Carrie Steele Logan founded the Carrie Steele Orphan Home in Atlanta, recognized as the oldest predominantly Black orphanage in Georgia and possibly the oldest organization of its type in the country.
She was born enslaved in Georgia in 1829, according to interviews; as with many formerly enslaved people, there is no birth certificate and no information about her parents. Unlike many African Americans of her time, however, she learned to read and write. After emancipation she served as a matron of the Macon train depot for sixteen years. She next worked as a “stewardess” or maid for the Central of Georgia Railway at Atlanta’s Union Station depot for twenty years. Concerned about the large number of homeless African American children in downtown Atlanta, Steele received permission from the railroad station to place the children in a boxcar during the day so that she could look in on them. She took the abandoned children home with her until they exceeded the capacity of her cottage on Wheat Street (later Auburn Avenue). She eventually resigned from the depot and married a minister, Joseph or Josehia Logan of New York. It is unknown whether they had any children of their own.
Logan wrote a book telling her life story and sold it to raise funds to build an orphanage. She also sold her home and solicited donations from the community. In 1888 the Carrie Steele Orphan Home was chartered through a contract between Steele and Fulton County. The original structure was a two-room house with space for five orphans. A three-story brick structure was constructed in 1892 for $5,000 and provided a nondenominational home for fifty children. Atlanta’s mayor and city council extended the original lease for four acres on Roy Street from ten years to ninety-nine years. The orphanage was created to serve as a place for homeless African American children to be educated, study religion, and learn skills in order to gain employment. A quote attributed to Logan was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1989: “[The orphanage] is meant to care for and train to honest labor the hundreds of colored orphans who are growing up as material for the chain gang.” She served as director of the orphanage until her death in 1900.
The orphanage has housed more than 20,000 children since its inception in 1888. In 1963 the facility was moved to a twenty-three-acre (later twenty-six-acre) site in northwest Atlanta. Known as the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, the private, nonprofit organization continues Logan’s mission of providing shelter for and teaching skills to Atlanta’s orphaned children. The name of the facility was changed in 1950 to recognize the dedication of Clara Maxwell Pitts, who served as orphanage director from 1909 until 1950, and who organized a women’s auxiliary board and established the board of trustees.
Logan died at the age of seventy-one and is buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. Her epitaph reads: “The mother of orphans. She hath done what she could.” For her contributions to children’s welfare, Logan was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement in 1998.