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Orphan Trains

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The “Orphan Trains” was a charitable organization to provide homes and a better way of life, for orphans and neglected children on the streets of New York. Charles Loring Brace, who was a young minister in New York, founded the Orphan Trains (1855-1929). The children were taken off the streets of New York (many whom had no homes), and brought to the Midwest to be adopted.

The children were prepared for adoption the closer they came to their destinations. They were made presentable for viewing so that people could examine them. People looked at their teeth, felt their arms, and spoke with them. The children were young and were examined with out sincerity or understanding to the reality of their situations.

Children were adopted into families and had to adapt to those families, and their lives. Some children were welcomed, provided with good homes, and made as part of the family. But, a large number of children were not so fortunate. They were given food, clothing, and shelter, in exchange for manual labor. They were adopted only to be used for work.

Some experiences were excellent and offered the orphans a good life, and gave them hope for the future. While others were treated harshly, and left scars that would trouble them for the rest of their lives. Many of the children were immigrants and grew up with different religious backgrounds. One of the most common religions was Catholicism, which could have made it harder for the children to deal with their new families.

An individual, who affected me most, was Lee Nailing. Lee Nailing left his home when he was eight years old. His father wrote down his address, so his son could make contact or at least tell him that he was safe. He explained that when he was leaving, his father had tears in his eyes (you could tell that he was greatly impacted). When he left for the Midwest, (as he slept on the train) one of the people in charge took the envelope, containing his father’s address. When he woke up, he went to grab it in his pocket, and realized it was not there. He and his brothers were on the ground looking for it. A woman walked by and asked what were they looking for. Nailing answered that they lost a pink envelope and the woman responded, “where your going you would not need it”. That affected me because I could not imagine what it would be like as a child, to be separated from my family forever.The Orphan Trains was a mixed effect. Since there was not enough information recorded, it is hard to tell accurately what the over all situation was for the children. The Orphan Trains, had some ideas that were very good, and some not so good. Based on the information given, I think that overall it was a very good movement and helped changed many peoples lives for the better.

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