Sesquicentennial Corner—October


The orphanage at St. Francis closed in 1936.  By 1935, the number of orphans being cared for in all orphanages was decreasing yearly, largely because of the provision in the Social Security Act for dependent children in the case of the “absence, incapacity, or death of a parent,” that enabled the other parent to keep their children at home or otherwise obtain care for their children.  At St. Francis about 15 children were left.  By 1936, state law mandated that all orphanages have a receiving department.  St. Francis Orphanage did not have the facilities for one and, in June, after the diocese decided to consolidate the care of children in Toledo, the Sisters were informed that the diocese would gradually move all the children at St. Francis to foster homes or to St. Anthony Orphanage in Toledo.  By October just four orphans were left; by the end of 1936, even they were gone.

Today, memories live on.  Family members relate that a grandmother, a great-great grandfather or other family member had been an orphan at St. Francis.  And there’s the cemetery.  Contagious diseases had always caused worries for the Sisters and the doctors.  In three of the outbreaks children died: one in 1883 of typhoid fever, six of diphtheria when most of the children got it in 1892, and one of the many who got flu in the 1918 epidemic.  Other diseases and at least one accident claimed the lives of children.  The cemetery at St. Francis Convent is the final resting place of at least 20 of the orphans who ranged in age from infant to teenager.  When the voices of children are heard at St. Francis today, they are a reflection of the over 1500 children in 67 years cared for at the orphanage.