On October 12, 1880, an issue appeared on the ballot for establishing a Children’s Home in Richland County. If voted for, county funds not exceeding $50,000 would be used “for the purchase of a site, and the erection thereon of said home.”i There was a portion of the citizens who felt a children’s home was not needed in Richland County, arguing that it would be better to fund the smaller homes already in existence.ii Despite this the issue passed with 5,160 votes for the home and 1,929 against.iii David William Gibbs, who worked on the County Infirmary and Jail, was chosen as architect for the new home.
Some leading citizens protested the selection of D. W. Gibbs as the architect. J. H. Cook, W. S. Bradford, F. E. Tracy, and others published a letter in the Mansfield Herald on June 9, 1881, saying the home was closely copied from one Gibbs had designed in Miami County, Ohio. A letter from S. K. Harter, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Miami County Home, cited in the paper he called the Miami Home “the worst abortion in the state.” Harter claimed the home was intended to hold 125 children but was currently at compacity with 77 children and that there were not suitable rooms for the sick and infants. It was also said that the “soil pipes prove too small and will have to be replaced.”iv A short time later, Mr. Gibbs responded to the criticisms saying that the Miami Home had only built one of the proposed wings of the building and the nursery was to be placed in the basement of the unbuilt wing. Gibbs also claimed the builders did not follow the plans properly for the sewage system.v
A portion of the old Hedges homestead in the fourth ward was chosen as the site for the home. 20 acres was purchased for “$4000, less $1000, the amount donated by the owner of the property.”vi the home was constructed approximately where Richland Newhope’s Foundation Hall at 220 Home Rd. is located today. In September of 1882, while the home was still being constructed, Mrs. Alice Wright, of Shelby, was chosen as the first Matron of the home. Her husband, George, was injured about nine years before this when a log fell on him at a saw-mill in Belmont County, Ohio. He had since that time been an invalid and cared for by his wife. The couple had one son, 14, who was described as “a model for business all boys should pattern after.”vii
On May 19, 1883, the County Commissioners turned the home over to the Board of Trustees of the Children’s Home. On May 31, 1883, the first children were admitted to the home, 24 children from the County Infirmary. The following week, seven or eight more children from the county were admitted. The children ranged in age from infancy to twelve years old and would stay at the home until the age of 16. Mrs. Wright was assisted by Mrs. Etta Folwell, governess of the boys; Miss V. L. Johnson, governess of the girls; and Miss Jennie Conway, who was in charge of the nursery.viii
On December 19, 1904, there was a small Christmas party at the home for the children. In attendance was Senator William Lawrence, who at that time was the editor of the Mansfield Daily Shield. The following day, Lawrence wrote in his paper that “there is at least one institution in Richland County of which all the citizens, without regard to political and religious prejudices or predilections, should be proud.” He added it was a treat to tour the institution and that “every resident of the county should enjoy the pleasure at least once.”ix The home was razed in 1969 along with the County Court House.
i Page 4 of Mansfield Herald, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Thursday, September 30th, 1880
ii Page 4 of Richland Star, published in Bellville, Ohio on Thursday, October 7th, 1880
iii Page 3 of Richland Shield and Banner, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Saturday, October 16th, 1880
iv Page 2 of Mansfield Herald, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Thursday, June 9th, 1881
v Page 7 of Mansfield Herald, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Thursday, July 21st, 1881
vi Page 5 of Richland Star, published in Bellville, Ohio on Thursday, January 13th, 1881
vii Page 1 of Richland Shield and Banner, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Saturday, September 9th, 1882
viii Page 5 of Ohio Liberal, published in Mansfield, Ohio on Wednesday, June 6th, 1883
ix Baughman, Abraham. History of Richland County, Ohio from 1808 to 1908. pp. 311-312.