Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Didn't Linton Hall Help Poor Children Learn a Trade?

That was, after all, the condition under which the Benedictine Order was given 1,736 acres of land by Sister Mary Baptista, V.H.M.. (Note 1)

In 1893, Sister Mary Baptista gave the land subject to the condition that it be used for
"an industrial and training school for poor and friendless white boys and youths, ... [and] a school for training and education of poor and friendless white girls in habits of industry and virtue and in learning useful occupations suitable to their condition of life" (Note 2)

In this context, the term "friendless" means children who have no parents or other relatives taking care of them -- orphaned or neglected, in today's language. "Industrial," "training" and "useful occupations suitable to their condition of life," means that they were to be taught a trade, rather than an academic curriculum. The limitation to whites became unenforceable as a result of court cases and civil rights legislation.

Saint Joseph Institute was opened in 1894 and closed in 1922, as detailed in my previous blog post. Although a school for boys, it "was never a first-rate educational institution, and it was never really an industrial school at all." (Note 3)

Nor was the condition that poor children attend the schools met, at least not as a general practice. There was strong resistance to covering the costs of poor children by St. Joseph, which requested payment by the Diocese of Richmond for such children. (Note 4)

In 1894, the Benedictine Sisters opened Saint Edith, an academy for girls. In 1897 they opened Saint Anne, an industrial school for girls. (Note 5)

The girls' schools founded by the Benedictine Sisters were not built on the 1,736 acres of land from Sister Mary Baptista's bequest, but on the nearby 92.5 acre Kincheloe farm, which had been originally owned by the Linton Family and sold off, and which was then purchased by the Benedictine Sisters. As this land was not part of the Linton gift, the sisters were not bound by the conditions placed on the Linton bequest. (Note 6) However, it could be argued that, in spirit, the condition of building a girls' industrial school had been met. But the girls' schools in Bristow were closed when Linton Hall Military School was opened in 1922.

It is not known whether or not St. Anne requested diocesan support for girls' expenses, but in 1922, with Saint Joseph Institute continuing to insist that it would only accept orphans if the diocese paid their fees, Bishop O'Connell became concerned that the trust agreement was being violated, and the Benedictines risked losing the property. (Note 7) This matter came to a head with a court case in the Prince William County (Virginia) Circuit Court in February 1923. Although the Diocese of Richmond argued that because there was no industrial school, and the instruction was educational rather than industrial, and the monks declined to take "friendless" boys free of charge, the terms of the trust had been violated. St. Joseph Institute, on the other hand, argued that because no protest had been lodged within twenty years, it was too late to enforce the trust's provisions. The court ruled in favor of St, Joseph's position, and title to the land passed to the Benedictines free and clear, with Sister Mary Baptista's conditions no longer in place. Four years later, in 1927, the Belmont Abbey gave the 1,736 acres of land, together with buildings thereon (except for the library and its contents) and livestock to the Benedictine Sisters.

As a result, Sister Mary Baptista Linton's gift became property of the Benedictine Sisters, even though no industrial school for boys and youths was ever built, and the girls' industrial school, Saint Anne, was in existence from 1897 to 1922 -- a period of only twenty-five years. (Note 7) Most of this land was later sold off to developers by the Benedictine Sisters, and the extensive land on which Linton Hall Military School alumni went camping and hiking is no longer owned by Linton Hall School.

I do not know how the proceeds of the land sale were used, or whether they were used in line with Sister Mary Baptista's wishes. I believe that although there was no legal obligation to do so, a moral obligation existed.


Notes
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1. Johnston, Helen, The Fruit of His Works. Bristow, Va.: Linton Hall Press, 1954, pp. 37-40. There was a Sister Helen whom I met while a cadet at Linton Hall Military School, but I never knew her last name, so I don't know whether she was the author.
2. Baumstein, Dom Paschal, O.S.B., My Lord of Belmont: A Biography of Leo Haid. Belmont, N.C.: Herald House, 1985, p. 138, quoting Archives of the Abbey of Maryhelp, Deed from Phillips to Trustees, January, 1893. Baumstein's meticulously researched book, although dealing primarily with Belmont Abbey and Abbot Haid, devotes one chapter to the Linton legacy.
3. Baumstein, op. cit., p.151.
4. Ibid, pp.160-161.
5. Ibid, p.149.
6. Johnston, op. cit., pp. 51-52.
7. Baumstein, op. cit., pp. 172-173.
8. Ibid, pp. 174-175.

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