Orphanage founder left impact on Macomb community


In the early 1900’s Macomb was home to the McDonough County Orphanage. The matron of the orphanage, Josie Westfall, made her mark on the town of Macomb in a quiet yet impactful way.

Sue Scott, the director of the Western Illinois Museum, shared Josie’s story. 

Josie was born in Macomb in 1874. She grew up a part of the church and helped out around her community. She took on the role of matron of the McDonough County Orphanage. Although there is no direct record, it is said by many that she strived to make the orphanage a better place for the children. She would put the money into upkeep of the orphanage and did not take a salary for herself. 

She was able to raise money for the orphanage and move into a bigger building at 815 E. Jackson St. The building is now an apartment complex. According to the book Haunted Macomb by Garrett Moffett, residents have reported seeing ghosts of children and ghosts of Josie Westfall, the former matron of the orphanage. 

At the same time, women’s suffrage was in full swing. Many women realized that fighting for state’s rights would get them quicker results than fighting for federal voting rights. In 1913 the state of Illinois passed the Presidential and Municipal Voting Act which allowed women to vote for positions that were not in the Constitution and for President of the United States. 

When the election of 1914 arrived, Josie Westfall decided to run for the city judge position in Macomb. She was up against the incumbent, Dean Franklin, who came from a long line of lawyers. She ended up winning in every ward in Macomb. However, after only two years of serving as the city judge, she was removed from office. Franklin appealed the election all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. He argued that since the position was in the Constitution, the women’s votes should be thrown out. Franklin had 19 more male votes than Josie, and so ultimately, he was put back into the position. 

During Josie’s time as city judge, it is said that she commonly took on divorce cases and ruled in favor of women receiving property, money and custody of children. It is unknown whether this was a difference from her predecessor.

There is no record as to whether Josie was a suffragette or not, but if she was she did, it was in a quiet and respectful manner.

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