A History of the Burns Family
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PART ONE: Guy's Path to the Dance

CHAPTER FOUR: At Dayton School

Dayton, Pennsylvania
September, 1871

PART ONE Overview
1 - Wildcat Brigade
2 - Battle of Wilderness
3 - Field Hospital
4 - Orphan School
5 - Ladies' Man
6 - Mary Dinger
7 -The Masons
8 - Mary Rebecca
9 - Guy the Wanderer
10 - Farmer Boy
11 - Center of the World
12 - Birthday
13 - Fish Story
14 - Miss Fenn
15 - To the Dance

More Information

Robbie sleeps soundly beside him, the raveled edge of the wool blanket obscuring his face. It's too early for a comfort, even though this late September night is chilly enough to warrant one. Matron says they may start using them at the first frost. Twelve-year-old Lorenzo tucks his own blanket closer, and tries to find warmth in the chaff bag mattress he's sharing with his older brother. The feather pillow is an unaccustomed luxury -- the muslin-covered ones at home are stuffed with corn husks. [1]

At the opening of the school year on September 8th, Reverend Dodds had said they would soon get used to life here at Dayton, but three weeks have passed, and Lorenzo feels just as out of place as he did at the beginning. His brothers feel the same, especially Elmer, the youngest. Sallie is another story, but she's always been an open-hearted girl, eager to please.

The dark dormitory is filled with sleeping boys, but Lorenzo is not one of them. He stares into the gloom, wide awake, thinking about all the changes.

He remembers well the day last spring when John Ostrander rode over from Warsaw to tell Margaret and Daniel Haugh that the boy they'd been taking care of for the last four years would be going to Dayton Soldiers' Orphan School in Armstrong County come fall. [2] Lorenzo had sat frozen, uncomprehending. Dayton was miles and miles away from Rose Township -- it might as well be on the other side of the world.

Document naming Mr. Ostrander guardian
Lorenzo's guardianship account

The boy was lucky, Mr. Ostrander assured the Haughs. The State of Pennsylvania was determined to pay its debt of gratitude to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and at Dayton Lorenzo would receive a level of education unavailable to most children from Rose. Not only that, but he and Robbie and Elmer and Sallie would all be going to Dayton together, which was also a piece of good fortune. You had to be ten years old to attend Dayton School, and Elmer was just ten. Any younger and you had to go to an orphans' home, and homes were nowhere near as pleasant as schools.

Dayton RosterDetail from a roster of boys attending Dayton School during its years of operation --
the brothers are listed together and Sallie can be found on the girls' roster
(click image to enlarge)

Lorenzo draws his knees up inside the nightshirt Mother Haugh made for him to bring to the school. He misses her, and the farm in the old village of Rose, where all the Haugh cousins live in a tight community near the schoolhouse and there is always someone to play with. 

Mother Haugh is just as good as a real mother. She and Father Haugh rise with the sun, and set a high standard: The house is forever clean and tidy, the food bountiful and tasty, the punishments swift and just. It is the German in her, Father Haugh says. And you can still hear the faint accent, when she's tired or cross, even though she'd come to America when she was just a child. The sharp s, the w that sometimes melts into a v. He has always felt safe with and loved by these accidental parents with no children of their own.

Jefferson TownshipsIt hurts to remember the first house, at the farm out by Swamp Run where his parents had started their family. In the months after his father marched off to war in the fall of 1861, Grandma and Grandpa Bish had often driven the wagon over to help Mama. It was not a long ride. Robbie remembers those early years better than he does -- full of laughter and song and frequent prayers for their father's safe return. Then Elmer was born at Christmastime -- another little ray of hope, they thought. But Mama had slowly slipped away with the new year, and Lorenzo's world had collapsed.

Grandma and Grandpa tried hard to hold things together until Pa could return. Daniel and Mary Ellen helped when they could. But the hole left in the family after Mama died was enormous, and after Pa died at Wilderness, it engulfed them all.

Robbie started school -- in the same humble log building where Daniel's grandfather Knox had taught years before -- and Lorenzo soon followed. Grandpa Bish had been chosen as school director in Knox after Pennsylvania created its system of free public schools in 1850, and he and Grandma had always been keenly interested in their grandchildren's education. [3]

And then what seemed the final straw had come in 1867, when Grandpa's mother died, and he and Grandma had to leave to settle her affairs and property. That was when Mr. Ostrander came, delivering to Grandma and Grandpa a sheaf of papers naming him guardian. The children were scattered to the four winds. Nightstool

By 1868, Robbie had been placed with the Hannas in Rose, while little Elmer stayed with the Beer cousins in Knox. The Ostranders took Sallie up to Warsaw. And Lorenzo had gone to Rose to live with the Haughs. [4]

Mr. Ostrander's decision had not been the catastrophe Lorenzo had feared. The children had adjusted, thrived even, thanks to the efforts of the foster parents to arrange for visits. Everyone seemed determined to do right by the fallen soldiers of Jefferson County, and the four-dollar monthly payments to the families didn't hurt either. [5]

But now those homes too had been taken from the Burns children.

There would be a vacation period next summer, Reverend Dodds had promised cheerfully, for those children well-behaved enough to earn a trip home. But that was ten months from now -- an eternity. Lorenzo's brow furrows. What if he gets in trouble? He does like to crack jokes, and sometimes they are misunderstood. He knows he'll have to watch his step if he wants to go home again anytime soon. An anxious knot gathers in his chest.

Lo's UniformA sliver of moon has risen, and next to the bed, on the hook, the gilt eagle button on his jacket catches the light. He's still getting used to the uniform -- the rough Kersey twill, the gold lace strip on the cap, the black braid on the grey pants -- so different from the homespun clothes worn by a farmer boy from Rose. The dark blue jacket looks more like Pa's coat -- the one in the photograph Grandma Bish had given him -- than a schoolboy's.

His brother startles, then resettles. Lorenzo wishes it weren't so cold. He'd like to visit the night-stool, but the floor will be like ice. Better to wait until morning, which after all, is not so far away. Or is it? Reverend Dodds says they're lucky the school is so modern in outlook: the children do not have to get up when it's still dark.

But well before 6, they'll be awakened by one of the boys' superintendents, of which there are many. Then will come the mad rush to wash and dress for the day. He doesn't like the sour-looking pasty-faced attendant on duty this week, the way he hovers over the boys, barking out orders. Or the way Reverend Dodds goes down the boys' line with hawk eyes, alert to any scuffed shoe or dirty cuff or unwashed ear. The top button on Lorenzo's jacket is threatening to come loose already, which guarantees he'll have to report to Matron and get a replacement, which means missing precious breakfast time.

Lorenzo's stomach now commences to grumble in anticipation. Not that breakfast will be necessarily be delicious. But it's filling. He usually starts by slathering his bread with molasses and washing it down with coffee or sweet milk. If fried eggs are served, he rejoices. If the boys get both eggs and fried potatoes, he's in paradise. If it's fried mush -- he's had worse. But he always has three ample meals a day, so he can't complain.

Snippet of daily schedule -- click on image for full schedule

School itself is neither exciting nor difficult so far. He's not much of a speller or a reader, but numbers are a different matter. He's drawn to the puzzles and the patterns of mathematics like there's a space in his mind already carved out for all that knowledge. And he loves to learn about the world outside of Dayton, the places where he might go when he is free. Yesterday the master had them drawing maps of Caribbean islands -- Cuba and Jamaica and Haiti -- and the time just flew. [6]

But tomorrow is a Saturday, and that is the best day of the week, for he'll get to spend time with his brothers and sister, whom he seldom sees on a normal day. There'll be the required bath, of course, and some work to do. Sallie will help the seamstress, but he and Robbie will be outdoors -- chopping wood, working on the school's farm, making fires. All are familiar tasks for a boy raised by Mother Haugh -- or Rachel Hanna or Matilda Beer, for that matter.

If it's sunny, there'll be military drills, an unpleasant exercise for this son of a soldier killed in the war. But it's not be the worst thing. For the worst things -- losing his parents and being wrenched away from the Haughs -- have already happened.

The moon sets then, and darkness settles once again over the silent room. Robbie lies still and peaceful beside him. The knot of worry dissolving with sheer fatigue, Lorenzo surrenders to sleep at last. [7]



[1] The discovery of Lorenzo's name on the Dayton Soldiers' Orphan School roster was a very late find. I only wish I could have shared it with my dad, who was very fond of his grandfather. All the details from this page -- from bedding and clothing to schedule, food, and vacation policy -- are taken directly from an exhaustive history of the Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan Homes written in 1877 by James Laughery Paul, Chief Clerk of the Department of Soldiers' Orphan Schools, Harrisburg, PA. The drawings of the school and the boys' uniform are from the same text.

[2] Lo's adoptive father Daniel Haugh was the son of Jacob Haugh, who settled in Rose, Pennsylvania in the 1840s. Lo's foster mother Margaret had emigrated from Baden, Germany in 1847 at the age of 5, joining a rising tide of foreign-born newcomers to Pennsylvania.  The Haughs had no children of their own and were eager to give Lorenzo a home.  Pennsylvanians were proud of the pivotal role their volunteers had played in turning the tide against Robert E. Lee, and grateful to those who had served.  Many Jefferson County homes reverently displayed the red-painted trefoil badges worn by members of Hancock’s 2nd Corps, of which the Pennsylvania 105th was a distinguished regiment. Daniel’s own cousin Jacob served in the 105th with Liberty. Lorenzo's close relationship with these "accidental parents" is confirmed by his decision to bring the widowed Margaret Haugh to live out her final years with the Burns family in Ohio.

[3] The timeline of events between the death of Lorenzo's mother in January of 1862 and the appointment of John Ostrander as guardian in 1867 is sketchy. The four children must have stayed with family at first, and the most likely candidates are their maternal grandparents, John Henry and Mary Baker Bish, who appear in Knox Township records dating from the early 1850s, paid taxes there in the 1860s, and are still shown living there in 1870, even as their Burns grandchildren moved in with other families. My best guess is that after their daughter Elizabeth died, the Bishes helped while they were able, but in 1867, John and Mary Bish were getting on in years, and perhaps no longer up to handling the strain of caregiving (they still had two adult children of their own living with them that year plus a 3-year-old granddaughter living next door with one of their sons). Not only that, but John's mother died that year, which was probably also difficult. By 1877 John and Mary had moved back to Armstrong County, where Dayton School is located, and John Bish died that year.

[4] The Haughs apparently adopted Lorenzo, as indicated by Margaret Haugh's obituary.

Haugh Obituary


[5] Family assignments are from the 1870 U.S. census records from Jefferson County. The rosters of the 105th and other regiments with Jefferson County volunteers include soldiers with the surnames of all four families that fostered Burns children. Liberty Beer (son of Andy and Matilda) was a member of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry and a cousin, John Ostrander was with the Pennsylvania 102nd, four Haugh men served in the 105th, along with a Hanna.

[6] Such puzzles and maps appeared in Lorenzo's diary.

[7] We don't know actually what sort of experience Lorenzo had at Dayton School, but we do know he stayed until he graduated in 1875 at age 16 (from Reports from the Heads of Departments Transmitted to the Governor of Pennsylvania for the Financial Year Ending November 30, 1875). His sister Sallie also graduated at 16, and was married to Edward Paine. His brother Elmer was still at the school when the Report was written, so there's reason to believe he too graduated. Robbie left at age 14 in 1872. The Report lists 568 war orphans graduating statewide in 1875. For all but 16 of these students, there is information on where they went after graduation or with whom or what occupation they undertook. Lorenzo was one of 16 students with no extra information whatsoever.