Norwegian Lutheran Church Orphans' Home
Beloit, Iowa - 1890-1945

The Lutheran children's home at Beloit in the northwest corner of Iowa was established by Norwegian Lutherans in 1890. By far the largest of the antecedents to LSS [Lutheran Social Service], the home had a peak population of 177 in 1926, and by 1942 had given care to 984 children. In 1942 there were 28 boys and 12 girls at the home. At that time it consisted of four institutional buildings, a chapel, and numerous farm buildings. The farm consisted of 617 acres of land, and, debt-free, was valued at $236,952.

The home was closed in 1945 and its assets used for a later re-location in Ames, where it now continues to serve children as a part of the ministry of Lutheran Social Service of Iowa.  Some of the buildings remain as part of a farm in Beloit, and a cemetery marker memorializes residents who died during those 56 years, giving silent testimony to a ministry that responded to need.  The original program at Beloit was not envisioned as an orphanage. The campus had been intended to house a seminary for a Scandinavian Lutheran church body. - Thanks to Lyon County GenWeb for this excerpt from their history of Beloit Lutheran Children's Home.  Read the complete article. -

The Lutheran Church has always felt a deep responsibility over against the child.  Not only the child of Lutheran background, but all children; the unchurched, the neglected, the heathen.  This sense of responsibility has in a measure furnished the urge for establishing a definite program for caring for such children - a program which has assumed such proportions as to constitute largely one of four major activities of the church.  It has meant the providing of comfortable and attractive shelter, good clothes, plenty of wholesome food, a find home atmosphere, Christian influence and environment, facilities for learning through the grades of a standardized course of study as well as helpful guidance and study in the elements of the Christian religion leading to confirmation...

Through these years [since 1890] hundreds of boys and girls, who otherwise would have been deprived of these home privileges, have been nurtured through their formative years under the sheltering care and Christian influence of this fine institution.  To them it has meant home.  It has also meant father and mother care.  It has meant their inalienable right to a fair chance and a coveted opportunity.  The fruitage of this labor of love is evidenced by the splendid types of men and women who have gone forth from this institution to find their place in a complex society and who fill positions of honor and trust in almost every walk of life...    Excerpt from the 1940 Fiftieth Anniversary Festival Program, Beloit Children's Home, Beloit, Iowa


Primary Room
From the 1919 Annual of the Norwegian Lutheran Church Orphan' Home at Beloit, Iowa

...We worked harder during the last year than ever before to develop our institution into a beautiful home, to bring sunshine into the lives of our children, to give each ward its full share of a happy childhood and to send forth into the world youths and maidens spiritually, mentally, and physically developed to successfully withstand life's temptation, to rob charity of its sting and to demonstrate that an Orphans' Home, instead of a social evil, can be made a communal blessing - these have been our ideals.  To the realization of these ideals we have devoted and are devoting our entire time, skill, labor and attention.


School Building
Twenty-nine years have elapsed since the founding of our Home, and when we reflect upon past achievements, we may honestly say that our labor has not been in vain.  The 475 children who have been in our care were generally healthy and comfortable; and as a whole the health condition have been above that of the average home. 
We were particularly spared last year in that we did not have the influenza, although it raged all around.  Among the 339 young people who have graduated or left the institution after a shorter or longer stay we find ninty-nine per cent are leading honest lives... A great majority of our graduates, although most of them came from the city, are now found on the farm, most of them are laborers, while a number are married and operating farms of their own.

We do not know the exact number in other professions but we know of graduates in the following walks of life: Electrician, Carpenters, Store Clerks, Solicitors, Car Conductors, Stenographers, assistant in lumber yards, paper hangers, painters, teachers, cooks, nurses, domestics, a number are attending colleges and high school...


Administration Building
Briefly we wish to call attention to the fact that during the year 1918, with one man in charge of all farming activities, including cattle and hogs, assisted by the manager and the boys, the farm produced $7,896.29 cash, as shown by report, and in addition $3,671.66 which was sold but not in time to be included in the report.  In addition to this there was consumed on the farm, milk, butter, meats, potatoes, eggs, garden, wheat for flour, wood, etc., to an estimated value of $8,185.00, making a total of $19,755.95, yet the farm could have yielded more with more supervision, but it seemed impossible to secure help.  Also, it seemed a patriotic duty to get along as best we could.  But we feel certain that one man cannot produce the best results having charge of more than ten boys at farm work.

It is our candid opinion that the boys should be divided in several groups, each group under a supervisor.  More and better work would be produced and the boys would receive better training, but it is not certain that the results would be financially greater, mostly due to difficulty to secure competent help.


Boys Cottages
For the present time, owing to the war situation, of the 339 who have left the Home about 200 are boys, of this number 100 came within the draft age, and in spite of the fact that many are spread over the Union and in Canada, of whom we have no record, we proudly float a service flag of 45 stars, of which to our sorrow 5 are in gold....

After being instructed for two years seventeen children were baptized May 5, 1919.  During the last four years 56 have been confirmed into the Lutheran faith.  Forty have graduated from the eighth grade course as prescribed by the state of Iowa...


Gunderson Memorial Chapel
Answers to some Questions which are frequently asked:
1. "What are the conditions of entrance into the Orphans Home?"
Ans.  The child must be poor, of sound mind and decent habits, and in need of a home.
2. "Will you take my child if I pay a certain amount for its support?"
Ans.  Yes, for a short time, but the home is for children who cannot afford to pay.
3. "How can I get a child admitted?"
Ans.  Through a minister of the Lutheran Church.
4. "Can children be admitted who do not belong to the Lutheran Church?"
Ans. Yes, if there is room and means to provide for them.
5. "How long must a child remain in the Home?"
Ans.  No longer than necessary, as soon as a mother or relative can give a child a proper home, it will be dismissed with the endorsement of three people, including one pastor.
6. "Can I get a good, capable, strong girl, about fourteen or sixteen years of age, to live in my family?"
Ans.  No.
7. "Can I get a little boy or girl to adopt into my family?"
Ans.  Our object is to reunite families where that is possible.  Where there are prospects that a child may be taken back to its own parents.  All children are contracted to stay here, but our home-finding society is contending that where a little child stands no chance of getting back to their parents, they should be placed in good private homes.
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