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Orphanages (Children's Homes, Child Welfare Work, German Waisenanstalt). Because of the strong family and group solidarity among Mennonites, few orphanages were established to care for Mennonite children except in Holland; where established in modern times they have been service institutions to care for children from orphaned or broken homes outside the brotherhood. In Europe, except until after World War II in France, orphanages were established only in Holland and in Russia. In Russia Abraham A. Harder established an orphans' home at Grossweide, Molotschna, in 1906, including a school, and in 1910 was caring for 27 children. About 1900 Franz Klassen established a school for poor children (Armenschule) at Berezovka near Davlekanovo, Ufa province, which Friesen says was "essentially the same" as the Grossweide institution. When Klassen left for America, Jacob J. Martens took over the school. Both institutions were located on farms with residence homes, operated schools, and were supported by donations.

In France the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) established two children's homes: Mont des Oiseaux or Weiler near Wissembourg, Alsace, established in 1945, transferred to the French in 1951, and Valdoie, near Belfort, established in 1950, transferred to the French in 1955. The Valdoie home had been operated in 1945-50 at Nancy by the MCC. The Association Fraternelle Mennonite was organized in 1950 by French Mennonites to operate the children's homes and other charitable institutions, and in 1957 owned and operated both Valdoie and Weiler. The MCC operated a children's home at Bad Dürkheim in the Palatinate, Germany, beginning 15 October 1949. This home and the two in France were not true orphans' homes since they normally took children only for shorter terms, and from broken or impoverished homes. All three received substantial grants per child per day from the state, without which they could not operate.

In America the first Mennonite orphanage was established by the Leisy Orphan Aid Society (General Conference Mennonite) in 1884 on the "Orphan Farm" 1½ miles (2 km) south of Halstead, Kansas, although the work was primarily to place orphans from home mission areas into Christian families. The Mennonite Orphan and Children's Aid Society, organized in 1893 primarily to raise funds, was merged with the Leisy foundation in 1905 which still existed in the 1950s. The Orphanage Society of the Eastern District Conference (General Conference Mennonite), organized in 1905, was established as a fund-raising agency, and never operated an orphanage or placement service. In 1919 the Home Mission Board (GCM) began an orphan placement service that continued for a few years only.

In 1890 the Industrial School and Hygiene Home for Friendless Children was chartered in Kansas under a board of directors predominantly Krimmer Mennonite Brethren and located near the Gnadenau KMB Church near Hillsboro. In 1910-1915 it gradually changed into a home for the aged and in 1915 was called Salem Home. In 1898 the Defenseless Mennonites (later Evangelical Mennonites, now Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches) established the Salem Orphanage, later called Salem Children's Home, on a farm 2½ miles (4 km) southeast of Flanagan, Illinois, given for that purpose.

The Mennonite Church (MC) established three orphanages: the Mennonite Orphans' Home at West Liberty, Ohio (1896-1947), operated by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, since 1957 turned into a school for mentally handicapped children called Adriel School; Mennonite Children's Home at Millersville, Pennsylvania, established in 1911 and operated by a local Lancaster Mennonite board; and the Mennonite Children's Home at Kansas City, Kansas, established in 1917 and operated by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. The only other children's home in North America was the Grace Children's Home at Henderson, Nebraska, established in 1936 and operated by an interdenominational Mennonite board, strongly Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (now Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches).

Orphans' homes have been established on numerous Mennonite mission fields. The Mennonite Church (MC) has done this in India, where the mission had its beginning in a sense with work done for famine orphans. The MC program that began in 1899 resulted in two orphanages, the Boys' Orphanage in Dhamtari and the Girls' Orphanage in Balodgahan, with a maximum total of nearly 500 orphans. The General Conference Mennonite Mission in India, also located in the Central Provinces, began in a similar way two years later and also developed two orphanages, a Boys' Orphanage in Janjgir and a Girls' Orphanage in Birra. The Mennonite Brethren (MB) Mission, begun about the same time but located further south in Madras Presidency, did not develop orphanage work in India. The MB board had an orphanage in Brazil after 1947, located 8 miles (13 km) from Curitiba, and took over and operated for 10 years, until 1949, the orphanage for Lengua Indian infants, which was started by the Paraguay Mennonites to rescue infants from the infanticide then commonly practiced by the Indigenous. The Mennonite Brethren in Christ in 1899 established an orphanage in Hadjin, Turkey, to care for Armenian children orphaned by the terrible massacre of 1896, taking a maximum of 305 orphans by 1905, with a home for boys and a home for girls. In 1910 the Boys' Orphanage was transferred to Everek about 25 miles from Caesarea in Cappadocia. The work was closed in 1914 and briefly reopened in 1919-1920. The Mennonite (MC) mission in Argentina established an orphanage at Pehuajó in 1926, which was moved to Trenque Lauquen in 1927 and finally was settled in 1936 in Bragado with a new building. The Mennonite (MC) Belgium Mission operated the Home of Hope at Ohain near Brussels after 1952 as a children's home.

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) operated a home for delinquent boys at Ailsa Craig, near Stratford, Ontario, after 1952, called Ailsa Craig Boys Farm. The Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities after 1949 operated Youth Village, a summer camp near White Pigeon, Michigan, for children from city and mission churches. -- Harold S. Bender

Netherlands. Formerly a large number of Dutch congregations had their own orphanages—not only the largest ones, like the Flemish congregations of Haarlem and Amsterdam, but also smaller ones like Harlingen and De Rijp, and even Ouddorp. Concerning the history of most of these orphanages, except in a few cases, there is not much information and in a number of cases no information at all.

Most of the orphanages were founded in the 17th century: Haarlem (Flemish congregation) 1634, Harlingen 1663, De Rijp 1676, Amsterdam Lamist congregation 1677, Leiden Waterlander congregation before 1681, Zaandam Nieuwe Huys 1712, Groningen 1847. Often in small congregations the orphans were lodged in the old people's home of the congregation. In the first quarter of the 19th century most of the orphanages were closed (Harlingen 1767 or shortly after, Ouddorp earlier), but others sheltered orphans until recent times: Zaandam until about 1900, and De Rijp until 1912. The Amsterdam orphanage was closed in 1800; after this the orphans of the congregation were cared for in the Oranjeappel orphanage, among the trustees of which from this date there were always representatives of the Amsterdam Mennonite Church. The reason for closing the orphanages was twofold: through better hygienic conditions and the elimination of epidemics the number of orphans steadily decreased; and gradually the idea prevailed that orphans could be better cared for in private homes than in sheltered orphanages.

In the 1950s there was only one Mennonite orphanage in the Netherlands, in which orphans were actually reared. It was the large orphanage building of the Haarlem Mennonite Church. The building was opened on 14 June 1874. In 1860 the Vereeniging van Doopsgezinde Gemeenten, commonly called "Haarlemsche Vereeniging," also concerned itself with the Mennonite orphans. Later, when the Haarlemsche Vereeniging was dissolved, a part of its work was taken over by the newly organized Association on Behalf of Mennonite Orphans. Mennonite orphans of several congregations were placed in homes, in the Haarlem Mennonite orphanage, or sometimes in De Oranjeappel.

The only Mennonite children's home in the Netherlands in 1959 was operated by the Stichting voor bizonderen Noden, and was located at Oud-Wulven in 1947-1958 and then at Schoorl. -- Nanne van der Zijpp

See also Youth Homes (later term)


The history of several Mennonite orphanages at Haarlem is described in De Weeshuizen der Doopsgezinden te Haarlem 1634-1934 (Haarlem, 1934); for those of De Rijp and Zaandam see Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1918): 20-29, and (S. Lootsma), Het Nieuwe Huys, Friesch-Doopsgezinde Gemeente West-Zaandam: 33-43, 139-60.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911: 663.

Author(s) Harold S. Bender
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Orphanages." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 24 Jun 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orphanages&oldid=174682.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1959). Orphanages. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Orphanages&oldid=174682.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 86-87. All rights reserved.

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