Orphan Trains

In New York City in the 1850s there was an estimated 30,000 homeless children. The founder of the Children’s Aid Society, Charles Loring Brace, believed there was a way to change the future of these children by removing them from the streets and sending them to live and work on farms out west. They were placed in homes for free to serve as an extra set of hands to help with farm chores. In fact older children were to be paid for their labor. The orphan trains operated from 1853 to 1929 and placed approximately 250,000 orphaned, homeless and abandoned children.

One of those stops in northeast Iowa was made in Sumner. The following are two newspaper articles describing the events of those stops. There may have been other times when the orphan trains came through the area, however these are the only two stops that I have found information on so far. I have not located information so far on whether stops were made in Waverly. If you would like more information on Orphan Train stops in Iowa, please visit Iowa GenWeb site. You can find links to information on orphan train stops in other Iowa counties including Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls). You can also find resources you can use to research orphan trains.

Sumner Gazette
December 10, 1896

E. Trott, of the Childrens Aid Society, of New York City, arrived as advertised on Thursday with eight boys and two girls, accompanied by Mis M. A. Thorn, who always goes with him when he has girls in charge. A public meeting was held at the Cass Opera House at noon of the day of his arrival,which was largely attended by our citizens. Mr. Trott exhibited his family, set forth the purposes and work of his association, a brief history of the children in his charge and the conditions on which they wen placed out. There was a ready demand for the children, there being more applicants than there were children. Following is a list of the children and the names of those taking them:

1. Alexander Rosenthal, Age 8 yrs, D. R. Hatch
2. Orestas Rosenthal, Age 10 yrs, Thos. Dawson
3. Wm. Rogers, Age 12 yrs, Frank S. McCormac
4. Frank Brush, Age 9 years, Henry Dickman
5.  Anton Patros, Age 13 years, W. D. McCormac
6. Gustave Patris, Age 11 yrs, E. B. French
7. George Harrington, Age 16 yrs, J. F. Dickman
8. Wm. Roberts, Age 14 yrs, Henry Dickman
9. Gertrude Donerback, Age 8 yrs, Rev. T. G. Breaw
10. Anna Marshall, Age 9 years, H. B. Edsworth, Waverly

The children are more intelligent looking, better mannered, and cleaner and brighter than we expected — they average well in all these points with our own children.

This is the 278th trip Mr. Trott has made. He has had a hand and voice in advising, directing, and locating, in part or wholly, over 15,000 men women, and children in homes they might call their own. His society expended in this great work during the year 1895 alone the sum of $350,000, all of which comes from the pockets of generous hearted and philanthropic men and women would be of some service in the cause of humanity. It is a grand work and deserves encouragement. Only for societies of this nature doubtless 9 out of 10 of these waifs of the streets of the big cities would become criminals, while probably 9 out of 10 are now saved to lives of respectability and usefulness.

Mr. Trott went to the ‘Burg Monday ‘forenoon where he made arrangements for the distribution of a company in April. He took the evening train for Waverly to replace a girl he placed over there in November, from where he left for New York City.

Sumner Gazette
July 31, 1919




Reception at Church Was Attended By A Large Crowd

The children from the eastern home finding society were brought to Sumner
last Friday and no finer bunch of youngsters were ever seen. They were healthy and bright looking and it was a foregone conclusion that homes would be found for many of them if not all.

The children were given a reception at the M. E. church Friday afternoon
and the church was packed with those interested in the children. Only one child was placed at that time, however, that being 10 months old Marjorle Howell, who went into the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. R. McClure. The children were all sent into homes for over Sunday and have been placed permanently since that time in homes as follows:

Ida Rifenburg, aged 4, goes to Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Young. Hazel Rifenburg, aged 10, is in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lease. Ethel Rifenburg, aged 7, has been placed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. August Pleggenkuhle. Edith Rifenburg, aged 3, who smiled her way into a hundred hearts, has gone to Mr. and Mrs. John Zbornik. Claude Rifenburg, aged 7, has not been placed. Herbert Rifenburg, aged 12, goes to the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Schulz. Ruth Lashway, aged 10, is unplaced. Virgil Lash way, aged 9, has been taken by Mr. and Mrs. Amos Ladwig. Herbert Lashway, aged 8, is unplaced. Carl Josephson, age 11, has been taken by Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Meswarb. Viola Josepbson ,aged 6, has found a home with Mr. and Mrs. Walter Schmudlach. And there is a Lashway girl, aged 4, who is to come later and who will find her home with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lang.

Miss Comstock, who brought the children from the east is very well pleased over the way Sumner has taken them in. The reception here was very cordial. She says that it is the finest crowd of youngsters she has ever brought out, all of them coming from most excellent families, and everybody who saw them will agree. That all of them will bring sunshine to the homes found for them goes without dispute.

The children who have not been placed will have homes before Miss Comstock leaves. She is at the Hotel Charles and will take applications from those who want to put them in.

The Gazette is glad that Sumner has accepted the little people with so much kindness. There is nothing more pitiful than the homeless youngster and we are glad that there were hearts that were big enough to be touched by the appeal sent out.

Orphans brought to Bremer County

This is another list I found on the Iowa Orphan Train web site mentioned above. I do not have any information on when these placements occurred.

Child Family
Bancroft, James E. Sewell, Thomas
Brown, William Smalley, Rev. J.
Calkins, Henry Maynard, I. M.
Clifford, John Donahoo, Andrew
Collins, Edward Mills, H. A.
Collyer, Steven G. Babcock, O.
Gaisert, Henry Helenbolt, John
Gibney, Thomas Eiethorn, Daniel
Martin, Thomas West. W. W.
Montfort, John H. Huey, George
Ring, Frank Brown, R. D.
Wallace, Robert M. Fairfield, A. C.

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