Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home Children, Orphans, A Prominent Owen Sound Family and an Historic Home

Home children, orphans, a prominent Owen Sound family and an historic home were all part of the August meeting of the Grey County Historical Society.

Janet Iles, President, welcomed members to the gardens and home of the Hempels. For most of the time the sun shone and members gathered their chairs in the shade of a large tree. Most had a good view of the river below.

Andrew Armitage, local historian and former chief librarian, spoke briefly about the Frost family of Owen Sound. Both John Sr., and Jr. were mayors of Owen Sound. Alfred Frost lived in this home with his wife and nine children. Unfortunately, Alfred had an ice fishing accident, developed pneumonia and died. The home was sold to become an orphanage.

Andrew then shared some of the story of the Barnardo Children. John Thomas Barnardo of England was a head of the social gospel movement that included sending children out of the country. It was cheaper to send children to Canada than to care for these poor, often orphaned children in England.

Many have heard of the ill treatment of the home children. This was not the case for all of them. Many also became upstanding citizens.

One of the well known cases of ill treatment of one of these children in Grey County was George Green, aged 17, who was found dead in Keppel. It is believed that George died at the hands of his foster parent. Andrew shared that the Wiarton newspapers of the time provided great details of the hearing and the trial. The trial ended because of a hung jury as the jury could not decide whether Helen Findley had killed him.

Before members had a chance to explore the beautiful grounds and home, Christy Hempel shared the story of their home. They purchased the home in 2003 and did extensive work on the building before moving in. One thing they did was add windows to the east wall to take advantage of the beautiful view of the river. This home was once the orphanage in Owen Sound, under the supervision of the Children's Aid Society, one of the first in Ontario.

Purchased by the Children's Aid Society, it served as an orphanage until 1981,when it was purchased by the Robinsons who began a transformation. The Hempels adapted the home for modern efficiencies while reclaiming its traditional elegance.

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