Over Christmas vacation DR, the kids and I took a little road trip and we found ourselves in the little town of Concordia, KS where we visited the National Orphan Train Museum. Before we visited the museum I had heard of the Orphan Train and I knew that it brought orphans from New York City and brought out west. I thought the train had only ran for a few years and only brought children to a few states out west.
In fact I learned the Orphan Train ran between 1854 to 1929. There were two main institutions in New York City that helped the children; The New York Foundling Hospital and The Children's Aid Society.
The relocation of these children was the beginning of organized foster care in America and many of children who were relocated were never formally adopted.
Over 250,000 children were relocated to all the 48 continental states. In fact it's estimated that 1 in 25 people in this country are related to an orphan train child.
With the large influx of immigrants to New York City in the late 19th and early 20th century homes were crowded and sickness and disease left many children orphans and many children on the streets while both parents worked.
Although the Orphan Train Museum was small it was set up in a way that was easy for children, who don't want to sit and read signs, to understand the concept of the orphan train. Large photos were mounted on the walls chronologically so that as we walked around the boys and I could discuss what was happening in each photograph and how the great poverty led children in need of help.
Though the Children's Aid Society did send many children out west on the trains they endeavored to teach children domestic skills and a trade as well.
What I found most interesting was that babies and older boys were the most popular children to be chosen from the trains and in fact children could be "ordered". Parents who were looking for a child could fill out a request form specifying gender, age, hair and eye color and organizations such as the Foundling Hospital who took in a large number of infants (foundlings) would do their very best to match children with parents.
It was interesting to find the National Center for the Orphan Train to be in such a little town of Concordia, Kansas but they received the records since Concordia was one of stops along the Orphan Train route.
So, I have to ask....can any of my readers say that they are a related to an orphan trian child?