By 1865 Governor Andrew Curtain had taken an interest in the welfare of soldiers' orphans created by the Civil War. In 1866 the state began a nearly 150 year history of providing care and education to orphans of Pennsylvania's soldiers. In 1866 thirty-eight institutions were funded by the state to provide for orphans of Civil War Soldiers. The history of one of those schools is being commemorated here.
Not much different happened to the graduates as opposed to the removals. The exception being that they may have been a little more educated and therefore more able to earn a good living. Male students that graduated at 16 usually became apprenticed or went back to farming the family farm. Female students in that era usually married, became domestics or occasionally became employed in dress making or millinery establishments. However as the 19th century progressed, students of both sexes increasingly attended the state “Normal Schools” and became teachers.
Initially the Schools were not operated as military schools. However in short order it became obvious that the physical care and cleanliness of the institution was not being maintained. Therefore retired officers were brought into supervise the schools. They instituted military training and discipline to solve the problem. White hall was no different.
The School closed in the spring of 1891. White Hall and the majority of the other institutions were closed and consolidated into four and finally into a single institution by the beginning of the 20th century. The Scotland School was the only remaining school to operate into the 21st century before being closed.
For the most part the schools had served their former purpose. Given the narrow construct of the admittance policy, by 1890 there were few children that met the admission criteria. Schools began to vie for the limited applicants. Additionally, changing social mores resulted in a reduction of orphanage type institutions in favor of the foster home support and adoption model. Establishment and growth of the public school system chipped away at the need for these schools. The consolidated School at Scotland lasted only because the criteria were eventually expanded to Soldiers from subsequent wars and Fire and Police personnel.
The most significant incidence of corruption was the use of students by unscrupulous land speculators. After the civil war the railroads and the US government encouraged the settlement of the west by offering free land parcels to those who would occupy and farm the land. Students were, for a fee, made wards to these people. This allowed the speculators to claim more land, often contiguous parcels, thereby increasing the power and wealth of the speculator.
The physical plant was a clapboard building on Market Street that was converted into row houses and existed well into the 1980's at which time it was demolished and a modern office complex built.
We plan to memorialize the school on this page with additional photos. We are also constructing limited genealogy records for the Soldier, his wife and the children with emphasis on those children that attended the school.
We have detailed lists of students and will gladly search for the record if you feel you have a relative that attended White Hall. In return we are always looking for possible attendees for which we have no record mostly deaths and “Removals on Orders” subsequent to 1876.
1. Paul, James Laughery, Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan Schools, 1877, Harrisburg: Lane S, Hart, 1877