While driving this past weekend, I was forced to take a detour from my normal route due to a train stopped on some railroad tracks. This unfamiliar route led past a very large and beautiful building which caught my attention. Was this Bill Clinton’s childhood home? Had I stumbled upon the estate of a cotton and soybean magnate’s colonial plantation? No, this building was actually the site of the St. Joseph’s Home. Beginning as an orphanage about one hundred years ago, this property was run by the Catholic church and staffed by nuns. It must have been quite the operation during its heyday in the middle part of the twentieth century; with eighty bedrooms, this building was home to hundreds of children.
There is definitely a heavy Catholic presence on the property as statues of Mary and various saints are scattered throughout the lawns. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, and maybe those in authority picked the name as part of an attempt to instill a hearty work ethic into the children to whom they were entrusted. A Google search returns a couple interesting historical articles about the property, and it sounds as if the operation ran a tight ship with manual labor and Scripture memorization assigned as punishments for various infractions.
Eventually, operations at the orphange ceased; however, there is still activity and production in the area. In fact, it looks like some of the property is now used as a community garden plot, and signs advertise a Saturday morning farmer’s market. It was definitely enjoyable meandering through this historic plot of land, and I guess my detour was not such a bad thing after all.