Orphan Trains to Nebraska

Orphan Trains to Nebraska

Wed, August 29, 20187:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Few people today know much about the largest child migration in history. Between 1854 and 1929 over 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America, many of them to Nebraska. Between 1861 and 1925, over 4,000 children from the trains made their homes in our state in such towns as North Platte, Lexington, Broadwater, Elkhorn, West Point, Beatrice, Neligh, and many others.

To bring this rich part of Nebraska History to the state Humanities Nebraska has funded four presentations of the multi-media program “Orphan Trains to Nebraska” in August in Scottsbluff, Goodall, Gothenburg, and Ogallala Public Libraries and the Lincoln County Museum in North Platte.

The one-hour multi- media program called “Riders on the Orphan Train” is the award-winning official Educational Outreach Program of the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center in Concordia, KS. The program, that has toured nationally since 1998, combines live music by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, video montage with historical photographs and interviews of survivors, and a dramatic reading of a chapter of the 2012 novel “Riders on the Orphan Train” by award-winning author Alison Moore. Although the program is about children, it is designed to engage audiences of all ages and to inform, inspire and raise awareness about this little-known part of history.

This “placing out” system was originally organized by Methodist minister Charles Loring Brace and the Children’s Aid Society of New York. His mission was to rid the streets and overcrowded orphanages of homeless children and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes. Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by parents too impoverished to keep them. The New York Foundling Hospital, a Catholic organization, also sent out children to be placed in Catholic homes. This seventy-six year experiment in child relocation is filled with the entire spectrum of human emotion and reveals a great deal about the successes and failures of the American Dream.

Local relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train Riders are especially invited to attend and share their stories with the audience.

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