Orphan trains presentation


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This powerpoint presentation was created with material from the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America. It covers a little known and oft overlooked program in the history of our nation. This movement led to the implementation of child labor laws, as well as other important developments in the protection of our youngest citizens.

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  • With the influx of so many immigrants to New York, and the conditions that resulted from the rapidly growing population, many children where left to fend for themselves on the streets. The history of the OT is closely connected to events taking place in Europe. Famine, political unrest and wars, created an atmosphere of restlessness among many young parents. They wanted their children to grow up in a country where they would have a chance to own property, be owners of businesses, and have religious freedom. America seemed to be just such a place. At the same time (1850s), the railroad industry in America wanted to populate the west so they would have a market for goods hauled by rail. Overcrowding, too many workers, and not enough jobs, added to unsanitary living conditions which spread disease and death, led to many adults dying and leaving behind large families of small children. Many men worked on ships and if their wife should die (often in childbirth) he couldn’t work and take care of the children at the same time. On the other hand, many men were killed while working at industrial jobs, leaving a widow who had no means of support for the family. Jobs for women were scarce at best. Children were left to take care of themselves at an early age. This created a mass of “street Arabs” as the homeless children were called. They started out holding “Boy’s Meetings”, which they hoped would keep boys off of the streets, and give them a good education and religious influence. Unfortunately this did not work. But they did come up with a different plan. They decided to take children and send them out west to get them away from the influences of the city. A group of 46 boys of “workable age” (7 to 15) were sent out of New York City to Dowagiac, Michigan in 1954. It was first call “free home placing out”. The fact they rode trains did not have any bearing on the name of the program until Dorothea G. Petrie and James Magnusson authored the book, Orphan Train, in 1978. From this period on, the term “orphan train” has been used liberally. This number varies from 150,000 to 250,000. Children who rode the train were not always what we would considered an “orphan”. Some still had one or both parents still living. The last train from the CAS ran to Sulphur Springs, Texas on May 31, 1929.
  • A seldom stated but vital aspect of the Society’s philosophy was its attitude toward heredity and environment. Brace asserted that “a most powerful and continual source of crime with the young is Inheritance – the transmitted tendencies and qualities of their parents, or of several generations of ancestors”. During the first year, 207 young people were placed in New York and neighboring states. Many were simply relocated in the city either as servants in the homes of the well-to-do, or as members of poor families who needed more breadwinners to make ends meet. In 1854, because of the magnitude of the work and limitation of funds, the Society initiated a system of group emigration, and placement technique that characterized its relocation work of the next fifty years. The first 37 years, the organization placed 92,292 children. From the mid 1890s on, the number fell of drastically. Better educational facilities within NYC, compulsory attendance laws, slum clearance, sanitation, stricter laws regarding child labor, and a decline in the demand for agricultural laborers all played a part. Opposition to the system and the development of new techniques in the child welfare movement also had an effect. Critics
  • AFGS taught beginning education in the morning, and a skill like sewing in the afternoon. The NYJA sent children out under an Indenture plan. These children were normally of workable age, six years to eighteen year. The Indenture gave a child the right to a new suit of clothes, a specified amount of money, and a new bible when they became of age. NEHFLW was established to care for the children of the Civil War veterans by the Boston Methodists. A different placement method was used by the Foundling. They contacted priests who in turn asked their congregations to consider taking one or more orphans. They used an indenture form which gave them the right to come into the home and remove the child without going to court if need be. They required all families taking a child to raise if in the Catholic faith. The families could specify the physically features of the children they wanted.
  • 56 year period
  • In 1900 Clarke became an agent for CAS.
  • Reads as follows: These children are of various ages and of both sexes, having been thrown friendless upon the world. They come under the auspices of the CAS of New York. They are well disciplined, having come from various orphanages. The citizens of this community are asked to assist the agent in finding good homes for them. Persons taking these children must be recommended by the local committee. They must treat the children in every way as members of the family, sending them to school, church, Sabbath school and properly clothe them until they are 18 years old. Protestant children placed in Protestant homes and Catholic children in Catholic homes. The following well known citizens have agreed to act as local committee to aid the agents in securing homes:
  • Gervin Dunfree – No info on him Agents would plan a route, send flyers to towns along the way, and arrange for a screening committee in towns to scout for potential homes. The committee (mostly men) was usually made up of a town doctor, clergyman, newspaper editor, store owner and/or teacher. The committee was asked to select possible parents for the children and approve or disapprove on the day the children arrived.
  • John Jacobus – Ottawa, KS 1915 A contract was signed between the CAS and the adults taking the children
  • Reads as follows: Boys fifteen years old are expected to work till they are eighteen for their board and clothes. At the end of that time they are at liberty to make their own arrangements. Boys between twelve and fifteen are expected to work for their board and clothes till they are eighteen, but must be sent to school a p art of each year, after that it is expected that they receive wages. Boys under twelve are expected to remain till they are eighteen, and must be treated by the applicants as one of their own children in matters of schooling, clothing and training. Should a removal be necessary it can be arranged through the committee or by writing to the Agent. The Society reserved the right of removing a boy at any time for just cause. We desire to hear from every child twice a year.
  • Nettie on left and Nellie on right. Taken in McPherson in January 1913 when they were age seven. Their father was a farmer and heavy equipment operator. He worked on the Erie Canal and other places in New York and was gone from home. Their mother married at 16, and was home sick a lot for her family. She would leave the children to go home to Burlington, Vermont. They were identical twins, but were also “mirror imaging”. Nettie is right-handed, Nellie is left. Nettie’s curls go clockwise and Nellie are counterclockwise swirls. Many times when they were separated and longing for each other, they would look in in the mirror and see the other girl. In 1910 they were living in NY. Nellie remembered the day when her, her sister, and their brother were taken away. She said, “Mother had Nettie on one knee and me on the other. I said ‘Mama why are you crying?’ ‘I’m not crying,’ she said and she was trying to smile. But just then the man came with the dray wagon to take us to the orphanage”. They were placed in the Kingston Orphan’s Home. They were told to break all ties with the past and given new birth dates. Later, they tried to find their records at the Orphanage, but were told they burned in a fire. They left on Sept. 11, 1911. Leon was left behind. In Kansas City, they were put on a bench to sing “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” to draw a crowd. They were escorted by Anna Hill. In McPherson, most of the children were taken, but the girls didn’t want to be separated, so Hill took them to Canton KS. Chapin family. Mrs. Chapin was not nice. After 16 months, Hill came to get them. Darrah family.
  • While gathering material for a county history book project, Johnson learned of a family of children, the Salverson’s, coming on a train to Springdale where they were separated from each other. Collected over 10,000 OTR information and stories for 18 years.
  • Orphan trains presentation

    1. 1. The Orphan Trains and Their Riders
    2. 2. History at a Glance <ul><li>In 1852, the NY Chief of Police reported that 10,000 dependent and delinquent children lived in the city. </li></ul><ul><li>Children’s Aid Society was formed in 1853 </li></ul><ul><li>In 1854, the first group of children were sent to Michigan </li></ul><ul><li>The “Free Home Placing Out” continued until 1929 </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, homeless children and poor families were placed in homes </li></ul>
    3. 3. Beginning of the Children’s Aid Society <ul><li>Formed by Charles Loring Brace – first secretary of CAS </li></ul><ul><li>He developed the “Placing Out” system </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy of the Society </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Idea of self-help </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gospel of work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of education </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Orphanages <ul><li>In 1834, the American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless was established </li></ul><ul><li>In 1853, the New York Juvenile Asylum was opened </li></ul><ul><li>From 1865 to 1903 the New England Home for Little Wonderers in Boston sent children out west </li></ul><ul><li>In 1869 to 1912, the New York Foundling Hospital was founded </li></ul>
    5. 5. Distribution of Children
    6. 6. Children’s Aid Society Agents <ul><li>Western Agents would visit the towns to scout out good locations to place children </li></ul><ul><li>They then traveled with the children & supervised the placing out process. </li></ul><ul><li>They were required to followed up on the children at least once a year. </li></ul><ul><li>Two Agents: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anna Laura Hill – mainly brought children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to Kansas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reverend Clark – mainly brought children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to Iowa. </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. CAS Advertisement
    8. 8. Placing Out Process <ul><li>A “screening committee” was formed </li></ul><ul><li>They would usually receive a bath, a new set of clothes, and a bible </li></ul><ul><li>Children would travel by train or other means with an agent </li></ul><ul><li>The children would go to a town meeting hall or other “neutral” building </li></ul><ul><li>The placing agent would give a talk on the procedures and a short sermon </li></ul>
    9. 9. Placing Out Process (continued) <ul><li>The children would line on a stage or platform. </li></ul><ul><li>The interested townspeople would fill out an application for the child they wanted </li></ul><ul><li>The children would usually go home with the adult(s) for lunch </li></ul><ul><li>They would return and the committee would announce who received which child </li></ul><ul><li>Those children not chosen would stay with the agent or move on to the next city </li></ul>
    10. 10. Placement Terms
    11. 11. Two Orphan’s Story <ul><li>Nellie S. and Nettie M. Crook </li></ul>Nettie Crook
    12. 12. Orphan Train Heritage Society of America (OTHSA) <ul><li>Founded by Mary Ellen Johnson in Springdale, Arkansas in 1986. </li></ul><ul><li>Goals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Preserving the history of the orphan trains </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help with research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Host various seminars and annual meetings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publish orphan train riders stories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assist teachers and students </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Consists of the restored Union Pacific Depot and the new Morgan-Dowell Research Center </li></ul><ul><li>Contains the archives and artifacts of the orphan train riders. </li></ul><ul><li>Will have exhibits and information on display about the orphan trains and local railroad history. </li></ul><ul><li>Continue to educate the public about the orphan trains </li></ul>
    14. 14. Restored Train Depot
    15. 15. Questions?