Looking back: Orphaned Danville boy chooses ‘mother’ in Nashville

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, June 10, 2021


Contributing writer

An 13-year boy, who claimed to be an orphan from Danville, was given a new home in Nashville, Tennessee, according to articles in the Advocate-Messenger in March 1939. However, after an investigation, local authorities were unable to confirm that Robert Hixon was from Danville.

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They checked welfare agencies, school and county officials in an extended search in an effort to track down Robert’s identity.

Upon arriving in Nashville, the youth asked police, “Please help me find a place to sleep.”

“A big, red-faced Irish policeman, Patrolman Tom H. O’Neal, took the boy home with him. There was something

about the kid he liked.”

After an article appeared in the Nashville newspaper about the boy wanting a home, approximately 100 people called the officer offering to care for the 13-year-old.

Robert found a home where there were cows, pigs and chickens and a “mother” who had reared 20 other children.

“I guess I’ve raised 20 different youngsters in my time,” said Mrs. Robert L. Burrus  a gray-haired motherly woman with whom Robert will live.”

She had raised three children of her own, several of her sister’s children and some youngsters from an industrial school.

“I knew that Robert was going to be my next one when I read about him in the paper,” she told reporters who went to her farm near Nashville to discover why Robert chose her from among the applicants.

“The youngster is a one-man back-to-the-farm movement,” she said.

He old officers he came to Nashville to find a job on a farm declaring “no city life for me.”

Robert and his new “mother clicked” from the start. She took him immediately to her home, where she lived with a widowed daughter, and turned him loose to frolic with the farm animals.

Robert also told officers he had been living in Danville with a family that took him in after his parents died. When the family moved, there was no room for Robert, and he hitchhiked to Nashville, intending to go to Memphis to see his grandmother.

Nashville city and county authorities checked on Robert, but were unable to find a trace of him.

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