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Hamilton J. Brodie, Orphan Train Rider

Hamilton J. Brodie was born in 1856 or 1860 in New York to two immigrants from Scotland. He was left at the New York Juvenile Asylum by his mother, Alice, after his father's death and lived there for four years before he was sent to Illinois in 1871. In the 1870 census he appears as a student at the New York Juvenile Asylum and is recorded as being age 10. We know that he first lived In Iroquois County with the John Palmer family from September 1871 to December 1871, when he was indentured to Minerva Dooley.

Minerva Dooley was the widow of William H. Dooley, a wealthy farmer who moved to McLean County from Kentucky in 1851. A collection of family papers in the McLean County Museum of History show that the parents of William Dooley were slave owners in Kentucky. William may have come to Illinois with sufficient cash to buy the land necessary for his success in Illinois. In 1871 Minerva's children were grown and she was living on a farm in Padua with two of her children, one of whom was a eighteen year old son working on the farm.

Probably Hamilton was brought to their home to be a worker on their farm, because by this time Hamilton was fifteen years old and considered old enough to do a man's job. The purpose of the indenture was that Hamilton should learn farming from an experienced farmer. Minerva's son, Jabez Dooley, was not an experienced farmer, just a young man working his family's farm. Jabez married in 1873 and by 1880 was working a farm of his own in Empire Township.

It is unknown how long Hamilton worked for the Dooleys, but it does not appear that this indenture could have continued for long or would have been beneficial to Hamilton. Hamilton was far too inexperienced to be of use to a widowed woman on a large farm after her son married and moved away. The record from the New York Juvenile Asylum is silent so it is all too possible that Hamilton drifted away, working for wages on a casual basis until he married in Oconee. This would have been a long and lonely twenty years of working as casual labor on Illinois farms, living in barns or sheds in what was still pioneer territory.

Hamilton disappears from the official record from 1871 until 1894, when he married in 1894 to Sarah Hilton in Oconee, Shelby County. With Sarah, Hamilton had five children, only three of whom lived to adulthood. In 1900 they lived in St. Louis, Missouri, where Hamilton worked as an insulation cutter in an electrical wire factory. They had just one son, Perry in 1900.

No death or burial information for Hamilton Brodie could be found. Sarah was listed as a widow in the 1910 census in Pana, Christian County with three small children dependent on her while she worked as a laundrywoman. Like his father, Hamilton's early death left his children fatherless at very young ages. Also because of his early death his story was possibly not shared with his children.

Keith Brodie, Hamilton's great grandson by son Perry Brodie, brought Hamilton Brodie to my attention. Until family lore was confirmed through New York Juvenile Asylum records, he only knew that great grandpa Brodie was an "orphan." Now he knows that Hamilton was one of the famed orphan train riders whose mother gave him up out of desperation after the death of her husband.

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