Orphan Trains to Missouri

Overview

As an "orphan train" crossed the country, it left part of its cargo at each stop, a few children in one small town and a few in another. Even though farmers needed many hands for labor, most of the small farm communities could not or would not take all of the children on the train. As the train moved to its next stop, those children not taken feared no one would ever want them.

Early immigration laws encouraged the poor of Europe to find new hope with new lives in the United ...

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Overview

As an "orphan train" crossed the country, it left part of its cargo at each stop, a few children in one small town and a few in another. Even though farmers needed many hands for labor, most of the small farm communities could not or would not take all of the children on the train. As the train moved to its next stop, those children not taken feared no one would ever want them.

Early immigration laws encouraged the poor of Europe to find new hope with new lives in the United States. But sometimes the immigrants exchanged a bad situation in their native country for an even worse one on the streets of New York and other industrial cities. As a result, the streets were filled with crowds of abandoned children that the police called "street arabs." Many New York citizens blamed the street arabs for crime and violence in the city and wanted them placed in orphan homes or prisons.

In 1853 a man by the name of Charles Loring Brace, along with other well-to-do men in New York City, founded the Children's Aid Society. The society planned to give food, lodging, and clothing to homeless children and provide educational and trade opportunities for them. But the number of children needing help was so large that the Children's Aid Society was unable to care for them, and Brace developed a plan to send many of the children to the rural Midwest by train. He was convinced that the children of the streets would find many benefits in rural America. In 1854 he persuaded the board of the society to send the first trainload of orphans west. With this, the orphan trains were born.

Cheap fares, the central location of the state, and numerous small farming towns along the railroad tracks made Missouri the perfect hub for the orphan trains, even though many areas of the state were still largely unsettled. Researchers have estimated that from 150,000 to 400,000 children were sent out on orphan trains, with perhaps as many as 100,000 being placed in Missouri.

Orphan Trains to Missouri documents the history of the children on those Orphan Trains—their struggles, their successes, and their failures. Touching stories of volunteers who oversaw the placement of the orphans as well as stories of the orphans themselves make this a rich record of American and midwestern history.

Discusses the use of orphan trains to place orphaned or abandoned children in homes in nineteenth-century Missouri.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This work began when Trickel and Evelyn Sheets (who died before it could be finished) were teaching genealogy and were surprised at the number of students whose ancestors came to Missouri aboard orphan trains; they were joined by Patrick (English, Univ. of Missouri, Rolla). Their book follows up on the trio's earlier work, We Are a Part of History: The Story of the Orphan Trains (Donning, 1994). In particular, they review the efforts of Charles Loring Brace of the Children's Aid Society of New York. Unable to attend to the needs of all the "street arabs," as the city's homeless children were called, Brace sought to place them in foster homes across the Midwest. This title uses documentary and oral history as well as historical, folklore, and informal literature. Thus, it is not as scholarly as Marylyn Holt's The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America (Univ. of Nebraska, 1992). Still, it is recommended for local history and adult literacy collections.Daniel D. Liestman, Seattle Pacific Univ.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826211217
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Series: Missouri Heritage Readers Series , #1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 725,797
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael D. Patrick is Adjunct Professor of Folklore at the University of Southern Alabama and Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri-Rolla. Residing in Trenton, Missouri, Evelyn Goodrich Trickel is the coauthor of A Pictorial History of Grundy County and recipient of the Charles Loring Brace Award from the Orphan Train Heritage of America. Patrick and Trickel, along with Evelyn Sheets, coauthored We Are Part of History: The Story of Orphan Trains.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Charles Loring Brace and the "Street Arabs" 11
2 The Orphan-Train Plan 22
3 The First Orphan Trains: Problems and Changes 34
4 Missouri: The Railroad Hub for Orphan Trains 46
5 New Missourians Separated from Their Families 68
6 Brothers and Friends: The Lawyers and the Jahnes 83
7 The Weirs: A Family United, Separated, and Reunited 89
8 The Orphan-Train Legacy 100
For More Reading 105
Index 107
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