Methodist Home For Children

By: Walter N. Vernon

Type: General Entry

Published: April 1, 1995

The Methodist Home for Children, in Waco, originated in 1890 after a resolution passed by the annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to establish and maintain an institution to be called the Northwest Texas Conference Orphans' Home. Bishop Joseph S. Key sponsored the resolution at the urging of Horace Bishop, a pastor in Waco. At that time the church was seriously in danger of schism over doctrinal differences. According to some accounts, the two men launched the project to unite the several different factions in a common philanthropic project. The city of Waco donated a ten-acre estate, including a two-story, sixteen-room residence. The founding committee selected Rev. W. H. Vaughn as the home's first administrator. He and his wife, Pauline, moved in in 1894, and by the end of 1894 twenty-six children were living with the Vaughns. One year later forty-three children were in residence, and twenty-one others had been placed in selected local homes. During the home's first twenty years, the five regional Texas Methodist conferences contributed support in yearly assessments and in special Christmas offerings. Even so, the Vaughns had financial difficulties. Two evangelists, Abe and Louisa Mulkey, therefore made the home a personal cause, devoting to it one night of offerings out of every revival they preached around the state for many years. Their efforts financed the construction and furnishing of a $20,000 administration building in 1899. The Mulkeys had raised more than $36,000 for the orphanage by 1901, and the board of directors, finally convinced of the home's viability, officially dedicated it in December of that year. When the Vaughns left in 1908 the home had two large buildings on a twenty-eight-acre campus in Waco, supported by a 173-acre farm on the Bosque River-all free of debt and valued at $105,000. In the two buildings lived 112 orphans, half of them under the age of ten.

Under the guidance of such directors as John H. McLean and R. A. Burroughs, and with the Mulkeys' continued support, the home grew and flourished, especially after Burroughs changed its funding to direct churchwide contributions. W. F. Barnett, the home's first administrator with previous experience, took over in 1919. He started the magazine Sunshine Monthly, still published in 1988 as Sunshine, and expanded the educational curriculum; he also added a three-story brick schoolhouse and initiated a loan and scholarship fund to provide college education for the children. There were 406 children at the home in 1931. To compensate for the dwindling flow of voluntary funds, Barnett cut staff and contributed a regular percentage of his own salary; the staff unanimously followed his example. Barnett also kept the home going by taking carloads of children to sing at surrounding churches every Sunday. The children themselves passed an offering plate after each performance. During the hard depression years, Methodist philanthropist Joe J. Perkins began a lifelong relationship with the home; he not only contributed generously to its support but also involved himself and his family in its activities. In 1938 he sponsored the first individual home unit on the campus, with a house parent and a small number of children, to provide a more homelike atmosphere for individual development. Seven more units were dedicated by 1952, and others followed until all the children were housed in such units.

In 1945 Hubert Johnson, manager and president of the Methodist Home from 1933 to 1966, proposed a permanent endowment fund for the institution's support, with the income to cover annual expenses. Soon after the measure was adopted the home became one of the most generously endowed Methodist institutions; by the end of the 1970s the endowment was over $30 million. Kennard Copeland became administrator in 1966, just as the home began the process of integration. More fundamental changes were already developing. By the mid-1950s, as a result of national social trends, far more children were at the home because of divorce, desertion, or mental illness in their families than as orphans. The home responded to changing needs by extending its ministries into programs for foster-home placement and family rehabilitation. Both policy and staffing changed to deal with the fact that, by the 1970s, 70 percent of the children admitted were emotionally disturbed. The Children's Guidance Center, a fully accredited psychiatric hospital located on the Waco campus, opened in 1971. A working ranch for boys opened eight miles east of Waco in February 1973. In 1980 the Methodist Home for Children celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. By then it had sheltered over 17,000 children, including Jack Kyle Daniels, who came to the home at the age of two, grew up there, and returned in 1978 as its administrator.

Walter N. Vernon et al., The Methodist Excitement in Texas (Dallas: Texas United Methodist Historical Society, 1984). Patricia Dawson Ward, The Home: A History of the Methodist Home for Children in Waco (Waco: Methodist Home, 1980).
  • Religion
  • Methodist
  • Health and Medicine
  • Homes and Orphanages
  • Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Centers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Walter N. Vernon, “Methodist Home For Children,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

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