Orphan Trains of Illinois
The Orphan Trains placed children from the Eastern United States on farms in the Midwest States from 1851 until 1929. Click on the rectangle in the top right hand corner of the map to view the map full screen and larger photos. Click on the map tags to read about orphans placed in different locations. Letters are from the annual reports of the New York Juvenile Asylum. The year of each report is referenced in the tag. Search by orphan name in the full screen mode.
This website is being constructed by Rochelle Gridley, a librarian and amateur historian in McLean County, IL. If you are interested in my research into the orphan trains in Illinois -- or even better, if you have information about an orphan you would like to have published here -- you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been writing my blog, A Hundred Years Ago in the Pantagraph for three years. In response to a blog on one orphan child, I was asked to speak at a book club on the subject of Orphan Trains. I developed a talk about the McLean County orphans and now present it in conjunction with the McLean County Museum of History, where I volunteer in the library.
I have used the Google Maps app to build this map. Unfortunately, after adding over 300 locations to this map, the map has become unstable and data was being dropped randomly.
The sources for this map were the digitized copies of the Annual Reports of the New York Juvenile Asylum. The digitized copies are held by the Hathitrust for the most part at this location. And this location. Physical copies are held at the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota and the entire physical archives of the Asylum are at Columbia University in New York. Other information has been culled from digitized newspaper accounts.
The New York Juvenile Asylum distributed children exclusively in Illinois from 1851 to about 1900. During the first twenty five years of operations, the names of the children were not published in the annual reports of the Asylum, nor are all the annual reports available in a digitized form. The New York Juvenile Asylum was just one of many organizations sending children to the Western States as indentured servants. Some organizations sent children to states other than Illinois, but the NYJA was unique in that it sent children to only one state for almost fifty years.
The Asylum had a "Western Agent" based in Chicago, Illinois and then Normal, Illinois from the 1860's until 1900. This agent performed the placing out work with a network of agents under his control in Illinois. For the majority of the time the NYJA had an agent in Illinois that agent was Ebenezer Wright. After the Western Agency was closed, the Illinois Children's Aid Society was hired to make the distributions around 1903. It was then that the children began to be placed in Iowa as well as Illinois. A few years later children were being distributed by the New York Children's Aid Society as proxies for the New York Juvenile Asylum all over the Midwest. The Asylum was later known as The Children's Village. This website only attempts to follow the children who were known to have been placed in Illinois. My interest in the NYJA was spurred by the fact that the Western Agent had his home in the town where I live.