CARE OF OUR UNFORTUNATES
pioneers were a race of strong, healthy, and hardy people. In
the early years there were few among the settlers whom we
might call "unfortunates"; that is, people who have mental or
physical handicaps which make them unable to care for
The first legislature in the Territory of
Iowa, 1838-1839, paid little attention to the care of
unfortunates. The care of the poor was left to the townships
and one law provided that the overseer of the poor should care
for the insane. The territorial legislature of 1842 passed a
law permitting counties to build a county home or poorhouse.
The state legislature of 1849 provided that anyone between
ten and twenty-one who was deaf or blind should be allowed $50
per year for two years for educational purposes.
In 1853 Iowa became the fifteenth state in the
Union to provide a school for the blind. In January of that
year the legislature passed a law establishing an "Asylum of
the Blind." The institution was to be located at Iowa City,
which was then the capital.
Samual Bacon, a blind teacher of the blind,
had opened a private school for the blind at Keokuk in August,
1852. He was made principal of the new school at Iowa City
and in February, 1853, he moved his own school to that place.
Mr. Bacon was a capable and worthy man. He
held his position for ten years. He visited schools for the
blind in other states and attended the first national
convention for teachers of the blind in 1853. Twenty-three
pupils were enrolled in September, 1854. Music and industrial
subjects were stressed from the beginning of the school.
A NEW LOCATION
The legislature of 1858 appointed a committee
of three of its members to select a new location for the
school. A grant of $15,000 was made for a new building and
the law provided that any community desiring the school must
give an additional $5,000.
The citizens of Vinton offered the necessary
money and also forty acres of land, whereupon the committee
decided to locate the school there. Rev. Orlando Clark became
principal of the school in 1862 and it was moved to Vinton in
August of that year. Before the close of 1863 there were
sixty pupils enrolled.
In 1872 the legal name for the school was
changed to "Iowa College for the Blind." It is now called the
"Iowa School for the Blind." At first the school was managed
by a board of its own. In 1898 it was placed under the
management of the Board of Control but in 1911 it was changed
to the State Board of Education.
In 1909 the legislature passed a law requiring
all blind children between the ages of twelve and nineteen who
were physically able to attend the school.
In 1854 Reverend William E. Ijams, who had
taught in the Illinois school for mutes, established a private
school for deaf and dumb people at Iowa City. A year later
the legislature made a grant of $5,000 annually, for two
years, for a school for the deaf and provided for a board of
seven to manage it. The school opened in February of the same
year with Mr. Ijams as principal and his mother as matron.
They started with twenty pupils but at the end of two years
had fifty-four enrolled. The school was crowded for room and
the state did not provide enough money to hire competent
A commission was appointed in 1866 to seek a
permanent location for the school. The city of Council Bluffs
offered sixty acres of land and the commission decided to
locate it there. The legislature voted $125,000 for buildings
and the school was moved to Council Bluffs in 1870.
The school for the deaf has had several
misfortunes. In 1876 some of the buildings were destroyed by
storm and by fire. In 1885 a cyclone destroyed a portion of
the buildings and in 1902 fire again brought damage to the
In 1892 the name of the institution was
changed to the "Iowa School for the Deaf."
The laws which were mentioned concerning the
School for the Blind, as to management and compulsory
attendance, also apply to the School for the Deaf.
INSTITUTION FOR THE FEEBLE-MINDED
In 1875 two soldiers' orphans' homes were
abandoned. One was located at Cedar Falls and the other at
Glenwood. The following year a law was passed which provided
for the establishment of an "Asylum for Feeble-Minded
Children" to be located in the abandoned orphans' home at
Glenwood. An appropriation of $1,000 was made to repair the
buildings but that was not enough as the buildings were in bad
shape. The school was opened in September, 1876, with Dr. O.
W. Archibald, a local physician, as superintendent. The
beginning enrollment was eighty-eight.
In 1882 the name was changed to "Institution
for the Feeble-Minded." The institution now owns more than a
thousand acres of land and has a dairy herd of seventy-five
cows. It is managed by the State Board of Control.
IOWA SOLDIER'S ORPHANS' HOME
Perhaps one of the worst features of a war is
the fact that many children thus become orphans. This was
true in the Civil War.
The first efforts in Iowa toward caring for
war orphans was through the establishment of "Homes." These
homes were, in the main, started by interested communities and
supported largely by gifts of money. In a few cases the state
helped by giving money.
Shortly after the Civil War counties were
authorized to provide soldiers' orphans' homes which were
managed by a state board. Under the Code of 1897 the county
plan was changed in favor of a single state home. The
"Orphans' Home and Home for Destitute Children" was
established and located at Davenport. The law provided that
all children of resident soldiers or orphans of soldiers under
fifteen years of age who were destitute or unable to care for
themselves were eligible for admission, and such others,
destitute and of like age and having a legal settlement in the
state, could be admitted upon approved application so long as
none of the former class were denied admission.
In 1898 the name of the institution was
changed to "Iowa Soldiers' Orphans' Home." Admission,
however, is not limited to orphans of soldiers.
TRAINING SCHOOLS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
In the Code of 1873 the Iowa legislature
provided for the establishment of a reform school at Eldora,
for the "reformation of boys and girls under eighteen years of
age." The purpose of the law was to "reform" or "make over"
boys and girls who were guilty of some offense but not to
condemn them as criminals. The law stated that the children
were to be "instructed in piety and morality, and in such
branches of useful knowledge as are adapted to their age and
capacity, and in some regular course of labor, either
mechanical, manufacturing, or agricultural, as is best suited
to their age, strength, disposition, and capacity, and as may
seem best adapted to secure the reformation and future benefit
of the boys and girls."
In 1889 a separate department of the Iowa
Reform School was established at Mitchellville, thus making
two institutions for the reform of children. The legislature
of 1913 declared the two schools to be "separate and distinct"
and gave them the names "Iowa Industrial School for Boys" and
"Iowa Industrial School for Girls."
Iowa has established several other
institutions for the care of unfortunates. They are:
Four state hospitals for insane. These are
located, in the order of their establishment, at Mt. Pleasant,
Independence, Clarinda, and Cherokee.
A hospital for epileptics and school for
feeble-minded, at Woodward.
A state sanitarium for tuberculosis patients,
A soldiers' home, at Marshalltown.
A juvenile home, at Toledo.
With the exception of the first two
institutions mentioned in this chapter, all are under the
management of the State Board of Control. The School for the
Blind and the School for the Deaf are managed by the State
Board of Education.