Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Around the same time that Reverend Brace was beginning his work on behalf of the homeless children in New York City, another person of faith, Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon of the Sisters of Charity, felt God’s calling as well. With beginning capital of just five dollars, Sister Irene sought help from charitable women and raised enough money to rent a small house located at 17 E. 12th Street where, on October 11, 1869 she began preparations for opening what would be called the New York Foundling Hospital. The mission would be to save the thousands of infants and very young children who were being left to perish in alley ways and trash heaps around the city. Appropriately enough, October 11th is the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sister Irene, along with the other Sisters of Charity, intended to take three months to get the home ready to open, but on the very first night an infant was left on the front steps and without ceremony, the Foundling Home was in operation. By January 1, 1870, when the Sisters had originally intended to open their doors, they had 123 babies in residence.

Placing a white cradle in the foyer of the Home, while leaving the front door unlocked, word was sent out that a desperate mother could enter the Home and leave her child in the cradle with no questions asked. All the Sisters asked was that when leaving, the mother ring the bell by the front door so that the Sisters would know that there was a new little one to be gathered up and brought upstairs with the other babies.

Prior to the opening of the Foundling Home, abandoned infants found alive on the streets were taken by police to Blackwell’s Island (a prison and workhouse) where they were cared for by aging prisoners. Few survived infancy.

In the following six years, the NY Foundling home relocated twice to larger buildings to accommodate more children. By 1876 it became apparent that another solution was needed to solve the problem of homeless infants….Mercy Trains, or Baby Trains as they were sometime called, would be the answer….


Yaya' s Changing World said...

My heart just breaks at the thought that little children and babies were left on the streets to die or wind up being cared for at Blackwell's Island. Sadly, my very creative imagination conjures up some horrible images that those children must have been faced with.

I somehow never heard about the Baby Trains. I am anxious to learn more about them. Thank you for sharing this information.

Yaya's Changing World

Mom2three said...

What a fantastic mission the Foundling Home had, but sad that there was such a need for them or the Baby Train. i had heard of the Baby Trains once before, but it has been some time.

What a great ministry you are a part of - Comfort Rag Quilts. When I made the quilt for Baby Natalie, I fully intended to embroidery her name and birth info on it, but will have to put that off since I'm having surgery on the 23rd. I would love to see pictures of the quilts that have been completed.