STATE COLORED ORPHANS' HOME
STATE COLORED ORPHANS' HOME. The State Colored Orphans' Home was located 1½ miles south of Gilmer in Upshur County. The orphanage was founded by black Baptists in 1900 as a private institution and was known for many years as Dickson (Dixon) Colored Orphanage after longtime administrator W. L. Dickson. Plans for the foundation of the orphanage were first made at a meeting of the state's black Baptist leadership held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Dallas. The site south of Gilmer was chosen after citizens from Upshur County offered to donate seventy acres of land. The charter was officially adopted at the first directors' meeting on July 25, 1900, at the Upshur County Courthouse in Gilmer. The orphanage opened on January 4, 1901, with Robert Cooke Buckner serving as the first president. Under Buckner's tenure, which lasted until 1906, eighty-seven acres were added, and the number of children grew from six to well over 200. In addition to housing the children, the institution also ran its own school and farm. W. L. Dickson replaced Buckner in 1906 and served as chief administrator for the next twenty-five years. The orphanage continued to operate as a private charitable institution until 1929, when the Texas legislature voted to take over control under the provision that it would eventually be moved to Austin. At that time the physical plant consisted of 610 acres, with forty buildings on the main campus and an additional thirteen buildings on the farm. Over the next fourteen years the institution operated under the supervision of the state Board of Control. The average enrollment during these years was about 100. As an independent school district, the home emphasized education, recreation, and religious training. The boys were trained in trades and industries, truck farming, dairying, and livestock raising, the girls in home economics. G. W. Couch was superintendent from 1930 to 1934 and P. J. Rowe from 1934 to 1943. The superintendent, the teaching staff, and all the employees except for the part-time physician and dentist were black. Successive legislatures failed to appropriate money for reconditioning and fireproofing the buildings, and in 1943 the Board of Control decided to close the home and move the remaining children to the Texas Blind, Deaf, and Orphan School in Austin. The school buildings and most of the land were sold in 1944. Seventy-two acres were given to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) for a sweet-potato farm.
Biennial Reports of the Texas State Board of Control, Austin. J. B. Cranfill and J. L. Walker, R. C. Buckner's Life of Faith and Works (Dallas: Buckner Orphans Home, 1915; 2d ed. 1916). Doyal T. Loyd, A History of Upshur County (Gilmer, Texas: Gilmer Mirror, 1966).