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In Their Own Words

March 21, 1746

George Whitefield on Orphan House

George Whitefield wrote the following account of his Orphan House at Bethesda:

“Some have thought that the erecting such a building was only the produce of my own brain; but they are much mistaken; for it was first proposed to me by my dear friend, the Rev. Mr. Charles Wesley, who, with his excellency General Oglethorpe, had concerted a scheme for carrying on such a design before I any thoughts of going abroad myself.

“When I came to Georgia, I found many poor orphans who, though taken notice of by the Honourable Trustees, yet, through the neglect of persons that acted under them, were in miserable circumstances. For want of a house to breed them up in, the poor little ones were tabled out here and there; others were at hard services, and likely to have no education at all.

“… January following, 1739, I met my family at Georgia, and being unwilling to lose any time, I hired a large house and took in all the orphans I could find in the colony. A great many, also, of the town’s children came to school gratis, and many poor people that could not maintain their children, upon application had leave given them to send their little ones, for a month or two, or more as they could spare them, till at length my family consisted of between sixty and seventy. Most of the orphans were in poor case; and three or four almost eat up with lice. I likewise erected an infirmary, in which many sick people were cured and taken care of gratis. I have now by me a list of upwards of a hundred and thirty patients, which were under the surgeon’s hands, exclusive of my own private family. About March I began the great house, having only about one hundred and fifty pounds in cash. I called in Bethesda, because I hoped it would be a house of mercy to many souls. Many boys have been put out to traces, and many girls put out to service… . We have lately begun to use the plough; and next year I hope to have many acres of good oats and barley. We have near twenty sheep and lambs, fifty head of cattle, and seven horses. We hope to kill a thousand weight of pork this season. Our garden is very beautiful, furnishes us with all sorts of greens, &c., &c. We have plenty of milk, eggs, poultry, and make a good deal of butter weekly. A good quantity of wool and cotton have been given me, and we hope to have sufficient spun and wove for the next winter’s clothing. If the vines hit, we may expect two or three hogsheads of wine out of the vineyard… .”

Source: George White, Historical Collections of Georgia (New York: Pudney & Russell, 1855), pp. 329-331.