The Story of US Orphanages




The nineteenth century saw an enormous surge in the numbers of orphanages and other institutions for destitute, abandoned or disabled children in the UK. In the USA, the story was remarkably similar.


From the early to mid nineteenth century orphanages were springing up in many towns and cities. Most were connected strongly with religion and were founded and managed by churches and religious orders. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a Christian fraternal association, was particularly prolific, founding 62 orphanages in the USA. By 1904, there were in excess of 1,200 orphanages, orphans houses and orphan asylums.


Few of these were funded wholly by the state but instead were funded by the churches, by fundraising and by the efforts of local communities.


The children who were taken in by these institutions were orphans but also included what were known as 'half orphans' ie. had lost one parent leaving the other unable to cope, or were abandoned children.


Over the next few weeks, I will be populating this page with as comprehensive a list as is possible of all the nineteenth century orphanages and industrial schools in the US. Please be patient if you cannot immediately find the state you are looking for, I will get to it.


If you would like to contribute information, memories or pictures, please do not hesitate to do so by completing this short form.


Many thanks

Gudrun Limbrick

August 1014 




This site is based on your contributions. If you have family stories, or family history or any details about orphanages you'd like to share, please let me know.

Alabama   Arkansas   California   Colorado   Connecticut   Delaware   District of Columbia   Florida   Georgia  Illinois   Indiana   Iowa   Kansas


The orphanages are listed by state and include, where known, the organisation which founded the home (in brackets), and the date the home was established.



The Baptists Orphanage, Tennessee in 1911.

Source: WIkiMedia Commons




According to Benevolent institutions 1904, United States Bureau of the Census