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Orphan Home of Industry

Charles Collins Townsend, an Episcopal missionary, came to Iowa City (Johnson Co., IA) and established The Orphan's Home of Industry in 1854. His plan was to bring the orphaned and homeless children of New York to Iowa where they could be placed with farmers and others in the community. Until the orphans found new homes, they were schooled at The Home and also cared for crops and livestock there. The New York Times estimated that Townsend took in 500 orphans in all.

It is not known when the first children were brought to Iowa City. Records show that between June 1, 1854 and June 1, 1858, 50 boys, 43 girls and 26 adults came to Iowa by train. Townsend's first group from the East was composed of 9 boys, 13 girls and 4 adults. During the first four years of The Home's operation, Townsend noted that over 20 young people learned to read and/or write and three were ready to teach school. One boy died and was buried on the grounds of The Home. Three children and one adult were returned to New York City.

Townsend wrote biographical sketches of some of the first orphans he found in New York:

"John was found in a bake house; slept on some straw in a cart ... will make an industrious farmer"

"George, in pitiful conditions on the streets, now cultivates his own garden in Iowa and has a good home with a farmer"
  "five older boys in good homes with farmers"
  "Frances, found in the Sun building in New York City, now in a good home with the Stephan Maynards"
  "Ellen, from Randall's Island, now an assistant housekeeper at The Home, and a teacher of the smaller children, hoping to go to the new Normal school in Iowa City"
  "Mary, 16, from Fort Smith, going to school in Iowa City"
  "lame Susan whose parents died of cholera"

However, the townspeople were not happy to have vagrants and criminals in their midst and in 1868 the home had closed and the property sold at a sheriff's auction. Townsend went back to New York where he died a short time later.

The above information comes from the Nov/Dec 1979 Palimpsest. We also found the following information on the 1860 federal census, pg 897A for Johnson Co., IA:

NAME Age Occupation Birthplace Notes
Chal. C. Townsend 50 Orphan's Home .Conn  
Martha Townsend 45   Ohio  
Sarah E? Houg? 35 Governess New York  
Miss Maynard 2 28 Matron Ohio  
Jane McM? 28 S???ing New York  
Helen Slaving 28 Cook Ireland  
Ellen McNememu? 24 Nurse Ireland  
Mary Odonals? 17   Arkansas  
Susan Hempstead 19   New York  
Ellen Kuhl 16   New York  
Clara T. Cook 14   New York In School
Louisa Cahill 13   New York In School
Ellen Crumley? 12 or 13   New York In School
Henrietta Doye 11   New York In School
Laura Bradshaw 14   New York In School
Margaret Smith 15   New York In School
Virginia Brown 9   New York In School
If you have any additional information on The Orphan's Home of Industry or the orphans that Charles Townsend cared for or placed, please share that information with us.