Sunday, June 7, 2015

Brantley's 'Early History of the Alabama Baptist Orphanage' - Part 2

(In October 1978, The Evergreen Courant newspaper in Evergreen, Ala. published a lengthy, three-part series of historical articles called the “Early History of the Alabama Baptist Orphanage.” Written by Mary E. Brantley, the first installment of these articles appeared in the Oct. 12, 1978 edition of The Courant. The other two installments appeared in the Oct. 19, 1978 and Oct. 26, 1978 editions of The Courant, respectively. What follows is Part 2 in its entirety. Enjoy.)

THE ANDREWS SISTERS: The Andrews sisters, “Miss Hattie” and “Miss Rosa,” were born at Pineapple, Ala., daughters of a farm couple. Miss Hattie went to the home in Evergreen in 1913 as head matron of the girls’ cottage with the understanding that she would try it for one month. She was still working at the Home in Troy in 1947 when ill health forced her to retire. Miss Rosa went to Evergreen in 1915 and continued her work for 34 years. These two sisters devoted their lives to teaching and guiding all the children under their care. They helped each child to live happy, useful and well-adjusted lives.

Miss Hattie departed this life at Fairhope, Ala., March 24, 1955. Her funeral was conducted by the pastor of the Baptist Church in Fairhope, March 26, 1955. A beautiful tribute was written to her by Dr. J.O. Colley Sr., who was the Superintendent of the Baptist Orphanage, when it was moved from Evergreen to Troy.

Miss Rosa continues to live at home in Fairhope with her sister-in-law, Annie. In her Christmas letter of 1976, she writes: “Annie and I batch together. Our old body-wheels slowly turning; the old axles are worn and the spoke wobble; but we keep rolling along trying to make each day count for something – just a smile or kind word makes the day brighter. Annie and I are blessed to have each other. She does the cooking and I do the EATING. We work together pretty well as a team.”

When I began this series of articles, I wrote to Miss Rosa asking her to tell me her memories of the Orphanage when she was there as matron. She wrote me a 16-page letter: “Your letter came while I was on a most thrilling trip through the Great Smokey Mountains and to Washington, D.C. This was a treat and a wonderful trip for me at the age of 87.

“I went to the home in Evergreen in December 1915 to take over the work in the Baby Cottage. My sister Hattie had previously gone to the Home in 1913 as Dietician, Head Matron and Cottage Supervisor. She lived in the main building (Rabb Home) with about 75 older girls.

“When I arrived at the Home, Hattie went with me to the Baby Cottage and introduced me to three other girls who would be my helpers. The little girls and boys were all ages and types – some blondes, brunettes and redheads. I saw hunger in their eyes for love and recognition, so I began to shed tears. Sister Hattie said in a low voice: ‘Don’t do that, we are here to work for the peace, happiness and security of these children.’ She then led me through the building, showing and explaining details and routine work. She took me to the clothes room where shelves were full of rompers for boys and gingham aprons for girls. There were little nightgowns and underwear and all these garments had to be mended and kept in order. The routine was like mountains to me. I wondered if it were possible for me to do all this work. Hattie left me in charge of the little flock. Soon we had the little ones in their little white nighties, kneeling at the head of their beds for prayer. When they were all tucked in bed, I went to my room exhausted and with an aching head. Soon two older girls came in with a basin of warm water for me to bathe my feet. I was so touched by such loving kindness of these two girls. We had a cheerful chat, my feet had a good soaking, and the headache was soon gone.

“I sat down to write a short note to my boyfriend whom I left in Mobile. Two little brothers had slipped out of bed and came to my door watching me writing. They eased in and said, ‘Lady, will you please write to our mamma?’ I put my arm around them, kissed them and asked if they could tell me where mamma lived. They said, ‘We don’t know, she just lives in the crazyhouse.’ I never got in touch with the mother but I stayed in touch with the little brothers. I have followed them through boyhood to manhood and they both became fine business men. I still keep in touch with them.

“We did everything by bells. We really moved with that ole bell. We had to get up at 5:30 each morning. All the little children had to get dressed, hands and faces cleaned, and hair combed. My what a rush to get breakfast by 6:00. Miss Hattie greeted the children at the dinning room door and saw that all were seated at the right table. One older girl was assigned to serve each table. Prayer was always offered before each meal.

“As soon as breakfast was over, all went back to the cottages for general routine and assignments. Beds were made, floors swept, dusting and many other little chores had to be done before 8:00 when the bell rang for school. Boys and girls went in shifts; some worked while others went to school. The younger children were in kindergarten. The dinner bell rang promptly at 12:00 noon; supper bell at 5:00; study hall bell at 7:00 p.m. The studies were supervised by the teachers.

“At 9:00 children were ready for bed. Each Saturday was general house cleaning. Each Sunday, everyone attended services at the First Baptist Church where Dr. Jeter Dickinson was pastor. Sunday School was held in the Chapel at the Home each Sunday afternoon. Often Mr. Rabb and Evergreen friends helped with the Sunday School.

“Different work was assigned to each child for a period of two weeks, then changes were made. Buster Stokes was the chief cook but the girls helped with all house work and the boys helped with the laundry, the farm and dairy work, taking care of the mules, cows and pigs.

“We edited a small paper, ‘Our Children,’ which was done on the printing press at the Home with some older boys being in charge. The news items were prepared by the cottage mothers and teachers. The superintendent furnished the business items. Miss Hattie and the older girls folded the papers and got them ready to mail out over the state.

“We had daily prayer service in each cottage. In the Baby Cottage, we learned Bible verses and some Psalms and even entire chapters of the Bible. It was amazing how easily and quickly these little children learned to memorize.

“It was a happy experience to see their lives, like the petals of a flower, unfold each day: physically, mentally and spiritually. They grew into strong, healthy Christian men and women and made their lives a blessing to the world and an honor to our Lord and Savior.

“Now, all work and no play is not good. We had fun! There were strolls in the woods, perhaps with some cold biscuits and salt bacon. We built a fire and broiled our sliced meat and had a sumptuous picnic lunch. We gathered hickory nuts, grapes, huckleberries, blackberries, plums or whatever was ripe at that season.

“Sometimes we went to Mineral Springs for picnics. A creek was nearby and many of the children learned to swim here in what we called ‘Fifteen Foot Hole.’ One day, one of the teachers and I were swimming in this ‘Fifteen Foot Hole,’ the children had been with us but they had crawled out. The steep bank was so slick we couldn’t get out and for a minute it was frightening until the children lined up, held hands, reached down and pulled us out.

“Another time, the children had peanuts drying on top of the Baby Cottage. They kept insisting that I climb the ladder to the top of the house to eat peanuts and enjoy a beautiful view from such a high point. With their help, I made it to the top – enjoyed the peanuts and the view. All the children got down while I sat on top of the house afraid to back down over the eaves of the house onto the ladder. Again, the little boys came back and helped me down.

“Adalaid Stark Morris (Granny to us) lived in the Rabb home with Miss Hattie and the older girls. She came from Virginia where she had served as a house mother in a boys’ college. She was a widow, no children, and very old. She was a precious ‘Granny’ to all of us. She was always mending a boys cap or making a soft ball for the boys. She kept candy, cookies or tid-bits in her room for little tea parties for the small children. Every morning she was out feeding the birds and in the evenings she was helping the children with their chores. Her health was good but she was rather deaf and used a long cardboard tube for a hearing aid. Her hair was parted in the middle and she always wore long, full-gored, black shirts. On Sunday mornings, she stood on the sidewalk and as the children passed by on the way to church, she put a penny in each hand for their collection money. ‘Granny’ moved with the flock to Troy and lived to be almost 100.

“To the east and back of the Baby Cottage (small children), was a beautiful sloping pine grove. This was an ideal playground for the little boys to make straw house, shoot sling shots and bows and arrows. They also played ball here and had a little garden plot. When the farm supervisor missed some of his tools like hoes, rakes, hammers, hatchets or an ax; he could find them on the boys’ playground. The small children played in the front yard. They enjoyed playing house, school, dolls, hop-scotch and ball.

“Sometimes my little boys got into trouble: one day Miss Hattie had a large sack of black-eyed peas in the sunshine on the back porch of the kitchen; my boys found them and took a supply for their slingshots. Peas were scattered from the kitchen to the Baby Cottage. As soon as Miss Hattie discovered what had happened, she had all the peas picked up and returned and I received a good scolding for not keeping a closer eye on my brood. We picked up peas for days and days!

“Another time, Miss Hattie found my boys in the milk room where she had just placed a large cake that was baked for dinner. Almost all the cake had been devoured when Miss Hattie walked in. My boys came hurrying home with tears streaming down from their eyes.

“Now, not all days were sunshine and roses. There was World War I when some of the boys were on the battlefields. We lived through a depression with meager financial support: the Home was in debt, workers had very small salaries, buildings were old, leaking and dilapidated; all equipment run down beyond repair; three buildings had burned to ashes; terrible overcrowded conditions and no room for more children.

“The terrible epidemic of influenza hit the Orphanage about 1917-18. Everyone was down at the same time except Rev. Stewart and two small children. Evergreen friends came in to help but most all of them were ill too. Dr. Emmett Stallworth was our doctor and most loved person by the children and staff. He took care of us night and day. All our laundry and clothes got mixed up and it was a long time before things were back in place. Miss Hattie stayed in bed a short time and was soon back in the kitchen preparing meals for all the sick ones. Dr. Stallworth was our life saver!

“These were distressing times but we struggled through with the help of the good Evergreen people. Finally a decision was made to move the Home to Troy in 1923. It was a sad, moving away from the Old Home and leaving so many friends – the Iveys, McCrearys, Stallworths, Cunninghams, Demmings, Cravins, Dickinsons, Taliferros, Hendersons, Rabbs and so many more.

“The little candle that God inspired Father Stewart to light down here on earth, must be a bright shining star in his heavenly crown. The light also shines in the lives of many thousand girls and boys and workers who lived at the Home. They radiate this light to all the world to honor and glorify our Lord and Savior as the years go by.”

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