The Orphan Trains
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The following is quoted from Dick Eastman, December 29, 2008:

From the 1850s through the 1920s, New York City was teeming with tens of thousands of homeless and orphaned children. To survive, these so-called "street urchins" resorted to begging, stealing, or forming gangs to commit violence… Their numbers were stunningly large; an estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City in the 1850s.

Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children's Aid Society …proposed that these children be sent by train to live and work on farms out west. They would be placed in homes for free, but they would serve as an extra pair of hands to help with chores around the farm. They wouldn't be indentured. In fact, older children placed by The Children's Aid Society were to be paid for their labors.

The Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1853 to the 1920s, placing more than 120,000 children. Most of these children survived into adulthood, married, and had children of their own. Several million Americans today can find former Orphan Train children in their family trees.

The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America in Concordia, Kansas, serves as a clearinghouse of information about the estimated 150,000 children who were "placed out" from 1854 to 1929. It helps members establish and maintain family contacts, retrace their roots, and preserve the history of the Orphan Train Movement.

You can read Dick Eastman’s complete discussion of the Orphan Trains at Eastman's Blog. The National Orphan Train Complex is a website with more information on this subject.

 

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