Dakota Datebook

The North Dakota Children’s Home Society

Thursday, August 10, 2017

 

In the late 1800s, the New York Children’s Aid Society routinely rounded up homeless children and sent them west on trains that came to be known as the orphan trains.  The children were usually placed with farmers.  Sometimes they found good homes where they were loved, but sometimes they were considered free labor and subject to abuse.

Children’s Home Societies were created to protect the children and to ensure good homes.  The North Dakota Children’s Home Society was founded in 1891 when the Reverend C.J. McConnehey arrived in Fargo to establish an auxiliary of the Minnesota Society.  In the first year of operation, they helped 56 children.  The organization broke away from Minnesota and officially incorporated as the North Dakota Society in 1897.  Eventually, there were society orphanages in six cities across the state.

On this date in 1912, Frank D. Hall, superintendent of the Society, was in Bismarck for a sensational trial.  Three young girls had been removed from a home in which they were kept in deplorable conditions.  They had been badly neglected.  As a result of the trial, the girls were removed from the home and placed in the Society’s care.  Unfortunately, neglect of the orphan train children was not unusual.  Hall reported that many of the children currently in the care of the Society had been rescued from similar circumstances.  He also expressed his appreciation for the people of Bismarck for supporting rescued children. Many had found safe haven in Bismarck foster homes.

Hall was dedicated to the cause of protecting children.  In 1909, he participated in the first White House Conference for Dependent Children.  In 1923, he was a member of the North Dakota Children’s Code Commission.  He significantly influenced legislation on both the state and the national levels.  His work placed North Dakota in the forefront of child welfare.

The Society continued as an orphanage until 1968 when it terminated that program to focus on child welfare.  The name of the organization was changed to The Village Family Service Center in 1972.  It continues to go by that name today.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.

Sources:

Bismarck Tribune. “Hall is After Needy Children.” 10 August, 1912.

The Village Family Service Center. “A Piece of North Dakota History.” https://thevillagefamily.org/content/north-dakota-childrens-home-society-piece-north-dakota-history Accessed 2 July, 2017.

Fargo History Project. “North Dakota Children’s Home Society.” http://fargohistory.com/north-dakota-childrens-home-society/ Accessed 2 July, 2017.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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