college grounds, came into existence, and for twenty years has fulfilled its mission to the comfort and joy of hundreds of poor children.

Shall I tell how we found the first matron for the Home? Well, she was a Juniata student. One day as I dismissed a particular class she lingered to tell me how hard the struggle was to prepare for a mission field, toward which she was looking, in South America. I encouraged her all I could and kept in mind her noble purpose. One day, as the movement to establish “The Home” was taking shape, I remembered her words and ventured to ask her if she would not like to be a “missionary” at home. I explained the plan, and she cheerfully accepted. Thus, under the most trying circumstances through the early stages of the development of the institution, Miss Carrie Miller cared for the children until Professor Swigart, perceiving her good qualities, persuaded her to change her name and undertake the management of another home. Miss Miller was succeeded as matron by Miss Howe, who afterward graduated in the school and for a number of years was a member of the faculty. Mrs. Ressler, the helper of both, also at one time cook in the college, became matron and rounded out a continuous service of seventeen years.

These facts are significant as showing the attitude of the students, teachers, and friends of the college toward practical works of benevolence and may serve to emphasize the duty of young people to be helpful to those who are in need, even while they seek to broaden their own intellectual outlook.


Receipt for dues, 1917


Semi-Weekly News Dec. 18, 1884
A list of contributors to the Orphans Home from Lewistown, Petersburg, and Huntingdon.

The Daily News, News of Yesteryear Mar. 8, 1974 – 80 years ago (1894)
The annual meeting of the trustees and ladies’ board of managers of the Orphans Home was held Tuesday afternoon. The following officers were re-elected: President, K.A. Lovell; Vice President, H.B. Brumbaugh; Secretary, Hugh Lindsay; Treasurer, J.R. Simpson; Superintendent, David Emmert; Matron, Mrs. Susan Ressler. There are 16 children in the home at the present time. The expenses last year were over $2500, and the financial outlook, we regret to say, is not very encouraging.

The Daily News, News of Yesteryear Nov. 22, 1989 – 80 years ago (1909)
For 28 years there has been carried on at Huntingdon through the agency of the Home for Orphan and Friendless Children a work of value to the whole of the Juniata Valley. The purpose of this home has been to care for the most hopeless and helpless children in several counties. This work has been conducted by a few earnest people, some of whom have served continuously from the beginning. The managers are elected by the churches of the town, giving it an unsectarian character…. It is now proposed to organize an association which will be known as the Juniata Valley Children’s Aid Society and will be based upon a membership of $1.00 a year. The Society shall cover the counties of Huntingdon, Bedford, Mifflin, and possibly other small counties. At the same time, it will be able to affiliate with the Pennsylvania Children’s Aid Society of Philadelphia, the leading society of the state. The home at Huntingdon would be the central receiving station for the district. David Emmert of Huntingdon has been authorized to represent the board of managers of the home in the development of the enlarged plan.

The Daily News, News of Yesteryear July 20, 1991 – 80 years ago (1911)
Lewis Emmert, son of the late David Emmert, has been selected to take his father’s place as superintendent and field worker of the Huntingdon Orphans Home by the directors of that institution. The young man is regarded as a very good choice. The organization will now be under the name of the Juniata Children’s Aid Society, and the home will be known as the receiving home of the society.

The Daily News, News of Yesteryear April 27, 1992 – 80 years ago ((1912)
Lewis Emmert arrived from Philadelphia with Warren Robison, a little colored boy aged 7 years, a son of John Robison of Stone Creek. About 3 years ago, the boy had been taken to St. Michael’s All Angels Hospital in Philadelphia by David Emmert, who was then in active charge of the Orphans Home work. The child had been a cripple from birth, being unable to walk. At the hospital, his legs were broken and straightened out in plaster of paris molds so that now after a lapse of 3 years of treatment, the little boy’s legs are as straight as anybody’s. He walks well and seems to have a bright mind. Mr. Lewis Emmert took him to the Orphans Home where he will be kept until a home can be secured for him.


Copyright 2011© Huntingdon History Research Network


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