BHS Presents Orphan Trains in Vermont

Friday March 15, 2013

BENNINGTON -- Tomorrow, March 17 at 2 p.m., Daniel Bean presents "Orphan Trains," a discussion on the transportation of orphans, abandoned or homeless children between 1852 and 1929 to homes throughout the country including Vermont. Bennington Historical Society Programs are held in the Ada Paresky Education Center located on the second floor of the Bennington Museum. They are free and open to the public.

The Orphan Train Movement was a social experiment that transported children from crowded coastal cities of the United States, such as New York City and Boston, to willing foster homes across the country. The orphan trains ran between 1852 and 1929, relocating an estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children. An estimated 30,000 vagrant children were living on the streets of New York City at that time. The Children’s Aid Society and later, the New York Foundling Hospital, developed a program that placed homeless city children into homes throughout the country. The children were transported to their new homes on trains which were eventually labeled "orphan trains."

Most Vermonters trace their family histories back through their parents, grandparents. This presentation addresses what happens when this line cannot be determined and children arrive on the Orphan Train in Vermont. Traveling on a train of other parentless children with a nurse, one of these children was the speaker’s father. In his presentation, Bean discusses the overall problem of these children, why the trains were used, stories related to some of the travelers, and whether or not this experiment was successful. This leads to the special story of two carloads of children who arrived in Enosburg Falls and East Fairfield, Vermont in 1905. Who were they and what became of them? If you plan on attending this program, and know of any orphan train riders from your own experience, Dr. Bean is seeking more information and contacts.

A native of Enosburg Falls, Bean currently resides in Shelburne. He received a BS and MS degree from the University of Vermont in Zoology and his PhD in Limnology from the University of Rhode Island. He is professor emeritus at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont where he taught from 1968-1996


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions