Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mother's Jewels Home for Orphans in York, Nebraska

According to this website Mothers' Jewels Home was established in York, Nebraska, in 1889 by the Women's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The intent was to provide care for orphaned and abandoned children in the central United States. Over the years the home provided care for thousands of homeless children.

My grandmother lived there for some time. I've been playing with genealogy and found her listed in the 1910 census as an "inmate" at the orphanage along with 74 other "inmates".

During my childhood I loved talking to my grandmother. She was a bouncy, cheerful soul. She loved chatting and laughing with me. It was Grandma who taught me how to knit and crochet. She could whip out a knit shawl in record time.

Grandma made the niftiest crocheted fly-swatter covers. She stitched a three-dimensional flower to one side of the swatter. Perhaps you don't know what a fly-swatter is. Perhaps you don't have flies. Perhaps you're too young to remember hot sweltering days in the kitchen (before air-conditioning) when an open screen door was an open invitation to 20 million flies. Believe me, 20 million flies in the kitchen with the cook meant someone had to DO something. And so whichever one of us was not directly working toward the meal was assigned the fly-swatter routine.

Several fly-swatters hung on a nail on the kitchen wall. One was 'decorated' with Grandma's crocheted flower. It was for decoration only and hence, unused. Whoever was assigned the task of reducing the fly population would grab one of the 'working' swatters and go to work, counting success out loud -- one, two, three. To hit two flies with one swat was a real hoot! But back to Grandma.

Her mother and her twin sister died when Grandma was born. I don't know if the twin was ever named but Grandma was given the middle name of "Late", indicating that she was the second of the two girls. She had at least two older siblings. (There may have also been a previous wife and half-siblings...I'm still researching that.) Their father remarried after Grandma was born and she told me that their stepmother was kind to them and life was good.

Life took a turn for the worse when Grandma was seven years old. Her father became ill at the railroad roundhouse where he worked. His supervisor sent him home and he died some hours later. He was 48 years old. Someone walked to the school and brought Grandma and her sisters home to hear the news. They were orphans. And even though they had a stepmother, the girls were sent elsewhere to live. Gramma ended up at Mother's Jewels Home as an orphan-inmate. You can click on the 1910 census image for a close-up and see that the children were classified as Inmates therein.

I don't know much about Grandma's life during those next few years. She did speak of leaving the home at some point and working as a "mother's helper" in a home where she was ill-treated. I don't know the story of how she met and married my grandfather. But I have visited the homestead where they raised their family of five. Standing in front of the now-abandoned home I think this must have been a good place to raise a family.


cinnamongirl93 said...

What an interesting story. Your Grandmother sounds like she was a really cool lady! I love your comment that she was bouncy and cheerful. So many people are just old sticks in the mud. I hope I am never like that.
I too love to research my roots. I did a lot of research about 15 years ago. I have not done much since. I want to get back into it but time is short to do it all!
Big smile!

DavidWilson1949 said...

I was also a resident of Mothers Jewels Home. My brother and I lived there for almost a year, from June of 1957 to May 1958. It was a fully operating farm then. I treasure my memories of my stay there and wish to connect with other former residents.

WhiteStone said...
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Anonymous said...

My grandmother, my mother and her siblings lived there. I have to guess it would have been in the 30's. I have a photo of the orphanage with a lot of children in it. But,the photo is in very bad shape. Their name was Cooper.

Anonymous said...

My mother and her siblings also lived at this orphanage. Actually, her mother sought refuge here with her children sometime back in the late 1920's early 1930's. My grandmother did the laundry for the orphanage.