Butterbox Babies

From:  "The Ideal Maternity Home"

Lila Gladys Young was daughter of Salem and Bessie Coolen. The family was of strong Seventh-day Adventists faith. Lila became a teacher, after finishing school, then taught school in Fox Point, Nova Scotia.

In 1925, at the age of 26, she met William Peach Young (b. 11 Jan 1898), and they were married in 1925. William was an unordained Seventh-day Adventist minister from Memramcook, New Brunswick . He graduated from the Medical Evangelists College in 1923. He was a self-designated medical missionary, caring for the sick and spreading the gospel along the South Shore. They moved to Chicago, and in December 1927, William graduated from the National College of Chiropractic. The same year, Lila graduated from the National School of Obstetrics and Midwifery. They returned to Nova Scotia and in February 1928 opened "The Life and Health Sanitarium - Where the Sick Get well.". They worked out of their 4 bedroom cottage in East Chester, with barely enough money to buy cots for the patients to sleep on. Lila started delivering babies, and within a year the Youngs were specializing in maternity services, largely for unwed mothers. Their business became known as The Ideal Maternity Home And Sanitarium.

 Privacy And Discretion Guaranteed

Privacy And Discretion Guaranteed: Payment on arrival was a condition, between $100 and $500 for room and board, delivery, and the adoption of the baby. It was an additional $12 for layette, and a baby sitting service of $2 per week. (charged in the early days of operation). The opportunity to work off debt, if unable to pay their bill, was an option for the young mothers. Burial fees of $20 were also charged to cover the cost of the burial of babies that died at the Home. The $20 included $5 toward a shroud, and $15 for the Youngs, who would be present at the burial. The burial fee included a white pine "coffin". They were "lovely butterboxes", (from the local grocer) mitered and very , very smooth, according to Lila, and always lined with satin.

 Elaborate contracts were signed by the unwed mothers, giving William the power of attorney and legal authority over their babies and their adoptions. If not signed within 14 days of the birth, they were charged an additional $30.00. By the time the girls left the Home their bills often exceeded $300.00. *(Average wages at this time were: Sales clerks $8 per week, domestics $4 per week)

With the increase in the number of babies for adoption, the American tourist trade, hard working lawyers, and the Greed of the Youngs, a whole new, wealthy adoption market opened, and many babies found new homes in the USA, where many couples were restricted from adopting, due to age, state laws, etc. These grateful new parents were very generous, and made large and generous "contributions" to the Home out of "gratitude". Many of these children found good homes, but not in all cases "legal". In many cases, these new parents were not aware that siblings (twins) may have been separated to provide them with their chosen child, or that the child may have been secretly taken away from it's mother. In the mid 40's the pregnant girls coming to the Home were generating revenues of about $60,000, for the Youngs, but the real money was coming from the baby sales. Babies were sold for between $1000 and $10,000 each. On top of that, donations were demanded and expected. Even allowing for the "rejected" babies and those who died - at least 10 percent of the total - and sales to the less lucrative local market, it is reasonable to estimate that half the babies, 700 or so, were sold for an average of about $5,000. That is a total of $3.5 million.  

The Ideal Maternity Home was big business.

In 1933, the Youngs had plans to expand the Home. Over the next few years there were many changes, some of which William did himself. The Home was growing in reputation and with that the number of births and adoptions. In 1939 the Youngs paid off their mortgage on the Maternity Home, and then built their own home, a three story house containing nine bedrooms, three bathrooms, den, dining room, living room and kitchen.

Over the next six years they bought new cars and land and continued to add to their assets. By 1943, the Youngs were well on their way to wealth. After several additions and expansions, the cottage they started with in 1928 was now a huge structure with 54 rooms and 14 bathrooms. The home had elegant turrets and was surrounded by expansive lawns and greenery and most important to the Youngs - mortgage free.

By 1933 some people were taking an interest in the Home. The Liberal Party swept into office and Dr. Frank Roy Davis was appointed to the Public Health portfolio, and he was introduced to problems at the Ideal Maternity Home. He heard some of the gossip regarding baby deaths at the Home, and for the next 15 years that he spent in office, he proved to be an enormous thorn in the Young's business lives. Also in 1933 - in response to mounting pressure, the Youngs were forced to hire their first Registered Nurse.

On March 4, 1936 the Youngs were arraigned on two counts of manslaughter related to the death of Eva Neiforth and her baby, but succeeded in winning the case. Following this Public Health Minister Frank Roy Davis ordered the RCMP to investigate all known deaths at the Home. In the years that followed They were charged with fraud, and under constant investigation. The Youngs had built up a strong support group, which was constantly there and supported them. This included prominent citizens, and politicians. They "presented" themselves very well, and if things looked as if they might go against them, they weren't above threatening, as there were now, many prominent people in society, and politics, who had discretely used the services of the Home over the years. Up to this time the Home was permitted to operate without license (17 years). In 1940 The Maternity Boarding House Act was amended, and William and Lila applied for license, and were turned down. On November 17, 1945, based on findings from inspections the Ideal Maternity Home was ordered closed.

Despite this, the Youngs were still advertising "Lovely Babies for Adoption". Frank Davis continued in his battle to be rid of the Ideal Maternity Home forever and began to track some of these adoptions. New Jersey officials came to his aid as they were also trying to crack down on illegal adoptions and baby smuggling. In the fall, a New Jersey newspaper reported that the smuggling scheme had been uncovered. To avoid an even bigger scandal, child welfare officials in Canada and the U.S. remained on the lookout for the unauthorized movement of adopted babies that didn't have government approval. To get around this one, the Youngs devised an alternate strategy which was to convince the birth mothers to travel with their babies to the U.S. After numerous charges, and some unsuccessful court appearances, fines, etc., the Youngs announced that they were closing their Maternity Home and opening a Hotel. About the same time a Montreal newspaper article was released, telling of the Young's business, bringing unfavorable attention from both Canada and the U.S again. The Youngs were back in court again, attempting to sue for slander, but lost their case.

Following the trial, the Youngs developed serious financial problems, their reputation hurt their business, their profits dwindled, and they were now in debt.. Bankrupt, they left East Chester, penniless, as they were when they arrived thirty years earlier. Two of their five children moved to Sudbury Ontario, one to the U.S., and two remained in Nova Scotia. The Home was destroyed by fire in 1962. Several years after their hasty departure, William died of cancer, and Lila returned to Nova Scotia and resumed teaching school near Fox Point, where she grew up, In 1969, at the age of 70, Lila died of Leukemia and was buried in the Seventh -day Adventist Cemetery in Fox Point...close to the many babies, in their Butterbox Coffins, who didn't have a chance to enjoy life.

***This information is reproduced from the book "The Butterbox Babies" written by Bette Cahill. http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/bhartlen/PAGE1.HTM

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