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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

1920 Census (In Process)

An index of those names listed in the 1920 census ...coming soon!

Census listings...http://www.sacredhealing.com/triadoption/AAOMH/Oklahoma.pdf

Orphanage on the Hill

The orphanage was just a few years old when this photo was taken. The surrounding areas were still a combination of flat plain and black jack oak forests. The facility was designed according to the latest trends in orphan care by combining living facility with industrial trades. Children in this time period were encouraged to learn and practice skills. They planted, cared for and sold crops to support themselves. Self-sufficiency was the goal of such institutions across the country. In time, the facility expanded to provide elder care as well allowing generations to mix. The build still stands - with some significant upgrades in exterior/interior structure- as the headquarters of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church and adjacent to Southwestern Christian University.
A short history...http://mystorical.blogspot.com/2011/03/orphanage-on-hill.html

Aerial View 1940's

Facility from the air ca 1944... the location is now home to another group who moved into the location in the 1970's.

References to the Facility in the 1960's

References to the 1960's facility...http://school.sjnok.org/content.php?page=AboutHistory

Manager in the 1960's

Joseph Louvar. In 1963 he and his wife Diane managed St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Bethany, Oklahoma until he joined Wyandotte Chemicals as a Development Engineer in 1965.....http://www.mtu.edu/chemical/department/alumni/academy/profiles/joseph-louvar.html

Bethany History Book

"St. Joseph Orphanage History.” an entry in the 2010 Bethany Centennial. Quade Publishing, 2009. Oklahoma County libraries should have copies of this as will Bethany university libraries.

The Memorial

A large and very nice memorial stands in the now open area of the cemtery. Gone are the fences and gates and many of the headstones. Most apear to be older adults and may some of the elderly nrought there to live in the 1920's. The fact so many died in the 1920's is a combination of natural age and disease which ran rampant through OKC in that time..

Thomas Braun Obit

Obituary - http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Thomas-Braun&lc=4850&pid=149098969&mid=4584353

Sister Cabrini

Sister Cabrini....http://www.stjosephmonastery.org/caffeine/uploads/files/flyers/jubileebios.pdf

Rev. Timothy F. Poldrugo

Reverend Timothy F. Poldrugo ww.sanluisreyrotary.org/newsletter/slr_nl_0708.pdf

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma Began at St. Joseph

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma began at St. Joseph's. Read the history here...http://catholiccharitiesok.org/assets/files/CC%20Annual%20Appeal%20-%20History_for%20web.pdf

Local History Preserved in Murals

History preserved in local history mural, downtown Bethany, OK. This bridge is only a few miles west of the facility. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMA0P3_History_of_Bethany_Mural_Bethany_Oklahoma


Brief history of Bethany; the orphanage began one year before Bethany received an official post office designation. http://genealogytrails.com/oka/oklahoma/cities.html

The Orphan's Record

The Orphan's Record, a monthly published from 1915 to 1921 at St. Joseph's Orphanage in Bethany. It is possible the diocese or state history library might have copies of this publication. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/S/SO008.html

The Cabins

Dec.12,1937 the Oklahoman, carried an article, "St. Joseph's to Try Novel Experiment", (pg.34) by building cabins on the land behind the gym and central building to house elderly people. The idea being children without families and the elderly could enrich each other's lives. Here, some remaining cabins are renovated in 2010 by the present owners. MAH, 2010

Father Schaeffer

Father Schaeffer (Oklahoman, Aug. 16. 1926 pg.4) was listed as the primary priest in charge for most of its first fourteen years.

Young and Old Together

To illustrate the innovative benefits of bringing young and old together photos in the Oklahoman (12/7/1934,pg.34) showed elder resident J.H. Brown sharing pioneer stories with orphans Joyce Mary Brown, Louis 'Budgie' Coleman and a photo of Mary Jane Miller exhibiting a rag rug children were learning make.

The Sisters (1920)

On the 1920 U.S. Federal Census the following were listed as heads of the St. Joseph Orphanage 'household':

Sister Raphael, 33, b. Colorado
Sister Mary Anthony, 42, b. Tenn
Sister Mary Ambrose, 37, b. Kansas
Sister Patricia, 38, b. Ireland
Sister Augustine, 47, b. Ireland


The St. Joseph's Children's Home, or the St. Josephs Orphanage and Industrial School as it was also called, was dedicated Oct. 6, 1912 by Bishop Theophile Meerschaert. It has been home to at least seven religious orders who supervised its ministry and work with children and the elderly. These orders included: the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, Carmelites, Benedictines, Missionary Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, and four 'strong and colorful priests' - Fathers John M. Kekesisen, P.P. Schaeffer, James Garvey, and A.A. Isenbart (The Sooner Catholic, Sept. 5,1976, pg. 6). The original property included 32 1/2 acres purchased partly by the Disocese and partly through a gift from James Maney. In 1913, additional acquisitions expanded the land to 60 acres, and then in 1919, 45 more acres were added a few miles north. This last would later be known as the "north farm", and would be sold to form the St. Francis Center for Christian Renewal on NW Expressway. The facility removed from the Bethany location in the 1960's and it was sold in the early 1970's to the International Pentecostal Holiness Church for their denominational headquarters.

1912 - The View

The Park

The Cemetery - Updated

A large and very nice memorial stands in the now open area of the cemtery. Gone are the fences and gates and many of the headstones. Most apear to be older adults and may some of the elderly nrought there to live in the 1920's. The fact so many died in the 1920's is a combination of natural age and disease which ran rampant through OKC in that time. Other news accounts verify many deaths in the era. On the nice memorial at the center of the area are etched the following names:

Cosati, Angela 1916 1931

Ayres, Robert 1939 1943

Brice, James G. 1846 1923

Burke, Pat 1844 1932

Camthorn, Ann 1879 1939

Cawley, Mike 1876 1943

Cozrat, Augustine 1915 1927

Downey, Ellen L. 1849 1922

Gard, Paul (Rev.) 1922

Giebel, Ernestine M. 1864 1939

Hardin, Dorothy 1932 1943

Hardisty, Frank 1867 1931

Jacobe, Franickovick 1836 1933

Keller, Anna (Mrs.) 1849 1921

Lacey, John 1847 1933

Lynam, Michael (Rev.) 1871 1921

Malone, John Edward 1869 1939

Morrison, Mary Ann 1853 1939

Murray, Mrs. K. C. 1873 1921

Richter, Charles 1861 1942

Rose, Pearl (Mrs.) 1924

Stine, John 1857 1936

Sullivan, Cornelius R. 1868 1950

Sweeney 1930

Teyssier, Fredric L. (Rev.) 1884 1919

Tracey, M. Joseph 1852 1929

Triennekens, Wm. (Rev.) 1923

Wagner, Joseph 1927

Wegner, Edward A. 1904 1922

Wegner, Michael 1860 1930

Weichart, Theresia L. 1896 1924

Wooden, David 1934 1945

Also seen at - http://genealogytrails.com/oka/oklahoma/st_joseph_orphanage_cemetery.htm

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 above as John Stine,  70 year old inhabitant of the Orphanage when it was also caring for the elderly. Rev. John Garvey officiated.  Mars  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 for fifteen years. He died in a local hospital. (Oklahoman, Dec. 20, 1936, pg. 54).

Saint Joseph Orphanage: A History (Bethany, OK)

A Brief History based on an entrywritten for the Bethany Centennial History Book (2009)
Marilyn A. Hudson, 2009

Just three years after Oklahoma statehood, 27 ½ acres of land were purchased to create the “St. Joseph Orphanage Asylum and Industrial School.”  The land was excellently situated near the half-way point of the new “El Reno Interurban” rail line connecting Oklahoma City and Yukon. With 60 acres by 1913, early promoters noted the gardens, truck produce, farming, and livestock of the orphanage would advertise the rich farming potential of the area.[1]  The facility grew to include various tracts of land and included   the “north farm” where the present day St. Francis Center for Christian Renewal and Resurrection Cemetery are located.

Overseeing this scale of a charitable endeavor in the Roman Catholic Church of Oklahoma required strong leaders.  The Very Rev. Bernard Mutsaers, James Maney, and His Excellency the Right Rev. Theophile Meerschaert, Oklahoma’s first Bishop, proved to be those leaders. The Rev. John M. Kekeisen, late of Newkirk, assumed the position of first director of the orphanage. Other Directors were Fathers P.P. Schaeffer, James Garvey, and A.A. Isenbart.[2]

On August 1, 1912, Sister Mary Scholastica, Superior, and Sisters Mary Anthony. Mary Raphael, Mary Ambrose, all Sisters of Mercy, arrived to receive the children. On October 6, 1912, Bishop Meerschar performed a solemn service of blessing celebrating the new facility.

In 1921, Father P.P. Schaeffer, foresaw a need for infant and elderly care.  The Article of Incorporation at that time to “St. Joseph’s Orphanage and Home for the Aged.”  Father Garvey, starting in 1928, used a popular annual parish picnic to raise funds to reduce the orphanage indebtedness. The result was that by 1934 the mortgage on the orphanage was fulfilled.

Over the years, the large brick building set on a gentle knoll, saw a gymnasium added, a chapel, and classrooms.  It was central to many of the charities of its day for Catholics in Oklahoma and the people they helped.  The history of the Oklahoma Catholic Charities also begins at St. Joseph, as they were headquartered at the orphanage until 1926.

Over the next sixty years, the orphanage would see many changes in its structure, outreach, and workers.  More than seven orders of women religious served there (Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of the Blessed Carmelites, Benedictines, Missionary Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Divine Providence Sisters)[3].  

In 1965, the Children’s Home relocated to an area off Eastern Avenue in NE Oklahoma City with a modern set of dormitories, cafeteria, and chapel.[4]  Changes in society were making orphanages less common[5]. In 1973, however, the original facility, empty for three years, sold to become the general offices of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.[6]

From its opening in 1912 to 1955, St. Joseph provided care for some 5,000 children.[7]   Many were like the child a Sister Providentia recalled.   A tiny girl, neglected by her family, asked the Sister if it was true they “really received three meals a day…”[8]  Happily, the St. Joseph Orphanage could and did provide three meals and much more.

 The map shows how the facility looked ca 1927.


[1] “Orphanage plans more buildings” Daily Oklahoman. 4/14/1912; special thanks to James Weinmann , Heritage Room Director, Catholic Pastoral Center, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
[2] “Diocesan Charities Office Has Cared for Thousands.” Southwester Courier: Golden Jubilee, n.d., pg. 96-97.
[3]St. Joseph’s Children’s Home.” The Sooner Catholic. Sunday, Sept. 5, 1976.
[4] “Empty Orphanage a Tranquil Store of Memory.” Daily Oklahoman. (5/27/1973, pg. 22).
[5]  “Necessity for Orphanages has virtually disappeared.”  Daily Oklahoman (12/26/1974), pg. 87).
[6] “Church to move headquarters to City.”  Daily Oklahoman (8/7/1973, pg. 11).
[7] Quoted in “St. Joseph’s Children’s Home”. Sooner  Catholic, Sunday, Sept. 5,1976.; “Empty Orphanage a Tranquil Store of Memory.” Daily Oklahoman.  (5/27/1973, pg. 22).
[8] St. Joseph’s Children’s Home.” The Sooner Catholic. Sunday, Sept. 5, 1976.