Past Times

Raleigh orphanages were important to the city

The Methodist Orphanage owned a 240-acre farm in the Caraleigh section of Raleigh. Boys in the orphanage worked the farm while the girls tended the cottages.
The Methodist Orphanage owned a 240-acre farm in the Caraleigh section of Raleigh. Boys in the orphanage worked the farm while the girls tended the cottages. Albert Barden Collection, North Carolina State Archives

Most of the buildings are gone and the properties transformed for other purposes, but two large orphanages once operated in what were once the outskirts of Raleigh. In 1942, N&O writer Jane Hall outlined the history of these orphanages and the role they each played in their day.

The Methodist Orphanage was founded in 1898 chiefly through the efforts of the Rev. John Wesley Jenkins, who early became convinced that the Methodist Church was neglecting a great opportunity for service in not having an orphan asylum.…

The orphanage actually opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1900 when the first cottage was dedicated by Bishop H. S. Morrison. The first pupil, Cassie Bright, entered the Orphanage January 7, 1901.…

The circumstances of (the Catholic orphanage’s) founding are unusual. Father Thomas Frederick Price, a native of Wilmington, once was caught in a severe storm. In the midst of the storm he vowed that if he survived he, in gratitude would found an asylum for orphans. His petition granted, Father Price came to his native North Carolina and established the Catholic Orphanage at Nazareth.…

Actually, both establishments are run by their pupils, aided, of course, by supervisors. The cottages or dormitories, as the case may be, are cleaned and cared for by the girls; the meals are prepared and served by the girls and the girls also take care of the laundry.

The boys take care of the campus, run the furnaces and do odd repairing jobs. More important, they work on the farms owned by their orphanage. These farms are not run for profit but to supply the institutions with fresh milk and vegetables.

Schedules are arranged so that each child has ample time for recreation, rest, and study. Such work as the children do about the orphanages constitutes a varied and valuable work experience.

Both orphanages provide excellent facilities for education. The school at the Methodist Orphanage is a unit of the Raleigh Public School system and is on the accredited list of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. This school is now emphasizing what might be called an “apprentice system.”

When a boy reaches his junior year in high school and has neither the money nor the desire for a college education, his teachers attempt to discover his trade or occupation preference. Once he makes up his mind what he would like to do, he is then “apprenticed” in the trade of his choosing. Thereafter he works part of the day for some Raleigh employer and goes to school the other part.

The Catholic Orphanage provides the first eight grades for its pupils. This school is run by the Sisters of Mercy from Belmont, who also act as supervisors of other activities. The high school students attend Cathedral Latin High in Raleigh and are brought in daily by bus. The rather comprehensive athletic program is directed by Father Francis Scheurich.

Not only do both institutions provide excellent educational opportunities but they make every effort to create the atmosphere of a Christian home and to give ample religious instruction to the children. These aims are accomplished through religious study and church attendance.

Pupils may enjoy all the advantages offered by the two institutions until they become high school graduates. Graduation automatically terminates their stay in the orphanages. However, no child is turned out on his own; some provision for placing every graduate is made as he prepares to leave.

Some, through the generosity of relatives or friends or the use of loan funds, go on to college; others, prepared by their apprentice work, take on jobs for which they are well fitted; still others may go to the homes of relatives.

In the case of the Methodist Orphanage, those who desire to take business or beauty-culture courses in Raleigh may stay on at the Orphanage after graduation. They pay for their room, board, and laundry by doing some work in the Orphanage, but the money that pays for the course itself is considered a loan and as such must be repaid.

Slowly but surely the influence of the Methodist and Catholic orphanages is growing and spreading. Today there is at least one graduate of these establishments in half the States of the Union. And they are to be found in every walk of life; farmers, beauty-culture operators, policemen, postmen, clerks, salesmen, insurance agents, bus drivers, dairymen, nurses, business executives and administrators, chemists, engineers, doctors, and many, many others. The N&O 4/26/1942