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Harvest Home Day


This article appeared in the Journal Herald on October 8, 1939
Harvest Home Day Will Be Held By Widows’ Home on Wednesday
     What is this big building at the corner of East Fourth street and South Findlay street:  the big place with the two acres of ground around it, the wide lawn, and the banks of flowers?  What is this place with its annual Harvest Home day Wednesday, which is a tradition among us?
     An institution of some kind, perhaps?  No.  Not an institutional institution at any rate. 
     Some old residence of departed glory?  No.
     An ancient farm house, still sanding on its home grounds?
     No.  None of these.
     It is the Widows’ home, a place built to be a very real, quiet and comfortable home for old ladies.  The institutional idea is conspicuous by its absence.  Here the ladies of Dayton, or many of them, at least, are hosts to the old ladies in a continual house party through the evening years.
     That’s the idea, and a nice one it is, executed with that nicety, finesse and understanding which has characterized many of Dayton’s civic movements.  The photographer said, “Why this isn’t an institution.  This is a home.”
     The idea began just after the Civil war, when there were many widows of soldiers in Dayton, many of them destitute, and no way to care for them.  Five good church ladies, members of the Y.W.C.A. took it upon themselves to do something about it: Mrs. Nancy Trotter Bates, Mrs. D. W. Bickham, Mrs. John H. Winters, Mrs. Hiram Wyatt and Mrs. Preserved Smith.  These ladies and many others began to take the needy war widows into their homes and began to advance the idea that the community should make some permanent provision for the widows.
     In 1872, the ladies secured from the Ohio general assembly the gift to the Y.W.C.A. of a little one story house on the present grounds of the Miami Valley hospital, then being evacuated as an orphans’ home.  On May 11 of 1875, the committee moved 17 women into the tiny house and got going in earnest.  They occupied this for a half dozen years, when they inaugurated a drive to build the present commodious home.
     W. P. Huffman donated the present two acres of land and everybody found a way to give, among the largest donors being Mrs. E. E. Barney, Mrs. D. C. McSherry, Mrs. J. H. Winters, Mrs. W. P. Huffman, and Mrs. C. L Lawes, each of whom gave a thousand dollars each.  Mrs. E. J. Barney, Mrs. D. E. Mead, Mrs. J. D. Platt, Mrs. A. E. Platt and Mrs. J. W. Stoddard were also large contributors.  The present home was dedicated June 27, 1883.
     There was still a need for more generous giving.  Accordingly, the association organized its annual Harvest Home day, the first being held on October 8, 1887, and continuing without break these 52 years.
     In the old days, people who felt that they couldn’t afford to give money would give in kind, bringing in a sack of potatoes or some jars of jelly or preserves, dressed chickens, sausage, walnuts or what not.  Even the kids could go out and gather walnuts and make their donation on Harvest Home day.
     Gradually, with the change of customs, the occasion came to be the day when cash contributions are made.  And the home still depends almost entirely on these cash contributions.
     For it is not a member of the Community Chest and must make its own way.  To be sure, the entrants do pay an initiate fee and some of them have old-age pensions.  But an old-age pension is enough for one’s needs only if one has a place to stay, with relatives or friends or at such a place as the home.
     A full quota of 24 old ladies are there now, ranging in age from 70 to 91.  There is a large waiting list.  The spacious rooms, the quiet halls, the comfortable appointments, the inviting dining room, the ample grounds—all lend an air of homeliness and comfort; and the old ladies are quietly happy.
     The home will be open for callers all day Wednesday, with Director Helen J.Currier as receiving hostess.  Present officers of the home are: Mrs. A. H. Dunham, chairman, Mrs. Harry Canby, vice chairman; Miss Marian Breneman, chairman of the financial committee and Mrs. Harry L. Munger, secretary; the following are members of the board: Mrs. Walter Shaw, Mrs. C. E. Rice, Mrs. John Charch, Mrs. A. M. Title, Mrs. Roger Woodhull, Mrs. Alexander G. Reed, Mrs. Frank Tait, Mrs. Frederick Beaver, and Mrs. Frank Huffman.