23 October 2015

Follow Up Friday: Incorrigible youth sent to House of Refuge

Professor Emil Aust, a musician, applied to Judges Livingston and Patterson to have his two sons sent to the House of Refuge in Philadelphia on 8 October1880. He alleged that his sons were incorrigible. 

So who was Aust? What did the boys do that was so horrible that their own father would give them to the House of Refuge? What happened to the boys? 

Aust was in fact a music teacher. He lived on North Queen Street in Lancaster City. Emil shows up in the 1860 Census as a 28 year old Russian/German born music teacher. He was boarding at the Tedderson’s. The article in the Lancaster Daily Intelligencer only stated the boys were incorrigible and gave no other reason as to their commitment.  

What was the House of Refuge?
On 23 March 1826 Pennsylvania passed an Act establishing a House of Refuge. It was the third such home for youth in the nation. New York began one in 1824 and Boston in 1825. It was to be a place for the “confinement and reformation of youthful delinquents,” according to The Jeffersonian. To be admitted to a House of Refuge, one had to be under the age of 21 and committed by two judges. That first year it was open to both black and white children. After that first year, however, only white children were admitted. In 1850, a House of Refuge for Colored Children opened in Philadelphia.

The House of Refuge was not a prison but rather a school. It was often described as a manual labor school or one that would prepare youths for an apprenticeship upon release. 

For some thought it may have been an alternative to prison. Katherine Brown and her friend Mary Rodgers were convicted by a Dauphin County court of “frequenting a house of questionable character,” according to the 15 June 1914 Harrisburg Telegraph. Mary was 18 and fined $25 and court costs. Katherine, who turned 17 the day of the article and sentencing, was sent to the House of Refuge. 

So what became of the House of Refuge in Philadelphia?
The Philadelphia House of Refuge was incorporated in 1826. The House of Refuge relocated in 1892 to its current location in Delaware County on 800 acres. In 1911 the school changed its name to Glen Mills Schools. 

The school remains in operation today. It is the oldest existing school to offer services and education to troubled youth. It is only open to males.  

A personal note here:
If you ever have the opportunity to tour Glen Mills Schools, do so. The campus alone is impressive but what really caught my attention (I was there covering a wrestling match between GM and Octorara many moons ago for the now-defunct Coatesville Record) was the manners and behavior of the staff, the coaches and especially the boys. The school is clearly successful in turning troubled boys into young men. 

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 

Frey, Cecila P. "The House of Refuge for Colored Children" The Journal of Negro History

Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 10-25

Harrisburg telegraph. (Harrisburg, Pa.), 15 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. 

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer. (Lancaster, PA), 8 October 1880. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.  

The Jeffersonian. (Stroudsburg, Pa.), 01 June 1854. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. 

Year: 1860; Census Place: Lancaster, South West Ward, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1126; Page: 572; Image: 353; Family History Library Film: 805126 

Follow Up Friday posts look at recent On This Day posts,
offering a look at the rest of the story! 


© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.