Thursday, June 28, 2018

Do You Know Anyone Who Was an Orphan Train Rider?

Until the release of a 1993 documentary on PBS's The American Experience, the story of the orphan trains was not widely known.  Since that time books have been written and an effort to collect the personal stories has been underway.

Here are a few of the recent books, many of which are fiction:
A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir (non-fiction, available Jul 11)
Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story (non-fiction, 1998)
Riders on the Orphan Train: a novel (2012)
Orphan Train (2013)
Orphan Train Girl (2017)
The Orphan's Tale (2017)
The Chaperone (2012) This book is not about the orphan trains, but the main character was an orphan in Kansas and later in life she and her family hide the fact from society.

Courtesy of
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. Originally organized by minister Charles Loring Brace to rid New York of homeless street children and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes in the developing Midwest, this nearly eighty year experiment in child migration is filled with horror stories and happy endings. The last train came to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929. The trains stopped in pre-selected towns where people interested in taking a child would assemble. Kansas was the destination for many of the orphans. See the Kansas State Historical Society for more information.

Beatrice Flanagan was born in New York City on April 25, 1921 to Josephine Flanagan, an Irish immigrant. She was left at Bellevue Hospital and then transferred to the New York Foundling Hospital. She was sent on a train by the Sisters to Sealy, TX in 1922 when she was fourteen months old and later adopted by Mary Polak in Wharton County, TX.

Beatrice is now 97. If anyone has any information on any other living Riders, please contact Alison Moore at with any pertinent information.

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