Mother of Orphans, Carrie Steele Logan, Oakland Cemetery

This is part of a continuing series on Atlanta history, told through the Historic Oakland Cemetery.

m-5968The African American Grounds of the Oakland Cemetery were set up in 1866 as an area where Blacks could buy burial space. This separate section reflected the policy of racial segregation that lasted long after the Civil War. Called originally the “colored section,” was a small improvement over the “Slave Square” which was originally designated for African Americans. This section of the historic cemetery is one of the best places to take a self-guided tour, using the iPhone audio guide.

One of the most notable interments is of Carrie Steele Logan (1829-1900), known as the Mother of Orphans. In 1888 this former slave founded the first African-American orphanage in Atlanta. The Carrie Steele Pitts Home is still in existence and paid to repair her plot.

Orphaned as a child, Carrie Steele was born a slave to a Georgia plantation, but she managed to learn to read and write. She worked as a matron in the Macon railroad station after the Civil War, but later moved to Atlanta, accepting a position of “stewardess” at Union Station, in what’s now Five Points, downtown Atlanta. In the 20 years she held this job she became increasingly more concerned about the homeless Black orphans. She received permission to use an abandoned boxcar as shelter for these children during the day. At night, most came to her Wheat Street (now Auburn Avenue) home, but soon her home could not fit them all.

m-6606Buy a larger home to better take care of those orphans was her solution. She quit her job at the railroad in order to write and sell her autobiography. With the money from the sale of her original home plus financial support from organizations and individuals across Atlanta, she acquired a 2-room house, calling it the Carrie Steele Orphan Home in 1888. At this time she also married the New Year minister, Reverend Joshua Logan, who became a partner in her work.

A new and more permanent place In 1892 Atlanta Mayor William Hemphill and the city council granted her a 99 year lease on a new and larger home. The three story residence could hold 50 children and provided basic education, religious instruction and technical training.

Carrie Steele Logan directed the home until her death in 1900, and was succeeded by her longtime assistant, Clara Pitts, who continued the work for another 40 years. Pitts was succeeded by her daughter, May Maxwell Yates. It’s estimated that over the last 120+ years, over 20,000 children have been provided for at the Carrie Steele Pitts Home.

Cast bronze relief sculpture, by artist Brian R. Owens and commissioned by the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta (CODA)
Cast bronze relief sculpture, by artist Brian R. Owens and commissioned by the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta (CODA)

Carrie Steele Logan is buried beside her husband who died in 1904. Her epitaph is a simple tribute to the woman who was the mother of so many orphans. “Mother of Children, She Hath Done All She Could.” She was inducted into the Georgia Woman of Achievement in 1998.

Special tours at Oakland Cemetery

African American History at Oakland – Learn about the many interesting African Americans who helped shape the history of Atlanta including Mayor Maynard Jackson; Bishop Wesley John Gaines, minister and founder of Morris Brown College; Carrie Steele Logan, who established the first black orphanage in Atlanta; Antoine Graves, pioneer real estate broker; and Selena Sloan Butler, co-founder of the PTA in the United States. Dates: Saturday: 6/29, 8/31, Sunday: 3/31, 9/29.