1854 : Orphans Leave New York for Dowagiac, Michigan

September 28, 2023 all-day

On September 28, 1854, 37 boys and girls, aged 6 through 15, boarded the sidewheeler steamer Isaac Newton in New York City for the first part of their journey to the frontier of Dowagiac, Michigan, where they hoped to be adopted. In Albany, New York, the children were joined by 9 more orphans when they transfered to a train for the rest of their trip, inaugerating the first of many Orphan Trains which would be dispatched by the Children’s Aid Society over the next 75 years. One source says that the first orphan train arrived in Dowagiac on October 1.  Between 1854 and 1927, some 12,500 orphans would ride the Orphan Train to Michigan, part of the quarter million children who would be sent out west.

Source: Collen Burcar, It Happened In Michigan (Guilford, CT : Globe Pequot Press, c2010)

For more information see The orphan trains [videorecording] / produced and directed by Janet Graham and Edward Gray ; written by Edward Gray. [Alexandria, VA] : PBS Home Video, 2006.

The orphan train in Michigan, 1854-1927 / Program Source International. Bloomfield Hills, MI : Program Source International, c2002.

Orphan trains : the story of Charles Loring Brace and the children he saved and failed / Stephen O’Connor. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Ann Zaniewski, ‘Orphan trains’ brought thousands of children to Michigan from New York City”, Detroit Free Press, August 4, 2013.

Mary Ellen Van Camp,  “Resource for Reading: The Orphan Trains: Michigan and Beyond,”Language Arts Journal of Michigan:Vol. 20: Iss. 2, 2004, Article 15.

Leave a Reply