The Julia E. Work Training School / Brightside Orphanage 1899-1937

Plymouth, Marshall County, Indiana

(June 10, 1998) by: C. Stultz, C. G.

Marshall County History, 1915?

Brightside, the Julia E. Work training school, was established at Plymouth, February 1, 1899, on Mrs. Work's farm, formerly owned by John Ellis, one and one-quarter miles north of Plymouth on the Michigan road. The object of the school is the care and training of dependent, delinquent and physically defective children. At the time of the transfer from La Porte to Plymouth the number of children was seventy, and the buildings completed for their accommodation included the new building now known as No. I, and the farm house. The rapid increase of patronage made it necessary in 1900 to erect a second building and thereafter for a period of four years a building was completed each year until the present capacity--280 children--was reached. The institution equipment now includes a 270-acre farm, five large buildings for the care of the children and all necessary out-buildings for the use of stock and the farm implements used on a big farm.

The children are classified as follows: Normal dependent, defective dependent, delinquent and difficult, and private pupils. Complete sex separation is maintained, and the ages range from six to eighteen. A township school employing four teachers is maintained on the place a few rods from the main building. This school is supported by the enumeration and transfers provided by law. The industrial training given the boys includes all kinds of farm work, the care of stock and gardening. The equipment for teaching these fundamentals is first-class in every respect. No expense is spared in the purchase of suitable farm machinery or the employment of a farm superintendent who is an expert in his line. The girls art all under the supervision of ladies who understand the several branches of housework, including laundry and dairy work, and the girls are thoroughly grounded in the essentials for good housekeeping and good homemaking. No attempt is made to give manual training in the general acceptance of the term, but the aim is "foundation building" - giving the boy or girl a fair chance to start in life with a rudimentary knowledge that will enable him or her to make a living.

As a result of this training numerous boys and girls past the age of eighteen are now supporting themselves along the lines taught in the institution.

"Brightside" is maintained by the legal per diem, the amounts paid for private pupils and the products of the farm. It has no bequests, no endowment, and solicits no funds for current expenses. The management is vested solely in Mrs. Work as superintendent and Annie A. Barr as assistant superintendent and secretary. The property is owned and managed by Mrs. Work, and the institutional work is under the supervision of the board of state charities and the several child-saving organizations patronizing it. The legal per diem, which is inadequate for the maintenance of a child except under very favorable circumstances, is in this case supplemented by the products of the farm. A sufficient supply of potatoes, cabbage, navy beans, turnips and all kinds of garden truck is raised and used in the institution, besides all the grain, hay, etc., consumed by the cattle, hogs, sheep and horses. A herd of first-class cows supplies all the milk and butter used. Special attention is paid to the raising of hogs for market, and the fund from these sales and the sales of surplus grain goes into the general maintenance fund.

Marshall County "Roots & Branches", 1984 Additional Note:

JULIA WORK, founder of the orphanage left the institution in 1919 and died in California in 1932. In 1937 the orphanage was closed.

Published by Marshall County Genealogical Society

The Julia E. Work Training School

Near the area where the U. S. 30 Bypass crosses the Michigan Road (U. S. 31) once was the site of an orphanage and training school. Julia E. Work opened the orphanage on her farm which, at that time, was located north of Plymouth after having first been associated with similar homes in Mishawaka and LaPorte. According to an item in The Marshall County Independent dated July 10, 1882, Julia E. Work was secured as the director of the St. Joseph County Orphan's Home during the first year of operation. In March of 1891, the same newspaper tells of Julia Work resigning from the Mishawaka Orphan's Home to establish a home in Laporte. It also mentions that Mrs. Work also took with her the $11,000 bequest from Mrs. Lange because her will stated that the money should go to the home in charge of Mrs. Work. The home in LaPorte was called the Northern Indiana Orphan's Home and Mrs. Work as superintendent, was contracted care for dependent poor children for 25 per day. The Weekly Republican on April 2, 1896 tell of Mrs. Work of the Laporte Orphan's Home taking about twelve little ones to Kansas in search of homes.

In 1898 items began appearing in county newspapers telling of Mrs. Work's plans to move the orphanage to Plymouth. Brightside, the Julia E. Work Training School, was established on February 1, 1899 on Work's farm formerly owned by John Ellis about 1-4 miles north of Plymouth on the Michigan Road. It began as a farm house and one new building but additional buildings became necessary with the rapid increase in patronage. A new building was erected in 1900 and thereafter, for a period of four years, one building was completed each year. At one time 280 children were housed there. The farm consisted of 270 acres of ground, 5 large buildings and outbuildings for stock and farm equipment. A township school employing 4 teachers was maintained a few rods from the main building.

After the closing of the orphanage, the new Brightside School building was sold to Dr. Irey and used as a medical center for several years before reverting back to the Plymouth Community School system as the Franklin School. The building was eventually torn down to make way for the U.S. 30 Bypass.

Following are a few items that appeared in the newspapers that give a description of the facility and some idea of the work done there.

The Marshall County Independent, February 3, 1899

The Remainder of Mrs. Work's Orphans are Transferred to Their New Home.

Wednesday some forty-seven children, ranging in age from 7 to 15 years arrived from Laporte. They were the remainder of Mrs. Work's orphans who had been kept at Laporte, and upon their arrival were immediately transferred to their new quarters just north ofPlymouth. The entire number of children is sixty-seven. No doubt, a large portion of our population are anxious to see the children in their home but we are informed that from now until March will be an inopportune time to call. Many of the children are sick and beside this, it will take several months to become settled.

Regarding the methods used in gaining, keeping and disposing of the orphans, this may be said. The county from which the little ones are taken pay Mrs. Work 25 cents a day for each child. Out of this allowance she furnishes clothing, doctoring, care and food. Her agents in different localities visit childless parents and induce them to write to the home and secure a child for adoption. In this way many of the little ones find good homes. Children are seldom adopted at once, but are generally kept for several months previous on trial.

Marshall County Independent, February 17, 1899

State Agent Wm B. Streeter tell what He Knows About It.

Wm. B. Streeter, State Agent of the board of state charities, visited the new Julia E. Work children's home Wednesday and inspected it. In an interview with The Independent he says: "In many ways I found the new home a model in arrangement and adaptability to the use for which it is designed. Among the things that I would specially mention are the location of the dining rooms, kitchen, and children's sitting room. These are so arranged that the service can be rendered with the least possible expenditure of strength; the food to be placed before the children hot, and the movements of the children be constantly under the eye of the manager. When at their meals, while the superintendent is in her private dining room, the children are constantly under eye. These rooms are all on the main floor of the building. I noticed too, that provision has been made for plenty sunlight, numerous windows having been provided. This is a fine sanitary measure. Numerous exits and stairways enable a quick emptying of the home in case of fire, a necessary precaution, considering that the building is located outside the city fire protection. The dormitories are well arranged, well ventilated, well lighted, and commodious. The sleeping apartments of nurses and children are so arranged that the children are never left alone. Each dormitory is supplied with a toilet room containing the best of plumbing. The bathing facilities are ample and the tubs are of the best. The thing I noticed especially about all these arrangements and one I would specially mention is that plenty of light and ventilation is provided in every room, and there are no dark corners to escape the eye of the housekeeper and to catch the odds and ends of dirt. I also noticed that every foot of space is utilized. There are no "show rooms". While the superintendent's apartments are neat and commodious, the children's quarters have no wise been sacrificed. Evidence of constant thought for their welfare is seen on every hand. In the basement are laundry, heating apparatus, and store rooms. The method of heating is by hot air and has been planned so carefully that there was no trouble whatever in keeping the building perfectly comfortable during the severe weather of the last two weeks.

I made careful examination of the children's dietary and found that an abundance of good wholesome food and in good variety is furnished them. For dinner yesterday each child had a portion of rich soup, bread, crackers, potatoes and sausage. Meat is furnished but once a day. The drinks furnished are cereal coffee for breakfast, water or milk for dinner, and milk for supper. The children's clothing is abundant, tidy, and comfortable.

Further improvements are contemplated, among which are the refitting of the cottage now on the property with a view to its being used as the home for the smallest children, and another cottage is contemplated for the purpose of securing a complete separation of the sexes. In the spring, I understand, a school-house is to be erected on a portion of the property by the township for the accommodation of the children of this home. When these improvements are completed, this home will stand as one of the model institutions of the state.

Perhaps it would be well for me to mention that I found the tables in the children's dining room covered with neat white cloths and each child supplied with a napkin. This is as it should be. The children in the care of the public come into the home, as a rule, with no ideas of refinement; half civilized, as it were; and the clean tablecloths and napkins help more than any one other thing to change their crude ideas and fit them for life in families. The purpose of this home is that of a temporary residence only, the ultimate destination of every normal child admitted being some good family. These refining influences mentioned assist greatly in fitting the child for placement.

There are a good many children that can not be placed in private families successfully. These must find a home in some good institution. This institution is designed to care for many of these. At present the population of the home is made up of non-placeable children. I find the facilities are being provided to render these children when they are old enough, as nearly self supporting as possible.

The Republican, November 29, 1911

The Julia E. Work Training School, which is situated among sylvan beauties, one mile north of Plymouth, is an institution of which Marshall county is indeed proud. In fact, the reputation which it has made for itself, makes it favorably known far beyond the confines of this county. Its name, "Brightside," is no misnomer; it is as happy a home, in the literal sense of the term, as such a home could be. There is nothing about it to suggest the tragic, nor yet is there any signs amid its environment other than brightness without and within.

Mrs. Work has continuously devoted the past twenty-nine years of her life to the study, care and training of delinquent and semi-incorrigible children, a period embracing much self sacrifice, and no little anxiety and worry. During that time she has received and cared for no less than 3,000 children, the majority of whom, under her guidance and benign influence, have been reared to a decent and self-respecting manhood and womanhood, while many of them married, and have become fathers and mothers, fit to look after their household duties in a way that would not have been possible without Mrs. Work's admirable training.

On June 20, 1882, Mrs. Work took up this work in Mishawaka, from which city she moved to LaPorte, where the character of the work was maintained. In 1899 she removed to Plymouth where she has remained ever since. Here she established a training school "Brightside" training for delinquent and semi-incorrigible children, which has grown from small proportions, until it now embraces a group of five modern buildings, all of the latest cottage type of architectural beauty and comfort, and situated on a piece of land which covers 270 acres.

When Mrs. Work started this school, it was not with the object of placing out children in homes. This was merely a secondary consideration. While this is so, however many have been found comfortable and happy homes by Mrs. Work, a large percentage of them having been adopted legally while in their tender years, by respectable married couples who were without children of their own.

Cares for Crippled Children

Mrs. Work is now making a specialty of caring for crippled children, who are not absolutely helpless. This is a branch of the work with which she is thoroughly familiar, in fact she has long specialized in it, and much success has attended her efforts. There could not possibly be a more favorable spot for such helpless ones, than at Brightside, with its healthy environment and picturesque situation.

Number one building is devoted to the administration department, where are situated the superintendent's office, dining room and office, and a division set apart for girls ranging from 5 to 12 years. Number two is devoted to boys, whose ages range from 10 to 19 years. Number three is for boys under ten years, while number four is a mixed division for small boys and girls. Number five contains two large kitchens, dining room, with a seating capacity for 275; laundry, store room, bakery and dairy. The larger of the girls, whose ages range from 15 to 18 years, are kept in this building where they receive an admirable training, thorough in matters pertaining to good housekeeping which fit them well for the more important responsibilities of married life.

There are at present 45 in this department, from which many have graduated to good positions with good wages, having been thoroughly developed and fitted for the work best suited to their varied temperaments. These girls are frequently paroled and sent into service but it sometimes happens that they break their parole and are sent back to Brightside to finish their term.

Under State Board

During the present year, 70 have been placed in positions. Most of the children are sent to Mrs. Work from the juvenile courts, and have to be kept in the institution until they are twenty-one years of age.

The training school is not an incorporated institution; Mrs. Work owns the property, but she is under the strict supervision of the Board of State Charities, which, each year, sends an agent who makes a thorough inspection of the institution, and the made of training in vogue. This inspection is not only thorough, but is complete and exhaustive. At all times the work is carried on strictly under the law.

Has Large Farm

One of the big features of Mrs. Work's home is the farm in connection with Brightside, which as stated above covers 270 acres. This is equipped with the latest and most improved farm machinery to be found in the markets. Here the boys are taught farming in the most systematic manner imaginable, by a well qualified instructor, in all its different branches. Such crops as Alfalfa, timothy and clover hay, corn, wheat, rye and oats are raised. Not less than 22 acres are set aside for potatoes required by the family, while a splendid truck garden covers 15 acres. In this, many kinds of vegetables are grown. There is also sufficient pasturage for a herd of twenty-five cattle, and twenty head of milk cows.

Mrs. Work takes much interest in the raising of hogs, and has attained much success in this particular line. Her herd includes many of a prize strain and registered stock, the Berkshire and Durocs predominating, while the registered cattle on the farm include several Guernsey and Holsteins.

Many Children Placed In Homes

Here is an important fact about this institution which has not here to fore been understood by the public and which answers emphatically, those critics who deign to comment on what they term the small number of the children placed out from Brightside. Sir, since November 1, 1910, until November 1, 1911, sixty children have been received at the home, and during the same period seventy have been placed in good homes. This is indeed a worthy record, and one which does credit to the training these children receive at Brightside. As we have stated above, this institution does not belong to the placing out class.

The average number of children in the school is 190, and quite a percentage of these are physically and mentally defective.

Capable Helpers

This article would not be complete without a reference to Miss Annie A. Barr, who besides acting in the capacity of secretary of the institution, is Mrs. Work's "right hand man" to use an Irish term. Miss Barr has been associated with Mrs. Work in the caring of children for 20 years, and during that time, has been close to Mrs. Work in the management of her institution. Miss Barr is peculiarly adapted to training work, is sympathetic, and a thorough mistress of detail. She is a believer in kindness as a factor with which to win the hearts of the children under her care, and that she succeeds is evident to every visitor to the institution. Miss Ruth Chadwick who acts as clerk in the office is a bright and vivacious young lady, and a sunny smile at all times illumines her countenance, while it does one good to listen to her hearty laugh. She is thoroughly "au fait" with all the workings of the home.

Marshall county is proud to have Brightside within its domain. It is an institution which is doing a great Christian and practical work, and Mrs. Work and her able body of assistants, deserve a debt of gratitude for their unselfish interest in suffering humanity.

The last newspaper article that is included in this publication concerning the orphanage indicates that things were not always bright at Brightside. As with any institution where children are probably being overworked coming from the town's busy-bodies, but there were probably many children who were thankful for the Brightside in their lives.

Weekly Democrat, December 26, 1918


Dore Ogden, chief of the American Protection League at Plymouth, lately filed a complaint signed by himself, with the State Board of Children's Guardians, charging that the Julia E. Work training school did not properly clothe and feed the children in their care and otherwise mistreated them. Mr. Ogden mentioned one witness in the complaint, Miss Sadie Jones, lately discharged from the institution.

The Board of Children's Guardians had a meeting Friday in the office of Frank Brook, and the complaint was taken up, but neither Mr. Ogden nor Miss Jones appeared to substantiate the claims in the complaint.

NOTE: A similar news item appeared on the same date in the Weekly Republican. It stated that an affidavit was presented charging that "there was a lack of food and clothing given to the inmates" and that "the management was abusive to the children there." The witness, Miss Sadie Jones, is referred to in this article as "a former employee of the Work school."

1900 Census of Brightside
1910 Census of Brightside
1920 Census of Brightside
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