Monday, June 04, 2018

The Rev. Mr. Orne, Methodist cowboys & kids

Sadly, this is not a photo of the Rev. and Mrs. A.S. Orne, who passed through Chariton during June of 1898. The Rev. Mr. Orne claimed years later to be not only the father of the American "Gospel Wagon" movement but also of the American juvenile justice system. I just couldn't locate a photo of the Ornes nor could I substantiate his claims.

But the couple did receive sufficient newspaper coverage from 1898 onward to back the Gospel Wagon claim and to confirm that he was working across the country in the interests of juvenile offenders at least until World War I.

Instead, the photo depicts Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Harrison, who sat out to roam America in 1903 from Plainfield, New Jersey --- inspired perhaps by the Ornes. The wagons may have been similar although the Ornes would have been substantially younger.

Here's a report of the Chariton visit as published in The Patriot of June 16, 1898:

"A curious one-horse covered spring wagon passed through Chariton Monday, stopping an hour or two near the southeast corner of the square. There was a large sign on top of the wagon, bearing on one side the words, "Stop Sinning," and on the other, "Seek Salvation." Rev. and Mrs. Orne and two children, originally from Syracuse, N.Y., were the travelers of the gospel wagon and they are on their way to Omaha. They have been traveling over the country in this way for over three years, the wagon being their home and their church. Rev. Orne's chief object in life is the preaching that children must have better care. He visits state and county poor houses and jails, to interest the public in behalf of the children found in these institutions and procure for them homes in good moral atmospheres. He and his wife conduct religious services wherever opportunity affords. The Omaha exposition is the mecca to which dozens of wagons similar to Rev. Orne's are now traveling with the expectation of forming a junction on July 1, to organize a general association of gospel wagons."


The Ornes still were on the road five years later, as this brief paragraph from The Wichita Daily Eagle of Oct. 11, 1903, attests:


"The Rev. A.S. Orne, of Syracuse, N.Y., who has been traversing Kansas in a 'gospel wagon,' arrived in Atchison the other day with his wife and child. He came down from Montana, a distance of three thousand miles, in a 15-foot skiff, stopping at the different river towns to preach the gospel. He says he had no trouble except in Bismark, N.D., where a 'Methodist cowboy' took exceptions to something he said about the Methodist church, and set out to do him violence. 'He gathered,' says Parson Orne, 'a lot of other Methodist cowboys, and they tried to hang me to a lamppost, saying that no man could make remarks about their religion and live.' The parson says he bluffed the Methodist cowboys and got away."


This item from The Pittsburgh Press of Aug. 13, 1913, continues the Orne saga, which seems to have continued for a few years thereafter although at this point I ran out of time and stopped pursuing him:

Is Wagon Evangelist and Juvenile Court Expert

"Rev. Dr. A.S. Orne, who says he is the original gospel wagon evangelist of America, who has devoted his life for the past 17  years to the welfare of indigent and ill-treated children, has arrived in Pittsburgh, and will work for an indefinite period. Dr. Orne declares he is the father of the juvenile court law, which has now been passed by the legislatures of 45 of the 48 states. He is accompanied by his wife, who has shared all his travels.

"Dr. Orne and Mrs. Orne left Haverhill, Mass., in Gospel Wagon No. 1, May 23, 1896. For six years they traversed the country, from ocean to ocean and from Canada to the gulf. For the past 12 years they have "worked" the waterways, the ocean shores, the lakes and the rivers, the latter in a skiff. They say they have found the children of the waterways more neglected, and more in need of help, than those in the slums of the large cities.

"Dr. Orne is now advocating the establishment of an industrial school in each state for the boys and girls who come under the juvenile court law. He contends that it is far cheaper to prevent crime by teaching girls domestic work and giving boys trades than to prosecute criminals."

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