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'Orphan Train' program Thursday at Heritage Museum

March 5, 2013

A program detailing the “orphan train” that relocated more than a quarter-million children to Texas and the Midwest will be held Thursday at Heritage Museum.

Alsion Moore and Phil Lancaster will present “Riders on the Orphan Train” at 6 p.m. in the museum's downstairs lobby. Admission is free, Director Nancy Raney said.

Between 1854 and 1929, more than 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America. The last train came to Sulphur Springs, Texas, in 1929.

This “placing out” system was originally organized by Congregationalist minister Charles Loring Brace and the Children’s Aid Society of New York. His mission was to rid the streets and overcrowded orphanages of homeless children and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes in the developing Midwest. Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by parents too impoverished to keep them.
Through literature, music, archival photographs, film interviews, informal lecture and audience discussion, this virtually untold chapter in American history will be illuminated, Raney said. The one-hour multimedia program includes music, video and a dramatic reading of a novel in progress by Moore, a former assistant professor of English/creative writing at the University of Arizona.

Although the program is about children, it is designed to engage audiences of all ages, Raney said.

Raney noted the museum is attempting to “shake up” its traditional exhibits and public events, and the orphan train program is the first step in that process.

“We've been working for some time to do something like this,” Raney said. “This year, we're trying to do different things at the museum.”
Another step in that direction, she said, will be a program on bluegrass music that's scheduled for late in March.

For more information about the orphan train program, contact the museum at 267-8255.

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