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From Tragedy, Hope Emerged for Future Generations of Children

“Nearly a hundred children [are] pleading for admission.” This was the statement made by Dr. William P. Jacobs, who ran a South Carolina orphanage, which caught the attention of W.W. Keys, a well-respected senior editor of the Baptist Courier in the late 1800’s. On November 15, 1888, Mr. Keys wrote an editorial about the plight of orphans that resonated with South Carolina Baptists and the Baptist Convention.

As the convention began to pursue that ministry opportunity, Dr. J.C. Maxwell and his wife, Sarah, were mourning the loss of their daughter, Constance Pope, or “Connie” as the family had called her. Connie had been the Maxwell’s only child to survive infancy and tragically died of scarlet fever at age seven. The Maxwell’s were considering ways to honor their daughter and heard about the convention’s plans for an orphanage.

In 1891, knowing they would never raise children of their own, the couple offered the convention their 470-acre farm in Greenwood, SC with the conditions that the land always be used to help needy children and that the orphanage bear the name of their treasured daughter. Rev. James L. Vass became the first superintendent of Connie Maxwell Orphanage and served from 1891-1899.

On May 22, 1892, Connie Maxwell Orphanage welcomed the first child, Susie H. Burton from Newberry County. She traveled alone by train and was met by Mr. J.K. Durst and his nine-year-old daughter Susie Durst Cheatham. By the end of the year, there were 26 boys and girls, ranging from age three to 13.