In presenting the Fiftieth Annual Report of the Elizabeth Orphan Asylum Association, the trustees record another year of successful work in caring for children, of faithful service in all departments, and of kindly interest and support from the many friends of this institution.
No unusual experiences have marked the year, except that recently there have been sixteen cases of measles, which added considerably to the cares of those in charge of the children. The financial stress has, in some degree, lessened the income; this, together with the increased cost of living and the numerous applications for admission of children, make it important that the good will and generosity of the public be shown increasingly in the year now begun.
It is earnestly desired that all who have contributed in any way during the past year will feel that their thoughtfulness and help are fully appreciated, without specific mention, as it seems most suitable at this time to review the past years; to acknowledge anew our Heavenly Fatherís protecting care, guidance and blessing, and to refer fo some facts and experiences of interest to those who by their influence and beneficence are maintaining the work established so long ago.
Fifty years ago some kind hearts were touched with pity for the children in our crowded Alms House, and for the boys and girls in our streets who needed shelter and care. An appeal, which admirably expressed the need for and object of the desired institution, was sent out in the hope that it would awaken sympathy. The result was the formation of an association, the charter for which was obtained in February, 1858. In April the organization was completed, and in July eleven boys were taken from the Alms House and placed in the home provided on Broad Street near the corner of West Grand. Two years later the Thomas property, now the Public Library, was purchased and occupied till 1872, when the present asylum was completed. The erection of this building was made possible by the generous offer of Mr. A. G. P. Dodge, of $20,000 if $15,000 would be raised by the citizens. This was accepted, the condition met, and the present property purchased in 1870. A building committee was appointed, consisting of Mr. A. C. Kellogg, Mr. W. W. Crane and Dr. Joseph Cross, who relieved the trustees of care, gave the matter of erecting the building personal supervision, and reported it ready for occupancy in the fall of 1872.
For many years this was the only public charity. From the start it naturally had fhe earnest support and co-operation of all of its incorporators, among whom were the Reverend Drs. Murray, Clark and Magie, who through their congregations then represented a considerable part of the well-to-do element of the town, and although many other charities now claim attention, the reports of the passing years are a continuous record of generous support, unfailing interest and cheerful response to special appeals by the devoted pastors of the many churches and of the warm-hearted, loyal people of Elizabeth.
Twenty-five years ago there had been three hundred and thirty-one children cared for in the Asylum, and now at the close of the fiftieth year the total is seven hundred and sixty-five. In many ways the success of this enterprise has far exceeded the anticipation of the founders. No one can estimate the good accomplished by giving to nearly eight hundred children a comfortable home, Christian training, with habits and aims which fit them for usefulness and happiness. Frequent reports from those who were once asylum children assure us that these influences have been effective in many lives. There are many men and women in honorable and useful positions, who gladly acknowledge their debt to this early guidance and care. The record of one year does not show great results, but as we look back over the years and note what has been accomplished, we realize that this institution is doing a great and good work. A succession of remarkably efficient matrons, teachers and assistants is cause for special gratitude, since to their devotion and faithfulness is due in large measure not only the happiness and health experienced in the home, but the good results shown in after life. The interest, co-operation and thoughtfulness of the many friends of the asylum have had much to do with the satisfactory results attained. In this brief backward glance, it is not possible to enumerate all of the acts of kindness and thoughtfulness to these needy ones, or the donations of various kinds which have always been liberal and abundant. Picnics, excursions, sleigh-rides, trolley and automobile rides have been carefully arranged and heartily enjoyed. Circles and individuals have alike helped to clothe the children.
The treasury has been augmented from time to time by the proceeds of concerts, minstrel performances, fairs and the Ocean Grove excursion, which was inaugurated in 1879 by Mr. J. E. Hedges and Mr. S. S. Moore, and carried on by them and their successors for twenty-eight years. The income from this source has been indispensable, and the continued success of the excursion remarkable; that from it over $700 have been realized for several years, is at once an evidence of the untiring interest of the committee in charge, and of the kind patronage of the public.
The physicians of the city during these many years have generously given their services, following in this respect the kind example of the childrenís first friend, Dr. Lewis W. Oakley. The churches have welcomed the little band of children on Sundays, and self-denying friends have conducted the Asylum Sunday School at an early hour each week.
Sickness has at times added care and anxiety, but there have been very few occasions of epidemic or serious illness, and these have afforded opportunities for extra kindness and attention from physicians and friends; this was notably the case in 1866, when scarlet fever appeared in the home and those not stricken by the disease were taken into private families and cared for until all danger of contagion was past.
In 1866 a lot in Evergreen Cemetery was donated by the Trustees of the Cemetery, which was replaced in 1895 by a larger one in the new ground. That there are only twelve graves in this plot, shows how comparatively slight the mortality has been.
It is a pleasure to note that many of the early trustees have been, and are now, represented in the Board; that three of the original Executive Committee are living, viz.: Mrs. Elijah Kellogg, Mrs. John Kean and Mrs. Samuel A. Clark, the latter having been continuously in the work, and for twenty-six years our honored First Directress, succeeding Mrs. R. T. Haines, who up to that time had held the office. The record of the past is encouragement for the future. The loving kindness and tender mercies of our God have been ever about us for good, and we look to Him for continued favor and approval. In 1858 an appeal was made by the incorporators to the public, in which it was said: "Do not ask yourself how little will satisfy your conscience, but how much you can share with the orphan and the friendless." "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." As the aims of the incorporators have in some degree been accomplished, let us hope that their appeal, so effective in awakening public interest and generous support in 1858, will meet with like response in the new half century upon which we are entering.
1. "FIFTIETH ANNUAL REPORT", Fiftieth Annual Report of the Elizabeth Orphan Asylum Association, Elizabeth, New Jersey, 1908, Pages 5-8.