The current issue of Newton County Roots (December 2013) focuses on the days of the Orphan Trains, one of the saddest and, yet often, the happiest times for many people. Briefly, orphans in the East were sent on "Orphan Trains" to the Midwest for adoption. It was felt that the farmers in the Midwest could more easily provide for children who had no homes. It was hoped that the orphans would be adopted by rural people in towns and on farms along the tracks.
Orphan trains were successful in many cases, but there were instances in which the orphans were treated badly by their adopted families. In those cases, the kids were often taken in, not to be loved or be cared for, but for their labor on the farms.
Orphan Trains made several stops in Neosho. There are newspaper clippings from 1914 about one of the trains coming to Neosho. The train arrived in June of 1914 with 12 children who needed home. Nine of the children were taken by Neosho and Newton County families. The paper listed the children who were taken and the families who took the children in.
The December 2013 issue of Newton County Roots told a bit about the children who came to Newton County and what was known of their outcome. It makes for some somber reading. Apparently Orphan Trains started coming to here in 1889 and came for several years. A local committee was formed in Neosho to arrange for the transfer of the children and to assure the adoptive family was in good standing.
Members of the committee were: Dr. E.M. Roseberry, Judge W.A. Phipps, T.J. Ashworth, A.C. McGinty, J.E. Hinton and M.T. Rice. These men carried a lot of responsibility on their backs.
A few years ago, I wrote a children's story about the Orphan Trains. I called it "A Place at the Table." I had read that phrase in my research on orphan trains and thought it was a good title. It was believed that farmers, because they raised most of their food, would be more able to feed the hungry orphans. And, indeed, many of the children were happy to have "a place at the table."
Newton Country Roots is published by the Genealogy Friends of the Library who have done a good job of telling about the Orphan Trains. The issue also includes information on how someone who was an Orphan Train child can try to find their birth parents, if they so desire.
I have often wondered whether I would want to know my biological parents if I had been adopted. I still don't know what I would do. But those who do want to find out about their real parents can do so with help from this book.
Kay Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.