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When Kaitlyn was 8, her dad drained her mom’s bank account and took everything she had—her mom told him to pack his bags and get out of the house. Kaitlyn got off the bus one day after school with her brother and saw her dad had moved out and all that was left was a note. Kaitlyn was a daddy's girl so when he left, she was devastated. She didn't understand why he left because she was so young. She just knew she got home from school one day and her dad was gone.
In 1883, two Presbyterian women in Charlotte, North Carolina founded the Presbyterian Orphans Home, now called Barium Springs. As needs grew and space did not, the Presbyterian Synod purchased acreage for the Home in Barium Springs, NC. The land they purchased was the site of the legendary, healing "Barium Springs."
In the mid-1700s, the first settlers to explore the area discovered nine springs. These waters contained healthful minerals, with the largest of the springs containing barium. A company called The Great Human Repair Shop was formed and shipped water from the springs throughout America, England and Ireland. To accommodate patients who visited the springs, a 30-room hotel was built. This area and the business it created boomed until the end of World War I when the land was sold to Davidson College and then to the Presbyterian Synod.
After purchase of the land, Presbyterian Children's Home moved to Barium Springs. Over the next ten years, the campus grew with cottages, an infirmary and a school. Until the 1950's, children coming to Barium Springs were mostly orphans who would stay for long periods of time. Many came as infants and stayed until graduation from high school or college. During the reign of the Home's legendary charismatic leader, Mr. Joseph Boudinot (J.B.) Johnston (1922 - 1949), the children produced 85% of the Home's food needs. The Home once operated a farm, orchard, dairy, laundry, print shop, and shoe repair shop, as well as a Baby Cottage, and had a successful athletic program in football, basketball, wrestling, and track. Christian education was a part of daily life at the Home.
In the 1950's, needs for an orphanage decreased, partially due to peacetime and advances in medical technology. Instead, children needing care had one or both parents still living; but suffered from abuse and neglect. Not only did these children need a place of refuge but they also required treatment and therapy. Services expanded in 1969 to include high-quality, full-day childcare for working parents. Later, an alternative school was founded for early middle school to high school students who have not been successful in traditional classroom settings.
To meet the needs of children today, Barium Springs has become a full service child welfare agency also known as a CABHA (Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency). Our stability lies in our deeply-rooted mission and a willingness to attend to the special needs of each generation.
In fiscal year 2010-2011, Barium Springs merged with four different agencies in order to grow into a CABHA or full-service agency. During that time, quality providers like Rainbow Center in Wilkesboro, Our Father’s Place in Statesville, Appalachian Family Innovations in Morganton, Winston-Salem and Asheville and finally, Mountain Youth Resources in Sylva, Bryson City and Franklin joined forces with Barium Springs. These struggling agencies were now in a unique position to grow services instead of cut them. More children and families in need maintained services because of this growth.
If you would like to learn more about our rich history, visit the Barium Museum in Statesville, NC. There is a photo gallery and access to many books written about life at Barium Springs. Schedule a tour.