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Sept. 26, 1909: 'Quickest adoption on record'

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: October 27, 2014 - 1:02 PM
 
A “Baby Ousley” was mentioned in one of the Tribune pieces on little Tribuna, the foundling left on the counter of a Minneapolis confectionery in 1909. The story noted that the newspaper had played a role in Baby Ousley's adoption as well, saying that he had been “left in the overcrowded Jean Martin Brown home,” an orphanage in St. Paul. Intrigued, I scoured the Tribune archives and found his remarkable story.
 

Tribune Finds Baby
for Childless Home

 
Sends Reporter to the Jean Martin Brown Home to Secure Birthday Gift.
 
Mrs. R.D. Ousley Selects Tot and Carries Him Away to Present to Husband.
 
Neighbors Will Hold Welcome Party in Home Now Made Complete.
 
“She came, she saw, she took away,” is the brief history of the quickest adoption on record.
 
Mrs. R.D. Ousley, 1619 Girard avenue north, came to The Tribune office at 10:30 o’clock yesterday morning [a Saturday] to ask for aid in finding a baby for adoption that very day, so she might surprise her husband on his birthday today. In just four hours and five minutes, she was holding in her arms a dear little baby boy.
 
Under guidance of a Tribune reporter the necessary certificates were obtained and filled out, and then Mrs. Ousley was led into the nursery of the Jean Martin Brown home, 2239 Commonwealth avenue, where 21 tiny bits of humanity lay in their white cribs and cooed and cried a bit and doubled up their little fists.
 
Mrs. Ousley looked long at each one and finally chose a little 7-month-old boy, with big gray eyes and light hair with a glint of gold, and a little half shy smile. Mrs. Ousley took the little chap home with her, only stopping to have his picture taken.
 
Home Was Incomplete.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Ousley have a pretty home on Girard avenue north, nicely furnished in every detail and built only four years ago. Mr. Ousley is a waiter at the West hotel, where he has been employed 20 years. He and his wife have prospered, but the pretty home was lonely for there was no little child to pet and love and fuss over. Three canary birds and a Spitz dog made up the household. But a fluffy white dog, no matter how affectionate and intelligent he may be, and three little songsters, no matter how gayly they may sing, are at best poor substitutes for a real, live baby, and Mr. and Mrs. Ousley had often expressed the wish in the last two years to adopt a little one for their own.
 
Last Sunday Mrs. Ousley saw the picture of little Dollie, who was left with Mrs. Weese on the East side, and who needed a home as Mrs. Weese was about to move out West. Mrs. Ousley went to see the baby on Monday, but found to her disappointment that there had already been scores of people eager to make the happy youngster theirs, and Dollie had found a good home.
 
Mrs. Ousley looked all week for a baby, for today is her husband’s birthday, and what would be more delightful than to give him a dear little baby for a birthday present? She was unsuccessful, however, and Saturday morning she came to The Tribune office.
 
Could Not Find Baby.
 
“I can’t find a baby anywhere,” she said to the city editor in despair. “Can you help me out?”
 
The man behind the desk didn’t know. He called up the Jean Martin Brown home.
 
“Have you a baby for adoption today?”
 
“Yes, we have babies but not for adoption today,” was the reply from the matron. “There are reference blanks to be filled out and many inquiries to make first.”
 
Then the services of the reporter were called in. She went first to the Children’s home in St. Anthony Park and was given the reference blanks with instructions as to the proper method of filling them out. The next move was to go to the North Side and have the blanks filled out by three of Mrs. Ousley’s neighbors, Mrs. Strike, 1621 Girard avenue north; Mrs. Michael Sullivan, 1615 Girard avenue north, and Mrs. Michael Hoban, 1827 Girard avenue north. Then the reporter, accompanied by Mrs. Ousley, took the long ride to the Children’s home where, the references proving satisfactory, the prospective mother was shown a roomful of babies from which to choose.
 
Baby Will Rule Neighborhood.
 
According to custom at the Jean Martin Brown home, the baby will be taken on a three months’ trial, but Mrs. Ousley says he is as good as adopted now.
 
Master Ousley will receive a hearty welcome into his new home for today he is to be the honor guest at a party of 20 friends who have been invited to celebrate Mr. Ousley’s birthday. The neighbors are all much interested in the new baby as Mrs. Ousley has told them that she hoped to adopt one soon. A neighborhood “baby shower” is to be the next event at which Master Ousley will be the center of attraction.
 
The lucky little lad will be monarch of all he surveys and there will be a fluffy white dog and three canary birds on Girard avenue with their noses out of joint.
 
Two days later, the Tribune reported what happened when Mr. Ousley came home that Saturday night.
 

Seven Months’ Old Baby for Whom The Tribune Found a Home

 
 
Mrs. R.D. Ousley, 1619 Girard avenue north, and the 7-month-old baby boy whom she has taken from the Jean Martin Brown home with a view to adoption. Mrs. Ousley appealed to The Tribune for assistance in finding a baby. Within four hours after she had visited The Tribune offices she was the proud foster mother of this little child. She presented the babe to her husband on the day of his birth anniversary Sunday.
 

Ousley Family Is Happy
With a Baby in Cradle

 
A Christening and a Shower Next for Little Richard.
 
Adopted Son Satisfied in Home of His Foster Parents.
 
When Richard D. Ousley left his home, 1619 Girard avenue north, Saturday morning, the household consisted only of his wife, the white Spitz dog, Dollie, and three canary birds. When he returned home in the evening about 9 o’clock, he found his wife in a rocking chair, holding a little white bundle.
 
“Your birthday present,” said Mrs. Ousley, disclosing something that wriggled and cooed.
 
“Why it’s a baby!” exclaimed Mr. Ousley. “Whose is it?”
 
“It’s ours now,” replied Mrs. Ousley. “We have wanted one for so long, so today I went to The Tribune and they helped me get this little fellow from the Jean Brown Martin home.”
 
Master Ousley, hearing himself referred to, stretched out his tiny hand and gave a dear little smile which made a complete conquest of his new father’s heart.
 
Sunday was Mr. Ousley’s birthday, and what was the surprise of the 35 guests invited to celebrate the occasion, when they saw another guest of honor – a little chap of only 7 months who looked about him with friendly wide open eyes! One would never guess that it was his social debut, for he took it all with the calm demeanor and excellent behavior of an old hand.
 
“He never cries,” said Mrs. Ousley proudly. “I never saw such a good baby.”
 
He is to be called Richard, and his christening is to be a pretty event of the near future. A friend of Mrs. Ousley, Mrs. Frank Smith, is to have her baby baptized at the same time, and the double christening will take place at the German Lutheran church.
 
Richard and Dollie, the dog, have grown to be good friends and the canary birds sing their prettiest for the little one who blinks solemnly at them.
 
Master Dick has already entered on a career of popularity. Since his coming was unexpected, Mrs. Ousley had no opportunity to provide a “trousseau,” but little will he miss it, for this week the neighbors are to have a “baby shower” for him, when every possible article he could need or desire will be made and given by willing hands. Already he has a number of baby clothes, given by Mrs. Frank Smith, whose baby is about the same age.
 
Mrs. Michael Sullivan, a next door neighbor, gave him a pretty white astrakhan coat and Mrs. Strike, the neighbor on the other side, brought over an old German cradle in which she had rocked all of her children, the oldest of whom is now a young man. The cradle was made in Germany and will be handed down to the first child of Mrs. Strike’s eldest son.
 
Even the little pillow that has seen long service in the cradle is now the resting place of Master Richard’s head. 
 
The home built by the Ousleys in 1905 is now home to members of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. Image courtesy of placeography.org
 
EPILOGUE: What happened to little Richard? Research suggests that Richard Earl Ousley, born in Ramsey County on Feb. 18, 1909, led a full life. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, married a woman named Elsie, had a stepson and lived in Las Vegas for a time. He died in the Twin Cities on Aug. 29, 1978, and is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. That leaves so many questions: Where did he go to school? What did he do for a living? Did he know about the circumstances of his birth and adoption? So far I have been unable to find a living blood relative who can fill in the details. "They're all gone," a step-granddaughter told me last month. Still, there must be someone alive who knew him well. I will keep looking.

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