When World War I ended in 1918, its effects were deeply felt throughout American society. Over 116,000 Americans lost their lives during the four years of this epic conflict. In addition, the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 swept across the globe, killing 20 million people worldwide. Families were decimated because of these two global catastrophes. Countless children were left parentless and homeless with no one to care for their needs.
It was clear that something needed to be done. In 1917, The Illinois Baptist, the official publication of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) published an article making it known that they favored an orphanage being built somewhere in Illinois and 40 acres of land would be needed to complete the project. Inspired by the words of James 1:27, several members of the First Baptist Church in Carmi began to develop a plan to secure the necessary acreage.
John W. Hall and Eben Renshaw, both deacons of the First Baptist Church in Carmi, along with Rev. D.F. Marlin, traveled all of White County raising funds and scouting for the ideal property. Twenty people risked their homes and farms to sign a $3,000 note securing 40 acres of property outside Carmi. The land was owned by John W. “Uncle Jack” Holderby. Uncle Jack added to God’s bounty by donating an additional 40 acres to the project.
At the IBSA Convention held in October 1917, members of the Carmi Orphanage Committee presented their proposal. After thanking the citizens of White County for their generous donations, the association officially approved the Committee’s recommendation, and plans to build an orphanage in Carmi began to take shape.