200th Anniversary Celebration

On March 12, 2016, Natchez Children’s Services celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding with a program at the First Presbyterian Church and an open house at “the Home.” A good crowd attended both, despite heavy rains.

The First Presbyterian Church, now celebrating its 199th year, was a natural choice for the program’s location. Selah Mitchell Henderson, a prime mover in the founding of The Female Charitable Society on March 12, 1816, was married to planter and merchant John Henderson, a prime mover in the founding of the First Presbyterian Church the following year. The First Presbyterian Church, as well as other local churches and the Synagogue, have for two centuries been prominent supporters of The Female Charitable Society through all its changes in name and methods of serving children. (See History and Heritage under About Us.)

The history of Natchez Children’s Services was given by Nancy Hungerford, NCS Executive Director, and by Rev. Martha Stone. Rev. Noelle Read, co-pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, presented the history of the church, while co-pastor Rev. Denny Read gave the opening prayer and read scripture. Burnley Cook played the piano, and Cherish McCallum led the church’s children’s choir in song.

Descendants of some of the founders of The Female Charitable Society dressed in the manner of their forebears and reenacted the organizational meeting at Cottage Garden, then the home of founder Maria Clarisa Vidal Davis (played by Ann Vidal Davis Willett).

Another scene presented was the move of the matron and children from an orphanage constructed in 1823 by the Society on 5 acres of property adjoining the Arlington estate and known as Boyd’s Woods. In 1856 the orphanage, then known as the Natchez Orphan Asylum, moved to the former home of Samuel and Ann Dunbar Postlethwaite. To this day, Natchez Children’s Services continues to occupy the same grounds, although a different building.

During the Civil War, the Protestant Orphan Asylum was within the boundaries of the Union’s Fort McPherson. Troops camped on the grounds of the orphanage. The scene was reenacted during the program.

The open house that followed involved delicious food and much visiting, especially among former residents and staff.

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