Minta Driver Mullin’s shared the story of Buva College Christian Rescue Home and Training School, with a little help from one of her daughters, Carol Love Polk.
Mrs. Mullins story of Buva began after she came there to work in the 1950s. While working at the home, she met and married, Buva’s founder, the late Elder Moses F. Mullins, a doctor of Pharmacy.
Mrs. Mullins said her husband had a “heart” for working with children. “My husband’s mother worked in a children’s home when he was growing up. I think that is why he became passionate about caring for children, especially those in need,” she said.
The school and rescue home opened in 1911. It was the only Black orphanage in Nashville, TN. Originally, the institution was located on 7th Avenue South; later moving to 1201 Laurel Street, a large structure at the corner of Laural Street and 12th Avenue South. There was a women’s dormitory and a men’s dormitory. At any given time there was from 40 to 60 children, including the Mullins’ children, being cared for in the house. The children ranged in ages from infants to 18 years old.
The young people would come to the facility in various ways. According to Mrs. Mullins, some were left on the porch, their mothers or fathers would bring them; and sometimes even neighbors. Mrs. Mullins daughter said those leaving the children had not intention of coming back to get them. “If a child was brought there, the people did not intend to come back and get them. Many times the children were left with only first names,” said Polk. Many of those in the house were from the same family (siblings).
She said she remembers one instance when a lady brought her neighbor’s children to “the house.” The neighbor said the children had been with her for three weeks; and she could no longer care for them. “She shared that the mother had left the children with her in the past, but never over a week. She would always come back for them; and give her a little money for caring for the children, but this time she never came back,” said Polk. There were a number of children at the house with simular stories.
The young people stayed at the house until age eighteen; and when they left they had been taught skills/trades for their continued survival.
The trades taught at Buva, included: cosmetology, printing (type setting and running a press), music (piano and singing), carpentry, masonry, photography (developing photos), as well as learning to take care of personal needs — cleaning clothing and preparing food.
There were a number of people who worked at the school. There were some who lived on the premises (food and shelter), some worked for small salaries, and some volunteered.
Mrs. Mullins remembered some of the people who were affiliated with the school, like: Dr. Theodore Howard Bullard, doctor; Mr. Redd, photography; Frank Mullins (Dr. Mullins brother) in charge of the boys; Dr. Meadows, a teacher; and Louella Daniels (Mud-dear) was a well known singer in TN), worked with the girls as well as taught cosmetology. Mrs. Mullins also worked with girls and taught. There were a number of other people who cooked, taught and did the washing. The older children also helped with the younger children.
Dr. Mullins, the administrator, also believed in spiritual instruction and structure. Devotions were held three times and there was also Bible teaching.
Buva College Christian Rescue Home and Training School was basically funded through private donations of individuals and organizations. Madame Louella Daniels escorted the young people to various venues to sing. Dr. Mullins also developed an ointment that appeared to grow hair, which he bottled and sold. There was no state, local or federal funding.
Polk says she remembers wonderful times in the house, especially holidays. “People would come from all around to have a party and visit the children — bringing gifts, goodies, and entertainment to the school. They would come from the different colleges also. As a little girl, I remember sitting on Pat Boone’s lap receiving gifts and kindness. At that time Pat Boone was a student at Lipscomb College,” said Polk. “The people were so nice to all of us, each child received gifts.”
Mrs. Mullins said that it was a much needed endeavor, however, it came to an end when a fire caused major destruction; and it was not longer habitable. The Red Cross came to the schools’ aid and found placement for the inhabitants.