Saint Joseph's Industrial School and Orphanage, and later Home for the Aged, Bethany, Oklahoma.

It opened in 1912 and by the time it closed in the 1965 several thousand children, and aged, had been cared for by the facility.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Due to circumstances beyond my control, this page will not be added to for the foreseeable future.  This has been a labor of service to help those who lived in the orphanage make connections, learn about their 'home', etc. Many wonderful people shared their information, photos, etc.  At this time, however, this page will be going to sleep for a while.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Comment

Eric Stell has left a new comment on your post "1912 Blessing of St. Joseph Orphanage, Bethany, Ok...":

My name is Eric, my father and uncle were in the st. Joseph's orphanage from 1949 to 1953 so its a good possibility you have met them they also have some stories that truly haunt them to this very day. so, I can only imagine what you must have been through yourself even though its a touchy subject, things of this magnitude need to be brought to light regardless of certain allegations and I do realize it has been 66 years now but we would like to have the opportunity to confidentiality discuss this further with you... the actions displayed by some of the staff in this institution were atrocious and completely criminal and I personally feel its time to literally dig up the past and force them to finally face the fact's!
my email address is stellar995@gmail
hope to hear from you

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Problem with the Census

Many of the databases being used to locate people on the census have gone to a name driven format.  This means that without a name to search the census is invisible. 

Monday, July 7, 2014


2014 St. Joseph’s Orphanage & St. Joseph’s Children’s Home Reunion. AUG, 14, 2-4 PM

Join us in celebrating the reunion of former residents and staff members of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Bethany, Oklahoma, and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Oklahoma City in the Garvey Room at Trinity Gardens, 3825 N.W. 19th Street, Oklahoma City.

If you ever lived or worked at the orphanage or children’s home and would like to receive information about this reunion, please mail, e-mail or phone your contact information to Jane Moon, Catholic Charities, 1501 N. Classen Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73106, jmoon@catholiccharitiesok.org, 405-526-2308.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Pete Martinez (Marty) left this comment: "Hi, this is Marty. I remember a fellow that was an all around-Jack of all trades. He had red hair, and a glass eye, that at the time, for a young boy, was really cool, to take out and show us. I am wondering if he is the same as the caretaker mentioned in another blog, a Gerard Oneil, a caretaker in the 60's (by then we were gone). (the Martinez family).
If he is the same, he used to make us (boys) skate-racers,fashioned like a "T" with those old metal skates made for concrete. We would propel ourselves, from two sides of the flagpole circle, and converge in a terrific crash. 8 o'clock medical patchup, by Sister Mary Peter, was something to behold. Today, whenever I see a pair of old metal skates at the swapmeet, or in an antique shop, just can't help but chuckle and remember. "

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1930's Census of Facility

If you have names of individuals who were residents in the facility for the 1930 census, please leave a comment.  The 1930's is proving harder to locate and perhaps with names, I can find the entries. Likewise, if anyone has done a transcription of the Orphanage for 1930 please leave a comment. I will gladly post the list.

1940's Census of St. Joseph's Orphanage

The U.S. Federal census is available for the facility for 1940. It was located in Council Grove, a sub-district of Bethany.  The bad news is the copy is very faint and hard to read.  It may require many eyes working on this to decipher the names listed there.

As any information or transcribed names become available, I will post them here.


Baptism of Joyce Louvar with Diane & Joyce Louvar. The Louvar's were administrator-managers from 1963-1965. Shown in Fr. Thomas acting as proxy God Father and Lucille as proxy God Mother.

Learning To Climb Trees...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

School Time ca. 1963

The Blessing for the New Home

A Baptism

Picnic in the Park ca. 1963

Actors in a PLay About the Home ca.1963

Mealtimes - ca. 1962

Life Scenes ca 1963

The Church in the background

Msgr Isenbart with some children

At the grotto behind the church

Giggles and Smiles, ca. 1963

Classes of Friends ca. 1963

Who Could Not Have Fun on a Hill?

St. Joseph boys take a breather from playing on the hill ca. 1963

Western View

From the hill to the west looking back east toward the center and the chapel.

Ready To Play

Two young boys are captured ready to play some ball... ca. 1963

Baseball Field ca. 1963

1960's View

In the early 1960's the area of NW 39th Expressway was still evolving, it was rural land heading out of Bethany and major growth still some time in the future for this corner where the current NW Chamber of Commerce now sits.

A Wonderful Donation

The page received a wonderful letter from Joseph and Diane Louvar who managed St. Joseph’s Home in Bethany Oklahoma, in 1963, 1964 and 1965. They loved St. Joseph’s, the children, the Staff, and the many wonderful experiences while in the role.  The sent some photos that illustrate the life, the atmosphere and the children served in those years.
     "We have very positive feelings about our experiences and often thank the Lord for giving us this opportunity. We periodically reflect on this experience to try to understand the underlying reasons for this success, and we thought you and your readers will be interested in our conclusions.
     We believe our success was due to many factors, but the most important reason was – we had unusually talented staff members who were mostly Extension Volunteers who were recent college graduates. I’m sure they volunteered as we did to pay back to the church something in gratitude for our significant blessings. When they came to St. Joseph’s they worked especially hard to create positive physical and spiritual experiences to help our children (and a few teenagers) adjust to this “home”.
We knew we couldn’t develop a loving environment as good as their parents and a facility as good as their homes, but we tried. Our volunteer staff included two managers, four dorm mothers, one relief dorm mother, two teachers, and a nurse. We also had Catholic Charity workers including a social worker, a priest (Fr. Thomas), a cook, a housekeeper, and a maintenance worker.  This outstanding staff worked very hard and cooperatively to facilitate a home environment that was focused on benefiting the children.
       We were also blessed to have
·         The leadership of Msgr. Isenbart who was the Director of Catholic Charities in Ok. City.
·         The parishioners of St. John’s School (in Yukon) who accepted our school-aged children into their school for the 1963 and 1964 school years.
·         Local Seminarians who conducted a summer camp during the 1964 summer, and helped the children on some weekends.
·         A gentleman who was a big brother for one of our older boys.  And
·         Various volunteers who regularly came to St. Joseph’s Home to help with sewing, odd jobs, etc.
     We’re enclosing some pictures that I’m sure our children (now adults), our staff (now senior citizens), and you will enjoy. As you see there were many joyful experiences."  As you will see too, as photos and descriptions are slowly loaded.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Can You Help Identify these Locations or People? UPDATED

This query came to the page and maybe some can help identify the place in these photos?  "My brothers and I were in a children's home in Oklahoma between 1949-1952.  Can you confirm if we were at St. Joseph's.  Wesley John Stevens; Sharon Lynn Stevens, Edward Price Stevens.  The two older children would have been there in 1949; the youngest would have joined us in Jan 1952.  Attached is a picture of the two older children on the steps of what I've always believed to be the home.  I have checked with the Baptist's Childrens home and they have no record of us.  Your assistance is very much appreciated.
Imprint says "Libbey Hall" at top of the building, "Childrens Home" over porch. ca. 1949 Location unknown.

Location unknown ca. 1950 - Maybe in Kansas or Oklahoma
If you can help - post a comment. Thanks!

UPDATE: Location for above photos has been positively linked to a Kansas Methodist facility.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Here is an invitation for all Former Residents and Staff of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Bethany, Oklahoma
"Did you hear about the reunion...?"
and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Oklahoma City. 

A reunion of former residents and staff members of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Bethany, Oklahoma, and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Oklahoma City is being planned for Saturday, June 1, 2013.  Arrangements are pending. 

If you ever lived or worked at the orphanage or children’s home and would like to receive information about this reunion, please mail, e-mail or phone your contact information to Jane Moon, Catholic Charities, 1501 N. Classen Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73106, jmoon@catholiccharitiesok.org, 405-526-2308.

The home was opened in 1912 in Bethany, Oklahoma and later moved to Oklahoma City.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bishop Theophile Meerschaert

On October 6, 1912, Bishop Meerschaert, assisted by many clergy, provided a solemn blessing on the new facility.   Meerschaert (1847-1924) was the historic first Bishop of the Oklahoma Territory. "On August 17, 1905 the Diocese of Oklahoma was erected by Pope Pius X. Bishop Meerschaert was appointed as first incumbent of the new Episcopal See of Oklahoma on August 23, 1905." (Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 11, No. 1; March, 1933, pg 739) He had previously served as pastor at St. Mary Basilica in Natchez. His online biography can be read here.


In 1921, the original articles of incorporation for the institution were amended to include the addition of a new arm of care offered at St. Joseph's. (Southwest Courier, Diocesan Golden Jubilee, undated, pg. 97).

The social needs were great for both children and the elderly. It was an innovative concept for the two groups to be united and provide what was lacking for each.


Leadership of the institution while at its Bethany location include the following:

Father John M. Kekeisen, 1912 - 1919
     - Father J.B. Dudek, was appointed interim director until Father Schaeffer was appointed as permanent director.

Father P.P. Schaeffer, was in charge of the facility 1919-1926
     - He was assisted by Father Philip Hartman and Father W. Van Mens.

Father James Garvey, director from 1926-1949

Father A.A. Isenbart, 1949 -

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Physical Description

A remainder of the "high knoll" on which the orphanage was built in 1912.
In the newspaper article "First Building at Orphanage" (Oklahoman, Aug,18, 1912, pg. 17) a physical description of the building materials and location was given.

The facility was planned to occupy 33 acres, the main (and first) structure would be located on a high knoll.  The brick used in construction was red paving stones with white stone trimming.

The first three buildings planned were the main building of several floors, adjacent a church and an auditorium.   Later a school building would be part of the auditorium plan.

Other sources, indicate the original acres were purchased in part by the Diochease and partly through a gift by a James Maney.  In 1913 land was added making the total some 60 acres. (The Sooner Catholic, Sept 5, 1976: 6).

John Kekeisen, First Director 1911-1919

On June 11, 1919 a news paper entry read "Priest's Body to Lie in State".  The first director of St. Joseph Industrial School and Orphanage had died at age 53.. His body would be removed to Michigan for burial.

$100,000 Addition Added 1923

In a news paper article titled, "Large Crowd at Dedication" (Oklahoman of June 18, pg. 5) it was noted Bishop Meerchaert would lead the ceremonies with  Dennis T. Flynn of Oklahoma speaking.
The celebration featured food and drink booths (to raise funds for the building project), a baseball game and finally Troop 32 of the Boy Scouts presented the play, "Huckleberry Finn."
The addition was for the use of dormitories and rooms for the faculty of the school. The school in June was already reporting enrollments of 200 for the September term. It was noted, that while the orphanage was operated by the Catholic Church, about half of the orphans were Protestant.
The director of the Orphanage was P.P. Schaeffer.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The records of burials in the cemetery were destroyed in the 1950's when the chauncry headquarters burned.

Closing Down

In 1965, the orphanage, responding to new trends and ideas about charitable services, moved the children, the staff, and the services to a location a new building on 10 acres at 3301 N. Eastern in Oklahoma City. 
The old red brick structure on NW 39th Expressway was left to temporarily house an order of  Sisers of Divine Providence from Houston, texas. Also there was a 78 year old retired priest, Rev. Thomas R. Hoffman, a married couple who served as caretakers ( Gerard and Joan O'Niel), and some horses being stabled there by a local club. ("Empty Orphanage a Tranquil Store of Memories." Oklahoman ( 27 May 1973): 22).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Broken Stones

There are several areas in the cemetery where it looks as if headstones might have crumbled or broken. They may be the remains of sign posts or memorials.  There do appear to be records indicating burials not listed on the memorial.  

Additional survey of newspapers reveals a few more names or information.  They were reported as being buried in the "orphanage cemetery" at St. Joseph's.

John Stine Mars, he is listed on the memorial as John Stine,  was a 70 year old inhabitant of the Orphanage when it was also caring for the elderly. Rev. John Garvey officiated at his funeral.  Mars or Stine  had been a resident since 1916, was blind, and had operated a broom factory on the grounds while in residence. (Oklahoman, June 11, 1936, pg. 15).

Carl Lorish, 93 year old resident of the orphanages' home for the aged for fifteen years. He died in a local hospital. (Oklahoman, Dec. 20, 1936, pg. 54).

Rev. Father Louis Doering (?), 1874-1927