Friday, May 9, 2014

April 30th Program Review - “The Orphan Train”

Paul Erickson, a local Chula Vista resident, provided his “The Orphan Trains” lecture to a crowd of about 35 CVGS members and 20 guests, many of whom came from Fredericka Manor. Paul's mother was one of the estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned or homeless children who were placed in homes all over the United States between 1854 and 1929. There were two large organizations that did this – the Children's Aid Society (started in 1853) and the New York City Foundling Home (started in 1859, about 100,000 babies over the years). The groups wrote to small towns looking for families to take the children. The families could request children by gender, eye and hair color, etc. Special train cars carried 40 to 50 children at a time, with several chaperones.

Each child had their name on their collar, and the destination family name on their jacket or coat. Boys usually wanted to go to farms, and girls usually wanted to be mother's helpers. When they arrived at their destination, the prospective parents met the child and the sponsoring group. The child could be rejected and would then be taken to the next stop for another possible placement. Not all placements worked out. The Orphan Train book has stories about 40 to 50 Orphan Train riders.

Paul's handout had an advertisement that included this information:

Paul's mother was living in an orphanage in 1901 in New York and was sent to Missouri to find a home. She had no idea why she was abandoned. She loved the farm and school, graduated from high school and business college, married and raised a family in Independence, Missouri. Later in life, she hired a tracer of lost relatives, who found a record of a child with her first name and birth date in New York City, the parents marriage date, and the birth of another child in a Presbyterian Church record. After she died, Paul wrote to the brother, Walter, who wrote back saying he had been told his little sister had died. Walter visited Paul, and said “You look just like my dad.”

There is a National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kansas in a historical landmark building of a Union-Pacific train station (see for more information.

No comments: