North Carolina Orphanages
Prior to the Civil War, North Carolina law dealt with destitute orphans by placing them in the county poorhouse or "indenture" to learn a trade. Orphan Asylum Societies were established in North Carolina in early 1800's. The Female Orphan Asylum of Fayetteville was established in 1813. They are believed to be "short Lived"
Following the Civil War many children were orphaned and destitute. In 1868, The Constitution of North Carolina provided for the establishment of orphan houses to care for, educate, and teach a business or trade to destitute orphans. The Indenture system "apprenticeship" continued until the early twentieth century.
The First Orphanage: The Oxford Masonic Orphanage in Oxford, was established in 1873 by John Mills and occupied the abandoned Masonic, St. John’s College. It was the sole orphanage in North Carolina until 1885.
The Second Orphanage: Mills resigned from the Oxford Masonic Orphanage and Established the first North Carolina Baptist orphanage in 1885 on an eighty-acre parcel (later 100 acres) near Thomasville, Davidson County. At some point it became "The Mills Home". By 1912 "Mills Home" housed over four hundred (400) orphans.
The Third Orphanage: The Colored Oxford Orphan Asylum in Oxford opened in 1883. Currently Central Children’s Home of North Carolina
By 1899 There were ten fraternal, denominational, and county-maintained orphanages operated in the state;
In 1929 there were thirty (30) in operation. Among the largest in 1929 were:
1. The Children’s Home of Winston-Salem, founded in 1909 on the 212-acre site of the Davis military academy
2. The Catholic Orphanage of North Carolina (Nazareth House), established on a farm near Raleigh in 1902
3. Elon Home for Children, Elon, established in 1909 on 111 acres
4. Falcon Children’s Home, Falcon, established in 1909
5. Junior Order of the United American Mechanics (UAM) Orphan’s Home, Lexington, established in 1924
6. Methodist Home for Children, Raleigh, established in 1900 on forty-five acres
7. The Thompson Children’s Home, Charlotte, established in 1886.
8. The Kennedy House, Kinston, Lenoir County established 1912-1920 on 1,240 acres
While referrals to the orphanages often came through churches, children in need were accepted with no restrictions.
Orphanage staffs were led by a superintendent, generally a minister for religious institutions. His wife often served as the chief matron. Most staff lived on campus, Houseparents in the cottages with the children and the Superintendent in his own house. Houseparents ate with the students either in the cottages or in a central dining room. In 1920s earlier restrictions that children be full orphans "lost both parents" gives way to acceptance of half orphans or children from broken homes. In the 1930s admission of babies came under criticism. In response, children of less than school age were generally no longer admitted. By 1950 the Mills Home in Thomasville and the Kennedy Home, Kinston cared for 522 children of whom, only 84 were full orphans.
North Carolina Historic Orphanages: some have closed, others have moved to new locations. Nazareth Orphanage and the Methodist Home in Raleigh have closed. The Elon Home for Children has become Elon University. The Kennedy Memorial Home, the Mills Home, Oxford Orphanage, the Central Children’s Home of North Carolina in Oxford and the Junior Order UAM Home (now American Children’s Home) remain open on their original campuses. The Thompson Children’s Home in Charlotte has moved to a rural campus.