Children's Home and History

Athens County Children Services was created December 2, 1876 by John S. Fowler, a Quaker philanthropist from Washington County. Fowler was concerned about the appalling physical condition and quality of care at the county infirmary where the children (mostly orphans) were kept.

To improve the living condition and the care of the children, Fowler started a fundraising drive to erect a new building for the exclusive use of the county's dependent children. The new structure was to be called the Children's Home.

IIn a document (document is displayed, according to Fowler's wishes, in the reception hall of the Children Services Office) relating the need for a Children's Home, and used mainly to solicit funds for the home, Fowler wrote:

"Whereas the situation of a number of poor children at the infirmary of the above named county has for a considerable length of time been a matter of concernment to the writer, he takes the liberty of bringing the same before the benevolent citizens of said county with the suggestion as to a remedy to ameliorate their truly deplorable condition."

Though he was concerned about the physical condition of the infirmary and its effect on the health of children living there, Fowler was apparently more worried about their emotional welfare and the bad influences that might jeopardize their potential for adoption and a normal childhood. In expressing this point, he said, "There are now in said infirmary 47 children most of whom are of suitable age to attend and are being taught in the room of a building not far distant and on the same premises as the infirmary, and so far, so good, but the influence they are brought under at their home, the infirmary building, renders the situation similar to building with one hand and plucking down with the other...Very many of these children are of intellectual capacity susceptible to improvements so as to make respectable and useful citizens; but though amongst and obliged to mingle with a class very much of whom as to profanity and debauchery are the very lowest dregs of the county renders it impossible for teacher, superintendent and matron to keep them as to manners or personal appearance such as would be an invitation to their adoption by respectable citizens and secure to them suitable homes."

Fowler recommended taxation of county residents as the suitable way to establish and maintain the home, but was forced to canvass for funds because of prior commitment of county funds for the erection of a new jail and, later on, a new courthouse. In 1881, with $22,531 raised by Fowler, new buildings were erected on a 125-acre farm on the east side of Athens, for the sole use of poor children. By situating the home on a farmland, the children were able to grow their own food as well as generate additional income of $400 a year for the upkeep of the home. By 1905, there were 60 children living in the home, which had cared for some 625 children since it opened 24 years earlier.

Children Waiting



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