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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Thompson Children's Home

by Louis P. Towles, 2006
Additional research provided by Sheila Bumgarner.

Thompson Children's Home had its beginning in the work of two men-Benjamin Bronson of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Charlotte and Edwin A. Osborne, a recent convert to the Episcopal faith. Bronson initiated the effort by facilitating the purchase of more than 250 acres on what was then the outskirts of Charlotte in order to establish a much-needed school for local youths. On part of the property, he opened a denominational academy in 1870. It was named for the Lewis Thompson family, which furnished much of the initial funding. Although the effort failed for lack of management, the idea was not lost, and in the 1870s Osborne, long interested in educating and caring for "destitute orphans" of every faith, approached Bronson about using the abandoned school for that purpose. In 1866, at Osborne's instigation, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina accepted 61 acres and two buildings and paid part of the debt associated with the Bronson school.

Osborne, the orphanage's first superintendent (1886-98), worked energetically to make his dream a reality. Beginning without money and with the existing facilities in poor condition, he solicited food, used clothing and furniture, and money. With the latter he refurbished the old structures, built new ones, and hired a staff to assist him. By 1888 the school had 30 children, a number that would double within 12 years.

In 1898 Osborne resigned and was replaced by Walter J. Smith (1898-1922). William H. Wheeler (1922-40) and M. D. Whisnant (1940-65) also served as superintendents. Smith and Wheeler tapped new sources of revenue and virtually rebuilt the school. By the 1950s, however, needs were changing. There were fewer orphans, meaning declining numbers at Thompson each year, and children lacking one or both parents were increasingly being served by federal or state agencies. It became clear that Osborne's vision was no longer valid and that the church could not indefinitely fund a traditional but archaic institution.

Two independently based reports supported this conclusion, and under superintendent Robert Noble (1965-78) and director John Powell the mission of the institution was dramatically changed. Instead of concentrating upon orphans, the school would now focus upon the treatment of emotionally disturbed children between the ages of 6 and 12. These children would be drawn from across the state and were to be housed in specially designed treatment cottages. The centers were to be served 24 hours a day with rotating staffs.

Now named Thompson Children's Home, the institution was moved from inner Charlotte, which had gradually surrounded the orphanage, to a 40-acre location on the outskirts of the city. With branches at Fletcher and Goldsboro, a child development center in Charlotte, and a strong foster care system, Thompson Children's Home provides a variety of services to more than 300 children and families annually.


Lawrence Foushee London and Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, eds., The Episcopal Church in North Carolina, 1701-1959 (1987).

Barbara Lockman, A Century's Child: The Story of Thompson Children's Home, 1886-1986 (1986).




Origin - location: 



Do yall take donations? We have a pool table we may want to donate for the


Hi Ted,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and leaving a comment. I recommend contacting Thompson Children's Home ( They have information on their website on how to donate to their organization. It is such a thoughtful gift.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


Are there ways of seeing group photos from 75-19 79 my name is Jodie Long...i grew up in Thompson children's home and was adopted by my wonderful great aunt in 1979 was just wondering about the name was spelled different then and last name (jody mcneely)


Dear Jodie,

Thank for your question and for connecting with us! I suggest contacting the Thompson Children’s home directly at:

There is also a book listed in the bibliography by Barbara Lockman, A Century’s Child: The Story of Thompson Children’s Home, 1886-1986, which may be helpful if you are able to find it in a local public library or through your library’s InterLibrary Loan system.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,


Elizabeth Hayden

Government and Heritage Library


Some of the funds may have come from William Thompson who died 1843 in North Carolina as he left funds for a "male academy"
in his will. He also named General Edmund Bryan, who fought with Pushmataha, as his friend. William also named Elizabeth "Betsey" Miller
who married Isaac Craton in his will. Miller's ancestor Colonel Twitty was killed by Indians when traveling with Daniel Boone.
The Boone and Bryan fort was built with the help of Nathaniel Tate, whose son in law was Lawrence Thompson who was promoted bythe
Continental Congress


My grandmother isabell Scarborough told me she was raised in an orphage in Charlotte . Her birth date was in 1881 . Her mother Flora came and got her out at I'm not sure what age. Her mother had married a Mr. Welch. Do your records go Bach that far ? She was always fond of those years. Thanks for any information I'm doing a ancestry tree.


Dear Gayle,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.  This article is an encyclopedic article in North Carolina's online encyclopedia and does not have any direct relationship with the Thompson Children's Home.

You may wish to contact the home directly.  Here is a link to what appears to be their website:

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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