For many, the word “orphanage” brings about visions of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist uttering his famous words, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
For those who lived at the former Lutheran Orphans’ Home in Oregon, the reality of life in an orphanage was more home like with a true “family” atmosphere.
On Aug. 6, 1860, Pastor Johannes Doerfler and four members of Salem Lutheran Church, in Toledo, established the Lutheran Orphans’ Home Society. Soon after, Pastor Doerfler took two orphaned boys into his home.
The first orphanage building was dedicated July 7, 1862. The two-story, wooden frame building, located on Seaman Street, would provide a home to orphans until 1919. Deeming the building inadequate, LHS built a brick home known as “The Dormitory,” which was dedicated April 6, 1919.
Due to the way some people in society began to think of orphanages and the best way to serve children, the Orphans’ Home closed in 1964.
The Lutheran Homes Society (LHS), which it is now called, held a reunion of “orphans” Aug. 5-7. The weekend was a celebration of the non-profit’s 150 years of service to both children and the elderly in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
|John Jenkins, one of several former residents of the Lutheran Orphans’ Home, led tours of the old orphanage building during the 150th Anniversary weekend festivities.
Lillian Meadows (Hartsel), of Walbridge, was one of the alumni in attendance. In 1951, at age 6, Meadows, her sister Bonnie and brothers, Larry and Robert were brought to the Home after their mother became gravely ill.
“There was a divorce, and my mother was working many jobs to support us,” Meadows explained. “She became sick with pneumonia and almost died. She had us go to the Home as her way of making sure that we were schooled, fed and taken care of until she was well enough to take care of us.”
Meadows said she remembers the sisters at the orphanage being strict, but they were not mean to the children.
“We had duties – chores to do every day and they made you listen, but they had to. There were many kids there to take care of, but they were not mean,” Meadows said. “We did not scrub the floors with our toothbrushes. The teachers were strict but that was just a part of life. Life is what you make it.”
Meadows said she remembers having a lot of fun at the orphanage.
“We loved playing in the sand box and sliding down the hill in the back of the campus in the winter,” she said. “During the holidays and Christmas, we put on pageants and we got gifts. We saw our mom on the weekends.”