Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1962

Those Female Orphans Of Midway

Harold E Savely, Dimmitt, Texas

Catholics claim apostolic succession from the apostle Peter. Mormons claim a historical connection with the "ten lost tribes or Israel." Baptist claim to rattle a chain of visible church succession to the days of John. Institutional brethren now claim the Restoration Movement.

Successful attempts to establish scriptural authority for institutional benevolent societies among churches of Christ have fizzled out. Brethren are faced with lack of scriptural authority and the fact that not one church-supported "orphan home" existed among faithful brethren before the first decade of the twentieth century, when Tennessee Orphan Home was established. A cause needs salvaging! A new approach to prove the idols already set up in their hearts needs to be made!

Institutional brethren think they have found just such proof — The Kentucky Female Orphan School, Midway, Kentucky. At least two articles have appeared in the Gospel Advocate, and it has been injected by their debaters in at least two debates, quoting Alexander Campbell's Millennial Harbinger as stating, "....that home of female orphans," referring to the school. (See Gospel Advocate, May 30, 1957, quoting the Millennial Harbinger, 1856.)

When the challenge of such proof (?) first came to my attention while attending a debate on the subject, I wrote a letter to Midway Junior College, Midway, Kentucky, successor to the Kentucky Female Orphan School, requesting any historical documentary evidence that the school had ever taken complete legal custody, "loco parentis," over any child. To my inquiry came this reply from Mr. David. L. Cleveland, Director of Public relations, Midway Junior College, Midway, Kentucky:

"The original charter was granted by the legislature on February 23, 1847. Section 8, gave the Board of Trustees the Authority of Guardianship over the beneficiaries of the institution. That section has not been repealed.

"However, in all fairness, I would say that I have never heard of this guardianship being exercised in the legal sense of the word, any more than other boarding school would accept responsibility for its students. I would suspect that further research into this matter would reveal that this institution probably 'forgot' about being the guardian of its students about the time the Christian Church Orphan Home was started by Brother Broadhurst in Louisville."

Brethren with any absolute knowledge of the Restoration Movement whatsoever will remember that the school at Midway was established in 1847, was and is an organ of the digressive movement, the Christian Church. Mr. Cleveland also mailed me a copy of a book about the school, entitled, "Kentucky Female Orphan School, A History," by Harry Giovannoli, published in 1930.

The book is quite revealing. It traces the school's origin and history until the time of the writing. It encloses the original charter with the state of Kentucky, and also the amendments of the charter. Its history began with Doctor Lewis L. Pinkerton, his humanitarian interests in female orphans, his desire to see them educated, and his stirring up the zeal of many churches; the building of the school, establishment of its board and faculty, and the problems of getting churches to finance it, etc. It is a well documented book.

One interesting revelation in the book is worthy of quoting so that our readers may see the fickle problems those in digression encountered in establishing and maintaining such a humanly devised church supported school; and much more so, the fickleness of our modern institutional brethren in trying to claim the school as "that home of female orphans," trying to establish the school as the anti-type of their institutional orphan home idols of today:

"At this meeting Mrs. Gay presented to the board a subject which for some time had been a topic of discussion among trustees, former graduates and others interested in the School. This was a proposition to change the name of the institution. Mrs. Gay moved that the board take up some definite steps toward complying with what seemed to be a reasonable demand for a new name, more in harmony with modern usages and with the wishes of many persons, men and women, who were devoted to the Orphan School. This motion was seconded by Mrs. Thomas. Mr. Starks offered a substitute motion which provided that the chairman appoint a committee of three to consider the subject and report at the next meeting of the board. This motion prevailed and Mr. Starks was named chairman of the committee, with Mrs. Gay and Doctor Ben F. Parrish as associate members.

"The committee on charge of name of the School made an exhaustive report, with recommendations, at the meeting of the board of trustees in July following. Efforts had been made by correspondence and other wise, to ascertain the views and desires of former graduates and others who had the welfare of the institution at heart. There were various objections presented to the name Kentucky Female Orphan School. The word Kentucky, it was urged in the first place, was misleading. It tended to create the impression that the School was one of the group of charitable institutions supported by the Commonwealth, when as a matter of fact the State made no contribution toward its maintenance and had nothing to do with it. The word 'female,' it was insisted, was obsolete and unnecessary. The word 'orphan' was the source of the most emphatic objections. Many of the graduates of the School, according to reports, had found that the social stigma which, to a measurable degree, attached to some of the old-time 'orphan homes,' followed them after they left 'K.F.O.S.' Others complained that their diplomas from the Kentucky Female Orphan School, when submitted with their applications for positions as teachers, had more often than otherwise been an embarrassment, rather than an aid to them, and they were frequently compelled, even in their own State, to resort to extraordinary means to prove their fitness for teaching.

"Arguments to the contrary, however, were appealing. Outstanding women who had graduated from the Kentucky Female Orphan School in past years, and some of the more recent alumnae, were attached to the name as it was and expressed objection to making any changes whatever. The most forceful opposition to the proposed change of name, perhaps, was based upon the theory that the principal appeal for the financial support which had come to the school from the beginning, and which had attracted and held the active and devoted interest of many splendid men throughout long periods of years, had been the fact — fundamental with the founders — that the School was established primarily to educate worthy orphan girls and prepare them for useful lives, and that the elimination of the word 'orphan' would in all probability destroy, in an important and material sense, the most valuable asset in the hands of those who were seeking to extend the field of the School's operations.

"Certain members of the board of trustees who were not committed positively, one way or another, on the question, were disposed to accede to what seemed to be a reasonable request of numerous old graduates and friends of the school, provided something tangible could be done 'to preserve the loyalties, traditions and associations of the old name'." (Kentucky Female Orphan School, by Harry Giovannoli, 1930, pgs. 94-96.)

It is noted with both humor and pathos that institutional brethren today utilize the same sympathy getting mechanisms to drain church support for their benevolent institutional idols that the digressives used in connection with their schools, that of attaching an emotional appeal to the expression "orphan" in order to bleed hearts into their coffers.

It is also not without significance that the founder of The Kentucky Female Orphan School at Midway was no other than Dr. L. L. Pinkerton, and the time of its foundation was just at the time churches were turning into the tide of digression. The name of Dr. Pinkerton was closely connected with the Missionary Society movement and he became chief speaker at its opening congress. Dr. Pinkerton was preacher for the church at Midway, Kentucky, when and where the first mechanical instrument was ever sounded in worship of a church of Christ on this continent, which instrument was heard around the world.

Both he and the digressive church at that place labored hard to both found the school and have it maintained by church support. The school has at this time enshrined what they claim to be the very first little melodeon which gave the first abominable sound to God, and which has alienated brethren since. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Now, my institutional brethren are not content to compass land and sea to asylum orphans. They claim all the orphans of Midway. I am not so sure, however, that in claiming the orphans of Midway but that they are suckling a greater monster at their breast than poor old helpless orphans in a home. They rather are bosoming a secular school. That puts them right back to the task where they started — defending church support of secular education! This is the thing which they have shunned all these years.