Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
King's Daughters Childrens Home
St. Joseph Home For The Aged
In the spring of 1896 there was purchased a plot of ground with a frontage of one hundred sixty feet and three hundred feet in depth for an orphanage. On Pentecost Monday of the same year the first child was admitted to Saint Vincent's Orphan Asylum. At the time it was formally and solemnly blessed, it was housing a family of twelve orphans, boys and girls under ten years of age under the capable protection of the Sisters of Saint Francis. At that time there were but three sisters living at the asylum. It was then hoped that in future years there might be built a more imposing and larger structure.
Later, John W. Taylor, the owner of Taylor Park, gave the Sisters of Saint Francis $50,000. With this money they bought more ground and erected a better, larger building.
In 1912, under the leadership of Bishop Muldoon of the Rockford Diocese, Saint Joseph's Home for the Aged was opened. At that time it offered refuge to twenty old people.
In October, 1930, a new, very impressive group of buildings was erected. These buildings were composed of girls' dormitories, boys' dormitories, the Administration Building, Saint Vincent's Chapel, and Saint Joseph's Home for the Aged. It was solemnly blessed by Bishop Hoban, the successor of Bishop Muldoon. On this day the Bishop said a High Mass, which was sung by the children of all the parishes of Freeport.
At this time (1936) the head sister is Sister Superior, who has been there for twenty one years. Father Daly is the priest who is the manager of both the orphanage and the home.
This magnificent enterprise is supported by the Diocese of Rockford, which comprises thirteen counties. Saint Joseph's Home is, in part, self supporting.
There are now forty five people in Saint Joseph's Home. Thirty-eight sisters are constantly caring for these people.
Those living in double rooms pay thirty-five dollars a month, and those in single rooms pay forty-five dollars. This also includes meals and care. However, even if he is not able to pay this price, anyone who wishes may enter the home.
Sister Corona, the head of the food department, who has been there for twenty years, has a large responsibility on her hands. She bakes the bread for these two homes every morning, making it in the mixer, kneading machine, and riser before putting it into the huge steam ovens in which forty loaves of bread are baked simultaneously. The loaves are sliced in an automatic slicer.
Fifty loaves of bread are consumed daily. If muffins are substituted, one thousand of them are needed. Approximately five hundred pounds of sugar are used weekly. Each child in the orphanage receives one pint of pasteurized milk daily, and forty pounds of coffee are used every seven days.
The cooking utensils are very much larger than those in the average home. For example: the loaves of bread measure about two and one half feet in length, and a cake pan is about two feet square.
There is a farm behind the homes which has a manager who supervises those boys in the orphanage who are old enough to work there. They raise many of their own vegetables, including potatoes.
The building housing the old people of the Rockford Dieses is new, modern and very attractive inside and out. Near the entrance of the building there is a pleasant reception room which contains pictures of the founder and former priests of the institution.
The rooms for the use of the old people are on the two upper floors, which are divided into two wings, one having in it the men's rooms; and the other, the women's rooms. In each wing there are two sunny, glassed in porches in which are comfortable chairs and tables covered with magazines and books. There are also cards to provide diversion. In all of these parlors, in the dining rooms, and in several other places in the building there are loud speakers which are connected with a radio controlled downstairs.
The bedrooms are pleasant, medium sized rooms containing comfortable beds and chairs. They all have one or two large windows, there are four small dining rooms where there are attractively place tables ornamented by surprisingly realistic paper roses made by one of the Sisters.
There is a very beautiful chapel which is used by both the homes. It connects Saint Joseph's Home and the Administration Building.
Both homes are run very efficiently and are models of neatness and comfort. They are a credit to the diocese and to the Sisters and Priests who are directly working to make the home a pleasant, cheerful place in which these elderly people may spend their old age.
In Saint Joseph's Home we discovered many human interest stories written in the ledgers and on the faces of the people.
One parlor particularly interested us. There we saw four old ladies gathered around a card table, playing euchre. They didn't see us coming down the hall, so we had an excellent chance to watch them as they played. There was one tiny little old lady sitting in the rocking chair, very intent at her game. She had bright, sparkling eyes that seemed to be running over with mirth. This last seemed true of all of these people. They were really enjoying themselves. Then there was a plump woman with such friendly eyes and a kind face. The other two making up the game were pleasant, cheerful women, and all of them were talking and laughing as they played. Sitting reading at a table near the players was a woman whose hair was still black. Of that group, she alone seemed to be not really happy.
The were pleasantly delighted at our coming so that we knew, somehow, that these contacts with the outside were the only things which broke the monotony of their days.
When asked if we night take a picture of them, they were so surprised and elated that they insisted on calling all the other women down the corridor so that no one would be left out. They willingly moved around to gratify the photographer's whims and expressed great interest in the picture.
One of the persons who impressed us particularly was a jolly little woman with intelligent eyes and large, capable looking hands. She had such a soft grandmotherly look in her eyes that it seemed impossible for her not to have a number of golden haired grandchildren, but she didn't have any children. The women considered this one lady a "wonder" for she had made over one thousand quilts during her lifetime. Mrs. Bangasser, we learned, had almost immediately acquired the title of "the quiltmaker: upon her arrival in the home. She told us that she had made countless quilts for Saint Vincent's orphanage, and that although she had made so many quilts, she had not one left for herself. She finally consented to show us some that she was making, and they were cleverly made up from scraps of material for which no other use would be found. She spends all her time sewing on quilts and said herself that she didn't know what she would do if she didn't have this hobby to occupy her.
In the men's parlor we found two people, one unfortunate who was feeble minded, and the other a robust looking man with with alert and kindly eyes. He was Mr. Schrom from Rockford, and he told us that he was the grandfather of the Schroms who are well known there. Like the women, these men were glad to have their pictures taken and seemed to enjoy our visit.
The only couple in the home was Mr. and Mrs. DuFour who gave all their property, which was a large estate, to the home in return for residence there as long as they lived. They are two kindly old people who, after all these years, are still deeply attached to each other. They have given much to the poor of their parish and outside and are loved by all who know them.
Contentment and peace seem to be theirs - - perhaps because they know they have nothing to worry about and that they will be card for the rest of their lives. They have adequate food, shelter, clothing and everything else they need, and they have one and all earned the right to security and rest in their last years.
[Compiled by: Charlotte Riche, Betty Bauch and Jeanne Donker - Contributed by Karen Fyock, who adds this note: St. Joseph's Home for the Aged and St. Vincents Orphanage were on the same campus. The main buildings kind of flowed into each other. They were not directly connected to any of the Catholic Churches in Freeport - but I'm sure they all supported the work. The children's home went out of business when foster care became the in thing, and the buildings were torn down and replaced with new buildings. Provena St. Joseph Center is now the way it is listed in the phone book. It is a nursing home type place but also has a senior day care, rehab unit.]
St. Vincent Orphanage
Contributed by Virginia Gorton Bonne
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