Baker Cottage Orphanage
Baker Cottage “The Mission” INTRODUCTION:
The Untold Story of the Fourth Mission in Ouzinkie
Notes and Acknowledgements: This is the previously untold story of the fourth mission, told now (mostly) through photos of the people and activities of Baker Cottage during its twenty years as an orphanage. I am indebted to Pearl Rold and Jean O. Lund for their scrapbooks from the 1940s, which were found in the collection of Rev. Norman Smith, my father, when he passed away in 1996. I am also indebted to the late Beryl (Butler) Torsen, a close friend of our family, who was a house parent in Ouzinkie during the 1940s, and shared some fascinating stories with me. For an account of our visits to Baker Cottage during the 1950s, please see the article: The Evangel Visits Ouzinkie in the 1950s. For a list of articles involving Baker Cottage in the 1960s (when I was living there), return to the Ouzinkie Index page. Any assistance in identifying unknown persons in the photographs is greatly appreciated! --Timothy Smith, web author, March, 2008
Baker Cottage as it looked from 1938 to 1952, without the chapel addition and framed-in back porch. (Photos circa 1947) Baker joined Ayer, McWhinnie and Doane cottages in Kodiak as the fourth home of the Kodiak Baptist Mission. The buildings were built and occupied in 1938 after fire destroyed the main building on Woody Island, where the orphanage had been since 1893.
Baker Cottage’s namesake: Abby Gunn Baker, an American Baptist philanthropist and Missions supporter, from a frame that hung in Rev. Norman Smith’s office for many years
The letterhead of KBM from the 1940s lists “Baker Cottage at Ouzinkie” first. Baker Cottage was originally supposed to be the first children’s home built in the villages, to be followed by many others, but Baker was the only one ever built beyond the three in Kodiak.
The Fourth Mission: Baker Cottage, the Orphanage (1938-1958)
When the Mission was built in Ouzinkie in 1938, it was part of the new group of Baptist orphanages constructed after the main building on Woody Island burned down. Three cottages were constructed in Kodiak, and Baker Cottage was built in Ouzinkie, two hours away by fishing boat. There were plans for several more orphanages around Kodiak Island, but Baker Cottage ended up as the only village orphanage. When World War II hit, Baker Cottage had an important role. Since the buildings in Kodiak were close to several military targets, it was decided that only older kids would be housed there. A bomb shelter had been built in the forest behind the Kodiak Mission buildings, and the older kids practiced evacuating to the shelter regularly during the war. But Baker Cottage in Ouzinkie housed all the little kids, because it was in a village that had no military targets nearby. Even though Ouzinkie was considerably more remote then than it is now, it was still considered safer for the little ones during wartime.
Little ones such as Lue Rae, Robin and Judy made up most of the Mission family in Ouzinkie during World War II.
Here Lue Rae and Robin enjoy sledding, down the hill from the Mission, near Fred Muller’s house.
In the postwar years, the orphanage in Ouzinkie housed a more diverse group of children. One of the house parents was Beryl Butler, who married a young Ouzinkie man named Bill Torsen. Beryl Torsen passed away in 2007, one of my earliest and dearest mentors. She once told me about their courtship back in the late 1940’s. They were her stories to tell, not mine, so I won’t share them here. Suffice it to say that humble Baker Cottage harbors a few sweet, romantic tales. Among other well-remembered house parents who served at the orphanage were Mary Setzekorn (Miss Setze) and Mildred Crowell. Most of the photos in this section were taken and developed by Pearl Rold, a house parent that put together a simple darkroom in the basement (which I later practically lived in while a young teenager). When the chapel extension was built off the basement in 1952, my father, Rev. Norman Smith, preached the dedication service, never dreaming that Ouzinkie would soon be their last home, and that the chapel would one day be the site of both his and his wife’s memorial services.
The Baker family poses on the slide circa 1947. The house parent on the ladder of the slide is Miss Butler (who later became Mrs. Torsen), and the house parent on the right is Miss Rold. The presence of young and older children shows a more normal mix of ages (as opposed to the makeup of the cottage during the war years). The shed on the upper left was torn down in 1967 while we were living in Baker Cottage.
Bill Torsen rows a group of kids out to a waiting seiner. Jean Lund described him as a “nice young village boy” on the back of this photograph.
Beryl Butler poses with Bill Torsen, an unidentified woman (far left) and a group of kids on the beach. The exact location of this photo is unknown.
Miss Butler’s room, just above the kitchen, was where I stayed for most of the 1960s. This is how it looked in the late 1940s.
Pearl Rold, the main photographer of these shots, stands near the front door of Baker Cottage, circa 1947.
It’s trash day! Once a week, the kids would collect the trash, take it to an old oil barrel incinerator in the back yard, and enjoy a nice fire. Here Miss Rold poses with the work crew.
Some girls and Miss Rold work in the upstairs meeting room (which became Joyce Smith’s kindergarten classroom) on what appears to be sewing machines.
Pearl Rold enjoys a relaxing moment in the living room (photo by Jean Lund, 1946).
The “Baker kids” pose on the swing set with new clothes provided by Stateside donations.
A group of kids in the front yard appear to be dressed for cold weather, but there’s no trace of snow. The same white door to the basement still exists in 2007, but the front steps have been replaced many times, most recently with a nice covered deck.
The boys in the back yard are doing a job I did later in the same spot: pumping oil out of oil barrels into the tank that feeds the cook stove. The furnace in the basement used coal until the early 1960s when Dad converted it to oil.
The Mission’s little garden produced food for the kids during the short growing season. Years later, I grew a few radishes and onions there myself, until the cows discovered them!
This was a hike to Mahoona (Big Lake), and the boys are about where the town dump is now. The names were provided by Jean Lund in her 1946-47 scrapbook.
These Mission girls are enjoying a picnic in the woods. I recognize the Dixie cups, but what is on the plates?
The “Baker Family” poses at the famous Otherside Beach rock. Miss Jean Lund is in the center, wearing a head scarf. The roofs of several potato huts are visible in the background.
Some of the kids pose on the south side of Sourdough's Flats Beach, with Mount Herman in the background.
After Christmas, three girls clean up the tree needles and decorations in the living room in this 1945 photo. The end table to the left still sat in roughly the same location during the almost 50 years that Baker Cottage was the Smith family’s home. The chair in the corner now sits in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
A group of “maskers” visit The Mission after Russian Christmas, following the custom of dressing up in scary costumes to chase the devil away from the Holy Family as they escape to Egypt.
Miss Mary Setzekorn was house parent in Baker Cottage in Ouzinkie for most of its tenure as an orphanage. She was also a registered nurse, and served the entire community in that capacity, even joining the Public Health Services crew aboard the MV Hygiene, which traveled around the island to the villages and canneries in the early 1950s. She also was a dedicated missionary, who held worship services and began a Sunday School in the large upstairs room (the future kindergarten classroom of Joyce Smith) during her years there. The photos of the ladies’ tea document another of her outreaches to the community. There was also a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the Mission. When we moved to Ouzinkie in 1958, we found the village well prepared for the kind of ministry my parents initiated, thanks to the work of “Miss Setze.”
Miss Setze is caught reading in the living room, in a rare moment of relaxation.
Miss Setze takes her trusty Argus C-3 35mm camera out on a snowy day.
Two views of a ladies’ tea in the Mission dining room, late 1940s, one of Mary Setzekorn’s many outreaches to the community.
The Sunday School of Baker Cottage (with many village kids attending as well) pose outside in 1947.
This rare book was based loosely on a child’s experience in Baker Cottage. It was published in 1957. The cover artwork bore little resemblance to the real buildings, but characters such as my parents and various other Baptist workers were identifiable (under fictitious names).
The crew of the Mission’s Vacation Bible School, including the Smith family and many local kids, pose for Dad’s camera in the summer of 1957, one year before the orphanage was closed and we moved into Baker Cottage. Some notable faces: back row has my sister Jerilynn standing next to Noel (checkered shirt). In the center, with white hair, is Mildred Crowell, house parent at Ouzinkie for many years. I’m in Mom’s arms, looking down. At the far end of the rear is Mary Setzekorn, who had served in Ouzinkie since the War years. In the front row, the young man in the yellow shirt, waving a paper, is Jerry Gugel, Jr., who is now a missionary, with his sister Nancy looking up at him to his right. The young man wearing a tie, and the girl on the far right in a dress are the children of Beryl (Butler) Torsen, who was house parent at Baker Cottage during the late 1940s, and Bill Torsen, from Ouzinkie (see earlier in the article). The young lady in the white top and turquoise dress is my older sister Robin. I also see several Squartzoff children, but the rest are unidentified. If you can help me, send an email.
The kids from Baker Cottage say goodbye to the Evangel in this frame from Dad’s 16mm movie, in the summer of 1957. Mildred Crowell is in the rear.
Outrunning the Evangel, some of the same kids race to the end of the dock to wave goodbye in another frame from the 16mm movie. The Bonnie is tied at the face of the dock.
Epilogue: Every now and then I get emails from people who spent part of their youth in Baker Cottage. I have also heard from relatives of several of the house parents over the years. The old-timers in the village still remember Miss Setze and other missionaries fondly. And evidence of Baker Cottage’s two decades as an orphanage can still be found in almost every nook and cranny of the old building (such as shelves in the basement still labeled with the house parents’ names for personal storage). I only wish I remembered more of what that big white building was like when it was a children’s home. For what I do remember from many visits as a child, check out the link at the beginning of this article. Thankfully, we have these wonderful old photographs from Miss Rold and Miss Lund to give us a hint of that world long past. For more photos from those fabulous old scrapbooks, check out the Ouzinkie in the 1940s article and the Then and Now photo essay. For a photo essay of Baker Cottage, room by room, check out my article, “Baker Cottage 48 Years.” And any facts or photos you can add to this project would be very greatly appreciated. –Timothy Smith, March, 2008
Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com) This article and website is © 2005 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Photographers are credited where known, and unless otherwise stated, the photos are from the collection of Rev. Norman L. Smith or the Timothy L. Smith collection. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.
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