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Written by Katherine Westwood, copy sent in by Lena Evans and Retyped by Norma SMITH Mattison
HISTORY OF Elmira Child and Family Service
by Katherine Westwood

The history of what we know today as the Elmira Child and Family Service had its beginning 100 years ago. The exact date in 1864 is somewhat uncertain, since various old reports differ; what is certain is that in the year 1864 a group of church women of various denominations ( see Appendix 1 of early churches which were members) organized a group to care for the suffering families of the soldiers who were caught up by the Civil War. The Elmira Phoenix Hospital Aid Association, as it was first called early in 1864, opened an industrial department to provide work for the women who were able to labor, and shelter was found for homeless women and children. A place was needed where sick women and little children could be properly cared for, and steps were taken to raise money to purchase a building.

Within a few months a section of this association formed a new group which they called the Ladies’ Relief Association, which was incorporated on 12-28-1864. Its object was the care of needy soldiers, their wives and children. There were so many of these needy that a sum of $2,000.00 was raised, and a building was procured at the corner of Magee and Third Streets, where “for nearly two years the charities of this institution were dispersed.”

This building was soon over-crowded and proved inadequate, and the Association then purchased three-fourths of an acre of land at the corner of Fulton and Franklin Streets in the Fifth Ward, where St. Mary’s School now stands. $2,500.00 was paid for this land and the building of a log cabin- David Decker advancing $2,000.00 until subscriptions could be raised. The building was opened on January 1, 1866 and was immediately filled with mothers and little children, including five orphans. ( orphans were housed at the county home in Breesport before home on Franklin Street was opened.)

The Association showed a modern understanding of the problem by hoping to keep mothers and children together, a chief tenet in later child welfare work. However, the idea at that time was generally sent to the Almshouse ( built 1888- called County Almshouse in Breesport) while the cabin became a refuge for children-an orphan asylum.

With its character of caring for children established, the organization received a charter (See Appendix II, or original charter) from the State of New York, filed on February 17, 1868, as the Southern Tier Orphan’s Home, whose object was “ to furnish relief for orphans and other needy children.” The Articles of Association were signed on February 10, 1868. Following is the list of signers:

Mrs. David Decker

Peter A. France

Archibald Robertson

William J. Dounce

Elijah P. Brooks

Phineas Helm

William C. Taylor

Andrew Hathorn

John B. Dunning

The number of children had so increased that the log cabin had been enlarged in 1867 and later additions made in 1870 until there was room for 50. More land was bought to enlarge the grounds. The Home was acquiring a reputation. In six years it had grown into a valuable institution filling a real need in the community, and filling it “ with a rare progressive efficiency.”

Mrs. Cordelia Decker, wife of David Decker, was the first president of the Southern Tier Orphan’s Home. An Article on her death printed in the Elmira Daily Gazette in 1872 states, “ The Southern Tier is indebted to Mrs. Decker more than any other for the existence of our Orphan Asylum. How great her faith and hope when there was discouragement at the want of funds to carry on the work begun.” At her death it appears she was followed by Mrs. Luther Caldwell. Much of the later success of the Home seems to have been due to these two forward looking women, and to the fine devoted women who followed them.

In 1871 the Home received recognition from the State Legislature in the form of an appropriation, the only one it ever got, as a Bill was soon passed forbidding the Legislature to give funds to private agencies. Thereafter the Home was dependent upon the community for maintenance, The citizens of Elmira took up their responsibility with enthusiasm. On the Annual Donation Day the Home was abundantly supplied with food, toys, clothing and subscriptions to the Youth’s Companion. Typical donations of the day, as listed in the April 1873 issue of the Southern Tier Orphan’s Home News were: “ Tub of mackeral, toothache medicine, iron hitching post, bathtub, large basket of beef, nice pair of shoes, 3 pairs drawers, baby clothes.”

Mrs. Caldwell describes these early days in a report of 1885, as follows: “ Many ways were devised for making money, such as home entertainments, lectures, old folks, concerts and donation days. In February 1872 it was decided to have a fair, and connected with it an Art Gallery. The result was a triumphal success; the net proceeds amounted to $5,358.00, and as Newton P. Fassett, our Treasurer, expressed it, “Nothing since the Sanitary Fair held during the war for the boys in Blue so touched the hearts of the people.”

Elmira society as a whole supported the frequent functions to raise money. Strawberry festivals, concerts, exhibits of furniture and clothing formed a part of the recreational activities of the city and were well attended. Financial help was greatly needed, for “ babies were brought from doorsteps or the river bank, almost every day, and none were ever turned away.” Many children were brought by mothers and widower fathers unable to care for them, and few questions seem to have been asked before the children were accepted according to the matron. “Cursed drink” sent many of them, while “ villainous fathers” played their part. Today social work recognizes the need for working with these parents , and gives help in keeping family and home together, but at that time little or nothing was done in that respect.

Moreover in the 19th century adequate records such as are in use today were not kept. A large ledger, which has come to be known as the “ Doomsday Book” is still in the office of the agency, and in it the name of every child ever under the care of the agency is supposedly recorded, but the facts were meager, often with no names for the parents of the children or any account of what became of the children. A typical entry is as follows, “ George White, born 4-12-1863, came to the Home 5-19-74. Mother, Elizabeth Jones, dead. Father, unknown.” No other entry appears regarding this child.

The best picture of the actual working of the institution is given by a small newspaper published quarterly by the orphanage from 1871 through October 1874. This was a daily journal of the doings of the Home which gives an excellent picture of warmth yet inadequacy of those early days. There is constant mention of new children being brought to the Home by parents unable to care for them-apparently accepted with few questions asked. Many of these items make dismal reading, as this of “ Willie,” in the June 1874 issue.

“ Willie is failing. He is a pretty child. There is something so touching in the pitiful pleading expression of the little sufferer’s eyes. None can regret to see them close.” In the next issue we read that Willie has died of Cholera. The Journal goes on to say, “ This evening about nine o’clock Willie ceased to live. Glad we were [there] when the last painful struggle was over. We feel so sure , that escaped to its beautiful home, the spirit of the little child is just as pure as any of the cherub band. At an early hour the children are called together to attend upon the burial of Willie. Once again the little coffin is in the accustomed place, and the children , even to the youngest , are gathered thoughtfully around to listen to words addressed to them; words which we trust will impress each tender heart.”

Children died in great numbers at times, of “baby marasmus,” and other diseases not mentioned, but undoubtedly they had as good care as was available in those days.

Even sadder than the story of Willie is that of a mother who, weeping bitterly, left her baby at the Home because she had no money and her father had turned her from his door. She returned two days later in haste and delight- her father had forgiven her, and could bring the baby home. But alas, a kind lady, whose name the orphanage had neglected to record, had stopped by, and seeing the baby, decided she would take it. There was nothing the poor young mother could do but go away, sorrowing. This early letter (11-14-1895) is found in the records of the agency:

“Mrs. Roth, (Superintendent)

Mrs. Thurston and her mother would like to take a child to a Mrs. McDowell of Wellsburg, a sister of Mrs. Thurston and as they have no recommend I write this that the formality may be waived, and if they can find a child that would suit them, let them take her-on my responsibility. 11-14-1895

Hastily, C. A. Wall.”

It is easy to criticize these early days, but for the era the Home did a remarkable work, and the citizens of Elmira and Chemung County were justly proud of what was being done.

There was casualness in the care of these children, yet on the whole it was for its day good care, and far better than the care given to unwanted children in previous generations.

Little if any records were kept of the burial of these children. Attempts were made in 1960 to trace the burial spots of the children from the Home. An older employee of Woodlawn Cemetery was located. He said that no burial records were kept of these children, no markers on their graves, but for the most part they were buried in the Fulton St. Cemetery and in Woodlawn in the “Potters Field” section behind the National Cemetery.

However , life was not all sadness. There is mention of picnics and visits of “kind ladies” who brought food and occasional delicacies.

Meagre rules concerning the rights of parents( see Appendix III ) were simply stated in the July 1874 issue of the Home News, as “ By our rules all boarders whose board is left unpaid four weeks, unless satisfactory reasons are given, are considered as belonging to the Home, and are given out the same as the others.” In other words, after 30 days of unpaid board a child could be permanently given away, and the mother had no recourse.

In 1873 the Honorable Boardman Smith, a member of Congress, generously donated his back pay of $4,644.80 to raise the amount the orphanage treasury to $15,000.00. By this time the old log cabin no longer filled the needs of the Home. It was over-crowded and inadequate. When Mr. Boardman’s gift was received it was decided that the time had come to erect a suitable building , and in October 1874 the cornerstone was laid for a large three story brick building on the same grounds, doubtless the last word in orphanages of that time. The building was dedicated on June 1877.

Changes of various sorts began to take place around the turn of the century. At an early date the Home seem to have contracted with the local overseers of the poor to take some of the children as public charges, the board rate of $2.oo a week per child being paid through tax funds. Also at an early date the courts seem to have sent neglected children to the Home of public charges. In the annual report of 1889 there is the comment that children under the age of 16 needing public care must by law be sent to the Home by the county poor officers.( However, since no such law can be located this statement is questionable.)

The Home continued to take in any needy child, with or without public tax support, and soon the fine new building was filled to overflowing. Several nearby houses were bought and used as cottages. One way of reducing the population of the Home was to send some of the older children to the west. The Children’s Aid Society of New York at this time , in order to cut down the population of the hungry , stray and unwanted children to the sparsely populated west where the farmers were glad to get them for the work they could do. The train would stop at various western stations- the children would be herded to a school house or church, stood up on a table , and the farmers would come in, look them over and take their pick.

Some local person of good repute would vouch for the farmer’s character , but the process was casual, and must have been bitter for some of the children. Taken from all that was familiar to them, on a long tiring train ride , then trust into strange homes , to many it must have been miserable, often cruel, though some doubtless found good fortune. It was a form of the indenture system, and not much different from what was taking place locally, when almost anyone could come to the Home and pick out a child. Fortunately the trips west were discontinued early in the 20th century.

In the past the method of caring for more children was to provide more room in the building, but around the turn of the century the emphasis in child care began to shift all over the nation from institutional care to that of placing children in private family homes at board. Because of the over-crowding the Southern Tier Orphanage was beginning to place a few children with private families, Also by 1900 the over-crowding was somewhat lessened by sending defective children to special institutions. In 1913 the Home began the use of psychological examinations as a guide to placement. Also in the early 1900’s the Home took another progressive step- the education of the older children in public schools. Up to this time the Home had tried to educate the children in the institution and had built in the grounds a small schoolhouse where in 1878, 35 children were in attendance. This was later sold to the Elmira Garden Club for use as its meeting place.

This contact with children from normal homes, and taking part in community activities gave the orphans a more balanced life. Although these children undoubtedly benefited from mingling with the other city children, the boys and girls from the “Home” always felt themselves to be a segregated group- “ different from other children.” Vocational training was attempted in the Home in 1900 under Mr. Rufus Stanley.

As the idea of foster homes for children gained favor, the Board of Managers of the Home began to realize that the institution was not filling the need in the community. The over-crowding , the old equipment, the difficulty in keeping good staff, all had a part in calling for change.. The Board, therefore, in 1925 asked the advise of both the State Charities Aid Association of New York and the State Board of Charities in Albany. Both recommended a complete study of the organization. At that time there were 86 children in the Home.

For six months the Board Members themselves intensively studied what was going on in the home, each member being responsible for studying some special aspect. At the end of this time they decided that expert assistance was necessary, This report of the Board Members is on file, and shows, among other distressing facts, that the children were not allowed to speak in the dining room; were allowed so little time to eat that some did not finish; that discipline was rigid and harsh. With assistance from the City Welfare fund an expert in the field, Miss Julia Pennypacker, was employed for three months. At the end of this time, during which she lived on the Home, she advised a complete revision of policy with emphasis on preserving the children’s own homes as far as possible through case work, and on foster home placements with careful study and supervision. This marked the beginning of a great change for the agency, and the use of the newer theories of social case work.

The Board accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. In line with its more progressive policies the agency on 2-2-25 decided to delete the word “orphan” from its name, becoming the Southern Tier Children’s Home.

The change from institutional life to foster care went very rapidly once it was accepted. There is no genuinely satisfactory substitute for the basic family life of a young child, and this change was in line with the best thinking of the period. In 1928 Mrs. Blanche Padgett was engaged as superintendent and Miss Georgia Greenleaf as the first case worker. Both had had training in child care. 1930 census lists Blanche Padgett, Superintendent and Beatrice McKibbin [who was 83] as case worker. During this period also the Board began keeping written minutes of its meeting.

In 1925 the Elmira Junior League had taken on a project the placement of a trained nurse[ Mrs. Bess Benson ] in the Children’s Home. Her duty was to supervise the health care of the younger children in the institution. With the placement of all the children in foster homes the work of the nurse was necessary in training the foster parents in the proper feeding and health care of the children. Mrs. Benson’s capable, devoted interest was of utmost importance to the agency.

Dr, Anna Stuart, physician of note, had for many years handled the medical care of the children in the Home, and she continued to care for them in their foster homes, with the nurse under her supervision. Dr. Stuart carried all medical work of the agency , without reimbursement, for many years, and the excellent health of the children testified to her skill and great interest in the work. She continued to care for them until the year 1945 when her failing eyesight forced her to give up the work which she loved.

After Mrs. Benson’s resignation the social workers carried on the health work, and when Dr. Stuart could no longer care for the children the agency was fortunate in turning to Dr. William Phillips, a young pediatrician who had recently come to Elmira. He was joined by his associate, Dr. Frank Hertzog. For many years, since 1945, through the present time, these two able men have given free service, every Friday morning, and any other time when needed, to the children under the care of the agency. To these three physicians, who have given so much of their valuable time and experience, must go the agency’s endless gratitude. The fine general health of the children has been remarkable, and a testimonial to their devoted service.

There were 100 children in the Home in 1928. By sending retarded children to institutions and by returning others to relatives who could care for them, the population was reduced to 60. It was decided to place these children in foster homes.

A statement was made by the Board at this time, “ It is the belief of the Trustees of the Children’s Home that children need the affection, individual attention, normal family life and community contract which can only be secured through a private home, and that when a child’s home fails him the best substitute is a carefully chosen foster home. This belief has been deepened to conviction by the result of placing children in such homes during the years and by the study of the experience of other child placing agencies.”

A study was made of each child and a careful investigation was made of foster homes applying for children. Gradually the Home was cleared, the children placed in foster homes, one or two in each home, the last placement being made in January 1931. The Home was closed , eventually torn down; the land was sold later for $40,000.00 to St. Mary’s School and to the Garden Club. It is amazing that so great a change should have been accomplished in so short a time.

Extensive follow-up work was carried on after the children were placed in foster homes. This was most necessary as the children were unused to family life and knew little of life that did not move by bells.

During the decade 1930-1940, depression and post depression years, the work of the agency increased enormously. In 1932, following the resignation of Mrs. Padgett, Miss Carolyn Jordan became Director, and she in turn was followed by Miss Josephine Webster, both of whom capably improved the work. At Miss Webster’s resignation in 1937, Mrs. Katherine Westwood became Director, and she was followed in 1963 by Mrs. Robert Gingrich.

One of Miss Webster’s projects was a Shelter or Detention Home where court committed children could await final disposition by the court. A married couple was hired to put their home and services at the disposal of the court, under agency supervision, but for various reasons this did not work out satisfactorily, and after a year the project was discontinued.

In July 1929 the community had organized a Community Chest to centralize the support of the various agencies and to lessen the demands on well-to-do individuals. From the beginning of the Community Chest the agency has been a Chest member and has received substantial support through its help.

During these depression years, 1929 on for nearly a decade, the public departments were not in any way equipped to care for the great number of children who suddenly needed care outside their family homes. Parents frequently left to look for work and did not return, the whole economy was upset, and children were neglected and needed care. As a result of this dislocation the number of children under the care of the agency rose sharply- sometimes around 300 children being under care in foster homes and other children’s institutions, which were used in some instances where institutional care was indicated.

Since the load was greater than the private agency could carry financially, and the public relief departments did not have the experienced workers, the actual placements and supervision of the children were made by the Southern Tier Children’s Home with the public relief agencies reimbursing the private agency paid for the cost of care of many of the children. The public agency paid for actual board and clothing, but nothing was paid by the public for the cost of supervision, workers’ salaries, rent, traveling expenses. All overhead costs were carried from private funds, i.e. the agency’s endowment and the Community Chest funds. Fortunately the endowment was increasing. As a rule only the interest was used. Since the agency’s inception it had received many gifts through interested individuals and from wills of the deceased. ( One of these early donors of $2,000.00 was Simon Benjamen, founder of Elmira College.)

The bookkeeping of the agency had been rather casual, but in 1934 Mr. Clarence Killinger, whose wife was at that time President of the Board, put the agency for the first time on a sound financial bookkeeping system, which was most necessary with the increased number of children under care and the increasing expenditures. By using his up-to-date methods, not only were the finances systematized but proper statistical recording made it possible to know where each child was placed at any given time, as well as the exact cost per day of each child’s care. For the first time the parents were expected to pay the full cost of the board, as far as they were able to do so; they were billed monthly and most parents who could pay little were asked to apply for financial help to the city or county. Although the children usually remain in the same foster homes under the supervision of the Home, the cost of their care was to a great extent reimbursed by the public departments.

During these years the various public departments --County, City and Veteran’s- ran separate departments, with separate accounting systems; and with nearly 300 children under the Southern Tier Children’s Home was obligated to keep careful check on financial responsibility.

For several years the Board of the agency had felt that it should not be using privately donated money to care for the children who were the proper responsibility of the taxpayers. Besides the cost involved, the triple responsibility of parents, public departments and the private agency entailed endless time in conferences between the agencies regarding intake policies, relatives’ responsibility, children’s placements, etc. When court action had to be taken to enforce parental payments or prove parental neglect, there were further complications.

Finally the Southern Tier Children’s Home asked the advise of Dr. C.C. Carstens, Director of the Child Welfare League of America, of which Southern Tier Children’s Home was a member. He came to Elmira several times, and strongly recommended that the Southern Tier Children’s Home should turn back to the public departments the care of all the children who were properly public wards, unless the children had unusual physical or emotional difficulties.

With this recommendation behind it, the Board voted to accept the plan, and by 1940 the public departments had taken over the actual care of the bulk of the publicly supported children. As far as possible the foster homes were also turned over, so that the children did not have to be moved from the places to which they were accustomed.

This was a great step forward for it left the agency free to work on projects that were properly its responsibility; new projects, or those for which the public agencies were not suited. Unfortunately the great reduction in caseload meant also a reduction in staff from 13 workers to 5.

Now began plans for the future. In December 1938 the number of Board Members was increased from nine to twenty-one and the Board membership, which from its inception has been composed of women, was changed to include men. The date of the annual meeting was changed from November to January.

Because the agency’s work was so greatly decreased, there was renewed and clearer thinking as to the real need of the agency and its future place in the community. Many suggestions were made. It was felt that a Psychiatric Clinic should be started for the care of disturbed children. There was talk of the eventual establishment of a county unit for the care of dependent children. Most pertinent to the function of the Southern Tier Children’s Home was talk of a merger with the Social Service Department of the Federation for Social Service.( The Federation Social Service Dept.)

The “ Federation,” as it was called, had been organized in 1909 to draw together all the social agencies of the time and to give help of various sorts to the community. It reflected the warmth and human interest of many of the leading citizens, foremost of whom was Mrs. J. Sloat Fassett, a woman of culture and wealth and who had a great eagerness to help the community, coupled with a keen intelligence. Mainly through the efforts of Mrs. Fassett this new Federation immediately won the respect and support of the community. Its activities were many. They included erection in 1909 of a large, four story building at the corner of West Church and State Streets, to house the various activities which were of community interest. In this building was a large auditorium, a day nursery for children, bedrooms which rented to working women for $2.00 a week, laundry, indoor pool, cafeteria, and the facilities which could be used by the public.

In January 1931 the agency moved its headquarters to offices on the fourth floor of what was then known as the federation Building, later the Jewish Community Center, 115 E. Church Street. The choice of the new headquarters was a good one, as it was a central location, and the building belonged to the Federation for Social Service. Housed in the building was the Community Chest, as well as Social Service Committee of the Federation, which was active both in giving case work help to troubled people as well as relief to needy families. These were the years of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and there was much need throughout the city. Having the Social Service agency, with its experienced workers, in the same building was a great help to the Home, as the two agencies could frequently consult on different situations.

Also on the fourth floor of the building was the Day Nursery, and in March 1932 the Home took over the supervision of this agency, much needed at an earlier time, but which closed after a short time because with the depression there was no longer work for the mothers of the children.

One of its services was the formation of a Social Service Committee. This Committee gradually had become essentially a family casework agency, well respected and a member of the Family Service Association of America. With the years of the interest in the Federation itself waned, and many of its projects were given up, but the Social Service Department continued to grow and change with the years, and filled a continuous community need. It too, however, was affected by the changes in city and county government. It too had been overburdened during the depression years with what was properly public relief giving. Because the public department was inadequate, practically all relief was given through the Social Service, reimbursed by tax funds, but with no reimbursement of salaries or overhead and it too suddenly lost the bulk of its work when the public departments finally in the 1930’s took over the giving of relief.

For several years the Social Service (The Federation) and the Southern Tier Children’s Home had realized that there was duplication in the work each was doing, and when the able Director of the Social Service, Miss Vienne Borton, announced her resignation, the time had come for the long-talked-of merger of the two casework agencies. After endless committee meetings of the two Boards this merger was at last accomplished on March 12, 1940. Both agencies had large Boards, but by vote of all the membership a new Board of 21 was chosen for the new agency, now to be known as the Elmira Child and Family Service. The Southern Tier Children’s Home applied to the New York State Legislature for increased powers and a new charter was granted on March 12, 1940 giving the Southern Tier Children’s Home the additional functions formerly assumed by the Social Service and changing to Elmira Child and Family Service. (See new charter attached, Appendix IV) Southern Tier Children’s Home to Elmira Child and Family Services-Date Filed May 31, 1940--File # 9582.

Dr. Carstens had stressed that a private agency should emphasize a preventive program rather than one of mere amelioration, and the agency now put its best efforts into a preventive program. It began to work more closely with the schools, so that troubled children might be referred before their need for help became to serious; it pressed vigorously for the formation of a psychiatric clinis, which finally was organized under the auspices of the Junior League in 1947. Many talks were given --over 50 in one year-- by the workers to interested groups, such as P. T. A.’ s, women’s clubs, etc. In an effort to arouse the public conscience to the value of having an agency in the community which could give wise counseling.

Referrals increased, as employers, teachers, ministers, the courts, and others began to see results from the service, and send their troubled people for help. The image of the agency as helping only the dregs of society began to fade, and more intelligent and well-to-do persons sought the services of the agency. A beginning was made in asking fees for the service.

Such work could not be done without skill, and by 1940 it had become agency practice to have as case workers only those with a master’s degree in social case work. These, mature, trained workers proved their worth.

Slowly but surely the ability of the agency workers to give real help through counseling troubled people was recognized by the community. At this time the agency became involved in increased work with the court. Many troubled people who came before interested , sympathetic judges were able to work out their problems with the court and the agency.

During the early 1940’s the agency began to work intensively on placing for adoption all the children of parents unable to care for them.

There had been many adoptive placements from the old orphanage, but there had never been adequate home investigations before placement, and many of the adoptions had turned out badly, to such an extent that by 1930* the agency no longer placed children for adoption locally, but took all suitable children to New York City to the State Charities Aid Association for placement. This process was hard on the child, who had already had much separation trauma-already taken from from its mother and placed in one, perhaps more than one, strange foster home. Then to be taken on a train, usually a sleeper, perhaps by a person not before known to the child, then taken to a strange foster home, some of which were as for away as Staten Island, before placement in a final adoptive home, what must the emotional repercussions have been!

Accordingly in 1938 the agency began to make its own adoptive placements within Chemung County or nearby. Every effort was made to insure successful placement, by a careful study of child’s potential ability as well as his background , before placement in a carefully studied home. The emotional stability , as well as the physical health of the adoptive applicants was considered carefully-- their warmth and capacity for acceptance of a child-- their attitudes toward each other, toward the community, the recommendations of references, and their reason for wanting a child were studied carefully. When a couple was accepted, the chosen child was helped to understand the new relationship, and usually final adoption was not permitted until a year after placement with the new parents. This careful work has continued and is still being carried on. Several hundred children have been placed by the agency in the years since 1938.

Nor is foster home care, where adoption is not contemplated, the hit or miss casual placement that it was formally. After careful study of the boarding home the child sees his new parents several times before final placement. All the homes are under constant supervision and each child can feel that he has a friend in his social worker. Sometimes hasty placements are made in emergencies, but this is not general practice.

Hand in hand with adoption placement is work with the unmarried parents, who may or may not surrender their children for adoption. Modern social workers realize that most out-of-wedlock pregnancies, even in this day of fairly casual sexual relationship, are usually the result of disturbed emotional stability. Instead of thinking in terms of punishment, the social workers try to understand both the girl and the father of her child, so that they can not only make a wise decision as to whether or not to marry, and whether or not to give up the child, but also can face their future lives with greater stability and wisdom. The agency gives these unfortunate people warmth and tenderness, but at the same time helps them to face their own weaknesses and to learn new ways of finding inner strength. Hundreds of unmarried parents, both girls and men, have been helped to find more stability and less casual lives.

Perhaps the greatest value of the agency to the community lies in the wise counseling the workers are able to give to troubled people. Many people, from teen-agers to the elderly, come to find help. Hundreds of married couples on the verge of separation have come for help, and after talking out their problems with a worker trained to understand, many hold their marriages together, with a new acceptance of each other which helps not only them but their children.

At the end of 100 years of service the agency seems as alive, as eager to be of help as in the beginning. It reflects the unusually fine spirit of the many devoted Board Members, men and women, who have given so much time and energy to this community endeavor. Most of all it reflects the spirit of the people in the community, who, like their predecessors in 1864, want a better life, not only for themselves, but for everyone.



First Presbyterian, Trustee Mrs. Ransom Pratt

Second Presbyterian, Trustee Mrs. David Tuthill

Park Church Trustee Mrs. G. M. Nye

First Methodist Trustee Mrs. J. S. Thurston

Hedding Methodist Trustee Mrs. Luther Caldwell

First Baptist Trustee Mrs. E. St. John

Grace Episcopal Trustee Mrs. E. N. Frisbee

Trinity Episcopal Trustee Mrs. J.B. Clark

Southport Corners

Jewish Synagogue Mrs. J. H. Doomaul, Manager

Webb Mills Mrs. H.F. Wells Manager




) SS


Be it known, that we the undersigned in pursuance of and conformity with an Act of the Legislature of the State of New York entitled an “Act for the incorporation of Benevolent, Charitable, Scientific and Missionary Societies,” passed 1848, and the several Acts Amendatory thereof, hereby associate ourselves as a body politic and corporate and the following are the



The corporate name of this Association shall be the “ Southern Tier Orphans Home.”


The objects for which this Association or Corporation is formed , are to furnish relief, and a home for destitute orphans and other needy children.


The Trustees or Directors who are to manage the affairs of said Association for the first year, or until others shall be elected in their place, shall be nine and their names are --

Mrs. David Decker Elmira, N.Y. Mrs. Phineas Helm Elmira, N.Y.

Mrs. Peter A. France Elmira, N.Y. Mrs. William C. Taylor Elmira, N.Y.

Mrs. Archibold Robertson Elmira, N.Y. Mrs. Andrew Hathorn Elmira, N.Y.

Mrs. William J. Dounce Elmira, N.Y. Mrs. John B. Dunning Elmira, N.Y.

Mrs. Elijah P, Brooks Elmira, N.Y.


The operation of this Association are to be carried on in the City of Elmira, State of New York.

In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this day of February, A. D. 1868.

Mrs. William J. Dounce

Mrs. Archibold Robertson

Mrs. John B. Dunning

Mrs. Elijah P. Brooks

Mrs. Phineas Helm

Mrs. Peter A. LaFrance

Mrs. Andrew Hathorn

Mrs. David Decker

Mrs. William C, Taylor


) SS


On this 10th day of February 1868 personally appeared before me, Mrs. David Decker, Mrs. Peter A. LaFrance, Mrs. Archibold Robertson, Mrs. William J. Dounce, Mrs. Elijah P. Brooks, Mrs. Phineas Helm, Mrs. William C. Taylor, Mrs. Andrew Hathorn, Mrs. John B. Dunning, known by me to be individuals who signed the within certificate, and who severally acknowledges that they did so, for the purposes specified therein.

Newton P. Fassett

Notary Public, In and for

Chemung County


We the undersigned, in consideration of the giving into our charge and care, by the Southern Tier Orphans Home, Henry E. a male child of 11 years, now legally an inmate of the said Home, do hereby agree to properly and suitably care for, clothe and feed said child, treat him kindly, and give him a common school education. If, for any reason, said child shall be returned to said home, he shall be as well clothed as when taken there from.

If said child shall remain with us until of legal age, and then wishes to leave us we agree to give to said child two full changes of under-clothing and two suits of outer clothing, and the sum of $100

Witness our hand and seal this 7th day of June 1904





Section 1. Upon the filing in the department of state of the certificate specified in subdivision three, accompanied by payment of a fee of twenty-five dollars to the secretary of state, the corporate name of Southern Tier Children’s Home, a corporation created pursuant to the laws of the state of New York, under the name Southern Tier Orphans Home by a certificate of incorporation dated the tenth day of February, eighteen hundred sixty-eight, filed in the office of the secretary of state on the seventeenth day of February, eighteen hundred sixty-eight, and in the office of the clerk of the county of Chemung on the fourteenth day of February, eighteen hundred sixty-eight, the name of which corporation was changed to Southern Tier Children’s Home by certificate of change of name dated the fifth day of February, nineteen hundred twenty-five, filed in the office of the secretary of state on the thirteenth day of February nineteen hundred twenty-five and in the office of the clerk of the county of Chemung on the fifth day of February , nineteen hundred twenty-five shall be changed to Elmira Child and Family Service, and such corporation shall thereafter be known and designated by and under such corporate name.

Section 2. Upon the filing of such certificate the territory in which the corporation’s activities are principally to be conducted shall be extended so as to include the county of Chemung, and the purpose of said corporation shall be broadened and changed so as to include the following ( without excluding any other of its existing purposes):

A. To furnish relief, assistance, and counsel to persons in need thereof;

B. To promote the welfare of children, particularly of destitute, abandoned, neglected, or dependent children and to receive, care for, to place out or to board out such children for adoption or otherwise, and to do all things required for the welfare of such children; and the number of directors of said corporation shall be changed so that such number will be not

less than ten nor more than twenty-five.

Section 3. Such corporation within sixty days after this act takes effect may file in the department of state a certificate entitled “ Certificate of change of name of Southern Tier Children’s Home to Elmira Child and Family Service; change of territory in which the corporation’s activities are principally to be conducted, extension of its corporate purposes, and change in number of directors pursuant to chapter of the laws of nineteen hundred forty” ( the blank space being filled in with the chapter number of this act) and which shall state:

1. The name of the corporation and the name under which it was originally incorporated.

2. The date on which its certificate of incorporation was filed in the department of state.

3. That its name is changed to Elmira Child and Family Service.

4. That the territory in which its activities are principally conducted is the county of Chemung.

5. The corporate purposes, and that such purposes shall be broadened and changed so as to include, without excluding others, the following purposes:

A. To furnish relief, assistance, and counsel to persons in need thereof;

B. To promote the welfare of children, particularly of destitute, abandoned, neglected or dependent children, and to receive, care for, to place out or to board out such children for adoption or otherwise, and to do all things required for the welfare of such children.

6. That the number of directors of said corporation shall be less than ten nor more than twenty-five.

7. That the execution and filing of the certificate has been authorized by the provisions of this act, setting forth the chapter number and year of passage thereof.

The consent of the state board of social welfare and the approval of a justice of the supreme court of the judicial district in which the corporation’s office is located shall be annexed to the certificate.

Such certificate shall be executed and acknowledged by the president or a vice-president and the secretary or an assistant secretary, who shall make and annex an affidavit stating that they have been authorized to execute and file the certificate by vote of the directors, at a meeting duly called and held on a date specified.

The secretary of state shall forward a certified copy of the certificate to the clerk of the county in which the corporation’s office is located.

Section 4. All provisions of the general corporation law and of membership corporations law, except as herein otherwise provided, shall apply and appertain to such corporation.

Section 5. This act shall take effect immediately.


Presidents from 1864 to 1964

Mrs. Cordelia Decker

Mrs. E.N. Frisbie

Mrs. Peter LaFrance

Mrs. Almira Caldwell

Mrs. Caroline A. Hall

Mrs. William T. Henry

Mrs. Alice Fisher

Mrs. J.H. Pierce

Mrs. Merle Thompson

Mrs. Frank Hobler

Mrs. Clarence Killinger

Mrs. Donald Tillou-( Dr. Tillou’s wife)

Mrs. John Nichols

Mrs. Joseph Lewis

Mrs. Harold Hunt

Mrs. Orval Butler

Mrs. Leslie Clute

Mrs. Frederick Gridley

Mrs. Chauncey Wirth

Mrs. Gordon Curtis

Mrs. William Phillips

Mrs. E.B. Bruce

Mrs. Norman Learned, Sr.

Mrs. A.F. Underhill

Mrs. Charles Swan

Mrs. Swen Larson

Mrs. D. Bruce Crew

Chemung County NY

Published On 08/14/2004
By Joyce M. Tice

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