CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) — They called themselves the Sixteeners, and in 1926 they erected a monument in Willow Park in Camp Hill. The short stone obelisk honors their alma mater, the White Hall School, one of 44 Schools for the children of Pennsylvania soldiers killed or severely wounded during the Civil War.

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In 1864, with the war still raging, the state legislature, at the urging of Governor Andrew Curtin, passed a measure allowing him to accept a $50,000 donation-about $8,973,801 in today’s money-from the Pennsylvania Railroad to establish an institution for “the education and maintenance of destitute orphan children of deceased soldiers and sailors.”

(Curtin’s interest in the matter began in 1863. A few months after the Battle of Gettysburg, two Union Soldier orphans knocked on the door the Governor’s residence, then located at Second and Chestnut Streets, begging for food-on the evening of a day of thanksgiving proclaimed by President Lincoln.)

This led to the creation of the orphans’ schools. White Hall, opening in 1866, was one of the first. It was located at what’s now the 2100 block of Market Street in Camp Hill. Just behind the main building, the school had a 35 acre farm.

Students had to be the children of soldiers that either died in battle, or were wounded so badly they couldn’t support their families. Both boys and girls lived at the school. They They were accepted starting at age 10, and graduated at age 16, hence the term sixteeners. They all learned the 3Rs-“reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic.” (Older students could take a number of science and mathematics courses, history, philosophy and bookkeeping.)

Students’ days began at 5 a.m. for inspection, followed by 15 minutes of prayer, then 45 minutes for breakfast-and then time out for play. There followed six hours of school, with a noontime meal and two recesses. Following supper they had 30 minutes of play, then an hour for activities such as study, or performing music. After an evening service, they went to bed at 8:p.m. Two hours per day were devoted to practical vocational experience. Boys did farm work, and girls practiced “domestic arts” such as sewing and knitting. In addition the male students, who wore uniforms that resembled those worn by their fathers in the Union army, did military parade ground training.

In all over 1000 children went through White Hall. But by the late 1800s there weren’t many children of the Civil War veterans left. The school closed in 1890. For much of the 20th century, the building was used for stores and apartments. It was finally demolished in 1985 to make room for more modern buildings-the same year the monument in Willow Park was restored for the Camp Hill Centennial.

It stands as a reminder of a time Pennsylvania decided to set up schools to look after some of the most innocent victims of the nation’s bloodiest war.