What can you tell me about the “Orphan Train?”

mtrimbleI recently read a novel that followed a group of siblings who ride the “Orphan Train” from New York to different locales out West. Does the story have any basis in fact?


Larry Dye

Fenton, Illinois

Between 1854 and 1929, Eastern charity institutions placed an estimated 200,000 abandoned or orphaned children in homes throughout the U.S. and Canada. Most traveled by rail, hence it became known as the Orphan Train Movement.

Linda Gordon’s The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction tells the tragic story of an orphan train delivering Irish Catholic orphans to Clifton, Arizona, in 1904. New York didn’t regard the Irish as “white;” Arizona did.

Sympathetic Catholic Mexicans in the town adopted the youngsters, but the local white women were offended by the idea of “white” children being raised by Mexicans. So the white women roused their husbands to “rescue” the kids—with the force of arms. It’s a tragic, interesting and little-known story in Western history.

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