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Indiana Disability History Project

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Picturing My World

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photo of Don and his cat

Kentucky Childhood

Granddad Stinson and Grandma Stinson

photo of Granddad Stinson and Grandma Stinson

My First Permanent

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My Grandmother’s Stay at an Indianapolis Orphanage

May 1st, 2014 by jeharlan | 0

Pentecostal Orphanage - click for larger formatOrphanage Children with Matron and Assistant, outside headquarters of the Pentecostal Church in Indianapolis, Indiana
undated; taken between 1902 and 1908 by Leander Studios of Chicago

The 5 McClure children [Click to see them identified in the photo] are:
Clarence – center 3rd row
Elmer – at his left
Florence – below and to Elmer’s left (2nd row, not white dress)
George – at her left
Marvin – seated in front of Florence (in light shirt)

Florence McClure, my grandmother, was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa on August 12, 1892 to Charles Arthur McClure and Margaret Marshall McClure. When Florence was 8 years old, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father was unable to care for Florence and her 4 brothers. The children were taken in by a number of neighbors and relatives over the next year and a half. In 1902, Florence was placed in an Indianapolis orphanage, where she was later joined by her brothers. She stayed at the orphanage for 5 1/2 years. All 5 of the McClure children were in the orphanage at the time the photograph was taken. Below is an excerpt from an oral history dictated to her daughter-in-law Lillian Kolsrud Harlan (my aunt).

Papa had heard about an orphanage in Indianapolis that was just starting, with only four boys. This was run by the Pentecostal Bands of the World. Some missionaries from there were in the area and Papa was going to send me with them to Indianapolis, but when we got small pox I couldn’t go. When I got out of my quarantine Papa took me to their headquarters in Mount Pleasant, and a lady, Clara Moore, took me on the train to Indianapolis. We stayed several days in the Indianapolis headquarters. The sleeping quarters were on one side, the chapel on the other, and in the basement, printing presses for their newspaper, “Light of the World.” T. H. Nelson and his wife had charge of the place.

I was taken to the orphan’s home which was on the outskirts of Indianapolis, at the east end of the Washington Street car line. There were four boys there; two were nephews of the Nelsons, Ellis and Donald. It was a ten-acre tract of land with houses. One building had been a barn, and that was made into a school house. The house near there was the boys’ cottage. I lived with the lady who was the housekeeper and cook. She was very nice, and her name was Auntie Taylor. I arrived at the orphanage when I was ten years old, in August 1902. Auntie Taylor would teach me Bible verses while she did her cooking. Sometime that year Papa brought my brother George as he had to be in school and Papa couldn’t care for him. When Uncle Peter Roth was ill and Aunt Samantha was busy caring for him she couldn’t take care of Clarence. So Papa, who was working in a glass factory in Chicago then, went to Iowa for Clarence and brought him to the orphanage. Marvin had been living with mother’s sister Aunt Mat and her husband, Frank Cox; and when she died Papa had to bring Marvin to the orphanage. Later Papa brought Elmer so we at least were all together. This had been Mama’s wish.

The entire orphanage moved to Plainfield, Indiana, west of Indianapolis, where there was land for the older boys to help raise crops. As the orphanage grew and there were more girls I was moved to the girls’ cottage. When I got there the teacher, Mrs. Dunbar, said anyone was vain to wear ruffles or lace on their clothes and made me cut the lace off the dresses Viola and Aunt Julie made for me before I left Iowa. Mrs. Dunbar had two children who were, of course, her favorites.

I was in the orphanage a total of five and a half years before my Uncle George came from Mississippi where he and Orlie and my father had a plantation four and a half miles east of Canton, Mississippi. I was happy to leave the orphanage. Uncle George took us by Interurban car into Indianapolis and we stopped at a department store where he bought one of the boys a much needed pair of shoes, and a red hat for me to protect me from the Mississippi sun. Uncle George put what he could in his suitcase, and each of us carried our bundle of belongings.

The oral history in text format, hand-published by her granddaughter Anne Harlan (my sister), and the original photograph are now in the collections of the Indiana Historical Society.

To read the entire story, click to download the Word document The Early Life of Florence McClure Harlan Means >

submitted by Jane Harlan-Simmons

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