Wherever the orphans go, we go with them.
L. O. Dawson, 1919 Alabama Baptist Convention
THE MOVE TO TROY // In February, the first of the children are transported by train to Montgomery, and then on to Troy, where they are welcomed by hundreds of visitors within the first two days. The younger ones come first, as all of the cottages are not yet complete. On June 14, however, the remainder would arrive and all the children and workers are happily reunited.
Lord, give to us who are old and rougher
The things that little children suffer,
And let us keep bright and undefiled
The Young years of the little child.
Judge Walter C. Black, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
NEW COTTAGES AND BUILDINGS // With Troy as the new site for the home, there are six new cottages in which the children live, along with an infirmary and a home for the superintendent:
- Bush Cottage (older boys)
- Cloud Cottage (medium boys)
- Scott Cottage (younger boys)
- Stewart Cottage (younger girls)
- Daniel Cottage (older girls)
- Hayley Cottage (babies)
- Willie PIerson Infirmary
- Oates-Reynolds Memorial (Superintendent's residence)
(Click on photos to enlarge)
"We do not believe there is a happier community in the Southland."
A NEW SUPERINTENDENT // In 1923, a new leader took over the management of the Children's Home. During the course of his tenure, he would be revered for his "splendid service" and for caring deeply about the spiritual development of each child. As historian Cynthia Wise notes, "Colley stressed that the first emphasis of the Orphans' Home was the same as the first emphasis of any home—the child. Every effort was made to provide a wholesome family environment, a good education, and a character-building Christian atmosphere."
MOTHER'S AID PROGRAM // In the 1920s, a new dimension is added to the ministry of the Home. In addition to providing care for children without a stable home life, the Home also extends a hand to mothers who need assistance with caring for their children. Dr. Colley first pitches the idea to the board in 1925, and it is initiated between 1926 and 1927. The first private institution in the state to provide this ministry, the Home provides a way for families to stay together. This mentality is at the heart of the current mission of ABCH, almost 100 years later, and our current "Family Care" program traces its lineage back to this ministry.
MORE SUPPORT // The state convention encourages church Sunday Schools to become more directly responsible for the care of the ministry.
TIMES OF HARDSHIP // The Great Depression moves into its worst stretch, and the effects are felt at the Home. The financial report presented to the convention in Bessemer shows that the income for 1930 is over $25,000 less than the previous year.
Even so, the beautiful and iconic Carroll Building is completed, made possible by the generosity of Mrs. J. S. Carroll, board member from Troy and one of the responsible parties for securing Dr. Colley as superintendent. The building which bears her name includes a chapel and provides a venue for the Baptist Young People's Unions. The B.Y.P.U. would be a significant part of the lives of many of the children.
>> In 1930, 202 children are living in the care of the Home, eighteen fewer than the year before, and fifty-four fewer than 1928. There are also, however, forty-six children and ten mothers in the Mothers' Aid program. <<
DEBT AND RELIEF // A large debt hangs overhead from the move to Troy, which had proven far more expensive than originally estimated. Forty years from the original charter, the Home continues to operate under dire circumstances. The Alabama WMU sets about a massive coupon campaign to help the Home to remove the bonded indebtedness, which stands at $100,000.00.
>> Farm operations are a large part of the work around the Home. While the girls tend to the cooking and housework, the boys are put to work learning to farm. On the property are 33 milk cows, 30 hogs, 352 chickens, and 20 turkeys. <<
FIRST CASE WORKER HIRED // The Home employs its first case worker. This is important for numerous reasons, but a primary reason derives from a study done by the State Child Welfare Department over the years of 1923–1927, which determines that child care institutions are so burdened partially due to a lack of sufficient investigation into family situations before a child is admitted (sometimes unnecessarily).
NAME CHANGE // The Louise Short Baptist Widows' and Orphans' Home is renamed as The Alabama Baptist Children's Home.
FOSTER CARE DISCUSSIONS BEGIN // A potential foster home care program is discussed, but won't become a substantial reality for another thirty-five years.
50 YEARS TO CELEBRATE // The Children's Home celebrates the 50th anniversary. The Founder's Day address is given by J.G. Dickinson, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church since 1914.
NEW LEADERSHIP // Byron Judson Colley, the second-oldest son of J.O. Colley, Sr., takes over as Superintendent.
WORLD WAR II // With the Allies on the verge of opening a western front in the war in Europe, Superintendent Judson Colley takes a leave from the Home in January to serve in the United States Army. Reverend R.T. McLeod takes over as Superintendent.
The Children's Home finally pays off the remaining debt from the move to Troy.
KEEPING A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE // While meeting physical, emotional, and material needs for the children have always been a primary objective, it has never been the ultimate. From the days of John Stewart, there had always been an ultimate goal of meeting the children's spiritual needs by teaching them of the love of Jesus Christ. Along with First Baptist Church of Troy, discipleship continues in the Home into the 1950s, as fifty-nine children come to know Christ in the first two years of the decade.
E. E. Cox takes the reigns of the ministry at the retirement of R.T. McLeod in 1950.
Television sets are introduced into the Home.
Future Superintendent Hobson Shirey is introduced to the board, and he becomes Assistant Superintendent.
As reported in the Convention meeting notes:
>> 249 children have lived in the Home over the past year, and 47 more helped by the Mother's Aid program. The Home owns 120 head of cattle, along with 75 hogs and pigs, and 500 hens. Alabama Baptist Children's Home employs over thirty full-time staff as well as almost twenty part-time workers. <<