Farmington, MO

Exploring the historic Presbyterian Children's Home in Farmington, Missouri

CJ Coombs
The former Presbyterian Orphanage of Missouri, 412 W. Liberty St. in Farmington, Missouri.Photo byTheCatalyst31, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Presbyterian Orphanage of Missouri once located at 412 West Liberty Street in Farmington, Missouri (St. Francois County) is now Parkland Senior Apartments (40 Potosi Street). This location is three blocks west of the St. Francois County Courthouse.

The orphanage has also been referred to as the Farmington Children's Home and the Presbyterian Children's Home. The historic buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on April 26, 2006.

The orphanage consisted of five large brick buildings that contribute to the NRHP listing. The Dining Hall and Administration Building were built between 1939 and the early 1950s. The architectural style is Georgian Revival.
The exterior of Presbyterian Orphanage Hospital in Farmington, Missouri.Photo byLibrary of Congress, Prints and Photo Div., HABS MO,94-FARM,2--1

The Administration Building (the oldest building of the complex) and Dining Hall were built in 1939 and enlarged the following year. In 1940, a hospital building called the Holmes Cottage was built. In the early 1950s, two dormitories were constructed. Those were referred to as Dearing Hall (girls' home, ca. 1951) and Harlan Hall (boys' home, ca. 1954). There are minimal architectural details on the exterior of all buildings.

Background of Presbyterian Children's Home

What initiated the establishment of a children's home was a young mother who was dying of tuberculosis. She met with a First Presbyterian Church of Dallas pastor to arrange for the care of her four children after she passed away. A home was rented by women from the church. They retained someone to handle any domestic or medical arrangements and an orphanage was created. In 1903, Presbyterian Children's Homes was founded.

There are two children's agencies in Texas. They merged in 2002 to create Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services (PCHAS). When the service started a program in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana in 2014 and 2015 respectively, there was another name change to Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services of Texas and Louisiana.

In 2018, PCHAS of Texas and Louisiana merged with PCHAS of Missouri. It would be called Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services. The Missouri facility can trace its history to 1914. The orphanage there was founded by pastors and elders to help children who lost parents that died in mining accidents. The children's home in Farmington, Missouri included a working farm and several homes.

The orphanage in Farmington, Missouri

The orphanage complex in Farmington was the first orphanage in southeast Missouri. It was also the "only Presbyterian childcare facility in the nation which was jointly affiliated with both the northern and the southern Presbyterian Churches."

In 1914, the founded institution was located on the site of the former Elmwood Seminary and was called the Elmwood Presbyterian Home. Many of the children helped here were orphaned as a result of accidents in the lead mines.

In the beginning, the orphanage struggled financially and received additional support in 1917 from the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Synod of Missouri and the northern Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Orphanage of Missouri in Farmington was the only Presbyterian facility for children in the country that was affiliated with both the northern and southern Presbyterian Churches.

Between 1939 and 1954, there was a campaign to build a new administration building, two dormitories, and a hospital on the campus. In 1952, the Elmwood Seminary building was demolished. What was formerly called the Presbyterian Orphanage of Missouri became the Farmington Children's Home.

In 1999, the original campus was vacated and put up for sale and it looks as it did in the mid-1900s.

More history

Presbyterian Church Services in Farmington began in 1830. The Farmington Presbyterian Church was organized in 1832 and in 1836, a brick church building was built. In 1847, a local businessman, Milton P. Cayce, and an elder from the church established a school for his children and others. It was called the Elmwood Academy.

In 1885, the Elmwood Seminary and Presbyterian Normal School were established after the Presbyterian Church acquired the school. In 1890, a building was constructed for the seminary and school which would become the Elmwood Presbyterian Home. The Elmwood Seminary and Presbyterian Normal School had two and four-year college degrees offered. With the decline in enrollment and debt, however, the seminary had to close.

Due to the situation of homeless children, Rev. George W. Harlan and Rev. E. O. Sutherland led the Potosi Presbytery to establish an orphanage on the Elmwood Seminary campus site. Between late 1913 and the spring of 1915, the proposition was scrutinized and approved, and on May 15, 1915, the Elmwood Presbyterian Home opened.

In 1920, the orphanage was caring for 104 children. There were financial issues with the Depression and the number of children was growing.

... a gift of 600 shares of International Shoe Company stock from the F. H. Peters Family in 1932 marked a turning point in the orphanage's history. (Source.)

For 85 years, the orphanage provide homes for thousands of children.

Thanks for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms, and I retired early so I could be a writer all day. You could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri because I was born into the Air Force life. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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