Grayson County TXGenWeb


 Woodmen Circle Home 


Her story;

Only adoption, as only next of kin could take a child from the Home.
Margery was adopted away from sister, Frances, and brother, Dan (took out her guardianship papers, as father was missing).
Adopted by Boyd and Nellie Evans, Sherman Texas  The owned Evans Cleaner.

Mr. Evans was on Sherman City Council and voted Most Valuable Citizen, 1939.

by Wendy Hundley

Sherman - The windows are shattered, the driveway is crumbling and the walls are covered with graffiti.  But the hollow remains of the Woodmen Circle Home resonate for Margery Eldridge as she walks through the orphanage she once called home.
"This is where the crape myrtle grew along the driveway, and we had lilacs at the entrance." she said, standing before a dilapidated, two-story brick building on the crest of a hill outside Sherman.  "There are so many memories here."
Although time has taken its toll, the main building with its tall white columns is still as imposing as it was when Mrs. Eldgridge and her older brother and sister came to live here in 1931.
"I thought it was a castle," she said, "and I was going to be a princess."
Mrs. Eldridge is a former Richardson resident whose childhood memories are especially poignant on Mother's Day.
On May 11, 1929, her mother died of complications from appendicitis in their rural home near Lubbock.  Her father disappeared after the funeral, and the three youngsters lived with their maternal grandparents until their deaths.
"Motherhood is so special because I lost my mother at such an early age," said Mrs. Eldridge, 77.  "It left a void that nothing could fill until I became a mother."
The motherless chid became a devoted parent, her daughters say.
"I think it was always a priority in her life to be a good mom," said Richardson resident Lisa Grinsfelder, a teacher at Berkner High School.  "When she became a mom, she wanted to be the best.  And she was."
Her sister, Kim South of Rowlett, agrees.  "When Lisa and I came along, she devoted her life to us," she said.  "She is just the No. 1 mom."
Two years before her death, Mrs. Eldridge's mother had unknowingly provided for the care of her three children by purchasing a life insurance policy from the Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle, a women's auxiliary of the Woodmen of the World Benefit Society.
The Woodmen Circle Home, which opened in 1930, was created to care for "orphans and aged members," according to the Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society Web site.  The home came to encompass three large brick buildings on more than 250 acres west of Sherman.

Mrs. Eldridge, who was six when she came to live at the home, said it was a wonderful place to grow up.  The main building, which was decorated with Oriental rugs and fine furniture, had a music room equipped with a grand piano, a sunny solarium and an elegant dining room.
The children - as many as 50 lived at the home - roamed the fields, played in a rose-covered pergola and played badminton on a grassy court.
But the boys and girls - who lived in separate buildings - also had daily chores.  The boys milked the cows that produced the milk and butter for the self-supporting home.  The older girls helped prepare and serve the meals.  They were also taught to sew and made clothes for the residents.  The younger children helped weed the vegetable and flower gardens that surrounded the home.
"We grew all of our own food and raised cattle," said Mrs. Eldridge, who remembers walking each day to a two-room country school until the home was able to purchase a bus that began transporting the children to public schools in Sherman.
"Our house mother taught us to sew and cook, and she sat with us when we did our homework," she said.
The residents of Sherman were kind to children who lived at the home.  The Bledsoe Department Store sold them clothes at a discount, and they got free movie passes from the Interstate cinema.
"We had it a lot better than kids who lived in town," she said.
The older women residents of the home spent their days sewing, crocheting and making quilts.  They also served as surrogate grandmothers for the children.  "We each had an old person that we loved more than anything, and they made us quilts," said Mrs. Eldridge, who later collected her memories of growing up at the home into a book called HIGH ON A WINDY HILL (Eakin Press, published 2000).
Not all of the children who lived at the home were orphans.  During the difficult years of the Depression, many parents put their children in orphanages because they were no longer able to support them.  "Every Sunday, families came to visit." Mrs. Eldridge said.  "I waited for my father, but he never came."
Despite the disappointment, Mrs. Eldridge remembers being a happy and gregarious child with a tendency to get into mischief.  At Christmas, the men and boys would travel as far as Oklahoma to cut a large Christmas tree that would be placed in the main building.  Santa and his sleigh would adorn the rooftop, and the outdoor fountain would be decorated with colored lights.  "We were the show of Sherman," Mrs. Eldridge said.
Woodmen Circle members from all over the country would send Christmas presents to the Sherman orphans.  "They never forgot us," she said.
On Mother's Day, the children would gather wildflowers to make nosegays to present to the older women who lived at the home.
But Mother's Day was also a difficult time for Mrs. Eldridge.

That was when all the children were given roses - red ones for the children whose mothers were living; white ones for those whose mothers had died.  She still hates white roses.
At age 15, Mrs. Eldridge left the home when Boyd and Nellie Evans, a couple who lived in Sherman, adopted her.  "I had my own bedroom with a full-sized bed and Priscilla curtains." she recalled.  "But I was lost.  I even missed my strict house mother."
Mrs. Eldridge graduated from Sherman High School in 1942 and earned a bachelor's degree in 1945 from the University of Texas at Austin.  She later married Bob Eldridge, and the couple lived for 35 years in Richardson where they raised their two daughters.  The Eldridges now live in Garland.
The Woodmen Circle Home closed the doors in 1971.  "There were only two children left, said Linda Robertson, caretaker and unofficial historian of the home.  "I don't know what happened to those children."
Though its bricks are crumbling and weeds have overtaken the lawns where children used to roam, it's still home for Mrs. Eldridge.
Her daughters say they never heard their mother complain about growing up in an orphanage.  "My mother's dearest friends and hardworking values were formed there," Mrs. Grinsfelder said.
Mrs. Eldridge said she was fortunate to have grown up in the Woodmen Circle Home and considers herself one of the luckiest of mothers - on Mother's Day and everyday.
"My life," she said, "is just a miracle."

She wrote a book about her life at the home.

Margery Vaughn has been selected princess of the Junior class and also the best all-around girl, 1940-1941

An Unknown Author wrote this review :
High on a Windy Hill by Margery Evans Eldridge. 2001. 87p. Eakin Press. 
This is a collection of stories told by Maggie, a young girl who spent most of her youth at an orphanage in Sherman, a town in far north Texas. She returns to the Home to meet several of the kids she grew up with for a reunion. They also wanted to discuss what is to become of the dilapidated and crumbling red brick buildings that used to be their home. Before they arrive, she remembers the time when she, her sister, and her brother first arrived at this once beautiful place, high on a windy hill. Based on true events, High on a Windy Hill was written by a former resident of the orphanage who now lives in Garland, Texas. 

WCH Home Page
Elaine Nall Bay