The Children's Cemetery at the site of the former Owatonna State School Orphanage
The  marker  in the Children’s Cemetery reads 1888 - 1942

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Made available to The Steele Co. genealogy pages by: Ron Houghtelin

To the children who rest here
Now be your reward in Heaven
You are remembered

         This brick and concrete Memorial Marker is located on the east side of the Children's Cemetery and was dedicated Saturday July 3 1993 at 10:00 AM.

This service was conducted by Harvey and Maxine Ronglin. Harvey Ronglin was a former ward of the Owatonna State School Orphanage. Several former wards of this Orphanage along with a large crowd of local residents, which included Wayne Klinkhammer, the Mayor of Owatonna and other dignitaries adding comments to the Service of Dedication.

           This cemetery is recorded and is on file at the Steele County County Recorders Office in Owatonna. This report is a special report, taken in the cemetery, by Ron Houghtelin of Owatonna in May 1994, which includes some of the dates of the children, when they were written on the markers, and also the individual location numbers and names of the children.

           The row numbering was started at the east side of the cemetery as row 1 and the markers are recorded from north to south.

           A lane that runs east and west near the north part of the cemetery divides some of the rows, so the row numbering follows to the west side from Row 1 to Row 8.  

           The area north of the lane is Row 9 to Row 18, which includes the row along the west fence which  is   Row 18.

East side of cemetery   -   Row's   recorded north to south

 Row  1                   south of lane   north to south

                 2594  Raymond Brandt  died Jan 22 1904 age 6 months
                 2641  Mable Hurst  died April 2 1904 age 4 years
                 2358  Hattie Barrett died April 18 1904 age 3 years
                 2453  Jerry Vaughn died June 6 1904  age 5 years
                 2426  Patrick M Kiley died July 18 1904  age 6 years
                 2613  Emanuel Johnson  died Sept 20 1904 age 5 years
                 1890  Willie Baldrow  died  Nov 30 1904 age 5 years
                 2809  Mary (Amy) Amelia Young died Jan 30 1905 age 4 years
                 2848  Raymond Addie Kemper  died April 26 1905  age 5 months
                 2717  Donald Edwin Phillips died April 28 1905 age 10 months
                 2875  Flossie B Franklin  died May 15 1905  age10 months
                 2853  Harold  Shadbolt  died May 22 1905  age 2 years
                 2883  Jessie Jackson died May 25 1905  age 1 year
                 2882  Lonie Jackson  died June 20 1905  age 3 years
                 2707  Johnnie Dugan  died May 31 1905 age 2 years
                 2837  Adolph Asplund died June 4 1905  age 4 years
                 2864  Clarence Chapman  died June 18 1905 age 2 years
                 2909  Joe Woz  died July 17 1905  age 9 years

 Row  2                 south of lane    north to south

                   844  Rudolph Tichy  died Oct     1893  age 8 years
                   752  John F Grasser  died Nov 31 1893  age 12 years
                   362  John Edwin Peel  died Nov 23 1893  age 17 years
                   825  Julius Johnson  died Jan 5 1894  age 3 years
                  1724  Louise Rachny died June 20 1898  age 3 years
                  1753  Gunnel M Johnson died July 4 1898  age 3 years
                  1736  Veta Stuckey  died July 9 1898  age 1 year
                   ***   Harry Wright  died Oct 19 1898 age 11 years   ** on cemetery map
                  1514  Elmer Claude Tanner died March 7 1900  age 7 years
                  1737  Signa Ronning  died March 8 1900  age 14 years
                  2112  Lloyd Johnson  died Nov 21 1900  age 2 years
                  2223  Ray Emil  Boobyer  died July 6 1901  age 5 years
                  2260  Charles Aitkin  died Sept 18 1901  age 3 years
                  1976  Ray Sayer  died March 6 1902  age 5 years
                  2371  Dwight Aver  died July 3 1902  age 3 years
                  2357  Mary Barrett  died Jan 24 1904  age 4 years
                  *****   Minerva  Bunker  died Jan 27 1903  age 7 years   ** on cemetery map
                  2485  Russel Peterson  died March 27 1903  age 1 year

 Row   3               south of lane    north to south
            7859  Vernon Hadley  Jan 15 1922     July 30 1939
            9864  David Sue
            8080  Lloyd Reed
            7593  Charles Crowell
             998   Frank Miller died July 31 1894  age 3 years
             823   Lizzy J Morton  died Sept 2 1892  age 8 years
             560   Frank Erickson  died Jan 12 1892  age 7 years
             395   William O Hayes  died June 24 1891  age 11 years
             271   Alex Hanganen  died Aug 6 1890  age 4 years
             321   James Laury (Lowry) died  June 17 1890  age 5 years
               27   Chester McLaughlin  died May 20 1890  age 16 years
              290   James J Crain  died Jan 20 1890  age 9 years
              227   James Herbert Weymouth  died July 13 1889  age 3 years
              217   Ludwig W Larson  died May 31 1889  age 4 years
               88    Charles C Garner  died Oct 13 1888  age 7 years
               26    Charles Johnson  died  July 22 1888  age 11 years
              105   Nicholas Halverson  died Sept 8 1889  age 15 years

Row   4               south of lane     north to south
            8165  Guy Chatfield
         10178  Mary Alice Otten
         10373  Evelyn Newgren
           ***    Gale Forbes    1932 - 1949    ** on cemetery map

Row 5             south of lane      recorded  north to south
           3010  Inga Agnew
           3151  Charles Edward Smith
           3190  Edward Leonard Swanson
           3146  Pauline Carlson
           3226  Pearl Glenetta Bryant
           3230  Nelson Williams
           3177  Vera Goulen
           3269  Kenneth Root
           3267  Otto Hagenmeister
           3165  Baby Boy Wolfel
           2251  Atelia Johnson
           3299  Richard Lutz
           3196  William Winters
           3326  Francis Schnitzki
           3038  Nathaniel Woods
           3311  Arthur Anderson

Row 6                south of lane         north to south
            3473  Even Bjornerud            
          a tree is located here
           3522  Margurite Hubbard
           3652  Minerva Hatleberg
           3662  Hattie Kelly
           3671  Daniel Strand
           3694  Sulu Aho
           3691  Baby Stewart
           3729  Hazel Wagner
           3824  Pat Doe
           3820  Harold Safar
           3882  Clifford Marshall
           3915  Michael Dolleck
           3997  Nef Smaamen
           4058  Robert Duncan
           4035  Edwin Kostimo
           4115  Frank Witiner
           3516  Selma Yokkanen

Row   7       south of lane    north to south
4223  Grundell Franklin
           4203  Walter Richard
           4313  Hjelmer Peterson
           4009  George Schultize
           4340  Mamie Peterson
           4305  Edward Day
           4185  Raymond Parker
           2852  Clarence Shadbolt
           4479  William Schweiger
           4478  Eleanor Anderson
           4501  Roy Cullander
           4570  Victoria Dudes
           4629  Leslie Hempel
           4628  Westley Hempel
           4103  Herman Fleischman
           4053  Donald Simpson

Row 8     south of lane     north to south
            4791  Baby Girl Helm
            4849  Mary Esther Howe
            4486  Berdie  Ketzback
            4935  Sulo Lauronen
            4959  Dorothy Grace
            5025  Clarence Bouden
            4809  Rose Larson
            5084  Leonard Trudell
            ****     Baby       ** on cemetery map
            5390  Burton Schafer
            5725  Harriet Leonard
            5510  Samuel Jones
            5627  Lloyd Lerdahl
            5818  Gordon Jepson
            5893  Cecelia Arbour
            5844  Walter Manke
            5453  Olaf Henry Wallin
            5939  Ida Wurtinan
            6033  Ruth Sweet

Row 9  north of lane   north to south

north of the lane to the north fence  in the center of the cemetery

           1308   Willie Town
           1461    Harry Kemfer
             207    Richard Stuart
           1148    Alvina Radke
           1210    Fred Rima   (Rinia)
Row 10  north of lane   north to south
            2869  Harold Berg
            1669  Florence Rogers
            1668  Clarence Rogers
              304  Lawrence Welch
              956  Raymond Turrell
            1095  Arthur Shupe

   Row 11   north of lane   north to south
             3020   Stella Marshall
             1628   Sam Halverson
               886   John Bernherd Sepola died Feb 2 1894 4yr
               937   Alden Swenson  died Aug 15 1894  2yr

  Row 12   north of lane  north to south
              3300  Laini Jackson
              3409  Baby girl Wiley
              3426  Frank Gillispie
              3195  William Paulson
              3402  Kenneth Martin Ziniski

   Row 13    north of lane   north to south
              3440  Robert Smith
              3441  Lila Smith
              3432  Baby Boy Brang
              3433  Clarence Ourada
              3453  Baby Boy Moless

    Row 14   north of lane   north to south
              3459  Ernest Greenbush
              3457  David Forsblad
              3462  Adella Schultze
              3472  Florence Fiske
              3456  Henry Amundson

   Row 15     north of lane   north to south
              2649  Milton Clark
              4723  Frank Myers
              4841  Baby Boy McGinnis
              4864  Fred Beaulieu
              4881  Baby Lucille Weir

  Row 16           north of lane    north to south
               6041  Donald Saladine
               5069  Tauno Hovila
               6308  George Joseph Schlagel
               6034  Richard Wolford
               6374  Belledora Reddick
               6350  Mary Teresa Schnitzins

 Row 17               north of lane   north to south
               6390  Magdaline Thomson
               6702  Raymond Doerr
               6631  Clarence Raymond Gilbertson
               6761  Weston Nikkila
               6738  Charles Beard
               6760  Clive Nikkila
               6778  Helen Steinberg
               6857  Irene Maki

 Row 18              along the west fence - north to south
               6953  David Jewell
               6985  John Korlen
               6776  William Magnuson
               7007  Lillian Ring
               6986  Ernest Degroat
               5370  William Stevens
               7266  Donald Clark
               7256  William Fairmont
               7314  Amos Edward Smith
               7403  Oliver Fowler
               7679  Jeanette Wilma Hawk
               6828  Artis Pearl Bratton
               7955  Donald LeRoy Melanson
               7991  Virginia Wagoner
               8108  Catherine Hall
               8101  Esther Koenekamp
               8542  Marcel Craft
               8412  Eunice Esther Ridgeway
               6644  Byron K Savor  died Jan 6 1931 age 18 yrs
               8619  Alberta Edith Quernemoen
               8957  Anna Johnson
               9216  Beverly Ternendt
               8723  David E Freeman "our brother" 1920 - 1934
               9364  Shirley Gilbertson  

These are some children not found on the map nor did I find them on markers in the cemetery.

        From the Cemetery plot lists in the Steele County Recorders Office at the Steele County Court House in Owatonna these lists show as being buried in this cemetery but they were not marked on the cemetery map nor were they marked in the cemetery when I made this record:
#32 - Elvina Hanks,    
#1416 - Adelbert Phillips,        
#3403  or  #2403 - Charles Keene
#4909 - Charles West 


Fredrick Berndt

          His most desired wish was to be buried in the Children's Cemetery here at the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna.  Fredrick Berndt was returned and buried here Wednesday November 2 1995. In his youth this place was his home.

          A group of 11 huddled together under umbrellas in the pouring rain to say goodbyes to Berndt a resident of the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna , from 1912 to 1927, as he was laid to rest in the State School Cemetery.

         Fredrick Brendt said in 1987 " The people of Minnesota fed us and sheltered us and clothed us and educated us and I doubt seriously if other children  - in a sense - were treated better than we were". Brendt never knew his parents, why he was sent to the state school or when or where he was born. Brendt, who cited his birth date as July 7 1912 died Oct. 21 1995.


                                  Sculpture of State School Kids

     State School Kids  (center and front) two granite Benches in the center and the front,  the inscription  reads:  This garden memorial was dedicated July 3 1993 and is meant to preserve the memory of the children, structures and grounds of the Owatonna State Public School.


            Initiated by Harvey and Maxine Ronglien, they are grateful to all who contributed to this project.

               There are three markers in granite inscribed, the south marker with bronze inscription reads:  There are many ...... I was but one . During my 11 years at the Owatonna State Public School, these hills were alive with energetic children and rambunctious teenagers, Ages ranged from birth to 18 years. Almost every day children would be placed out on terms of indentures, others were adopted. New ones replaced those who were left. >From all over the state they came, every race, color and creed. Some stayed a few days, others for many years.

        From 1886 to 1945 approximately 20,000 children passed through this school. Each has his own story to tell; I can only speak for myself. My memories are many of a vast, strange place that took me in from poverty's door, housed , clothed, fed and educated me. During these years I fully accepted the State School as a fulfilling home.

       As an adult I came to realize the institutional environment did not provide certain needs a child craves, although the environment made us physically strong, it left many of us emotionally deficient because emotional staruation is inseparable from institutional life. Due to its size, individual attention was minimal; consequently, the children suffered from lack of attention, appreciation and love needed for a healthy childhood. For many it left scars, that would last a life time.

          The school did provide me with many playmates and friendships that have also lasted a lifetime. I consider all who were here my brothers and sisters. Our camaraderie lives in the fact we went through it together.

      In my opinion the legacy of the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children is that, the environment generated in a large institution is not conductive to raising emotionally healthy children. Let this memorial forever serve as a reminder of that truth, and as a remembrance for every child who passed through these doors and their struggle to overcome the scars left by this institution.

       * And yet : It was my home and it gave me an identity that set me apart. I've always felt a real sense of pride in saying " I was a State School Kid"

                     Harvey Ronglien   ---    Ward of the State  1932 - 1943


The center granite monument inscribed in bronze reads:

         Owatonna was chosen as the site for the State Public School over eight other proposed sites due to its easy access to railroads and its location near the  center of most densely populated portion of the state.

          At the height of its existence the school housed 500 children in 16 cottages. Other buildings included a nursery, hospital, school gymnasium, and superintendent, and employee residence.  The school had its own power plant, greenhouse, icehouse, cemetery, a complete farm operation with cows, horses, swine and chickens, making it virtually self- sufficient.

        The building you are facing was the Main Building and served as the nerve center of the school. Built in 1898 at a cost of $50,000, it house the superintendents office, staff offices, reception room, library, chapel, children's and employees dining rooms, industrial quarters, and a small boy's living quarters. The upper floors contained living quarters for employees

          Many of the other original buildings were demolished, Among those still standing is the hospital, or the white building to the north, the two buildings southwest of the hospital were boys cottages, each housing 30 children. Each cottage had its own playground and there was a large athletic field in back of the school.

        The school which contained kindergarten thru the eighth grade, is west of the former boys cottage. Up on completion of the eighth grade in the early years, some children were selected to be transported to the Owatonna High School.

        South of the former school is the gymnasium. The cemetery lies in the southwest corner of the grounds and is visible from the south side of the gym.

        To the east and below the hill on State Avenue the two brick buildings to the south were also boys cottages. The far north building was the receiving cottage where all the children went for admission and a three week quarantine for health reasons.

         The farm area stretched out west of the gymnasium and the school and occupied what is now known as the Industrial Park. Behind the hospital was a large apple orchard.

        Originally housed on 160 acres, the grounds grew to 329 acres by 1937, with 42 acres for campus and 287 acres for cultivation.


The north granite monument with bronze inscription reads:

        Historical Sketch

          The Minnesota State School for Dependent and Neglected Children was created in 1885 by the State Legislature. This legislation called for the transfer of children from almshouses and improveris bad natural families to the State School. The school would serve as an interim institution in a cottage style environment to insure they were in good health and educated in some measure before being placed out in family homes.

          Such children became wards of the state and all relationships with parents were cancelled. Some parents later tried to regain custody of their children and were refused.

         Altho children often enter school with siblings, cottage assignments by age and gender separated them. They were further separated by indenture to different families and many children were never united with siblings.

        Indenture contracts signed the child over to a family until age 18. The family was expected to provide kind treatment, at least four months of education each year and training in some useful occupation. At the expiration of the contract, the child was to be paid $75-$100, and given two suits of clothing. These conditions were not always met by the family.

         While the intent of the school was not to institutionalize the children, the concept for quick placement in homes did not work. Many children spent their entire childhood at the school. For some it was a traumatic experience; others adjusted more easily to the regimentation of the school. While the exact number of children who died under guardianship is not known, 198 children are buried in the schools cemetery.

           Likewise, some children were indentured into good homes with caring families; others suffered difficult and humiliating experiences. While adoption was the ultimate goal of the State School, adoption rates were low.

          By 1945 educators and social agencies realized such children were better served by immediate placement into foster homes, and the State School became an institution for the educable mentally disabled. This school was phased out by June 30 1970. The site was unused until 1974 when the Owatonna City Council petitioned the State Department of Administration to buy the grounds and buildings for $200,000. A citizen referendum, voted in favor of the purchase and renovation work began. Today many of these buildings house Owatonna Administration Offices and related city facilities.