Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia is the final resting spot for many notable Georgia residents. Founded in 1850, this hallowed place is literally filled with history. Recently, my wife and I attended event at Oakland Cemetery called Tunes from the Tombs, and as we walked around, we happened upon three monuments in Oakland’s African American Grounds that piqued our interest. Looking at the headstones, my wife and I figured these three people may have been somehow related, but initially, we were not sure how.
Buried here (from left to right) are Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison, Josiah A. Logan, and Carrie Steel Logan. Apart from Josiah Logan and Carrie Logan sharing last names, what intrigued us most was all three headstones mentioned a connection to orphans. Below are the inscriptions:
August 1, 1923
June 3, 2010
Fourth director of
Carrie Steele – Pitts Home
1976 – 2009
Josiah A. Logan
Father of Orphans
Dec 14, 1904
In Memory of
Carrie Steel Logan
Died November 3, 1900
Age 71 Yrs.
The mother of orphans.
She hath done what she could.
After our visit, my wife and I started researching these three names and the meanings behind their epitaphs. It turns out the thread that binds these Oakland residents is an amazing Atlanta refuge called the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home (CSPH). The three people interred here share a rich and important history and they helped establish a legacy for children in need that still endures today.
The Legacy of The Carrie Steele – Pitts Home
The Carrie Steele-Pitts Home (CSPH) is a residential youth facility nestled on 35 acres in Southeast Georgia – and it is widely reported to be the oldest black orphanage in the nation. CSPH began in 1888 with a two-room building that housed five children. A three-story brick structure was constructed in 1892 that held about fifty children. Today, CSPH serves hundreds of children per year with a myriad of services.
In the June 2016 issue of Georgia Trend Magazine, Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Lavizzo said “we have expanded our services to reach transitional youths who are 18 to 21 and often have low graduation rates. We have a 100 percent graduation rate, and we see them through to postsecondary education, breaking the cycles of poverty. We also have an after-school program for children whose parents are at work from 3 to 6 o’clock, and we hold a summer camp with an emphasis on STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math] activities.”
Dr. Lavizzo went on to say “each residence hall has two on-duty house parents who are well-trained, compassionate, skilled and loving. We have a long tradition of high-quality care that enables children to thrive and pursue their dreams, and we are always evolving to meet their current needs.”
A Legacy of Directors
Carrie Steel Logan
Carrie Steele Logan was the founder and first Executive Director of CSPH. Mrs. Logan was working as a maid at the Union Railroad Station in downtown Atlanta when she discovered that abandoned children were being left at the station. She began to care for these children, placing them in an empty boxcar during the day and taking them home with her at night.
In 1888, Mrs. Steele successfully obtained a charter for CSPH. She raised funds from the community and she even sold her own home to build the first facility called the “Carrie Steele Orphan Home.”
Carrie Steele married a minister named Josiah Logan in 1890. Very little seems to be know about Mr. Logan other than he was from New York. Mrs. Logan served as director of the orphanage until her death in 1900. Among the many honors and tributes Mrs. Logan received, a bronze statue by Brian R. Owens was erected outside the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta to commemorate her contributions to the city.
Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison
Born in Eastman, Georgia, Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison was 12 when she and two brothers were sent to CSPH after their parents divorced in 1936. The Executive Director at that time was Clara M. Pitts and she was reported to have a genuine affection for little Ollivette. Mrs. Pitts even allowed Mrs. Allison to remain at the facility after Mrs. Allison had reached the age to leave.
In 1950, Mrs. Allison was hired as the CSPH’s first social worker, and she was named Executive Director of CSPH in 1976. It is estimated that she cared for more than 5,000 children during her career.
In a May 2009 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mrs. Allison said she didn’t try to be a substitute mother or grandmother. “The children come from all kinds of hurt and shocks and all kinds of disappointment, things you can’t imagine a young child should have to bear,” she said. “So you do everything the best you can and you do it with consistency, persistence and a lot of patience, love and understanding.” In 1998, Mrs. Allison and CSPH were commended by the Georgia House of Representatives in a resolution celebrating their work.
Other Executive Directors
Since its founding charter in 1888, there have been only five distinguished women that have held the position of CSPH Executive Director:
- Soon after Mrs. Logan’s death in 1900, Mrs. Clara M. Pitts became Executive Director and she served in this role for over 40 years. During this time, CSPH became a United Way agency and moved to a larger facility on Roy Street in southwest Atlanta.
- In 1950, Mrs. Pitts’ daughter, Mrs. Mae Maxwell Yates took over the directorship, and she was responsible for moving CSPH to its current location on Fairburn Road in Atlanta.
- Mrs. Allison was named Executive Director in 1976 and she retired in 2009.
- CSPH’s current Executive Director is Dr. Evelyn Lavizzo. In this video, Dr. Lavizzo shares the importance of giving to CSPH with the Fulton County Solicitor General’s Office:
An Enduring Legacy
From its determined beginnings in the 1800s, CSPH continues to be a lifeline for hundreds of children today. Mrs. Logan’s legacy lives on in the lives that this oasis continues to touch.
CSPH holds yearly fundraisers through star-studded galas and community outreach. The Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison Life Learning Center is CSPH’s latest crown jewel. In addition to providing over 27,000 square feet for the children of CSPH to learn and grow, members of the community can rent space for meetings, banquets, pool parties, weddings and other special events.
Photo credit: GABWA
For More Info
Please see the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home and Historic Oakland Cemetery websites for more information on services and offerings. These two places are true Atlanta treasures.
Carrie Steele-Pitts Home
Historic Oakland Cemetery
Atlanta, Georgia 30312