These two youngest girls in the family were placed in a home sometime around 1888 or after, Vernie was adopted by a family in Grand Forks ND and appears in the June 13, 1900 US Census with them. The girls reunited in 1911 after a 20 year separation so I'm guessing Vernie was adopted in 1891. Sarah reportedly aged out at age 16. Their parents were Major Watson Downs and Emma Rose McDonald Downs. Their older siblings were William and Harriet (Hattie) Downs. Don't know which home they were in or why they were there, parents were both still around as were older siblings and several aunties. Any information would be helpful as I'll be traveling in the area this summer and would like to visit the home (or it's following agency) to try to learn more. The photo of the two girls as small children may be from the orphanage...not sure. Thanks.
Adding a bit I found about orphanages in general in the La Crosse area and it would seem the girls would have fallen in between the research done by the La Crosse Area Genealogy group: The orphans project was undertaken to locate children in the La Crosse area for genealogical purposes. The male children were housed at St. Michael's Orphanage, located at Ninth and Winnebago streets. Female children were originally sent to live at the St. Francis Orphanage in the village of Sparta, Monroe County, and were enumerated there in the 1880 Census. By the 1900 Census, the female orphans had been moved to the new St. Anne's Orphanage at Eleventh and Market streets in La Crosse and were also enumerated there in the 1910 Census. At all locations the children were cared for by the Franciscan Sisters.