How Orphan Trains Affect Our Lives, Today

     Have you ever read about Orphan Train Children?  Who knew that little children were scattered over a nation, by way of train, to provide homes?  If you’ve never heard of this system of placing children with families, you really should pick up some books about it and start reading.
     Charles Loring Brace, a young minister, had moved to New York City to continue his Seminary training.  Coming from a prominent Connecticutt family, he was completely shocked at what he discovered.  Thousands of homeless children roamed the streets, orphaned, abandoned, forgotten.

     Wanting to help, Charles formed the Children’s Aid Society in 1853, in an effort to unite desperate, needy children with loving parents.  Farming families to the west, he felt, would provide the love and nurture that these children so desperately needed.  Eventually, through his efforts, more than 100,000 children were placed into homes by sending them on what became known as Orphan Trains.

     There are arguments for and against the system that was used for placing so many children.  Naturally, there were those who abused such a plan, taking into their homes only those whom they felt would work hard and provide free labor.  Having read a great deal on the subject, I’m also aware that there were cases of physical and sexual abuse.  However, there can be found many stories of loving, caring families who took their responsibilities to train a child and show love as the sacred position it should be.

     Depending on the account I am reading at the moment, I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, there were actually vagrant children as young as five years old who were thrown into prison with adult criminals because they had nowhere to go, before the Orphan Train was established.  I cannot imagine the horrors that such a child would experience.  Charles Loring Brace knew there would be abuses, I’m sure.  Overall, though, I believe that he felt Good would prevail and the world, particularly for the forgotten children, would be a better place.

     As I understand it, the Orphan Train became the forerunner to the Fostering system we have, today.  Sadly, in both worlds, there are some who abuse the system.  But I hope I am correct in believing that many children do find loving and caring adults, with whom lasting relationships are developed.  No one should be without love and anyone who has or does abuse a child is, in my opinion, lower than the dirt and deserves every bit of punishment they receive, here and in the hereafter.

     Are you or do you know someone whose life was changed by the Orphan Trains?  I would so much like to meet and visit with you.  Perhaps you know someone and don’t even realize it?  I think we would all be surprised to know our neighbors a little better.  Don’t you?  Until the next time, keep a hug on.



3 thoughts on “How Orphan Trains Affect Our Lives, Today

  1. I have never heard of The Orphan Trains. I agree with you….. This was probably a good system for the most part, like Foster Care. No matter how well any system is watched over there will always be abuses. That is just the evil part of humanity.Informative post…Thanks!*Smile*Marilyn

  2. My grandfather rode the orphan train in 1906 at age 8 to KS. You can read his story in my books: His 6 children were subsequently placed in foster care during the depression when his wife died on her 2nd day of work at the Indian Queen Hotel (she fell down a flight of stairs). My sister is a foster mother. He lived to be 95 and although he was not loved by the people who took him from the train, he made the best of it and lived a full, happy life. We could all learn a thing or 2 from Oliver Nordmark who believed that his life was his own to make of what he would, regardless of what happened to him in his childhood. He also believed in "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and "no one is looking out for you, except you!" A new museum The DiMenna Children's History Museum will be opening in nyc nov. 2011 with an entire pavilion dedicated to the stories of the nearly 250,000 orphan train children (100,000+ sent by the Children's Aid Society). That is sure to help with putting this piece of missing history back in its rightful place – our children's history books!

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