U.S. School Clothes: Soldier's Orphan School (Chester Springs, Pennsylvania)


Figure 1.--This is a cabinet card portrait of a Civil War, William J Wetheral. He is at the Soldiers' Orphan School, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. It must have been located near West Chester. The photographer, Grubb, was located in West Chester. William is proudly dressed in a sargent's cadet uniform, and looks to be 13, perhaps 14 years old.

This is a cabinet card portrait of a Civil War, William J Wetheral. He is at the Soldiers' Orphan School, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. It must have been located near West Chester. The photographer, Grubb, was located in West Chester. We have been unable to find any references to the Chester Orphan School as marked on the back. The proper name of the school seems to have been the Soldiers' Orphan School. The School was founded after the Civil War to care for and educate children orphaned by the war. Here orphaned means losing their father. Presumably they still had their mother and other family members. At the time, the father was normally the bread winner, so losing their father put the boys at a real disadvantage. The school took in both boys and girls. The boys wore military uniforms, but it was not a military school as such. This was because there were girls at the school. The girls wore white dresses.

William J Wetheral

This is a cabinet card portrait of a Civil War, William J Wetheral. He is at the Soldiers' Orphan School, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. It must have been located near West Chester. The photographer, Grubb, was located in West Chester. William is proudly dressed in a sargent's cadet uniform, and looks to be 13, perhaps 14 years old. The uniform is a Civil War-style uniform. It is not dated, but we would guess was taken about 1880. It could have been taken ay time in the 1870s or 80s. Uniform styles did not change like fashion. Notice the white gloves.

Civil War Orphans

The School was founded after the Civil War to care for and educate children orphaned by the war. Here orphaned means losing their father. Presumably they still had their mother and other family members. At the time, the father was normally the bread winner, so losing their father put the boys at a real disadvantage. Each of the states had the problem of orphaned children. This is how Pennsylvania addressed the problem. We do not have much information yet on how the other states addressed the pfoblem. I think the Southern states generally did not address it, but here we need to collect more information.

Chester Springs Soldiers' Orphan School

We have been unable to find any references to the Chester Orphan School as marked on the back. The proper name of the school seems to have been the Soldiers' Orphan School. The school took in both boys and girls. The boys wore military uniforms, but it was not a military school as such. This was because there were girls at the school. The girls wore white dresses. The Chester Springs school appears to have operated 1868-12. Elenor Bechtel Moore (1839-1926) married David Moore (1859). He served in the Civil War. Following the war, the family moved to Arkansas to help in the Reconstruction effort, working with freed slaves. Her husband and son died of cholera in Arkansas. Elenor (known as Ellen) moved back to Pennsylvania with her two surviving children (1867). She and her children was taken in by the Lewis sisters, maiden Quaker ladies in Kimberton who had raised and educated her. Eleanor was appointed matron at the newly established Soldiers' Orphan School in Chester Springs (1868). She moved into the Cottage (present Lincoln Building) which served as the girls' dormitory. Board of Trustees Matthew Simpson McCullough contributed to a Literary and Reading Room and the term Literary Institute was added to the school name. Mrs. Moore was appointed principal (1873). She was the only female principal in the state orphan system.

Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan School System

The Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan School system eventually numbered 23 primary and 15 advanced schools as the Pennsylvania state legislature --General Assembly) expanded eligibility. The schools were run by Soldiers' Orphan School Department (1870-1889). The General Assembly approved the creation of the Commission of Soldiers' Orphan Schools (May 25, 1889). At its creation, the Commission, including the Governor, five members of the General Assembly, and five honorably discharged soldiers, was constituted to take charge of the soldiers' orphan schools and homes. They had the authority to rent buildings, appoint all officers, teachers and employees, and prescribe all rules and regulations for the government of the institutions. All of these powers are necessary to maintain the facilities and to ensure the proper care of the soldiers' children. Some of these schools seem to have continued into the 1920s. There are quite a few internet sites about these schools.








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Created: 3:00 AM 4/14/2007
Last updated: 8:59 PM 4/14/2007