by Erin Feith, Research Assistant, and Sally Capone, Publicity Coordinator
January 17, 2023
The Morris County Children’s Home opened its doors in 1881. Utilizing funds raised by a local branch of the State Charities Aid and Prison Reform Association, the institution provided shelter and instruction for homeless children at Ailanthus Hall in Parsippany. A somber reminder of the home’s tenure is the Little Lost Cemetery, which acted as the final resting place of young residents who passed away while living there. In these ways, the local community rallied to supply aid to some of its most vulnerable members.
Increasing from 22 residents initially to nearly double that by 1883, the home supported children who were orphaned or those whose families arranged to have them board there. Regardless of circumstance, all residents could participate in the on-site school. Classes were supplemented by instruction in sewing, gardening, and carpentry. Toys, games, magazines, and books donated by “friends of the Home” offered recreation for the young residents. These daily activities were interspersed with special trips away from the grounds, like one to the Barnum-Bailey circus in 1895.
While physicians and nurses were kept on call, the combined factors of illness and the young age of residents led the home to experience its share of loss. Indeed, as was an issue in other institutions of its kind, the home was often unable to halt disease transmission given the close quarters. When tragedy struck, most significantly during outbreaks of influenza and scarlet fever, the home provided burial in the Little Lost Cemetery nearby. Ensuring the remembrance of those who died, small headstones and stone markers were placed in the cemetery by neighbors of the home.
The Morris County Children’s Home closed by 1929, and its long abandoned building was destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Although a solemn reminder of its history, the Little Lost Cemetery can still be found behind the District 6 Firehouse in Parsippany. Its care has been continued by private citizens and local firefighters to this day.