“The Orphan Train” movement traces its roots to 1854, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children.
New York City suffered from overcrowding, disease, crime, and family life breakdown. “Street Arabs” were kids who lived in the alleys and streets struggling to stay alive. The desperate situation inspired Charles Loring Brace to create the NY Children’s Aid Society in 1853.
The children rode with agents (social workers of the day) aboard trains to the West and Midwest in search of a better life. Advertisements and flyers were mailed to towns along the route announcing selected stops.
Andrew H. Burke (ND’s 2nd governor) traveled on an Orphan Train. MInot resident, Bill Kelly was an orphan train kid.
Although the placings were not always totally satisfactory in every case, the “Orphan Trains” relocated approximately 250,000 children from 1854-1929.
Photos below are from our 2007 productions which played to sold out audiences.