The Orphan Trains – Foundlings on the Frontier


The Arizona Humanities Council has funded a 4-city tour of the multi-media program “Riders on the Orphan Train – Foundlings on the Frontier” in January and February 2019. The presentation will come to the High Desert Middle School Auditorium in Globe on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 at 7 p.m.
Few people today know much about the largest child migration in history. Between 1854 and 1929 over 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and sent west to find new homes. Children were sent to every state in the continental United States; the last train went to Sulphur Springs, Texas in 1929. In 1904 a group of 21 Irish Catholic children came to Clifton, Ariz. from the New York Foundling Hospital and the ensuing confrontation over stewardship of these children became a state and national controversy that went to the Arizona Supreme Court.
This incident in racial and class conflict is a poignant illustration of the cultural disparities between the east coast and the developing west at the turn of the last century.
A non-fiction book, “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction” by Linda Gordon and published by Harvard University Press, chronicles this historical event.
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 homeless children and provide them with an opportunity to find new homes. Many of the children were not orphans but “surrendered” by single parents too impoverished to keep them.
The New York Foundling Hospital, a Catholic organization, also sent out children to be placed in Catholic homes. This 76-year experiment in child relocation is filled with the entire spectrum of human emotion and reveals a great deal about the successes and failures of the American Dream.
The one-hour multi- media program “Riders on the Orphan Train,” combines live music by Phillip Lancaster and Alison Moore, video montage with archival photographs and interviews of survivors, and a dramatic reading from the 2012 novel “Riders on the Orphan Train” by award-winning author Alison Moore. Especially featured will be a recounting of the Clifton, Ariz. controversy.
Although the program is about children, it is designed to engage audiences of all ages ad to inform and raise awareness about this little-known part of history.
The presentation was originally developed as an outreach program for The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. and is currently the official outreach program for the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center in Concordia, Kan. Twenty years of touring have provided the presenters with many true stories of Orphan Train Riders and their descendants.
Local relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train Riders are invited to attend and share their stories with the audience.
The event is sponsored by the Arizona Humanities Council, Globe Public Library, Gila County Historical Museum, the Friends of the Globe Public Library, and the United Fund of Globe-Miami and is free and open to the public. For general audiences of all ages
For more information, contact the Globe Public Library at 928-425-6111 or via email at [email protected] High Desert Middle School is located at 4000 High Desert Dr.
The presenters:
Alison Moore, author/humanities scholar
Alison Moore, MFA, is a former Assistant Professor of English/Creative Writing in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona and a current Humanities Scholar in Texas. She lives in Austin and completed the novel “Riders on the Orphan Train” with a fiction fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Texas Institute of Letters and the Dobie/Paisano Foundation of the University of Texas at Austin.
Phil Lancaster, presenter/musician
Phil Lancaster was born in Texarkana and studied art and music at L’Ecole De Beaux Arts in Angers, France. He became a member of a bluegrass band that traveled and played throughout France and produced an album entitled “Bluegrass Oldies Ltd./Traveling Show.”


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