- Easier - Beginning in
1854, for seventy-six years thousands of homeless,
neglected poor children from New York City were moved
west to rural towns and farm communities. They
traveled by rail. Families took them into their homes.
Some became foster children or were adopted into a
family. Others lived as boarders, apprentices, or
live-in laborers. Some found good homes; others found
a new life of indentured service or even abuse. Some
loved and were loved in their new homes. Others ran
away or moved on to another family.
- Harder - From 1854 to
1929, orphan trains from New York "placed out" 150,000
to 200,000 destitute children, mainly to homes in the
farming communities of the Midwest. Some of these
children, young infants to age 15, were orphans. Many
were homeless street kids, and others were given-up by
parents unable to provide for their well-being. Some
had been abandoned by their families, were runaways,
or had been removed from abusive homes. Children on
the orphan trains came from the street gangs and
orphan asylums of the city.
- During the orphan train trip, children were
accompanied by a placing agent. The trains stopped in
scheduled locations. Children usually lined up in
front of prospective takers on a platform or at a
meeting hall. They were encouraged to look and act
their best. Inspection sometimes involved poking and
prodding; an attempt to ascertain their value as
workers on farms or in local shops and businesses.
Children that were not selected returned to the train
to travel on to the another stop.
- Two main institutions in New York City were
involved in the mass "migration" of children: The
Children's Aid Society and The New York Foundling
Hospital. Both are operating today, still involved
with aiding in child welfare. The Children's Aid
Society, founded and directed by Charles Loring Brace,
began the orphan trains as a way to "save" poor street
children by placing them with families. The idea was
that families would provide the children food,
clothing, and a living space in return for their help
on the farms. It was hoped that the children would
become an integral part of the families, that they
would be adopted. When it actually worked that way, it
was usually great. Children grew up, married, raised
families, and contributed to the growing nation. Two
orphan train boys went on to become governors of South
Dakota and Alaska. Others were teachers, business
people, legislators, and community leaders. Many
children were placed in situations that didn't work.
Unfortunately, some of these foster families were
abusive and exploitive. Children sometimes moved from
family to family, until they finally were on their
own. And some of the children were difficult,
incorrigible, and delinquent. Billy the Kid was an
orphan train child.
- This website is a collection of magazines, books,
newspapers, newsletters, photos, and interviews.
- Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
- 2) Other Orphan Movements http://www.orphantrainriders.com/International.html
Train: The New York Missouri Connection by S.
Silverman, Comsewogue School District
- This comprehensive website providing all kinds of
information, resources, and activities related to the
orphan trains is a collaborative school project.
- Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
- 2) Online Activities http://www.comsewogue.k12.ny.us/~orphantrain/activities.htm
- Related Project on Orphan Trains:
- 3) Orphan Trains http://millard.esu3.org/norris/Orphan%20Train%20Web%20Page/orphan.htm
Trains from PBS's American
- Here you can read about the trains that carried
orphaned and neglected children from cities in the
northeast to the Midwest. The site includes a
transcript from the PBS show.
Trains of Kansas by C. Dipasquale and S.
Stafford from Kansas Collection
- This extensive website houses stories, history,
newspaper accounts, photos and graphics, and reference
data related to the orphan trains of Kansas.
- Related Websites:
- 2) Adoption & Orphan Trains (Nebraska)
- 3) Iowa Orphan Train Project (3rd Grade Class
Project, Briggs Elementary School,
- Maquoketa Iowa) http://www.maquoketa.k12.ia.us/orphan_train.html
- 4) Indiana Orphan Trains Project http://home.att.net/~sharcraig/otr.htm
- 5) Louisiana Orphan Train http://www.angelfire.com/la/louisianaorphantrain/index.html
- 6) Orphan Train in Michigan http://www.program-source.com/Historical_orphan.htm
- 7) Orphan Trains from Nebraska State Historical
- 8) Orphan Trains to Hamilton County, Iowa
- 9) Orphan Trains to Iowa from IAGenWeb
- 10)Orphan Trains to Missouri by M.D. Patrick and
E.G. Trickel (book summary) http://www.system.missouri.edu/upress/spring1997/patrick.htm
- 11)They Rode the Orphan Trains (Missouri)
- After exploring several of the websites,
complete one or more of the following
- Complete An Orphan Train WebQuest.
Adapt or follow the procedures found at these
- 1) Journey on the Orphan Train with
the Novel "A Family Apart" (Grade 5-7) by
- 2) Orphan Train (Grade 5) by S. Bare,
L. Fortner, J. Hedrick, & S.
- 3) Riding the Orphan Train by K. Ridge
- 4) Will They Take Me As Their Child?
by M.B. Thomas http://schoolweb.missouri.edu/savannah.k12.mo.us/thomas/goodtitlepage.html
- Debate the Orphan Train Movement.
Consider the issue of whether the orphan
relocation movement was a charitable action
or a tragic mistake. Identify the key
historical factors, research to find as much
data as you can, and decide which side of the
argument you wish to take. Debate the issue;
make a strong argument for your view.
- Compare and Contrast 'Orphan Train
Children' to Homeless/Street Kids of
Today. How are they and their welfare
similar and different. Detail your findings.
Consider showing them in a graphic concept
map completed with Inspiration
Software. Finally, what should be done to
ensure the basic welfare of today's children?
How should this be accomplished? An alternate
activity is to compare orphan train children
to children in foster care today.
- Write An Orphan Train Journal.
Imagine that you are a child on an orphan
train. Create a journal about your
experiences. Possibilities for your entries
include the life you left behind in New York
City, the train trip, your new town, family
placement, and other adventures. Be sure to
include descriptions of your new family, why
you think they chose to 'take you in", and
what your new life is like.
- Create An Orphan Train Concept
Map. Include all the factors that
contributed to the creation of orphan trains.
What were the positive and negative aspects
of the procedure?
- Pretend That You Are In A Placement
Town. Choose a real location that was a
destination for an orphan train. Find it on
the map, calculate how many miles the train
traveled from New York. Show the train route
that the orphan train would likely follow to
reach your town. You can find helpful
resources at the Library of Congress
American Memories site for Railroad
Maps. Divide into groups. Each group
should pretend to be a family. Write about
why your family is interested in having an
orphan train child placed with you. What will
you look for and what expectations do you
- Write An Orphan Train Poem. Focus
on one specific aspect of the journey. Maybe
your poem is about feelings. This might be
your feelings as you board the train. Or it
could be your hope for finding a good new
family and home. It could be the loss of your
biological family and their culture. Your
poem can embrace happiness, sadness, and/or
anger and disappointment.
- Other Orphan Train Biographies
Train Riders History by H. Hurd
- This site houses a brief biography and pictures
plus links to other similar sites.
- Not-To-Missed Links Section:
- 2) Other Orphan Train Pages http://www.hamilton.net/subscribers/hurd/orphan.htm
- Other Biographies:
- 3) Riders on an Orphan Train to Kansas - 1911
- 4) Riders' Stories http://www.orphantrainriders.com/riders11.html#menu
- 5) Tracking the Past http://www.komu.com/news/html/body_2orphan_train.html
- 6) Sarah Came on the Orphan Train in 1909: Sister
Mary James' Story by P. Finney Jr., Clarion
Herald (May 13, 1999) http://dominican-sisters.net/stmarys/people/james-m.htm
- More Orphan Train Resources
Home Children by S. Salloum from Adoptive
Families Association of British Columbia
- This article provides a Canadian perspective on
the movement or relocation of orphans.
of Children: Charles Loring Brace
- This is an online biography of the man that is
considered the founder of the modern foster care
movement. He started the Children's Aid Society in New
York and launched the "orphan trains" program.
Valley Museum from Clarinda Chamber of
- This page on the history of a southwest Iowa
community includes a section on "The Page County
Orphan Train Story."
- Related Website:
- 2) Orphan Train Articles from Palo Alto
Reporter (Iowa) http://www.celticcousins.net/paloalto/orphans.htm
Train by P. Moyer
- Learn about the largest migration of children in
- Other Summary Articles:
- 2) New Homes, New Lives: The Era of the Orphan
Trains by M. Pearson from
- America's Past http://www.americaspast.com/article1007.shtml
- 3) Orphan Train by A. Warren, Special to The
Washington Post [November 11, 1998]
- 4) Orphan Train: A Unique Heritage by J. Schlegel
from Valley City Times-Record
- 5) Orphan Train Era by B. Higgins http://members.aol.com/bhiggins/orphan.html
- 6) Orphan Train Program by S. Eischen from The
Algona Upper Des Moines
- [March 27, 1980)]http://www.studerhistory.org/content/orphan.shtml
- 7) Orphan Train to Dougherty http://members.aol.com/Mlochlan/orphans.htm
- 8) Orphan Trains http://www.outfitters.com/~melissa/ot/ot.html
- 9) Orphan Train Riders Exhibit, Reunion Set for
Saturday from Jefferson City News
- Tribune http://www.newstribune.com/stories/060699/com_0606990024.asp
- 10) Orphan Trains Tale An American Tragedy (Book
Review) by D. Veach, The
- Advocate http://br.theadvocate.com/enter/story.asp?StoryID=4078
- 11) Review of The Children's Aid Society of New
York . . . by C.R. Inskeep
- 12) Tucson Author Alison Moore Explores The
History Of The Orphan Train by C. Lowe
Train Genealogy by M.I. Holt from Ancestry
Magazine [January/February 1995]
- This (slow loading - be patient) article provides
information about the orphan trains and the problems
often found in tracing the genealogy of the
Train Movement from The Children's Aid
- Here is a brief summary from the organization
founded by Charles Loring Brace.
- Related Websection from The Children's Aid
- 2) History http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/about/history/
- This site houses a small photograph collection of
children of the orphan trains.
- Related Photograph Collections:
- 2) Lewis Hine Gallery
- 3) Jacob Riis Exhibition from Museum of the City
of New York http://www.mcny.org/riis.htm
Trains: The Author's Perspective
- The author, Andrea Warren, provides her
perspective on the orphan trains.
Arabs" by M.G. Malvasi from Suite
- Learn about Charles Loring Brace and the founding
of the Children's Aid Society.
- Related Articles at Suite 101:
- 2) Westward Ho! All Aboard the Orphan Train by
- 3) Last Orphan Train by M.G. Malvasi
Are A Part Of History: The Story Of The Orphan
Trains by M. Patrick, E. Sheets, and E.
- The authors provide brief excerpts and photos from
- Related Websites
About the National Foster Parent
- This site provides a brief history of foster care
in the United States.
- Related Website:
- 2) History of Foster Care from Have A Heart for
- 3) History Of Foster Care In The United States
from National Advocate
- 4) History of Foster Care in the U.S. by J.
- 5) Improving the Well-Being of Children,
Supporting the Healthy Development of Families
an American Local History Network Project
- Here you find some histories, photographs, orphan
stories, and more.
- Related Website:
- 2) Orphanages/Orphans from Legends &
of the Children (The) Chapter XV from Jacob
Riis's How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the
Tenements of New York
- This chapter is the online edition for Jacob
Riis's classic study of 19th century tenement
- Other Chapters Related To Street Kids:
- 2) Waifs of the City's Slums http://www.yale.edu/amstud/inforev/riis/chap16.html
- 3) Street Arab, The http://www.yale.edu/amstud/inforev/riis/chap16.html
- This comprehensive site provides information,
articles, resources, links, and more related to
- Related Website:
- 2) Rainbow Kids http://www.rainbowkids.com/
- Websites For Teachers
Literature and the Real World by M.E. Van
- This annotated bibliography from "Children's
Literature and the Real World" contains links to web
sites that provide supplemental materials for the
book, "Train to Somewhere."
Train from PBS's American
- This lesson involves chronological thinking,
historical analysis and interpretation, and historical
Train (Grade 4) by L. Tilmont
- This lesson provides an interactive way for
children to gather, infer and organize information in
order to gain meaning.
Train Adventures (Grades 4,6, & 8)
- Here you find lots of ideas of how to incorporate
Joan Lowery Nixon's well known book into the
- Related Website:
- 2) Orphan Train Children (Grades 2, 4, & 5)
Trains (Grades 6-8) from Science
- The purpose of this lesson is to have learners
examine social tradeoffs in the context of the Orphan
Trains, and society's treatment of children whose
parents can no longer care for them.
Lesson Plans for the Iowa Orphan Train
- Here is a collection of lesson 'starter'
and Playing a Role: The Orphan Train
- The students develop a process drama based on
historical events. In the drama, a group of
townspeople await the arrival of a group of orphans
who are to be handed over to families in the town. The
orphan train is delayed.
- Related Sections:
- 2) Curriculum Links http://www.tki.org.nz/r/assessment/exemplars/arts/drama/rpr_4a_links_e.html
- 3) Background http://www.tki.org.nz/r/assessment/exemplars/arts/drama/rpr_4a_links_e.html#background
of the Orphan Train Riders (Grade 8) by C.
Hill from Technology Integration Projects for
- Around the turn of the twentieth century, children
from the East coast were sent to the
Midwest on trains. Once these children were relocated,
they went to live with local families. Read several
personal accounts of actual Orphan Train riders.
- Related Activity from Technology Integration
Projects for Children:
- 2) History of the Orphan Trains by C. Hill
- Created by