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- This video is part of a series titled 'Oakville Heritage Moments.' Produced by the Oakville Public Library, these videos aim to focus on snapshots of Oakville's history. This video focuses on the orphanage in oakville that was owned by the Independent Order of Foresters.
- Video written and produced by the Oakville Public Library’s Digital Heritage Assistant, 2019. Narrated by June Campbell.
Photos from Oakville Images, Oakville Public Library Oakville Historical Society, Town Of Oakville, Metroland Media, Toronto Archives, Wikimedia Commons, Toronto Public Library, Library and Archives of Canada, Smithsonian National Museum of American history, Oakville Choral Society, Deseronto Archives, Halton Healthcare, Canadian Federation of University Women, Trafalgar Township Historical Society.
Music: The Waltzing Cat – Leroy Anderson, performed by Markus Staab via Musopen
Special thanks to the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
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During the early 1900s, an organization by the name of The Independent Order of Foresters entered the town of Oakville and left a mark which can still be seen today. The IOF was a fraternal society which provided a simplified form of life insurance to its members. What set it apart from other life insurance brokers in the mid 1800s was the fact that the average workman could afford it while other insurance was often too expensive, and its progressive values of gender equality and caring for children. It is said that this is thanks to Dr. Oronhyatekha, who was the supreme chief ranger starting in 1879 and spent his time in that position making changes to membership policies, which up until that point had to been closed to anyone who wasn’t a white man.
These values were clearly shown when the IOF opened several two orphanages in Ontario. The Independent Order of Foresters’ Orphans’ Home in Oakville opened in the very early 1900s, and housed the children of deceased IOF members until the building became the Ortona Army Barracks during the second world war. This was the second IOF orphanage, opening after the orphanage on Foresters’ Island in Deseronto. The first orphanage was open for just over one year, while the Oakville orphanage remained open until sometime in the 1940s when all IOF orphanages were reportedly closed.
Because it housed the children of deceased IOF members, no adoptions were permitted. Instead, children were looked after and educated until they were “fitted for the battles of life.” The orphanage included a fruit farm and greenhouses, and in a series of postcards, children can be seen harvesting melons and strawberries. The Superintendent was J.C. Morgan, nicknamed “Daddy Morgan,” who was also part of the board of education, and president of the boy scouts.
After it closed in the 1940s, the orphanage building was repurposed as the Ortona Barracks, a training facility and hospital for World War II and later the central command building for the Candian Army in 1946. It still stands today as the home of Central West Specialized Developmental Services.
The Independent Order of Foresters now exists under the name Foresters Financial.