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Holy Family Home/Margaret Henry Home – New Castle PA

Margaret Loretta Henry, usually called “Mary,” was born to Lawrence and Sara Henry in North Amherst, Ohio, most likely on March 14, 1878. The U.S. Census taken in June 1880 lists her age as “2.” It was about that same time that her father died and Mary and her six-year-old sister Sara were placed in the Saint Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls in the Woodland Hills area of nearby Cleveland. Margaret is known to have at least two other siblings, but perhaps they were not born yet or were cared for elsewhere.

The Catholic-affiliated orphanage, directed by Miss Anna Hogan and located at #831 Woodland Avenue, provided for young girls up to the age of eight, at which time they were transferred to the Saint Mary’s Orphan Asylum for Girls. Popular reports say young Margaret spent six years in an orphanage, but it’s likely after six years (when she turned eight) she was sent to the Saint Mary’s facility. The two orphanages merged in 1894 to form a new Saint Joseph’s Orphanage, at which time Margaret would have been sixteen.

At age sixteen Margaret Henry came under the care of – or was possibly even adopted by – Miss Ellen E. Donovan, who founded the Home of the Holy Family orphanage in the Woodland Hills area in June 1895. This orphanage was outside the auspices of the Diocese of Cleveland, but apparently was still loosely affiliated with the Catholic Church. Donovan, born in New York in 1857, was a dedicated advocate of homeless and disadvantaged children. Margaret assisted her in the operation of the home and vowed to dedicate her life to helping orphaned children.

Miss Henry worked in the Home of the Holy Family until August 1903, at which time she ventured to New Castle with several other women, all under the wing of Donovan, to help establish a new orphan’s home known as the Society of the Holy Family – or more popularly as the Holy Family Home. Despite the name “Holy” in its title the organization was not connected to or affiliated with any particular religious group or denomination. Donovan oversaw the effort but stayed back in Cleveland to continue working there. In September 1903 the women leased a home at #113 East Lincoln Avenue (across from where the Scottish Rite Cathedral was built in 1923-1926), owned by wealthy plumber Edwin S. Stevenson, and set up a small orphanage – initially with six children brought from Cleveland.

By April 1904 they relocated the orphanage to the former home of the late merchant Robert “R.W.” Cunningham, who passed away in early 1899. They leased the Cunningham homestead, complete with two homes of sixteen and seven rooms, located on one acre of rural property on what became Friendship Street off Cunningham Avenue. The property was leased for $25 a month, while the smaller home was (initially) subleased out for $10 a month to help defray the cost. The larger home was used for the children, with the boys dorms located on the third or top floor and the girls on the second floor.

Most of the children at the home had lost one or both their parents to death, came from an abusive or broken home, or from parents who were simply unable to care for them emotionally or financially. At any one time there were generally thirty to fifty children at the home. Most were there for long term care, but others were returned to their parents or relatives when situations improved on the home front.

The Holy Family Home was an independent operation and not affiliated with the city, county, or state agency. They did have a de facto arrangement with the City of New Castle though. If the city poor director or other official sent a child to the home, the home would receive roughly $1.50 a day to assist in their care. The facility survived on a day-to-day basis and was supported mainly by the generous donations of private citizens, prominent businessmen, fraternal organizations, charitable groups, and local companies. They accepted any donations of money, but also relied on much-needed gifts of clothes, shoes, blankets, toys, and food items. Various civic groups helped provide for the kids during holidays such as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The female directors and older girls living in the home did all the cooking and cleaning that was required.

Five women listed as directors, Ellen Donovan, Margaret Henry, Rosalia Matson, Bridget Kronar, and Elizabeth Cullen, filed a motion with the county court in mid-March 1907 to incorporate the home as a non-profit organization. The motion was granted a month later with the non-secular home’s stated goal “to assist in caring of orphans and homeless children, regardless of their religious denomination, and to afford aid to those in need at large.” Mary Henry soon took over as the matron of the home and by the end of the year she had thirty-eight children under her watchful eye. She eventually adopted a young girl named Evangeline from the orphanage.

The home faced a financial crisis in the summer of 1910. The New Castle News of Tuesday, July 26, 1910, divulged, “Mrs. Margaret Henry desires that the city of New Castle assume control of the Holy Family home which she has established in the old Cunningham homestead in the southern end of the city… Yesterday the Cunningham homestead which has been occupied by the home for many years was sold in an effort to satisfy a mortgage. The claim against the property totaled $8,500. The holder of the mortgage bid the property in for $350, there being no other bidders. Mrs. Henry now faces a crisis in the affairs of the home and this morning she called on City Solicitor James A. Gardner with a view that ascertaining whether or not it would be possible for the city to make a donation to the home. Mr. Gardner declared it would not be possible. Then Mrs. Henry came to visit Mayor Lusk and from him went to see Poor Director (Henry C.) Druschel. Just what can be done is problematical…”

The property came under the control of the C.C. Robingson Company, a local real estate business headed by Charles “C.C.” Robingson. The company placed this add in the New Castle News of Monday, October 10, 1910: “No. 197. The property now occupied as the Holy Family Home; one acre and two large substantial buildings; complete heating and lighting apparatus; very near the real center of the city; price, about one-half what it cost. It hurts, but we intend to sell.” Despite the pending sale, it seems a deal was soon worked out to allow the Holy Family Home to lease out the property once again. At some point the property was sold to an interest based in Chicago, Illinois.

The home was always prepared to take in children at a moment’s notice. The Thursday, September 5, 1912, edition of the New Castle News detailed one such case with: “Investigation by Mayor (Walter V.) Tyler, Juvenile Officer Bill Smith, the health officer and assistant, of complaints made regarding the terrible sanitary condition of the home at the corner of Falls and Beaver streets, where Sam Brunner, his sister and the Brunner’s three children were existing, led to drastic action on the part of the officials this morning. The children, Clifford, aged 6, Elsie, aged 4, and Edna, aged 2, were taken away from the home by the officers and were placed in the Holy Family home temporarily. The case will be presented to the court immediately and disposition of the children will be made by the court. In addition Brunner was given ten days’ notice by the health officer in which to put the house and premises in sanitary condition. The mother of the children is in an asylum the officials say, and Brunner’s sister was supposed to be at the place taking care of the children.”

Another incident can be found in the New Castle News of Friday, July 24, 1914: “Mrs. Mary Audia was arrested last night on an information made by County Detective W. H. Dunlap before Alderman Cooper in which she is charged with selling liquor without a license. Her husband was arrested this morning. Both were committed to jail and arrangements were made for keeping their four children at the Holy Family home.”

In regard to fires, there were numerous close calls over the years, but the home was fortunate in that it never had to endure a major blaze. The facility faced two such scares in early 1919. The New Castle News of Saturday, January 4, 1919, mentioned, “The alarm from box 51 about 4:30 yesterday afternoon, called the fire departments to the Holy Family Home on Cunningham avenue, where a fire was found in a small room near the kitchen of the building. It was put out with a loss of from $25 to $50. The room is used by the children of the home as a toilet and it is believed that some of them must have secured a match and started the blaze in some manner.”

Just over two weeks later the New Castle News of Wednesday, January 22, 1919, shared this: “What appeared to be a dangerous fire at the start occurred last night at the Holy Family Home for children in the Cunningham avenue district. A fire had started in a wardrobe in a hallway on the second floor of the structure and while the fire did not get any great headway or do any great amount of damage, it filled the entire house with smoke and made it hard to fight. The children of the home were all in bed and had to be removed to a smaller house on the property until all danger was past. The cause of the fire could not be determined.”

The home was apparently not free of drama and scandal. The New Castle News of Monday, December 16, 1918, reported, “James Edward Friia, aged nine months, little son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Friia, died Sunday morning at three o’clock in the Holy Family Home on Cunningham avenue. Influenza was the cause of death. The parents and one sister survive.” Just how the young boy came to be placed in the home is unknown. His father Joseph Friia, an Italian immigrant, was off serving in the U.S. Army, while his mother Lucy Friia, who hailed from England, was residing in New Castle.

In the week after the youngster’s death his mother forged several checks in the name of the Holy Family Home and fled town in the company of a teenage girl who was residing at the home. Oddly enough that teenage girl was Evangeline Henry, the sixteen-year-old adopted daughter of Margaret Henry.

Lucy Friia and Evangeline Henry were soon arrested in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and returned home to New Castle. The New Castle News of Tuesday, December 31, 1918, disclosed, “Mrs. Frira is the wife of a soldier at Camp Holibird, Md., and Evangeline Henry is the adopted daughter of the matron of the Holy Family home in this city. Mrs. Frira left the city several days ago and she took the Henry girl with her and police were asked to locate them. Communication was immediately begun with surrounding police departments and the pair were traced to Morgantown and then to Clarksburg where they were placed under arrest. An information has been made before Alderman O. P. Green against Mrs. Friia as she is alleged to have cashed several Christmas savings fund checks that belonged to persons staying at the Holy Family Home.”

The New Castle News of Thursday, January 23, 1919, followed up with, “Lucy Friia, who was charged with forging checks, entered a plea at court this morning and was paroled by Judge (Samuel) Emery for one year. It was claimed that she had forged the name of Margaret Henry to a check for $171 on the Lawrence Savings and Trust company and the names of Annie Smith and Mary Sullivan to checks amounting to $12.60. She was released on the understanding that she was going to the home of her father, in Clarksburg, West Virginia.” Lucy Friia soon made her way to Baltimore, Maryland, where she was reunited with her husband and gave birth to another child in late 1919. Evangeline Henry was returned to the care of her mother.

In September 1920 the Chicago-based owners of the old Cunningham homestead delivered some bad news. They intended to sell the property or at least increase the rent. They would allow Miss Henry to purchase the home outright for $10,000 or rent the property for $75 a month. A crisis was at hand as Miss Henry had no savings and the home barely survived on a meager budget. Several companies or individuals stepped forward to assist but it was still not enough.
After various meetings and negotiations with prominent civic leaders it was decided in January 1921 to incorporate the home with a board of directors under the control of the Lawrence County Board of Trade (Chamber of Commerce). With official sponsorship and funding the facility would be able to remain in operation. The name of the facility, in a fitting tribute, was also formally changed to the Margaret L. Henry Home for Children. A charter was applied for in March 1921 and Miss Henry remained in charge to continue her work as matron.

David S. Pyle, the district superintendent of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company in New Castle, was selected as the first president of the board of directors. The board of directors featured a handful of prominent civic leaders to include George A. Rigby, Charles L. McMillen, Samuel P. Emery, Rufus C. Patterson, Marcus Feuchtwanger, Joseph Hannon, Thomas A. Dickey, Sam Klafter, Patrick “P.J.” Flaherty, and Charles “C.C.” Robingson. The men soon went about raising money to keep the home in operation.

The City Council did its part to as well. The New Castle News of Friday, March 3, 1922, reported “Council today took action placing the Margaret L. Henry Children’s Home on Cunningham avenue on the non-taxable list. City treasurer C. L. McMillen reported that this home is non-sectarian and that it is a regularly chartered home. Council decided that it should be tax free and ordered it taken from the taxable list.”

In the fall of 1922 a major drive, led by realtor Charles “C.C.” Robingson and banker Alexander C. Hoyt, was undertaken to raise the necessary funds to purchase the property. The money would be utilized to purchase the property, but also to make various improvements to the orphanage. The public fundraising drive lasted from September 19-25 and reportedly raised about $17,000. Alexander C. Hoyt and David Jameson, both of whom were wealthy bankers, soon joined the board of directors.

The New Castle News of Saturday, December 16, 1922, revealed, “Margaret Henry Home on East Friendship street, just across Cunningham avenue from the Junior High school, is all painted and dolled up for the holidays. While the outside painting and a lot of other work authorized by the Board of Directors have been done, there yet remained a number of things to do, such as the cement porches on the west and north sides, the fire escape, on the south side, the bath rooms on the second and third floors, the taking out of the back stairway between the second and third floors and the compelting (sic) of the new dining room.”

It appears there was never dull moment at the home, as evidenced by this article in the New Castle News of Wednesday, April 4, 1923: “A fully developed day old baby boy, white, wrapped in a crocheted bed spread was left last night on the porch of the Margaret Henry Home by some unknown person. The baby is alive and well today and there is every indication it will survive the cruel manner in which its mother and possibly some assisting friend, tried to rid themselves of the responsibility of its birth Investigation by Mrs. Rae Muirhead, city police woman, indicates that the baby was born without the attention of a physician or a midwife. However, the crude methods attending its birth in no way injured the child.”

An investigation was carried out, but the parents were never located. The baby was taken to the Shenango Valley Hospital for medical attention and placed under the guardianship of the William D. Williams Sr., the head of the Poor Department. Williams received ten applications to adopt the baby, and about two weeks later he sent the baby to live with a foster family in nearby Ohio.

Finding available space for orphans was a constant issue as the New Castle News of Wednesday, May 16, 1923, mentioned, “Need of additional facilities for taking care of orphan children, which come under the supervision of the city poor department, is becoming more apparent every day, according to William D. Williams Sr., city poor director. Local facilities such as the Margaret Henry Home and private homes are about filled to capacity all the time and this makes it difficult for the poor director to place worthy orphan children.”

The once rural area surrounding the Margaret Henry Home slowly changed, especially after the Ben Franklin Junior High School was opened on adjacent property in September 1922. The New Castle News of Wednesday, March 18, 1925, reported, “New Castle people who have not had occasion to visit the vicinity of the Ben Franklin school in the past couple of years still believe that the Margaret Henry Home is located in the old Cunningham homestead which they will tell you is surrounded by “acres and acres of land.” They are mistaken… Until two or three years ago Cunningham avenue was as unencumbered as any country section in the county. Since the building of the school it has grown by leaps and bounds however as have Lutton and Friendship streets. As a result the Home is now surrounded by modern houses and the broad fields in which the youngsters were once able to romp are now reduced to the narrow confines of the actual home property.”

Marcus Feuchtwanger, a dedicated humanitarian and influential leader in the local Jewish community, took over as president of the board of directors in March 1933. David Pyle, who was stepping down, was elevated to “Honorary Chairman.” Feuchtwanger served in his post until he passed away in January 1944. Subsequent presidents included Charles W. Reed and Ivor V. Davis Sr.

On June 4, 1938, Margaret Henry’s former guardian and beloved mentor Ellen Donovan, at the age of eighty-one, passed away in Cleveland. Her orphanage was taken over the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, but closed for good in 1952. Miss Henry was also in failing health by the late 1930’s but forged ahead in her endeavors.

Margaret Henry, one of New Castle’s most beloved heroines, managed the home until she died in the New Castle Hospital (later known as Saint Francis Hospital) on the afternoon of Friday, June 14, 1940. She was sixty-two years old. It was truly a sad day as Miss Henry was said to have cared for an estimated 2,500 children during her thirty-seven years of dedicated service in New Castle.

The New Castle News of the next day reported, “New Castle lost one of its greatest benefactors with the death of Miss Margaret Loretta Henry, matron of the Margaret L. Henry home, located at 520 Friendship street, when she passed away Friday afternoon a t 5:05 in the New Castle hospital. Miss Henry had been a friend of homeless children of this city for years. She was born March 14, 1876, in North Amherst, O., daughter of Lawrence and Sara Henry. After her father’s death Miss Henry was placed in an orphanage where she remained for six years. It was shortly after this time that Miss Henry resolved to, in some way, help children who must depend on the public for support.”

Margaret’s arrangements were handled by the Howard Reynolds Funeral Home. On Monday, June 17, a well-attended memorial service, presided over by the Reverend Joseph A. Doerr, was held at the Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in New Castle. Afterwards she was interred in Saint Joseph’s Cemetery with distinguished members of the Margaret Henry Home board of directors, including David S. Pyle, Thomas W. Dickey, Alexander C. Hoyt, Rufus C. Patterson, Samuel Klafter, and Roger W. Rowland, acting as honorary pallbearers.

In early 1941 the Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge No. 55, which always maintained a close association with the home, announced plans to erect a memorial in her honor. The New Castle News of Monday, April 28, 1941, provided the following details: “Erection of an imposing new cut-stone bird-bath on the lawn of the Margaret L. Henry Children’s Home, Friendship street, has been completed, and officers of the Aerie No. 455 of the Fraternal Order of Eagles began laying plans for informal public dedication as a memorial to the late Margaret Henry at afternoon exercises on Mother’s Day, May 11. Miss Henry, founder and longtime matron of the home, died last June. Worthy President Louis C. Krueger of the Eagles, announced that invitations to the dedication will be sent to all New Castle civic, service and fraternal organizations. Leaders of all faiths will speak at the 3 p.m. ceremony. The head of the Eagles said: “Miss Henry was a great lover of birds, and we felt the bird-bath, something she herself suggested for the spot, would be a fitting memorial.”

Lida “Mom” Green, Henry’s longtime trusted assistant who had basically been running the facility for the last year, officially took over as matron in June 1940. Green continued Henry’s good work until she was forced to officially step down due to health reasons in late 1952. She was briefly succeeded as matron by her assistant Bertha L. Patterson, who had basically been running the facility for the last two years.

Patterson, a longtime widower, was known to be a strict disciplinarian, and the children reportedly feared her and the “hickory switch” she wielded. Patterson soon retired due to ill health. She relocated to live with a daughter in the McKeesport area, where she suffered a stroke and passed away in December 1953. She was buried in Oak Park Cemetery.

Edward Varner, a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and his wife Vida Rose Varner took over as the new resident directors in early January 1953. They both natives of Johnstown. The New Castle News of Wednesday, January 21, 1953, reported, “The new resident director and his wife are well equipped to take charge at the Margaret Henry Home. Prior to their assignment here which started on January 2, they were occupied with boys work and settlement work in Pittsburgh, Pa. Mr. Varner at one time was director for three years at a camp at Clarion, Pa. His wife, Mrs. Vida Varner, prior to her marriage was assistant on a girl’s committee in Hartford, Conn. Mr. and Mrs. Vainer have been married for the past six years.”

Lida Green sadly passed away just a few months later on Tuesday, March 17, 1953. The New Castle News of the next day reported, “Mrs. Lida L. Green, well loved and widely known matron of the Margaret Henry Home, died Tuesday morning in the Bishop Nursing Home. Mrs. Green had been ill for the past three years, but her illness became serious during the past three months and resulted in death. Mrs. Green was 63 years of age and resided at 520 East Friendship street – the Margaret L. Henry Home… Many Home residents, now grown into young women and men have always regarded her with the highest esteem and have called her familiarly as mom.” She was laid to rest in Castle View Memorial Gardens.

Mr. and Mrs. Varner ran the daily operations of the home until November 1954, when they departed for a new position at an orphanage near Pittsburgh. The New Castle News of Monday, November 8, 1954, mentioned, “Mr. and Mrs. Edward Varner were feted at a surprise farewell party Sunday by the children of the Margaret L. Henry Home. Friends and parents were invited to hear the program which was presented under the supervision of Miss Patricia Henkson. John Susco served as master of ceremonies. A centerpiece was in the form of a cake inscribed with “Good Luck,” and decorated with pink roses.”

The Reverend John T. Kelly, formerly of Greenville, Pennsylvania, took over as the resident director in November 1954. His stay was rather short-lived as the board of directors announced in late July 1955 that they would be permanently closing the home. The reasons behind the closure coincided with the rise of private home foster care and permanent adoption as the preferred method of housing orphans. The difficulty in finding qualified care personnel, the decline of enrollment at the home, and the rising cost of its operation also played a part in the decision.

The New Castle News of Thursday, July 28, 1955, announced the news with, “Reluctantly, but not before long and serious consideration, the board of directors has deemed it wise to close the home which during its existence has sheltered thousands of children who otherwise would not have had a good home and gotten the right start in life. Announcement was made today by William K. Langan, vice president of the board of directors of the home, that due to only 13 children being cared for there at present time, it is economically inadvisable to keep the east side institution in operation and still maintain a full staff of workers.”

The Margaret Henry Home was closed about a month later. It was estimated that 3,000 children spent time residing in the home in its fifty-two years of existence. The thirteen children remaining at the facility were placed in foster care homes until permanent placement could be made. The contents of the Margaret Henry Home were sold at auction in late 1955, and plans put in motion to sell the property.

The New Castle School Board had plans to close the aging Thaddeus Stevens and Pollock Avenue Schools within the next five years and then erect a single new schoolhouse to consolidate them. They wanted to build the new school site of the Margaret Henry Home, but balked at the high price. The school board also considered the old Taylor homestead at Cunningham Avenue and Taylor Street (now an athletic field). The plan was later abandoned and it was decided in late 1960 to build a new Thaddeus Stevens School, after purchasing adjoining properties, at the same location of its original namesake. The new Thaddeus Stevens building opened in September 1963, and took on students from the Pollock Avenue School when it finally closed in June 1968.

In early March 1956 the board of directors approved the sale of the Margaret Henry Home property to William F. DeCarbo for $11,000. It was also decided that the board of directors, utilizing the proceeds from the sale, would remain active working with underprivileged children throughout the city for the time being. In April 1957 the Margaret Henry Scholarship Fund was established to assist local students attend the new Penn State University Center in New Castle – an auxiliary campus established in the former Oak Street School. The scholarships were presented to a handful of students every year, until the funds presumably were exhausted in about 1965.

In October 1956 the Macaluso Nursing Home, formerly located at #458 Croton Avenue, began operating out of the old orphanage. The Macaluso Nursing Home vacated the Friendship Street property sometime after it opened a new facility on the West Pittsburg Road in late 1960.

In the fall of 1962 the city, wishing to honor the memory of Miss Henry, established Margaret Henry Memorial Park in the triangle-shaped property at the intersection of Superior and Taylor Streets. The stone bird-bath memorial, erected by the Fraternal Order of Eagles back in 1941, was relocated there and a re-dedication ceremony was held on Saturday, October 27, 1962. Councilman Richard H. Biddle, the Director of Parks, presided over the small ceremony that was well attended.

In May 1965 construction of a modern convalescent home, to be known as the Golden Hills Nursing Home, began behind and beside the vacant main building of the Margaret Henry Home. At the end of December 1965, when the new facility was almost completed, the razing of the former orphanage commenced to make way for the front parking lot. The old building was cleared away by the end of January 1966 – but the monumental legacy of Miss Margaret Loretta Henry can never be erased.

To read an article about the establishing of the Holy Family Home on Lincoln Avenue in 1903 click on: ORPHAN HOME TO BE ESTABLISHED ARTICLE. To read a short mention about moving the home to the Cunningham homestead in April 1904 click on: MOVING ARTICLE. To read about a man accused of exposing himself to the children at the home in August 1904 click on: FAILED TO IDENTIFY ARTICLE. To read about a fire at the home in October 1906 click on: FIRE LOSS ARTICLE. To learn more about the plan to incorporate the home in 1907 click on: HOLY FAMILY TO INCORPORATE ARTICLE and CHARTER NOTICE and CHARTER GRANTED ARTICLE. To read an article from December 1907 about the work done at the home click on: THIRTY-EIGHT CHILDREN AT HOME ARTICLE. To read about a young girl who severely injured her eye at the home in March 1912 click on: MAY LOSE SIGHT OF EYE ARTICLE. To read a short mention about a female fraternal and benevolent society known as Lady Maccabees taking donations for the home in 1913 click on: MACCABEES DONATE ARTICLE. To read the obituaries of several children who died at the home click on: GEORGE SHEETS OBITUARY and JACK CONNERS OBITUARY and JAMES FRILA OBITUARY. To read about the children of the home given automobile rides and other treats by local businessmen in 1916 click on: CHILDREN HAPPY ARTICLE. To read a clever article singing the praises of the home in February 1919 click on: TWENTY-SIX CHILDREN IN SINGLE HOME ARTICLE. To read an article put in the newspaper by Margaret Henry thanking a local resident for rescuing one of the children from the waters of the Neshannock Creek in July 1919 click on: THANKS LETTER. To read the owners of the home proposing to sell the home in September 1920 click on: FACES POSSIBILITY OF BEING CLOSED ARTICLE. The civic leaders of New Castle banded together in late 1920 to form a joint county-city board to run the facility. To read about that beginnings of that effort click on: MASS MEETING IS SUGGESTED ARTICLE. To read two articles mentioning aid and donations to the home in late 1920 click on: PLANS TO AID CHILDREN’S HOME ARTICLE and HENRY EXPRESSES THANKS ARTICLE. To read about the upcoming incorporation of the home click on: INCORPORATION OF HOLY FAMILY HOME ARTICLE and CHARTER ASKED ARTICLE. To learn about plans to raise funds for the home in January 1921 click on: RAISE FUNDS ARTICLE. To read a great article from June 1922 about daily life inside the home click on: FORTY FOPUR CHILDREN AT HOME ARTICLE. To read about the goal of the major fundraising drive in 1922 click on: GOAL OF MARGARET HENRY HOME DRIVE ARTICLE. To read a detailed list of donations made to the home in late 1922 click on: DONATIONS ARE MADE ARTICLE.

In April 1904 the Home of the Holy Family, an orphanage led by a group of women who had come from Cleveland the prior year, relocated to the former home (shown above) of the late merchant R. W. Cunningham. They leased the Cunningham homestead, complete with two homes of sixteen and seven rooms, located on one acre of property on what became Friendship Street off Cunningham Avenue. Margaret Henry soon took over control and in 1921 the facility was renamed as the Margaret L. Henry Home for Children. Miss Henry oversaw the effort to tend to local orphans at this location until she passed away in 1940. (c1905) Full Size

Margaret Loretta Henry was born in North Amherst, Ohio, in 1878 and primarily raised as an orphan. She became a social worker and came to New Castle in 1903 to help set up a local orphanage. (1922)

Margaret Henry, shown here with five children under her care, selflessly devoted thirty-seven years of her life to caring for the orphaned children of New Castle. (1939)

The children of the Margaret Henry Home (two shown above) attended an extravagant Christmas Party held by the Johnson Bronze company on Saturday, December 11, 1948. The event was held in the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Santa Claus was portrayed by JB employee Bob Schatzer. (1948) Full Size

(Oct 1956)

The Margaret Henry Home was once located approximately in front of the main entrance of the Golden Hills Nursing Home. (2011)

The Margaret Henry Home closed in 1955 and was subsequently used as a nursing home. It was demolished in c1965 and the site became home to the Golden Hill Nursing Home. (Jan 2012)

The Golden Hill Nursing Home. (Jan 2012)

The stone monument erected in Margaret Henry’s honor by the local Fraternal Order of Eagles. It sits in a small park near the intersection of Taylor Street and Superior Street. (Jan 2012)

The inscription on the monument. (Jan 2012)

The final resting place of Margaret Henry in St. Joseph Cemetery in Neshannock Township. (Mar 2012)

Margaret Henry was truly one of New Castle’s most beloved heroines. (Mar 2012)


  1. (EDITOR’S NOTE) I found a great article in the New Castle News of May 13, 2000, from Gladys Klenotic, an elderly woman residing in West Pittsburg. It reads in part, “You see I was 6 years old when my mother died… I have remembrances of laying over my mamma’s lap and being patted on the back. She had been so kind and loving… I remember standing at my mother’s knees and her combing my hair. She said “You be a good girl…” Later, we were told that our mother had delivered a baby and had suffered a stroke at the same time and had died. The year was 1926. That was the end of our family life as my father already had four children to look after… My new baby brother was adopted out. My two older brothers went to live with an aunt and uncle 90 miles away; my sister and I were put in the Margaret Henry Home for about one year… I cried and cried… After a year in the home, my father found us a good home with a woman and her daughter in the country. I called her mom for the next 12 years. Even though they were wonderful, I longed for my mother and family. Time passed. We all married… After retiring, I traveled to Corry, where my mother was buried and discovered she had never had a marker all these years. After 68 years I had one placed upon her grave… I can’t help thinking how much I have missed her all these years and how much she could have contributed to our lives. But I do remember mama.” Now that’s a story! Jeff

  2. My Mother, Anne Palco resided at the Margaret L Henry
    home when she was a child until the age of 16-17 yrs old.
    She is now 94 yrs old and in failing health but has always
    talked about Ms. Henry and how she was her greatest
    inspiration. My mother went on to become a nurse
    and was so for 6o yrs. Do you know of anyone who is still living that would have known my mother? Please contact me at this e-mail: chrisbolcer@gmail.com

  3. My mother put my sister Marsha & I in the Home when I was 5 yrs. old (1945) and my sister was 2 1/5. She was 22 at the time and divorced from my father. We remained there for 5 yrs. until 1950. I remember Mrs. Green being a very rotund lady always sitting in a big chair and she would have several of us on her lap and sing Irish lullabies to us. The other Matron, Miss Patterson, a tall skinny lady was the opposite and she meted out any punishment. Her favorite was a long paddle which she swung with great force while holding onto your one wrist wailing away as you went around in a circle trying to minimize the blows. All the while, her small black & white dog would be jumping up and down barking and nipping at you. In my deepest memories it was not a very nice place and the various punishments and bad memories I endure could fill a book. Once we got out of there when I was 10, I never went down Friendship street ever again in the next 8 years living in New Castle. I never wanted to see that place again. I still can hear all the crying and sobbing of all the boys at night from our third floor beds. Ironically, Many, many years later I went back to New Castle to visit my Step Mother who had been placed in a nursing home by her sister – The Golden Hills Nursing Home! As my wife & I turned onto Friendship St.I stopped the car suddenly with my wife asking what is wrong. I broke out in a cold sweat and became quite nauseous as a flood of bad memories coursed through me. The nursing home sat on the very site of the Margaret Henry Home! This was now more than 47 years since the last time I left that place.

  4. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Arnold, Wow! That was quite a recollection of the old home. It definitely provides some valuable insight and I appreciate you posting it even though the memories aren’t all that pleasant. Thank you. Jeff

  5. I believe my father “Donald Wade Ferguson, born 9-4-25 in New Castle PA lived for a short time @ The Holy Family Home, when he was around 5/6 years of age. He shared some “not so pleasant stories” with me. His parents Wade Ferguson & Barbara Olive Ferguson (nee Boenish) divorced….I have no idea why his mother placed my father there. It was something she, nor he never shared with me. Apparently, my grandfather was not a pleasant kind of guy, according to BOTH my father & grandma!

    I have an original 1925 photo of the Neshannock Ave neighborhood my father lived. I know that he did live w/ my great-grandmother, Olive Boenish (nee Parkay?) on Neshannock Ave.for several years and he shared happy memories of her & playing/swimming @ Neshannock Creek. I have many great photos of he & his cousin Vivian (another disenfranchised little kid), taken as infants to pre-teens.

    My Dad eventually left NewCastle after enlisting in the Army during WWII. He was a paratrooper in the 82/101st Airborne Div., heading for California after the war. He met my Mom and as the saying goes…the rest is history.

    I have enjoyed this site very much. If you would like a copy of the “1925 Neshannock Ave. photo”, I would be happy to send.

  6. My great-grandmother, the late Mrs. Jennie Carter, was a resident at the Macaluse Nursing Home. She passed on June 23, 1964, eight years before I was born. This information was taken from her Death Certificate. I found this site in my effort to research the Nursing home where she spent her last days.

  7. Mr. Fraser, my mother went into an orphanage at around 8 years old…which would have put the year 1945. I am unsure of where she was placed. She always talked about the Mercer/New Castle area. She passed away in 2010. Do you recall a Virginia K. Shreffler? There were 7 children in her family that were placed in an orphanage. She was placed in a home with her one sister I believe. Were the boys separated from the girls or were there times that you could interact with one another? Any idea on how I can find records of who was placed in the homes?

  8. Cheryl Donnell, I’m sorry but the names are not familiar. The girls slept on the second floor while the boys had the third. We interacted outside playground sometimes and in the dinning hall. However, I ate many meals in the kitchen with the black lady cooks as punishment for one thing or another. All I was allowed was bread and milk with sugar but they didn’t know I really liked bread and milk.
    I couldn’t begin to tell you where records might be found other than the New Castle News.

    I could actually sit down and draw an exact sketch of that entire place room by room. But, I don’t even like to think about the place. Good luck in your search

  9. Although I never knew her Margaret L. Henry was my great aunt. My grandfather was her younger brother James. When their father died in Cleveland in 1880 the girls were put in an orphanage in Cleveland. Margaret and her sister Sarah spent their early years there. I think Margaret was a motherly type but it was a difficult situation for everyone. I can’t imagine starting an orphanage when she was a young woman in an area she was not familiar with. I think they did their best in helping with the children

  10. My grandmother, Florence Gaub born 8/13/1921, was placed in the Margaret Henry Home I believe after the 1930 census was obtained. She had 3 siblings; John, Raymond (who was adopted and became Robert Lagnese), Virginia Grace. Her parents were Gordon Gaub and according to census records Nellie Tanner. Her birth certificate revealed her mother is Anna Tanner not Nellie Tanner. I believe Anna and Nellie are sisters.

    Before my grandmother passed away in 1999, she described her stay at the orphanage as being abusive and volatile. She would talk about a “fire” where “all of the records were burned”. I am still not sure about the “fire” conversation. While my grandmother definitely had some spark in her spirit, I assume she spent time under punishment. Often times I wonder if this “fire” was a type of threat?

    I am eager to find any records or anyone who may have known my grandmother.

    Thank you in advance to anyone who may have information.

  11. I ‘bumped’ into this article while searching for info on Mrs. Green. Incidentally, on page four, third paragraph, her middle initial is listed as ‘L’. Her correct initial is ‘J’. It is a very detailed story and I can attest to much of the info since I was in the Home from August 1941 until August 1945. I was 7, my older brother Wade was 11 and Paul was 4. Mrs. Green was a saint and would rock Paul when he would become a little ‘weepy’ over his circumstance. The description of ‘Pat’ Patterson was quite accurate and everyone treaded lightly when she was around. I guess everyone has a different memory experience of their stay, but understandably
    most will not be pleasant. I stopped in to see Mrs. Green in late 1952 (my first visit since 1945) and found her bedfast and being attended by several of the girls. She was a mere shadow of her former self and it saddened me to see her so very ill. Have you had any contact with Eleanor Knis. She was working to publish a book on the Home, but I haven’t heard from her for some time. Feel free to contact me regarding my memories of the Home.


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