In 1872, the father of the orphanage movement in North Carolina, John Mills, founded the Masonic Orphanage, the state’s first orphanage. During the years of the “golden age” of the orphanage movement (1870-1920), sixteen orphanages were founded in North Carolina. Financed through charitable or religious denominations, some orphanages like Methodist Orphanage served the eastern and western regions of the state.
Established by the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church in 1899, the directors of the Methodist Home for Children (MHC), formerly known as the Methodist Orphanage, completed the building in 1900 and accepted Cassie Bright, as its first resident in 1901. By the end of 1901, MHC housed twenty-eight children. Admission to the orphanage required a referral from a Methodist pastor in the fifty-six qualifying counties. The directors established Children’s Home in 1909 to serve the residents of Winston-Salem. Methodist Home for Children served as a facility dedicated to caring for children experiencing poverty.
During the Great Depression, the population of the orphanage increased from twenty eight to three hundred and forty children. Originally, children resided in dormitories housing twenty-five to thirty children; however, societal pressures stemming from the Great Depression emphasized a family setting. Therefore, the orphanage revamped and created a “house-parent” setting that involved twelve children in a cottage with a parental figure.
The orphanage’s name changed in 1955 to the Methodist Home for Children and shifted from a strictly residential program to offering outreach programs and services. The Home now maintains youth homes and family-centered outreach programs in eastern North Carolina. The Home also manages eleven youth homes and five juvenile homes staffed by live-in married couples. The juvenile homes help foster a positive alternative to detention for troubled youth by teaching respect and providing guidance.
The Methodist Home for Children has provided refuge to disadvantaged children and continues to provide assistance for families. The Home has aided over 1,400 children and their families in a year. A North Carolina Historical Marker located on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh honors the contributions of the Home.
Thomas N. Ivey, Southern Methodist Handbook (Nashville, 1915); Methodist Orphanage http://www.ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?sp=search&k=Markers&sv=H-115 (accessed July 8, 2010); Catherine Reef, Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America (New York, 2005); Methodist Orphanage Honored http://nccumc.org/methodist-orphanage-honored/ (accessed July 8, 2010); William Powell, Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); Nurith Zmora, Orphanages Reconsidered: Child Care Institutions in Progressive Era Baltimore (Philadelphia, 1994).