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A Century of Caring 

The Story of The New Brunswick Protestant Orphans’ Home


The house shook with each gust of wind from the Nor'easter that was raging through the valley. The accompanying snow was quickly being formed into high drifts.

To keep us entertained, Mum gathered us near her and commenced to read from her ‘Anne of Green Gables’ book.

Within moments all ears were tuned in.

I could visualize the busybody, Rachel Lynde, sitting on her porch watching Matthew Cuthbert, who was dressed in his best suit of clothes and white collar, drive by in the horse and buggy.

The visit to Marilla Cuthbert, who was sitting in her kitchen knitting showed just how nosey Rachel Lynde was. Of course the first thing she spotted was the table set for three, which really sparked her curiosity, especially since Marilla was using her everyday dishes and there was only crab-apple preserves and one kind of cake.

I could even see the look of surprise on Rachel’s face when she heard Matthew had gone to the Bright River train station to pick up a little boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia.

By the time Mum finished reading the first chapter, I had cuddled close to her with tears in my eyes as I thought how terrible it would be to not have a mother. I wondered what it was like for poor Anne to live in an orphanage and now to be taken to an unknown house with strangers.

I asked Mum, “Are there orphanages in New Brunswick?”

A Century of Caring - The Story of The New Brunswick Protestant Orphans’ Home” by Harold McCullagh tells about the province's largest one.

After the Cholera of 1854, a group of 15 ministers of Protestant churches set about collecting funds for an orphan asylum to assist children who had lost their parents. In January 1855 a proposal was presented and shortly afterwards a house was rented on Pond Street in Saint John with an elderly husband and wife engaged to act as house-parents – of what was then called the St. John Protestant Orphans' Asylum.

The number of orphans being cared for in the early years was small. There were 13 in the care of the matron Miss Caroline Sarah Frost when the Great Fire broke out on June 20, 1877. At that time the home was being operated in the Millidge Building at the corner of Carmarthen and Britain streets. This structure was razed in the fire after the orphans had been evacuated to the General Hospital, which had been built in 1865. When those in charge of the “Home for Little Wanderers” in Boston learned of the New Brunswick orphans' plight, they offered to take them in on a temporary basis. The matron and children accepted the offer and took free passage to that city, where the orphans lived for several months, until they could again be accommodated in Saint John.

The earliest building still associated in the public mind with the New Brunswick Protestant Orphans' Home was located on Britain Street in the South End of the city, the cornerstone of which was laid on September 2, 1880.  A period of growth in admissions and charitable support followed. An 1895 report reveals the generous donations that were being made at that time. One gift mentioned was the annual picnic sponsored by Mr. Manchester. It was also noted that E. G. Nelson had supplied slates and that Mrs. R. Hunter had contributed two barrels of apples.

Not all Protestant orphans in the province were welcomed, however. Incredible as it seems today, for the first 60 years of its existence, illegitimate children were barred from the Home.

In 1919, a building for orphans was opened in West Saint John. The next year, 40 of the older children were being housed there and 44 of the younger ones at the Britain Street location. The acquisition of the spacious Manawagonish West Side property paved the way for numerous improvements and innovations. For example, a small farm was established, and a three-classroom school was built. 

In 1945 there were 200 children in the care of the Home. It continued to meet a need for many more years, but by the 1970s, the winds of change were blowing. With government assuming more and more responsibility for child care, and the public no longer being so supportive of orphanages, the doors of the institution were closed – and a charitable foundation created in its place.

In “A Century of Caring - The Story of The New Brunswick Protestant Orphans’ Home” (1986) author Harold McCullagh describes the institution's rise and fall – and about its founders, directors, operators, buildings, programs, etc., in great detail. There are no children's names or stories in this book, however, except for some quotes from one former resident, Ralph Doherty.

Copies are found at libraries throughout the province.

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Query 1442
Bowes:  I am seeking information on Mary A. Bowes, born 1860, and her parents James and Catherine Bowes who lived at Golden Grove.

Query 1443
O'Donahoe - Sheehey: Cornelus O'Donahoe and wife Nancy had sons Michael born 1844 and Timothy born Dec. 1846 in New Brunswick. Cornelius married for a second time to Catherine Sheehey 14 Feb 1847 in New Brunswick. I need information on Nancy O'Donahoe and her children.
2217 Tracy Ln.  
Sioux Falls, SD
57103-0768, USA

Query 1444
Smith - Brown - Gass: The Family Bible gives the place of birth for John William Smith as St. John, British Possession New Brunswick on 10 Oct 1821. His parents were James Henry Smith and Julia Brown. He came to Australia about 1854 where he married Henrietta Gass in Bendigo Victoria, Australia. He was of black descent and his father's occupation given as ship builder.
10 Meldrum Court
Narre Warren South, Victoria
Australia, 3805

Query 1445
MacNichol: The MacNichol family moved from L'Etete, New Brunswick to Eastport, Maine in 1880 and founded the MacNichol Packing Company. I seek  information of marriages and siblings. JOHN A. MacNICHOL
2904 Broadview Dr.
Huntsville, Alabama
35810, USA

Query 1446
McKew -McCue - Walsh - White: James Mckew was born in 1860 in New Brunswick and married in Wisconsin in 1884 to Mathilda Walsh born also in New Brunswick (possibly the daughter  of Luke Walsh and Margaret White). The McKews are both buried in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Does anyone have any information on the families of this couple?
599 Upper Paradise Road
Hamilton, Ontario
Canada, L9C 5P5
E-mail or
New and Used Genealogical and Historical books of
New Brunswick for sale.

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of the readers of the newspaper who do not have access to E-mail but could have information to share with you. Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query. For more information on submitting queries, visit
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