"The little candle that God inspired Father Stewart
to light down here on earth must be a bright shining star
in his heavenly crown."
Rosa Andrews, former matron
THE FIRST ATTEMPT // As the Civil War rages, the first effort by Alabama Baptists is made to establish an "Orphan Asylum for the State of Alabama, especially for the children of deceased soldiers." However, as the war ends, and funds disappear with the devaluing of Confederate currency, the dream of a Baptist home for orphans would have to wait almost thirty more years through the era of Reconstruction.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
SECOND ATTEMPT // St. Francis Street Baptist Church, Mobile — At the Alabama Baptist State Convention of 1890, a small committee of five waits until the very conclusion of the annual meeting for an opportunity to present once more the need for a Baptist home for orphans. Chairman F. C. Plaster speaks for the group, and it is decided that another committee should be formed to address the question and report back at the next year's meeting.
OFFICIAL CHARTER ISSUED // First Baptist Church, Eufaula — Throughout the year, the committee had been conferring with many individuals, including a very important "lady of means . . . deeply interested in the establishing of a Widows' and Orphans' Home." Mrs. Mariah Woodson agrees to deed over to the Convention her estate at her passing for this purpose. With that security, and many able and willing hands ready to move forward, it is decided that such a Home would be established. The state of Alabama officially grants the charter to the Louise Short Baptist Widows' and Orphans' Home on February 14, 1891.
LOCATION IDEAS // Several locations are put forward as potential locations, including Fort Deposit and Montgomery. The convention expresses its encouragement at the starting of the Home, but nothing material gets done until 1893. The funds from Mrs. Woodson's deed cannot be touched until her death, and there is still a major lack of funding for the project.
ACTION TAKEN // Board member Rev. John W. Stewart, a passionate advocate for the potential Home, has had enough of the talk and the committees. In early January, he decides it's time for action. From a meeting with other board members, he records the following conversation with Dr. W. B. Crumpton:
"Brother Stewart, you have been studying this matter for several years, what do you think of it?"
"I think it is practicable to start an orphans' home in thirty days."
"O not in thirty days," said Crumpton.
"Yes sir, in thirty days," I answered.
"Pray, tell me how you would do it," said Crumpton.
I answered, "Well, I would do it this way. I would locate the home temporarily somewhere, and get some motherly woman to be the Matron, and pick up some poor child to be the beneficiary, and let the Baptists know what you've got, and they'll do the rest."
"Well," said Crumpton, "If it is going to be that easy I believe myself, we can start it without delay."
He suggests his town of residence, Evergreen, for the location. With the board behind him in the endeavor, he eagerly gets to work. An old house owned by his church, Evergreen Baptist, is converted into the temporary home. Mrs. Clara W. Ansley is hired as the first matron, and the doors are officially opened on March 8, 1893.