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The Poorhouse Waif and His Divine Teacher   By: (1870-1938)

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This eBook was produced by Joel Erickson, Charles Franks, Juliet Sutherland




A True Story




I The Deserted Child

II Life in the Almshouse

III From Bad to Worse

IV Finding Friends

V Suffering for the Faults of Others

VI The Strange Visitor

VII Mysteries Unfolding

VIII Discovers the Existence of God

IX In the Home of a Witch

X A Contrast

XI Searching for Light

XII A Revelation on Eternity

XIII Puzzled about Prayer

XIV A Prayer Meeting

XV A Star of Hope

XVI A Revelation on Tobacco

XVII The Camp Meeting

XVIII Discovers the Existence of God's Word

XIX Devotion and Works

XX Called to Service

XXI Discovers God's Church

XXII Visits the Poorhouse



In this wide world the fondest and the best Are the most tried, most troubled, and distressed.


"Why, woman, you are not thinking of leaving that child in this place for us to look after, I hope! Our hands are more than full already. You say that the child is scarcely a month old. How do you suppose that we could give it a mother's care? More than this, the board that governs the affairs of this institution has given us orders to accept no children under seven months of age whose mothers are not with them. So if we should take the child, as you say we must, you would be obliged to remain for that length of time, at least, to help us care for it."

It was August Engler, steward of the county poorhouse in one of the eastern counties of Pennsylvania during the sixties, that spoke these words, and the circumstance that called forth the language was the appearance and request of Mrs. Fischer, a well dressed young widow. The latter had come to the poorhouse with the intention of leaving her infant child. To this plan Mr. Engler had objected unless she was willing to comply with the rules of the place.

Mrs. Fischer, the mother of three little children, had recently heard that her husband, a soldier in the Civil War, had been killed in battle, and immediately she had gone into deep mourning as far as her dress was concerned. The care of her family, however, she felt was too great a responsibility to assume alone, and she had decided that the best thing for her to do was to give her three small children away and that the sooner it was done the better it would be. It was not hard to find homes for the girl and the boy, but with baby Edwin it was different He was so young that nobody cared to be bothered with him, and although she had tried hard, she had not succeeded in finding him a home.

In her perplexity she rushed to the infirmary. So confident had she been that it would be the duty of this institution to help her out that she had not thought of asking the privilege of leaving her baby as a favor.

As steward and matron of the poorhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Engler did what they could to keep things going smoothly and in order, but the work was too large for them to handle it properly. At that early date no special place except the poor farm had been provided for the simple and the insane; so it was necessary to have several buildings, both large and small, to provide for the needs of the people.

In the building that was known as the poorhouse proper was the main office. It was here that Mrs. Fischer appeared. Several other rooms of importance were also in this building, such as the dining room and some living apartments, but the bakery and the kitchen were in a building just a short distance away. And there was still another building, a large brick structure close to the main building. This was used for the confinement of such persons as the insane and the unmanageable, and the doors and windows, as well as the transoms, on both the inside and the outside were secured by iron bars. From these dark prison walls many strange and hideous sounds could be heard at any hour of the night or day.

In the entire establishment the furnishings were scant and poor, and in every way things were vastly different from what we find them in the poorhouse of our modern times... Continue reading book >>

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