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Freda & Frank Reichardt, Orphan Train Riders

Freda (1873 - 1941) and Frank (1875) Reichardt

Freda Reichardt lived with the Gillespies, along with her brother, Frank, after coming to Illinois in 1889. As an adult she remembered how she came to be in Illinois. “When my father took me to the Asylum seven years ago my heart was full of resentment toward him, but I now thank my Heavenly father that he placed me there. I came to Illinois five years ago and after staying with my guardian two years I married their son, an only child, and we live very happily together.” When she wrote this letter in 1894, she had twin boys and her brother was still living with the Gillespies in Chenoa. Park Gillespie, her husband, was a butcher in Chenoa, and they went on to have two more children. Freda died in 1941 and her obituary noted her birth in New York as well as the names of her birth parents. No allusion was made to her reason for being in McLean County. Her children were Herbert, Howard, Christian and Frank.

Frank Reichardt married Mary Codlin in 1902. Frank volunteered in the army during the Spanish American War. Frank and Mary operated hotels in El Paso, Rutland and Lexington before settling in Pontiac and operating a hotel there. Later in life he became an insurance salesman. He served as a police magistrate and as commander of his VFW post as well. In his obituary his parents were named: John and Sophie Reichardt. He and Mary had one daughter, Freda.

Another interesting fact is that Freda's husband was not the natural child of the Gillespies. He was legally adopted as an infant from an unwed mother in McLean County and was made the legal heir of the Gillespies. In 2017 I reviewed the McLean County Commissioners records from about 1830 to 1900 in an effort to find out whether any orphan train child in McLean County was formally adopted. I determined that none of the riders were adopted during that period of time. In Illinois the adoption laws provided that the adopted child had to be made a full beneficiary of all inheritance laws, equal with the natural children of the family.

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