Sesquicentennial Corner—April


Along with caring for the elderly, St. Francis Home (Citizens Hospital and Orphan Asylum) was founded to care for orphans. When the widow, Elizabeth Schaefer, moved on March 1, 1868, with her two daughters and her father to the farmhouse on the land Father Joseph Bihn had purchased for the care of those who would come in their need, she came with 10-year-old Peter Wiot.

She had taken him in to raise after his mother had died and his father could not take care of him. On June 4, 1869, the official beginning of the community, Peter, his younger brother Nicholas, and Julia Stover were the first orphans registered in the book which eventually numbered well over 1500 children. Like Peter and Nicholas, many of the children still had one parent living who was unable to care for them after the death or disability of the other parent. Some children were not orphans, but their parents wanted them to receive a religious education that would prepare them for First Communion and they went home after the school year and they had received the Sacraments. Some years saw a large influx of children, as many as 28 from 18 families in 1874, 38 from 27 families in 1890, the highest being 44 from 22 families in 1908, or as few as four in 1871. In emergencies, two, three, five, or six siblings might come to the orphanage on the same day.

While the boys and girls were in separate compartments in different age groups, siblings were able to be in contact with each other during their stay. One former orphan remembered being able to see her little brother every day after supper. Some children came for a short time, some until they were 18. Some names appeared in the register a second time when their situation did not work out. The children all had tasks to perform, but more on that next month.