Riders on the Orphan Train
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Riders on the Orphan Train

March 12, 2022 2-3pm

Tickets: Free

FREE and Open to the Public – for General Audiences of all ages

The Oklahoma Humanities Council has funded a free public presentation: “Riders on the Orphan Train”, presented by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, LIVE at the Woody Guthrie Center® Theater. Everyone is encouraged to attend this educational multi-media program to learn more about the largest child migration in history that ran across our country.

Few people today know much about the Orphan Train. Between 1854 and 1929 over 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America. Children were sent to every state in the continental United States; the last train went to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929. At least five hundred children came to our state in the early 1900’s to find new homes in Enid, Tulsa, McAlester, Sand Springs, Sayre, Shawnee, Tahlequah (Fort Gibson), Guthrie, Broken Arrow, and Oklahoma City.

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 orphaned and abandoned children, and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes. Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by parents too impoverished to provide for them. The New York Foundling Hospital, a Catholic organization, also sent out children to be placed in Catholic homes. This seventy-five year experiment in child relocation is filled with the entire spectrum of human emotion, from heartbreak to happy endings and reveals a great deal about the successes and failures of the American Dream.

The 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 our history.

Local relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train Riders are especially invited to attend and share their stories with the audience.

This program has already visited four libraries in the state: Bartlesville, Sand Springs, Muskogee, and Tahlequah. The program is the official outreach program of the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center based in Concordia, KS. Their mission is to raise awareness and preserve stories about the orphan train movement.

Tickets are FREE, thanks to funding by the Oklahoma Humanities Council, but required for entry.

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