The Butterbox Babies
1928 - 1945
Find A Grave Memorial

In 1928 a place called "Ideal Maternity Home" opened up in East Chester, Nova Scotia. It was opened and run by William and Lela Young. William was a medical missionary with the Seventh Day Adventist church and Lela was a former teacher who was claiming to be an obstetrician but in reality was only a midwife.

The Ideal Maternity Home was at first a cottage with four bedrooms but would expand over the years, as the "business" got better, to include 54 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms. A woman expecting a baby could pay between $100. and $500. upon arriving at Ideal and that would provide them with room, board and cover the cost of adopting out the baby. If a baby did not live, there was a charge of $20. for a burial in a butter box lined with satin.

An unwed mother could work off her expenses if she did not have enough money to pay for them. With all of the fees and "selling" of babies, the Young's were able to pay off Ideal Maternity Home and owned it outright by 1933. Some parents who came to the maternity home only for the birthing services were told that their child had died when in reality it had not. This child would be put up for adoption. Depending on the needs and wants of a "customer", the Young's would separate siblings or they would lie and say that children had siblings to accommodate each individual couples needs.

Babies there were adaptable were "sold" for up to $10,000. Unfortunately, not all babies were healthy or adaptable.  Any child that was sick, had a birth defect or was a little dark in color was considered "unacceptable" and was starved to death, being fed only a mixture of water and molasses and starving to death took about two weeks. The babies who died were buried in wooden boxes used to carry dairy products, which is where the term "Butter Box Babies" comes from. Each box was lined with satin and the bodies were buried on the property next to a cemetery that was nearby, buried at sea or burned in the furnace of  Ideal Maternity Home.  Some babies who were healthy ended up dying due to the unsanitary conditions and lack of medical care at Ideal Maternity Home. It wasn't until they had been in "business" that they were forced to hire a Registered Nurse.

The maternity home managed to operate without a license for over 17 years even after on March 4, 1936 the Young's were on trial for two counts of manslaughter for the the death of a woman named Eva Neiforth and he  baby. 

The Young's won their case and continued with business as usual. Things always seemed to go in favor of the Young's and if they didn't, they were able to make threats due to the many people in "Society and Politics" who had "bought" babies from them.  In 1940, there was an amendment to the "Maternity Boarding House" act, and the Young's were forced to apply for a license, which luckily they were turned down for.

Later, inspections were made of the Ideal Maternity Home which resulted in it closing it's doors on November 17, 1945. The Young's seemed to not care and still advertised that they had "Lovely Babies For Adoption". Legal troubles were to follow and this eventually lead to the Young's reputation being ruined. They left Nova Scotia totally broke after living there for 35 years.

William eventually died of cancer and Lila moved back to Nova Scotia and was once again teaching. She died in 1969 of Leukemia and her final resting place is the Seventh day Adventist Cemetery which is close to the place where the Butter Box Babies are buried.

On Friday, November 27, 1992 at 11:00am, a memorial service was held for all of the babies who were murdered by the Young's and for the survivors. The service was held in Chester, Nova Scotia at St. Stephen's Anglican Church and the church was full.

You can order a copy of the book written about this tragedy by clicking here:

"The Butterbox babies"

Another page honoring the Butterbox Babies:

In Memory Of The Butterbox Babies

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