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The State of Iowa
Soldiers' Orphans' Homes
The movement which culminated in the establishment of this beneficent institution was originated by Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer, during the civil war of 1861-65. This noble and patriotic lady called a convention at Muscatine, on the 7th of October, 1863, for the purpose of devising measures for the support and education of the orphan children of the brave sons of Iowa, who had fallen in defense of national honor and integrity. So great was the public interest in the movement that there was a large representation from all parts of the State on the day named, and an association was organized called the Iowa State Orphan Asylum.
The first officers were: President, William M. Stone; Vice Presidents, Mrs. G. G. Wright, Mrs. R. L. Cadle, Mrs. J. T. Hancock, John R. Needham, J. W. Cattell, Mrs. Mary M. Bagg; Recording Secretary, Miss Mary Kibben; Corresponding Secretary, Miss. M. E. Shelton; Treasurer, N. H. Brainerd; Board of Trustees, Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer, Mrs. C. B. Darwin, Mrs. D. T. Newcomb, Mrs. L. B. Stephens, O. Fayville, E. H. Williams, T. S. Parvin, Mrs. Shields, Caleb Baldwin, C. C. Cole, Isaac Pendleton, H. C. Henderson.
The first meeting of the Trustees was held February 14, 1864, in the Representative Hall, at Des Moines. Committees from both branches of the General Assembly were present and were invited to participate in their deliberations. Gov. Kirkwood suggested that a home for disabled soldiers should be connected with the Asylum. Arrangements were made for raising funds.
At the next meeting, in Davenport, in March, 1864, the Trustees decided to commence operations at once, and a committee, of which Mr. Howell, of Keokuk, was Chairman, was appointed to lease a suitable building, solicit donations, and procure suitable furniture. This committee secured a large brick building in Lawrence, Van Buren County, and engaged Mr. Fuller, of Mt. Pleasant, as Steward.
At the annual meeting, in Des Moines, in June, 1864, Mrs. C. B. Baldwin, Mrs. G. G. Wright, Mrs. Dr. Horton, Miss Mary E. Shelton and Mr. George Sherman were appointed a committee to furnish the building and take all necessary steps for opening the "Home," and notice was given that at the next meeting of the Association, a motion would be made to change the name of the Institution to Iowa Orphans' Home.
The work of preparation was conducted so vigorously that on the 13th day of July following, the Executive Committee announced that they were ready to receive the children. In three weeks twenty-one were admitted, and the number constantly increased, so that, in a little more than six months from the time of opening, there were seventy children admitted, and twenty more applications, which the Committee had not acted upon -- all orphans of soldiers.
Miss M. Elliott, of Washington, was appointed Matron. She resigned, in February, 1865, and was succeeded by Mrs. E. G. Platt, of Fremont County.
The "Home" was sustained by the voluntary contributions of the people, until 1866, when it was assumed by the State. In that year, the General Assembly provided for the location of several such "Homes" in the different counties, and which were established at Davenport, Scott County; Cedar Falls, Black Hawk County, and at Glenwood, Mills County.
The Board of Trustees elected by the General Assembly had the oversight and management of the Soldiers' Orphans' Homes of the State, and consisted of one person from each county in which the Home was located, and one for the State at large, who held their office two years, or until their successors were elected and qualified. An appropriation of $10 per month for each orphan actually supported was made by the General Assembly.
The Home in Cedar Falls was organized in 1865, and an old hotel building was fitted up for it. Rufus C., Mary L. and Emma L. Bauer were the first children received, in October, and by January, 1866, there were ninety-six inmates.
October 12, 1869, the Home was removed to a large brick building, about two miles west of Cedar Falls, and was very prosperous for several years, but in 1876, the General Assembly established a State Normal School at Cedar Falls and appropriated the buildings and grounds for that purpose.
By "An act to provide for the organization and support of an asylum at Glenwood, in Mills County, for feeble minded children," approved March 17, 1876, the buildings and grounds used by the Soldiers' Orphans' Home at that place were appropriated for this purpose. By another act, approved March 15, 1876, the soldiers' orphans, then at the Homes in Glenwood and Cedar Falls, were to be removed to the Home at Davenport within ninety days thereafter, and the Board of Trustees of the Home were authorized to received other indigent children into that institution, and provide for their education in industrial pursuits.
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