north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The Oxford Orphanage began when the statewide organization of Masons, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, passed a resolution in 1847 indicating that a seminary of learning should be created to educate children, whether poor or rich, whether orphan or not. The committee assigned to create the school proposed that astronomy, natural philosophy, chemistry, geology, electricity and application to machinery, various processes of manufactures, metallurgy, natural history and engineering be taught. The Masons wanted the students at their school to have as good an education as could be attained anywhere in the nation. On June 24, 1855, the anniversary of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the cornerstone of St. John’s College was laid. The building was completed in December 1857 and opened on July 13, 1858. From the outset the school was unsuccessful. The campus was offered to the state for use as a military school, but, during the war years, served only to house squatters or war refugees.

     John H. Mills in December 1872 suggested that the school should be turned into an orphanage. Trustees accepted his proposal and the former St. John’s College became the first permanent orphanage in North Carolina. Mills moved onto campus and remained in the post until 1884. In February 1873 the first orphans, Robert L. and Nancy Parrish and Isabelle Robertson, took up residence. In the first year of operation, the orphanage welcomed 136 children, 109 of whom remained at the close of the year. The name of the institution was changed in 1923 to Oxford Orphanage and, in 1994, to the Masonic Home for Children. In 2000 the home launched an ambitious campaign to attain state licensing, improve and expand services, and construct a set of new, handicapped-accessible one-story cottages.

Nettie Nichols Bemis, Life at Oxford (1937)
B. W. Rogers, Historical Sketch of the Oxford Orphan Asylum, 1872-1909 (1909)
Creasy K. Proctor, The Story of St. John’s College and Oxford Orphanage (1932)
Masonic Home for Children website:
History of the Orphanage:
Location: County:

Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

Old St. John's College building at Oxford Orphanage

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources