The distributions continued for 75 years, until 1929 It was a huge stage, and we were all sitting up there in 2 rows in a semicircle And the people were already down in the audience They had been notified ahead the day before, that we would be there. The big day came. And we arrived on a Sunday. in Kirksville. Missouri. at the Presbyterian Church. We marched down the aisle 13 of us And they would walk passed us. You were viewed. And that’s a strange feeling you’d never been looked at in that way before. You’ve never seen people looking all around you. That was an ordeal that no child should go through They pulled us, and pushed us, and shoved us. This old man,…. I had never seen anything like it He chewed tobacco. I knew nothing about it this old man. Came up, his mouth is all stained brown. And I thought, well, he’d been eating chocolate candy Then he said open your mouth I looked at him and yeah we’ll see about your teeth well my mouth he stuck his finger in my mouth just and brought over my teeth and his old dirty hands sister I’ve wanted to bite but I didn’t the local minister banker doctor and other leading citizens were asked by the Children’s Aid Society to form a committee to check qualifications of potential foster parents an agent explained the society’s rules to the crowd all placements were to be made on a trial basis legal adoption was not required dissatisfied children could leave those who stayed were expected to work as contributing members of the household the foster parents were asked to house feed and educate the new york children in the same manner as their own raises system put its faith in the kindness of strangers well I lived on the farm out west and I my uncle was a doctor in Denton and I went into seeing that day and he says I was down they call me last night down at Davis’s rooming house they had a bunch of children down there and one of them was sick said he they’ve got those children to find homes give him homes said if I was you I’d go down there and get one of those boilers he could be a big help to you as he grew up and you could be a big help to him and I went down and the lady said now here they all are there’s eight of ten in that roll different kinds and different expressions and all different places that come from some from Italy some from other countries and there was all and they just let me pick the one I wanted this little sharp eyed boy just said I’ll take that one and they fixed him up and had a little brundle of clothes and we took him home and I was 19 and he was 9 I think I was very comfortable up on that stage because I didn’t know where I was going to go and I was old enough to realize that there could be a lot of mistakes made a farmer came up to me and he felt in my muscles and he says all you’d make a good hand on the farm I’m not going to go home with you I said you smell too bad you you haven’t had a bath properly in a year and he took me by the arm I was gonna lead me off the stage and I bid him and that didn’t work so I kicked him and so they everybody the audience awwws I thought I was incorrigible they didn’t want me because I was out of control I was crying there in a chair by myself and a school teacher came up there and she says I’d like to take you home with me and play with my boy for a week and if nobody wants you then well then we’ll have send you back to New York but this elderly couple in their sixties were contacted by this school teacher and they had no children never did have to had a stillborn about 30 years previous so he put me on my on his lap and

there’s two teachers home and and get acquainted with me and he said if you go home with me I’ll buy you a pony and a bicycle and a puppy so I thought that was great so I went home with him and I finally got the best home of the whole bunch but always thought that biting and kicking gave me a lot of good the best day of my life he was a little out there you still have a little leather Italian toe well he’s great we using a boogie come we had to get him in our book and go 18 miles to our farm he enjoyed sitting down there holding those limes because the horse doesn’t love driving anyway and we got out on that farm he’d never been on a farm he thanks all as the world to him he saw chickens and hogs and sheep and everything and somebody gave him a little old pup after a year to an hour a day a dog and of course he thought he was a rich man having the dog no children have him in New York is interesting to see him the city ways he hadn’t put him in the country we got to the house and this nice old lady met me and just you look alright well they had already had their supper so she fixed the place for me and this big complet of milk and I tasted this I said it’s sour she heard it she could hear that she that is not I turned it fresh this morning well I still didn’t know what she was talking about I said I don’t like it so you don’t have to have it anyway she just upper class away and her daughter-in-law was waiting for her husband to come out because the war was over now and her husband was stationed at Langley field Virginia he wouldn’t be home soon so I could sleep with her that night and that was really a night she told me just exactly why those people wanted me that she would be gone and I was growing up and I would be big enough to take care of that house and that’s all they wanted with me but she would be there to help me and that’s appointed I know she just go back to the hotel he’s telling me this is just not for you so she drew me a map of where I was back to the back home and I walked in and I never got such dirty looks in my life as I did when they saw me walk in that door well what happened to you and I said they didn’t want a child they wanted to slave the children whom no one selected were escorted back to the train and taken to the next stop on the line by that time there were some 20 maybe 25 children left on the train along with my brother’s nine and we eventually wound up in a little town down in deep northeast Texas called Clarksville Texas and we were lined up again there and examined and everything and a couple came by and picked up Gerald who was only two and a half years old I don’t suppose the child had ever been showing any love or anything because when the lady bent over to talk to him and everything he just almost jumped in her arms and and you could see him grab her around the neck and so they decided to take Jarrell there again I I felt terrible because I knew I was losing a brother right there and they took Gerald over to the table did the paperwork and he was just happy as he could be until they started out the door and he suddenly realized that he was losing his brothers and he turned around and screamed right loud for his brothers and of course that broke my heart again next morning the door of the room opened up and two men were standing in the doorway and one of them I started here and looked up like that and I thought I would never quit looking that was I thought the biggest man I ever saw in my life probably was it was my dad my fortune would be by foster dad and he said maybe we come in and the major said oh we asked once it says hazel sitting

right here on the floor says get up hazel and shake hands and I got up he says you’re going to be my little girl and I says if you ever hit me I’ll never get up his Dera I’ll never hit you I’ll never hit you and he never did he never did children were sent to Michigan Illinois Iowa Minnesota Kansas and Texas 47 states in law they were taken to sod houses and cabins to large farmhouses and shopkeepers homes in town from the very beginning many of these placements made so hastily did not go according to plan Julia McCann came to us with very erroneous ideas she expected to be taken care of by rich people I had your son for about three months and he did not suit me so I gave him up to mr. Gilson and he gave him to a good farmer and the farmer could not keep him we farmers can hardly imagine how it is these boys can be so awkward on a farm I have promised to give them a horse a piece if they will stay and be good boys I fear that they will run away children drifted from farm to farm some even made their way back to New York there were stories of children landing in reform schools in Michigan from Indiana rumors of children on the dole a southerner named JH Mills claimed that men needing labor their slaves being set free take these boys and treat them as slaves never one boy I refused to go home with his farmer two he took this other boy Albert maybe I should name it but and they kept him on the farm wooden senator school worked him 18 hours a day in the field and he just lost his mind and then he died it already aged less than thirty years of age and he finally ran away from home but it was too late they wouldn’t let him go to town and see people afraid he’d tell him how badly he was treated and he never saw anybody didn’t once I saw him about two times during the whole time he was there about ten years I just saw him twice and he was afraid to talk to me and I couldn’t I couldn’t help him I didn’t know enough to help him but my dad always thought that he was abused so he’s afraid to talk about afraid he’d be abused some more the record books are filled with names and dates details of departures and arrivals but say little about the quality of the children’s treatment the extent of abuse is unknown the Society’s goal was to visit each child once a year but there were only a handful of agents to monitor thousands of placements with reports of children drifting through the countries Braes consented in 1883 to an independent investigation it found the local committees were ineffective at screening foster parents supervision was lacks many older boys had run away but its overall conclusion was positive the majority of children under 14 were leading satisfactory lives dear mr. brace when I lived in New York I had no bonnet and now I have more bonnets than I can wear and I get no whippings and I have a father and mother and brothers and sisters here and they are kinder to me than my own ever were I think I will never be happier than I am now in New York the children of a new generation of immigrants were facing deprivation and homelessness Braes continued to insist that removal from the city was the street children’s best hope for deliverance he used photographs like these made by his

protege Jacob Riis to dramatize their plight the society boasted about the story of two street kids Andrew Burke and John Brady who were sent to the same Indiana town on the same day on arrival the judge who adopted Brady considered him the homeliest toughest most unpromising boy in the whole lot he said I had a curious desire to see what could be made of such a specimen of humanity John Brady grew up to be governor of Alaska his friend Andrew Burke grew up to be governor of North Dakota but many rural people viewed the Orphan Train children with suspicion as incorrigible offspring of drunkards and prostitutes the children spoke with the actions of Ireland Germany and Italy unlike most Midwesterners many were Catholic one official said what was good for New York was very bad for the West I have known several of these city Arabs being provided with homes and never heard of but one that proved to be honest I believe it is the blood and not the education that tells bad blood that’s what they used to consider it we kiss from New York or of inferior stock bad blood it’s what’s running through those veins and some people have bad blood and others have blue blood well the bad blood is supposed to carry the bad things down from your parents through your life all the bad things are supposed to come through that bad blood and you don’t have a chance to do better the first day of school that took me to the third grade I could hear of whispers among the kids that there’s an orphan and he’s going to be in our class and they say you don’t know what his background is and they they kind of dodged me and they they said well he’s an orphan we don’t want to have anything to do with it because everyone used to that they were they were farming families and well well-lit families most of them and and they what they did they didn’t have that kind of trouble you know I was never invited to birthday parties I would see other children going to birthday parties and it really hurts children didn’t want me didn’t want to play with me and I remember possibly in the fourth grade when this I was walking with this girl and this mother came to the screen door and she said I haven’t I told you I don’t want you to walk with her and don’t want you to talk to her get away from her and that’s the way it was it was very hurtful because sometimes I’d go home and look at in the mirror what was the matter with me I didn’t know somehow those people the ones I went to school with knew that I was a bastard the children expressed their hopes fears and loneliness in letters they wrote to brace and his colleagues Elkhart Indiana May 28th 1865 dear friend the place where I lived I did not like they whipped me till I was all black and blue I told the lady I did not like to stay there so she told me I might leave I have a good place now I hope you’ll write to me and let me know if you see any of my folks in New York I would give a hundred worlds like this if I could see my mother Katie Murphy Annie Williams was sent to live in this house in Battle Creek Michigan an Irish orphan she’d been discovered by one of braces agents sleeping in a doorway near the New York docks Reis visited Annie while on a field trip to the Midwest she later wrote him this

letter January 12th 1862 dear mister brace it is rather pleasant today for winter weather I go to school and enjoy myself first-rate I would like to teach school when I get a good education but sometimes I have a great deal of trouble and whoa I build many air castles and before they are entirely constructed they tumble down in a heap of ruins I suppose we must take life’s journey as it comes any Williams you didn’t think about the years ahead of time you trying to think a day ahead of time and you live in hopes that the good will come but you doubted at the same time anyways the nailing took me in and they took me gave me a room of my own that was almost unbelievable for anyone to have a board that is to have a room of their own the next morning we went in for a huge breakfast and the breakfast was set in the main dining room which was an honor and the prayer was was most gratifying and it gave me a new thought on life that maybe this wasn’t so bad after all that I’d kind of wait and see how things worked out you have to have something deep inside of you that will make you want to keep going when I went to school they had a game they played send in and send out was the name of it and this the width of the playing ground playground they would line up and they’d go after people well they had what they wanted fast runners so I started running home and running back to school and running running running wherever I went I was running and one day I finally talked them into please let me play just please just once let me play and go after somebody that was all it took I was in sixth grade after that they fought over who got me because I could catch anybody there was nobody seemed to want to keep me very long I was shoveled from one home to another for many months until I finally was placed with the karremans that’s me and that’s my calf I made pets out of all the cows though they just tagged me everywhere I really had a wonderful time they were so good to me and as far as having a wonderful family I was one of the lucky they were always there for me when I needed them always Danville Indiana June 5th 1865 you wanted to know if John Mayer is with me he is with me and always will be if he were our own son we could not love him more than we do we have given him our name we call him Charlie Highland he thinks we are his parents and we want him to I love him so much that it would break my heart to part with him mrs Sally Hyland my adopted mother miss nailing she lived with a horror that I would eventually go back to New York to my biological people and of course after two or three years with them that was just past thinking because I was happy where I was and I don’t imagine I would have gone back if I had the chance but even after I was grown she had that horror I remember my mother hiding a letter one time from the dr. Hoffman want to know if I was happy and well cared for and all that she put it up on top of a corner shelf and it stayed up there I guess for ten or twelve years when I got the letter that my mother had died I just felt like the door had closed I just walked out the house walk down the road it was cotton-picking time daddy said I could stay at the house if I did but I didn’t cry I just felt well it’s the end of something and there was

always that hope that she would get better and I would get a letter or maybe she would come somehow or other I still had that hope nobody can understand the loneliness that an orphan feels it’s a a loneliness you just don’t know who you are you know where you come from so there there’s that with combination that if only if you could just only have known your biological mother if you just could have seen her as far as I have been able to research my biological mother never made an inquiry you to thought maybe there’d have been a little ache in her heart to wonder whatever happened to me and if I aid I should be fortunate enough to go to heaven and if I saw her in heaven I guess I would speak and say and extend the hand and say my name is Lorraine and you’re marguerite aren’t you I would not say I am your daughter I would leave that up there to her to put two and two together and unless she had a comment I believe I would walk on because the true mother and dad who loved me cared for me in sickness and in health were the ones that cared so much that they legally adopted me they loved me and they were my mother and my father and I think they are the only two ones this should be called rightfully mother and father it hurt awfully bad being separated from my family but as I got older and realized I would have never stood a chance if they had left me in that environment I would never go to do anything I was capable but I’m picking me up and moved me clear away from as bad as it was afterwards I got a chance to do what I was capable of doing making something myself being a good mother I think he looked on me as a father I feel like he did and my wife is a mother and we went through life together he is passed away I think he’s 72 years old and I was always and still am glad that I did that one thing to take that boy and raise him this is the picture this is the knickers and I laced boots and blouse that I wore on a train and this is the picture first had I was eight and a half then I’d been with the with my parents for six months and they dressed me up for the picture my mother wanted it when I was all dressed up so she could show it to her relatives she just wanted to show me all my father couldn’t wait til to buy me my first pony’s you just went all over the country trying to find a pony for bit he was very successful merchant he owned a hardware store president of the bank and he owned two farms but ever did work on a farm he never asked me to but never had a spanking never had a spanking of any kind or correction my dad had put me on his lap and say I want you to be a good boy and you made some mistakes today and and I want you to be a good citizen and he never didn’t spiked me but I thought that to me you know even he wanted to give me a good start the kindness is what got next to me he saved my life I tried to live the life that Alvin Goble wanted me to live and I think I have the Orphan Train program was widely

imitated 40,000 children were sent to Catholic communities by a religious order the sisters of charity and organizations in Boston Philadelphia and Chicago relocated thousands more when Charles Loring brace died in 1890 he was acclaimed as the most influential child saver of the 19th century but in the 20th century America’s vision of childhood was changing the emphasis was shifting from the virtues of work to the benefits of play from children’s economic value to their emotional needs on May 31st 1929 the Children’s Aid Society sent three boys to Sulphur Springs Texas it was the last of the orphan trains back when he began brace said when a child of the streets stands before you in rags with tear-stained face you cannot easily forget him and yet you are perplexed what to do the human soul is difficult to interfere with you hesitate how far you should go a production of WGBH Boston major funding for the American experience is provided by the Alfred P sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of the role of Technology in American society and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the annual financial support of viewers like you and by miracle-gro plant food for flowers for vegetables whatever you grow a gardeners true friend his Miracle Gro major funding for this program was provided

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