Thursday, April 14, 2022

HGB Ep. 431 - Twin Bridges Orphanage

Moment in Oddity - Beetles as Clothing Decoration (Suggested by: Jenny Lynne Raines)

The Kyoto Costume Institute collects and preserves western clothing. Parts of their collection date back centuries. They not only exhibit the clothing, but research and study the clothing trends to better understand human culture. Some of the clothing in their collection reflects the use of the wing casings of various types of wood boring beetles to enhance and decorate clothing. For example, they have an 1850 dress and shawl made from white cotton mull that is decorated with thousands of beetle wings. Using these wings was a standard practice in countries like Japan, India, Thailand, Myanmar and China. The favored beetles came from two varieties: the sternocera aequisignata and the chrysochroa fulgidissima. The wings were collected humanely after the beetles had gone through their brief life cycle. The wings are so hard that a tiny hole needs to be bored into them to stitch them in place. Some pieces have as many as 2000 wings attached to them. The coloring of the wings was beautiful and gave many dresses an iridescent look with green and blue hues. The 19th century was the most popular time for these types of garments. We imagine most people in the 21st century would not be interested in wearing the wings of dead bugs because that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Black Hawk War Begins

In the month of April, on the 6th, in 1832, the Black Hawk War began. Black Hawk was a Sauk warrior who was born in 1767 where the state of Illinois would eventually be. His people called him Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak by his people and they considered him a fierce and courageous fighter. He proved himself valiant in battles the Sauk had with the Osage. In the early 1800s, Black Hawk turned his attention to the white people that were pushing his people out of their land. He was angered when the Sauk and Fox tribes signed a treaty that ceded their territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States in 1804. He would eventually sign his own name to the treaty in 1816, but later claimed he didn't realize that meant he was giving up his home village of Saukenuk. The US Army started building forts nearby and settlers moved into the village. Black Hawk refused to leave and prepared to fight. He gathered his people and left the disputed territory, but soon returned with his forces believing that other tribes would be joining them, as well as the British to the north. Those reinforcements never showed, so Black Hawk knew he would need to surrender. Before that could happen, his truce bearer was killed and the war was on. Black Hawk had early victories, but eventually almost had his entire warrior group annihilated and he finally did surrender. Almost 600 Native Americans had been killed during the war in comparison to 70 settlers and soldiers. Black Hawk was taken on tour in an attempt to dissuade other tribes from fighting back and spent the last six years of his life under the supervision of another Sauk chief whom he considered an enemy because he had cooperated with the United States government.

Twin Bridges Orphanage

There is not much out there more heartbreaking than a child with no parents because their parents have passed away. Except for perhaps, children who still have living parents and yet end up in an orphanage. In the state of Montana, many of these orphaned and abandoned children ended up in an orphanage located in the city of Twin Bridges. This was the Montana State Orphan's Asylum that was also known as Twin Bridges Orphanage and later, the Montana Children's Center. It opened in 1894 and housed children for 81 years. Today, it is closed and privately owned and is reputedly one of the more haunted locations in the state. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Twin Bridges Orphanage!

Montana is known as Big Sky Country and for good reason. This is a state of wide open spaces and a small population of people. Montana had its big boom and an infusion of people starting in the mid 1800s when mining came to the state after mineral rich hills were discovered. Miners pulled out quartz, iron, copper and silver. Butte, Montana became known as "the richest hill on earth." Nearby Twin Bridges had its share of mining operations with 12,726 mines opening. The area was located at the confluence of the Ruby Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers which formed the Jefferson River, so it was a great spot to build a town. Judge M.H. Lott and his brother John T. Lott, would be the first white men to settle in the Ruby Valley in 1864. The brothers built two bridges across the Beaverhead River and this is where the name for the town came from. The Lotts continued to add onto their little community and M.H. Lott served as its first mayor after it was incorporated in 1902. 

As was the case for all mining towns, the people eventually left and things went bust. For those that stayed, times were tough. Many families were left in poverty after the boom. The need was so great in the state that the legislature passed an act in 1893 that established the Montana State Orphan's Asylum for the "care and education of orphans, foundlings, and destitute children." The orphanage was initially governed by a board of five trustees. They chose a site on which to build and hired a superintendent and a matron. The superintendent was then tasked with hiring nurses and other attendants. The board also was responsible for education in the area and made responsible for establishing schools and vocational training shops.

Twin Bridges was selected for the location of the orphanage and the site started with a Victorian structure known as The Castle. Any child under the age of 12 was eligible for admission. Older kids were surveyed on a case by case basis. The goal for many of the children was to get them into a private home. Unfortunately, many of the children that would call the Asylum home were not actual orphans. Some were abandoned and others had parents who couldn't take care of them. There was no welfare programs or foster programs at the time. Life at the orphanage was very rigid and scheduled. Every morning bed-wetters were whipped. Matrons started tying shoes to their hands because they thought they wet the bed because they were playing with their private parts. Kids tried to hide their wet sheets by getting up when the furnaces kicked on at 5am and drying their sheets in front of them before bed checks at 6am. Meals were always the same. Tuesdays there was stew, beans on Wednesdays, hash or chipped beef on Thursdays and fish on Fridays. 

One of the stories we found while doing our research was on the Freedman family. Alice Freedman and her husband had gotten a divorce and he left the family. Alice worked as a research editor, but there wasn't much money in that and she soon found that she couldn't handle the six mouths she had to feed. She felt she had no other choice when she walked her kids into the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse in 1938. She sat the children on the granite steps inside and told them to behave and that she would be back for them later. She added that the state was babysitting them. So the six siblings, who ranged in ages from eight to fifteen, waited. And they waited. Some county workers noticed that the children had been sitting for several hours and when there was no parent to fetch them by noon, they went and bought some sandwiches for the kids. The juvenile court was contacted and the Freedmans were taken to a receiving home that night. When no parent came forward for the children, they were taken to the orphanage in Twin Bridges. Harold Freedman was one of those children and when he was interviewed as an adult he said, "It was in some ways a rather shocking be put in an orphanage, but I felt a lot of pressure lifted off me because I had worried so much about our situation." He was an older brother and felt responsible for his younger siblings. Alice worked hard to get her children back and eventually got her four eldest children released to her. The final two, who were twins, were reunited with the family in 1945. Noel Freedman wrote a book about his experiences at the orphanage called "Dumped."

The property at the orphanage grew and expanded. The original two room schoolhouse and nearby theater were combined into a ten room schoolhouse in the 1940s. Barns were added, as was a chicken coop. There was a butcher shop and a shoe shop and a steam plant and gardens. Everything was run by the kids. They would compete on sports teams like track and basketball. There were fun times too. The Junior League would bring in shows featuring puppets or stage plays. The kids played marbles and other games. And although they worked a lot, they were given plenty of sleep. One former orphan felt that they did better in state matches because they were strong from work and good sleep and were fed healthy food. Harry Murphy hated his time at the institute though. He claimed that children were beaten and locked in dark coat closets. Some children were hung up on coat hooks as punishment. The children wore uniforms of overalls and denim jackets. 

The state of Montana started to change things for widows and orphaned or abandoned children in 1916. One of the first women elected to the state legislature, Maggie Smith Hathaway, championed the creation of the Montana Mother's Pension. This helped provide money for single or widowed mothers, so they could keep their children with them. Another of the first female legislators, Emma Ingalls, helped create the Bureau of Child and Animal Protection. This gave oversight to orphanages and placement homes. Soon, the Montana State Orphanage became more of a first stop holding place, rather than a long-term placement location. A cottage system was also started to make the orphanages seem more like home. The Twin Bridges location soon had four Colonial styled cottages that could house up to 200 children. The institute hit its peak during the Great Depression with 300 children living there. The 1930s would bring more federal and state programs and this lowered the population at Twin Bridges to 282 children.

The number of children housed at the orphanage continued to decline in the 1950s and by 1959, there were only 156 children in residence. The Montana Children's Center closed its doors in 1975 with 50 children awaiting placement in foster care. Over five thousand children had passed through the doors of the Twin Bridges Orphanage. Many of those children had been failed along the way. There are reports that claimed that 100 children died here during that time. As was the case with asylums for adults, there was not enough staff for proper care. And children need more affection and individual treatment, which they didn't receive. Siblings were not kept together either. Fred Wentz spent time at the orphanage and he said, "The problem was that I knew I had brothers and sisters somewhere...I just didn’t know why I was in the orphanage and not with them. That hurt me. I’ve carried that throughout my life." Yes, he had brothers and sisters who were still at home, so its not surprising he was hurt by his placement.

Leslie Adams is the current owner of the property. She bought the property with her father in 2005 with 25 buildings spread out over 100 acres. Many of the buildings are in a dilapidated condition. Several have been demolished. It looked like on Facebook that the property has been put up for sale. Adams claims that the property has some unexplained stuff going on. She has heard several times, the disembodied singing of children in some of the abandoned buildings. Large groups of children are seen playing in and around the gym building. The children disappear suddenly. The school has reports of disembodied voices and footsteps are heard. Objects move on their own. People feel a coldness that hits them to their core in this building. Small faces of children are seen looking out of the windows of The Castle. Disembodied singing of children is heard in here. The spirit of a matron has also been seen in this building. The bottom floor of The Castle is said to be the most haunted on the property.

In November of 2016, Adams invited the crew from Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures to come investigate. She confirmed with Zak that she has heard the children singing many times and it is usually when she is alone in some of the buildings. Noel Freedman talked to Zak and told him that he knew of one little girl who died out in the field because she got kicked by a horse. According to the show, there had been 30 headstones out in a field that mysteriously disappeared. Kurtiss Mathis is a friend of Leslie's and he was there one day walking the property when he saw a group of kids playing at the basketball hoops, only there weren't any kids on the property. In the sewing room, Zak stood between two full-body mirrors that faced each other and he claimed to feel an electrical energy. They brought in their equipment. Aaron got the word "electric" on the Ovilus and the Mel Meter spiked to 4.7, so there was something there. We'd love to know if there was electricity to the building.

There are tunnels running under the property and Jay went down there. He asked if there were any children there and you could hear unexplained children's voices in the distance. He also claimed to feel something run and brush by his leg twice and he was waist deep in water. He also said that he heard children singing. One has to wonder why there would be the sounds of children down in these tunnels that have water and are small and seem like they were for maintenance. Aaron and Zak heard multiple loud noises in The Castle that were picked up on the camera audio. It turned out to be a pidgeon. Aaron and Zak found footprints in the Castle. They started in the center of a room and went to a window. On closer inspection, they realized they were made by a raccoon. At this point, Zak and Aaron are figuring that there are no spirits in The Castle, but their minds are changed when they see a bluish glow in the main area of the house. They also caught an EVP at the same time saying, "I see you." Then they caught another EVP of a full sentence saying "Can't do nothing..." and they couldn't understand the rest. Diane thought the end said "can you?"

Jay later caught an anomaly on his camera. The Ovilus said "projection," "hide" and "return" right after the double light orb anomaly was recorded. So Jay and Billy thought they were being told to return to the area of the gym where they had been before. They heard three unexplained knocks when they were standing outside of the shower room and smelled sulfur and they felt something dark was in there. They moved on to the pool room and heard the voices of children. And there was singing caught on the camera audio. Zak and Aaron joined them and they heard a ball bouncing and when they shined their lights to the other end of the pool, a ball that had not been there before was on the bottom of the pool. They had a static camera shooting the entire pool area and they caught the ball rolling from a room into the pool area and then falling into the pool. The only issue for us is that we don't know that there weren't any production people back there. Then Zak asked the child they thought was there to move the ball and it did start moving. However, there was some water in the pool. It did go from completely stationary to rolling though. Zak took the Ovilus down to where the ball was and it gave the name "Carol." The guys got excited and then it said "laugh."

Destination Fear from the Travel Channel also investigated the property in 2021. The idea behind this program is to see ho fear affects hauntings. Dakota, who heads up the team, thought this would be a great place to investigate because these children would have felt a lot of fear, not only because of their treatment, but because they had nobody coming to get them or save them from the situation. Lisa Nyhart has investigated the property and she told the crew that her entire body went into fight or flight mode the minute she walked into The Castle. She felt light-headed and dizzy as well. The team is made up of four people and Dakota had them all start alone in separate locations to give them a feeling of loneliness and being abandoned like the kids. His sister Chelsea was in the High Girls' Cottage and she asked if anyone was with her. The Ovilus said "Ann" and then "Harriet." Dakota took the Music Box into the locker room of the gym and he got some interactions in response to questions. It seemed he was talking to a girl who didn't like her time at the orphanage. Tanner heard coughing in the school. 

They broke into pairs and Chelsea and Alex were in a room on the second floor of The Castle and a door slammed shut on its own. At least it seemed that way, but we couldn't see the bottom of the door. The word "friend" came across the Ovilus and "girl" when they asked what was there with them. Then things took a dark turn. "Hide" and "enemy" came across. There are stories that something dark resides in The Castle. The craziest thing happened in the school with Tanner and Dakota. They blew up three balloons, tied strings on them and hung them from the ceiling. They moved slightly back and forth because of a draft, so I told Kelly the balloons would have to move drastically to convince me there was something paranormal. One of the balloons exploded. 

Living in an orphanage would have been very lonely and scary. But there would have been good times too. Lots of children to play with and lots of activities to help develop into a prepared adult. Most of the activity here seems fairly positive. Much of it seems female in nature. Is the Twin Bridges Orphanage haunted? That is for you to decide!

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