White Hall Soldiers' Orphan School

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1866 to 1891
Location: Camp Hill, Cumberland County,Pa.map
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Categories: United States Civil War | Camp Hill, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

A memorial page to the Civil War soldiers and their children who attended the White Hall School. The memorial will start with soldiers from Cumberland County Pa.



By 1865 Governor Andrew Curtain had taken an interest in the welfare of soldiers' orphans created by the Civil War. In 1866 the state began a nearly 150 year history of providing care and education to orphans of Pennsylvania's soldiers. In 1866 thirty-eight institutions were funded by the state to provide for orphans of Civil War Soldiers. The history of one of those schools is being commemorated here.

White Hall School operated in Camp Hill Pennsylvania from 1866 to 1891. The school and residence was located on Market St. between the present 21st and 22nd Streets. Attached to the school was a 20 acre plot farmed to support the school.

The School operated as a “High School”. Students were accepted from age 10 to age 16. Upon their 16th birthday, regardless of when it fell in the school year, the student was graduated. These students are referred to as “Sixteeners”. Both male and female students attended the school. Both were taught the “3R's”, in addition boys were given parade ground military training and wore a uniform. Female students generally wore a standard dress, but were not given military training. Generally the girls were taught sewing and other household skills. Both the boys and girls performed chores associated with the operation of the school and farm.


In order to gain admittance, the student was required to be a son or daughter of a Civil War soldier. The soldier had to be deceased, ill and or maimed to the point he could not support himself or his family. Students either came directly from their family to the school or were transferred in from other institutions in the program that cared for younger children.

Students usually matriculated from age 10 to 16; however students were frequently removed for either bad behavior or by their families. These removals were called “On Orders”. The majority of these children were called home by the family because of financial pressure. In an era with no Social Net as there is today, the widow often depended on older children to go to work to support the extended families. During this time period families were usually large. As these older children married or decided to go off to find their fortune, the widow would remove a younger child from the school to either go to work commercially to support the family or to maintain the family farm.


Not much different happened to the graduates as opposed to the removals. The exception being that they may have been a little more educated and therefore more able to earn a good living. Male students that graduated at 16 usually became apprenticed or went back to farming the family farm. Female students in that era usually married, became domestics or occasionally became employed in dress making or millinery establishments. However as the 19th century progressed, students of both sexes increasingly attended the state “Normal Schools” and became teachers.

Over 1000 children were processed through the White Hall School during its history. An exact number may never be assured since although graduates are fairly well documented in state reports, the “On Orders” are not. Additionally childhood death was a significant issue in the 19th century and all reported deaths while attending the school are incomplete. Nine students are buried in the Camp Hill Cemetery.


Initially the Schools were not operated as military schools. However in short order it became obvious that the physical care and cleanliness of the institution was not being maintained. Therefore retired officers were brought into supervise the schools. They instituted military training and discipline to solve the problem. White hall was no different.

Brevet Colonel J.A. Moore was hired to supervise the school in 1867. His tenure lasted the majority of the school’s history. He, along with his brother-in-law Harry Bowman, operated the school until 1890.


The School closed in the spring of 1891. White Hall and the majority of the other institutions were closed and consolidated into four and finally into a single institution by the beginning of the 20th century. The Scotland School was the only remaining school to operate into the 21st century before being closed.


For the most part the schools had served their former purpose. Given the narrow construct of the admittance policy, by 1890 there were few children that met the admission criteria. Schools began to vie for the limited applicants. Additionally, changing social mores resulted in a reduction of orphanage type institutions in favor of the foster home support and adoption model. Establishment and growth of the public school system chipped away at the need for these schools. The consolidated School at Scotland lasted only because the criteria were eventually expanded to Soldiers from subsequent wars and Fire and Police personnel.

Although I have not found any record of specific bad behavior by White Hall administrators, the system in general also had its usual share of incidences of embezzlement.

The most significant incidence of corruption was the use of students by unscrupulous land speculators. After the civil war the railroads and the US government encouraged the settlement of the west by offering free land parcels to those who would occupy and farm the land. Students were, for a fee, made wards to these people. This allowed the speculators to claim more land, often contiguous parcels, thereby increasing the power and wealth of the speculator.


The physical plant was a clapboard building on Market Street that was converted into row houses and existed well into the 1980's at which time it was demolished and a modern office complex built.


An Obelisk monument was constructed in Willow Park on Market Street in 1926 by surviving “Sixteeners” It is now the sole reminder in the community.


We plan to memorialize the school on this page with additional photos. We are also constructing limited genealogy records for the Soldier, his wife and the children with emphasis on those children that attended the school.


We have detailed lists of students and will gladly search for the record if you feel you have a relative that attended White Hall. In return we are always looking for possible attendees for which we have no record mostly deaths and “Removals on Orders” subsequent to 1876.


1. Paul, James Laughery, Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan Schools, 1877, Harrisburg: Lane S, Hart, 1877

2. Christ, Robert Grant, Camp Hill A History, Camp Hill: Camp Hill Borough, 1984

Images: 3
White Hall Soldiers' Orphans School
White Hall Soldiers' Orphans School

"Sixteener" Monument to students of the White Hall School

White Hall Soldiers' Orphans School Students
White Hall Soldiers' Orphans School Students

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On 4 Jul 2017 at 21:03 GMT Keith McDonald wrote:

with the new standards, please change

category: US Civil War to category: United States Civil War

On 21 May 2015 at 22:49 GMT Philip Smith wrote:

The category Orphan School needs to be replaced, please contact categorization project for assistance.

On 3 Dec 2014 at 20:03 GMT Dan Thompson wrote:

Please edit category to: "Category: Camp Hill, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania" to disambiguate from Camp Hill in Montgomery County. Thank you

On 1 Feb 2014 at 20:42 GMT Jason W. Crews wrote:

You should change the category Civil War to US Civil War.