CHICKASHA, Okla. – October 6, 2023 – Few people today know much about the largest child migration in history. Between 1854 and 1929, more than 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America.
The Chickasha Public Library invites the community to learn the stories of these children during the Riders on the Orphan Train program, to be held on Thursday, October 26, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. The program is expected to last approximately two hours and will be held in the Library’s meeting room. It is free to attend, open to all ages, and registration is not required.
“The Riders on the Orphan Train program is very interesting and engaging,” said Lillie Huckaby, Library Director. “The presenters bring history to life and make it personable by telling the stories of real people who rode these trains.”
Children were sent to every state in the continental United States; the last train went to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929. 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 were “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.
The multi-media program combines live music by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, a video montage with archival photographs and interviews of survivors, and a dramatic reading 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.
Local relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train Riders are especially invited to attend and share their stories with the audience.
The Riders of the Orphan Train program is paid for by a grant awarded to the program from the Oklahoma Humanities.