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1896 Orphan Train Riders in Decatur

On May 29, 1896 the agent for the New York Juvenile Asylum left seven children in the care of seven different residents of Macon County.

Herman Stratman took a girl from the orphan train and in the 1900 census the Stratmans had a 14 year old girl living with them as an "adopted daughter" named Ethel Everett. Ethel did not know the nativity of her parents and reported that she was born in Illinois. The Stratman's, who were in their fifties had a 9 year old adopted son named Francis, whose parents were from Germany. The Stratmans were also from Germany. In 1910 the Stratmans still lived in Bement, but Ethel was no longer living with them. No marriage or death record could be found for Ethel. Francis' birth name was Folkers and at the time of his death his brothers were living in Oregon, Nebraska and New Jersey. One sister was living in Chicago. With one brother still living in the East, it is all too probable that Francis came to Illinois as an orphan. He was the only heir of the Stratton's and inherited their property in 1919, when Herman Stratman died. Neither Ethel or Francis were listed with in the roster of children at the Asylum, but once again, this illustrates that fact that children moved away from the families that chose them with shocking frequency and that families were very often eager to have the children. These orphans may have come with the Children's Aid Society.

William Pistorious also took a girl on May 29 and brought her home to his family. Mary Kistner was twelve years old that day and the Pistorious family contained one two year old son. By 1900, when the census was taken, they had two more children of their own and Mary was 16 years old. The Pistorious' family was of German extraction, as was Mary. Mary married John Gonser of Boody, Illinois in March of 1905. John Gonser was a German immigrant who came to the States when he was 24 years old. John and Mary moved to Arkansas where they had four children: Henry, Lillas, Rose and Nora. In the censuses following the 1900 census, Mary noted that her birth was "at sea."

Louis Bossier (or Bessler) chose a boy from the group of orphans. Whether that orphan appears in the 1900 census in the Bossier home is questionable. Joseph M. Fairchild was 19 in 1900 and from Kentucky. The orphans from the NYJA were from almost all states of the Union. Only two young men named Fairchild are listed in the roster of orphans: Alonzo and George. Possibly this young man was not from the Asylum. Farmers almost always had a farm hand or two living with the family. These orphan cases also illustrate the fact that the children very often did not stay with the first family that selected them.

George and Emma Butler took in a girl named Maud Kendal. Maud was 13 years old in 1900 and would have been just 9 when George chose her from the children. A clipping from the Decatur Journal from October 12, 1904 proves Maud Kendal married at age 17 to Henry Dial. The Newspaper reported that Maud could not state the name of her parents, who had died before she was too young to remember them. Henry was a farmer in Maroa, Macon County. They had one daughter, Mabel Dial, who married Russell Stuard and had two children: Norma and Mary.

The remainder of the men in the article could not be found with an unconnected child in their family.


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