Sesquicentennial Corner—June


From 1869 until 1936 when it closed, the orphans at Citizens Hospital and Orphan Asylum, more popularly known as St Francis Orphanage and St. Francis Home, were busy, but not all was work.

One job the girls were assigned to, taking turns, was to pump the big pipe organ for all the church services. This was work. Some years later they were relieved from that job. A retired window shade man, Mr. Keslar, came to live at the Home. He donated monies to have the organ electrified.

One former orphan remembered one of the Sisters always trying to do nice things for the children, like getting baloney for sandwiches. She remembered another Sister, one who was very strict, taking a lard can filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the orphans working in the garden or field. A Sister remembered one of the orphans with a wooden leg. He was assigned to help a Sister in the garden located by a little creek that he liked to play in and jump across. Sometimes he lost the leg.

A couple of former orphans told how they worked in the garden picking potato bugs and picking up potatoes. One remembered, “On Columbus Day, October 12, we always had a free day from school so that was potato-picking-up day. The farmhands would plow the rows of potatoes with the horse to uncover the potatoes, and we would come behind and pick them up and take them to the end of the row and place them in a pile. The horse-drawn wagon would then come and load them to take them to the fruit cellar to store for winter use. One of the Sisters, the ‘farm nun,’ always seemed to have a large salt shaker in her apron pocket somewhere and we were allowed to eat only two potatoes, a dash of salt on them.”

In later years, the stay was just a few months, but earlier, for many of the children, their stay was nine to ten years. They watched the seasons come and go. St. Francis Home, St. Francis Orphanage was “home” for them. Peter Wiot, the first orphan admitted, in fact, when he lay dying in a hospital in Chicago in 1917, said (in German): Take me home and bury me at St. Francis Home in Tiffin. The family did.