Dutch-Colonies-L Archives

Archiver > Dutch-Colonies > 2001-01 > 0979771696

From: Cliff Lamere <>
Subject: [D-Col] Orphan Trains from New York- 1850s to 1929
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001 17:48:16 -0500

I clipped a very interesting article from the Times-Union, the Albany, NY newspaper, dated 30 Apr 2000. It included a 1900 Kansas photo (Kansas State Historical Society) of an engine and three railroad cars. 90-100 children were standing on top of the cars, on the side of one car, and alongside the engine on a second set of tracks.

The children were from New York City. Does anyone know if a list of the children exists? Did the children change their surnames when they became part of the new family?

Nightmares, dreams come true for those aboard "Orphan Trains"
by Robert Weller - Associated Press
Lakewood, Colo.

It is one of the least-remembered of America's migrations to the West: as many as 350,000 orphan children shipped out of New York on "Orphan Trains" from the 1850s to 1929.
The trains stopped in rural areas so that prospective parents could look over the youngsters and decide whether to take in any of them.
The process wasn't always successful, recalled Dorothy Sharpley, 81, one of six Orphan Train "riders" who attended a reunion Saturday in Colorado. Sharpley said she was rejected by her first adoptive family, in Columbus, Neb.
"I was sent back to New York only to ride the train again and end up in St. Mary's Neb., only 20 miles from Columbus."
The trains were the idea of Methodist minister Charles Loring Brace, founder of the Children's Aid Society of New York, intended as a means of moving children out of the alleys and squalor of a city overrun by immigrants and the Industrial Revolution out to the West and wholesome farm family life. For Sharpley, life before the Orphan Train meant having to beg for food in an orphanage with 600 children.
The Orphan Train was a sweet second chance for many, a Dickensian nightmare for others.
"We'd stop in these little towns and get out of the trains and they'd interview us," said Stanley Cornell, who joined Sharpley at Saturday's reunion.
Cornell, then 6, rode the train twice with his brother, Victor, who was 5.
Their mother died when their sister, Eloise, was born, and their father, a victim of a German gas attack in World War I, was unable to care for them. Another sister took Eloise, but didn't have room for Stanley and Victor.
On their first trip they were taken in by a family in Kansas.
"They were kind and we liked them, but after a couple of months they sent us back. I still don't know why. Maybe their other kids didn't like us," said Cornell, now 80.
On their second trip, they met a Wellington, Texas, man with two daughters who had wanted a son.
"He only wanted one boy, but he took us both," Cornell recalls. His only question "was whether we liked farms and animals," and when they passed that test, he gave them a bag of jelly beans.

This thread: