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Orphan Train Brings Help to Local Farmers, Merchants

GALLERY: 4th Grade 'Orphans' Arrived at Depot on Wednesday to be Placed with Local Families

Posted by Uplift Shiawassee at 12:35pm 5/31/18

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"In 1850 there was an estimate of 30,000 orphaned and homeless children living on the streets of New York City. Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children's Aid Society, believed that there was a way to change the futures of these children," Durand Union Station Executive Director, Mary Warner-Stone told Uplift Shiawassee at a previous depot-hosted Orphan Train field trip offered to area students. 

"By removing abandoned children from the city streets and placing them in with farm families, he thought they would have a chance of escaping a lifetime of hopelessness." 

Brace wrote an essay in 1872 discussing "Misery Row," an area around Tenth Avenue in New York City considered to be a "breeding ground" of crime and poverty and a "fever nest," where disease spread rapidly. Orphans and runaways were inevitably drawn to this area. The absence of real, effective social services, inspired Brace and others to pursue social reform. 

The Orphan Train Movement operated between 1853 and 1929, delivering orphaned, abandoned or homeless children from eastern cities to largely rural midwest areas.



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After arriving aboard the Orphan Train, on Wednesday, 4th grade students from Durand had the opportunity to participate in reenactments, hoping to be adopted and begin a new life.

State Farm Insurance Agent, Bart Harris, has been involved with the Orphan Train at the depot for years; "What a great day," he said after Wednesday's event. "The stories many of these kids came up with were just amazing. They have got great imaginations when you get them talking. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything."

Harris facilitated one of three listening stations, where students shared personal back stories they had created prior to the event.

In the past, he also acted as a period insurance agent. "Long stretch, don’t ya think," he joked after the 2014 Orphan Train event.

That year, as an insurance agent, he was looking for an orphan with good penmanship that would work for him. "I needed someone who could master calligraphy as all of the insurance contracts were hand written at that time," he told Durand Now at that time. "The older boy was quite good at this. The youngest brother liked farming. I needed a person for my small farm that we live on. The two sisters liked to cook and clean -- PERFECT. I hate both. I adopted the whole family." Harris said the scenario he described would have been highly unlikely, as in most cases, families were split up.

In many cases, adopted orphans lived very hard lives.

"A farmer may need a boy to help him with the farm...depending on how the farmer wanted to accept this boy he might be treated as an indentured servant or, if he was fortunate enough, the farmer might actually treat him as a family member."

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE 2018 ORPHAN TRAIN

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