To please our American readers we are setting sail across the sea to land in Massachusetts, to reveal a story involving the famous American evangelist, Dwight Lyman Moody, 12 orphan boys from Manchester and a brave child’s fight to save his pal.
The Refuge had been partaking in the emigration of some of Manchester’s orphan children since 1872, across to the spacious, clean lands in Ontario, Canada. Here they would live with the local farmers, working the land if they were boys or helping out in domestic duties if girls.
Manchester boy working on the farms of Canada
In 1883 however, the boys' emigration party had a different destination; Northfield in Massachusetts. Here lay a group of Training Homes, set up by D.L. Moody, to educate young people who had limited access to education because they were poor. Its aim was to prepare them for ministerial or missionary work.
D.L. Moody travelled the world to spread his religious message to the masses. He came to Manchester in 1883 and was invited by Mr Shaw to visit the six orphan homes at Cheetham Hill. Of course he accepted gleefully and whilst there suggested that 12 of the lads accompany him back to America to be trained in one of his homes.
12 boys sent to Mr Moody’s homes, Massachusetts, with Leonard Shaw
The boys travelled in May 1883 and arrived at the open fields of Northfield into their own house, which is still called Manchester House at the school today. Many of these boys went on to have successful careers in America largely as preachers, teachers or in medical environments.
But what about ‘the brave child’s fight to save his pal?’ I hear you ask. Be prepared as it’s a sad tale...
|Austin's application form, 1882|
Little Austin came to us under dire circumstances. He was living in a disreputable house with a woman of the most scandalous nature. Often he’d be sent out to buy beer and then would be ordered to sleep in a corner, dirty and ragged. Once at Northfield the boys all sent letters back to the Refuge, writing of their delight at being at the Homes. Austin had finally found a proper home – or he had until 25th August 1884. On this day he drowned in the River Connecticut after diving in, in an attempt to rescue two of his friends who had got into difficulties. Austin, a small 12 year old boy never made it out and his grave still lies at Mount Hermon alongside the two friends he had tried to save.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13