Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Monday, July 5, 2010


Recently, out of the blue, I received a phone call from a grandmother in Bethesda Maryland, Thalia Funt, who is a native of central Kansas and had read about my book tour visit to Solomon Elementary School in the Solomon Valley Tribune.

Mrs. Funt’s granddaughter, Maya Berman, is an eleven-year-old who is homeschooled, along with her younger sister Shayna. Maya was a participant in this year’s National History Day Competition in Montgomery County Maryland. Her ten minute documentary on the Orphan Train Movement of 1854-1929 won FIRST PLACE in the Jr. Documentary Category. The documentary, which Mrs. Funt sent me a copy of, is extremely well done and accurate – I was quite impressed! No wonder it took FIRST PLACE!

Maya wrote to me and shared that her own great grandmother had possibly ridden an orphan train in the late 1800’s. Born in 1883, the only known information is that she was an orphan, living with an adoptive family in Kansas. Research revealed that there were no orphanages in Kansas at that time so it is very possible that she arrived in Kansas on an Orphan Train; perhaps sent by the Sisters of Charity or the Children’s Aid Society.

Many thanks to Maya, and to her grandmother Thalia, for sharing - not only Maya’s award winning documentary - but also a little of their own family history. It is through the preservation of individual stories that the history of the Orphan Train Movement will survive!