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- St. Mary's Orphanage
138 photographs : b&w
17 registers ; 48 x 31 cm or smaller
1 scrapbook ; 37 x 30 cm
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In 1854, there was a cholera and typhus outbreak within the city of Hamilton. At the same time, many immigrants were crossing the Atlantic Ocean looking for a better life in the New World. Often ships were overcrowded, which led to the spreading of disease. Newcomers often did not have large support networks, like family and neighbours, upon their arrival. This made life even more difficult if the family was dealing with illness or the death of a loved one. Factors like these resulted in Hamilton having a large orphan population. The Sisters of St. Joseph established St. Mary’s Orphanage in 1852 in response to the rising concern for orphaned children within the city.
Initially, the Sisters cared for two orphaned girls in their first convent on MacNab and Cannon Streets. In 1857, an orphan girls’ quarters was located in the Sisters’ second convent at 204 Park Street. The girls lived in the Carmel Wing located under the novitiate. Additions to the property were made on various occasions to meet the needs of the increasing number of children. Both boys and girls resided on the property, although they were housed separately. In 1879, the boys were then moved to a wing in the House of Providence, which was a facility to care for the aged, opened at the request of Reverend John McNulty. In 1900, the House of Providence burned down which meant that the boys had to move again, this time going into individual homes for care until a new building was opened on the convent property in 1909. In 1910, Mount Carmel Infants’ Home was built on Hamilton Mountain. Young, “delicate” children were cared for in this facility until 1926. In 1933, the girls of St. Mary’s Orphanage were moved from the Park Street convent to the newly built Mount St. Joseph Orphanage at 354 King Street West, a property formerly owned by Reverend J.T. McNally. This became known as the Mount St. Joseph Girls’ Division of St. Mary’s Orphanage. The boys later joined the girls at Mount St. Joseph in 1951. This was the first time that the orphanage was co-ed. Mount St. Joseph was administered by St. Mary’s Orphanage.
In 1960, Mount St. Joseph Orphanage became Mount St. Joseph Centre, a school for emotionally disturbed boys. This Centre remained open until 1978.
The Sisters worked tirelessly to provide for the orphaned children. They also fostered children, whose parents paid for their room and board. One of the main ways that the Sisters funded the orphanage was through the annual Orphans’ Festival. This Festival not only helped raise funds for the orphans, but also instilled them with musical and theatrical talents. The festivals were heavily attended by the local community. The Sisters also went to surrounding rural communities to ask for donations and food for the orphanage.
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