Friday, April 18, 2008

Orphan Train

Between the years of 1854-1929 their were 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children that were transported from the coastal cities of America, to foster families in the mid-west. These children were transported by train, the trains were known as the
"orphan trains." There were two charity institutions that were involved in this venture: "The Children's Aid Society" and "The New York Foundling Hospital." This began the first documented foster care in America. and
"My Heart Remembers" by Kim Vogel Sawyer
In 1886 three young siblings that were Irish immigrants and living with their parents in a tenement in New York City, were orphaned and displaced by a fire in their building. The children survived, but their parents died in the fire. During the escape from the burning building the oldest of the children Maelle was told by her father to look after her younger brother and sister, she was only 8 years old. After the fire that had happened in the middle of the night, the next morning there was confusion about where their parents could be, they did not understand that their parents had died in the burning building. A police officer took the children to an orphanage where they were clothed and fed, and they lived there for a short time. The orphanage made arrangements for all three of the children to travel together by train to Missouri to new homes, then the three children were separated and each lived a very diverse life. Maelle the oldest never gave up hope that they would be reunited, she was old enough at their parting that she remembered her siblings and what had happened to their parents. Maelle gave to each of her siblings a "treasure" of their past, this was so they would be able to recognize each other when they were older.
I had never heard of these "orphan trains" before and was really intrigued by learning about this segment of American History. I have thought about the countless stories good and bad that these children lived. I am sure some of the children may have never known, nor remembered who their birth families were. This book was an easy read, meaning a fast read, but it was also hard to put down, I could not wait to turn each page wanting to know what was going to happen to these children. This book was published by Bethany House Publisher's.


bookchronicle said...

Wow - I had never heard of this either but it sounds completely fascinating.

charlesclarknovels said...

I am fascinated by your blog. I have spent more time this morning than I inteded to, browsing. The Orphan Train caught my eye. I subscribed to Google Alerts on Immigration Issues months ago as part of my research for my newest novel "The Immigrant" and now have been led to your blog.

Stories like the Orphan Train are heartrending. The idea for "The Immigrant" came from a question by a collegue one day: "What happens to undocumented immigrant kids who are orphaned when their parents are killed in this country during illegal entry?" The book is fiction, but it could happen.