Archived Story

Orphan Train reunion is Oct. 5

Published 6:05am Monday, September 30, 2013

The 53rd annual Orphan Train conference is planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m Oct. 5, at St. Francis Center in Little Falls.

A silent auction, meeting, entertainment, lunch and orations by orphan train rider descendants will fill the day.

Entertainment will take place at 10 a.m. by Riders on the Orphan Train from Austin, Texas. Phil Lancaster and Alison Moore have traveled the country extensively performing an exceptional history line-up presenting a multi-media program combining audio visual elements, historical fiction and musical ballads into a collaborative performance that brings the Orphan Train movement, a largely-unknown chapter in American history, to public awareness.

Between 1854-1929 over 250,000 children were placed out on orphan trains from the East Coast, venturing into unknown territory in the West by train, to settle with unfamiliar families across America.

The transfer was the first emigration plan and largest mass migration of children ever to take place on American soil; formulating our counties first child welfare system. For many of these children arriving in new family homes throughout America, the placement left them facing kind and loving families, or as indentured servants bound to hard labor.

Descendants and interested persons gather annually to celebrate and discover the saga of those little pioneers drawn into a social experiment spanning a quarter of a century (75 years). There are less than fifty surviving orphan train riders existing throughout the Unites States today.

John Shontz, railroad historian from Helena, Montana, will be on hand to discuss the railroads connection via the orphan trains. Collective information will be made available to individuals seeking journey histories.

A one-hour multi- media program combines live music by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, 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.

The conference is open to any interested persons. Walk-ins are welcome. Contact an officer to register:

Renée Wendinger- President (507) 794-7835

Pete Keaveny -Vice President (701) 452-4336

Joyce LaVoie -Secretary (320) 732-0959

Janice Gonsior -Treasurer (763) 571-4462

Susan Lehner – Historian (320) 629-7642


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