Beginning sometime during 1853, charitable institutions in New York City began sending orphans on trains to the west to find new families, hoping the children would fare better out west than on the streets of New York. Orphan trains began arriving in Iowa during 1854 ending about 1930. During this time over 5000 children were placed in Iowa homes.
Orphan Train Riders, 1904
Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, November 24, 1904

A company of fourteen orphan children were brought to Leon last Friday under the auspices of the New York Children's Aid Society for the purpose of placing them in suitable homes. All of the children were well clothed and bore evidence of good treatment. They were in charge of B.W. Tice, the New York City agent, H.D. Clarke, the Iowa agent, and Anna Laura Hill, the matron of the institution. Messrs. Tice and Clarke are men of good judgment, business tact and ability, and are evidently the right men in the right place.

The children are placed on trial for six months. They are to be well clothed and treated, given moral and educational advantages and must remain in the family until they are eighteen years of age. The society has a right to remove a child for reasonable cause and will again take charge of those found unsatisfactory. A large crowd gathered at the opera house on Friday at 2 o'clock p.m. and the distribution of the children occurred as follows:

JAMES DECKER, aged 8 years, was placed with MILO MOORE and wife, of this city. The boy was born near Kingston, N.Y., and his parents are both dead. He belongs to an excellent family. His little sister and brother were present but were taken to Osceola as they could not be placed in the same family.

NORA HENDRICKS, 11 years old, was born in Marbletown. The father died and the mother deserted the child when young and her whereabouts are unknown. She was given to MRS. MARTHA HOLMES, of Decatur

ETHEL MAY DUNCAN, 6 years old, was born in Kingston, N.Y. She was abandoned by her parents; has a nice but old uncle residing at Port Ewan, N.Y. She had been an inmate of the Kingston Orphan Asylum and was given to MRS. FRED ORCHARD, of Decatur.

GEO. ROBERT KILLORAN, 10 years old, was born in Ogdensburg, N.Y., and was given to ISAAC K. FISHER, of Decatur. The boy's sister, MARIAN KILLORAN, 13 years old, was placed with REV. and MRS. A.M. PILCHER, of this city. The parents of those children are living but (*can't read the next line.)

MAGGIE ESTELLA REMORE, 12 years old, was born in Ogdensburg. Her parents are living but their whereabouts are unknown. The child was placed with MRS. LUCY RAY.

BERTHA VIRGINIA BENNETT, 19 months old, was placed with MRS. E.H. PECK of Decatur. The child's father died in Canada a year ago. The mother, a member of the theatrical profession, made a legal surrender of the child to the society as she could not take care of it. She is a fine looking young woman about 22 years of age.

MADELINE HELLER, 9 years old, was born in Brooklyn. Her father is dead and her mother deserted her. She was placed with DANIEL KLINE, JR.

BELLE QUINCE, 12 years old, was taken from the Five Points Orphan Asylum of New York City. She has a splendid intellect and a fine ear for music. She was taken by MRS. J. STATZELL.

MARGARET E. HUNT, aged 10 years, was an inmate of the Five Points Orphan Asylum. She has a sister and brother at Sidney, Iowa. She was given to MR. and MRS. J.W. ULM, of Eden Township.

GEO. PETRIE, 13 years of age, was removed from a home in Missouri and was placed with W.J. BLADES, of Long Creek Township

On December 8th, the representatives of the society will be in Lennox with a dozen children for distribution.

Transcription by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert
Orphan Train Riders, 1904
CLARKE, Herman Devillo and KIDDER, Clark.
Orphan Trains & Their Precious Cargo: The Life's Work of Rev. H. D. Clarke.
Pp. 186. Heritage Books. 2001

Distributions, Leon, Iowa, November 18, 1904.

Placed children:

Martha Virginia Bennet "Bertha Peck", born May 23, 1903, placed with Edwin M. Peck of Decatur, IA
Jennie Decker
Boy - Decker
Boy - Decker

Deckers from "respectable stock" placed through unfortunate circumstances. Oldest boy did not turn out well with a checkered career. Young boy had good Christian home, but too indulgent and he grew headstrong & uncontrollable. Girl trained in a Seventh-Day Adventist home, became a fine Christian woman, married and had one child, died in faith.

Ethel May Duncan, b. 25 Aug 1898, placed with Mrs. Fred Orchard, Decatur, Iowa. Later replaced in Osceola, & Greenfield IA and last placed in Milford, NE 27 Feb 1906 with Riley and Jennie Wright. M. 20 Feb 1917 Roy Stolz of Milford. Moved to DM then to Crete NE, then back to DM. Had several children.

Madeline H.

Nora H.

Marian Kelleran
, name change to Berta P. A. Kelleran, later returned to NY & House of Mercy.

Wilbur (Main?) sturdy & industrious boy, went to a farmer w/fierce temper, wife saw possibilities and his desirability. Wife held on to the boy.

Maggie Remore, relatives wanted her back in NY, she did not want to return.

This was a year of special attention to Iowa. Quite a number from the Ogdensburgh, New York Home.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2015
Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, February 28, 1924

Mr. E. Wright, of Chicago, who was to bring a number of asylum children to Leon last Friday, disappointed a number of people who called to adopt children, owing to the fact that scarlet fever had broken out at the asylum and the children, of course, could not be brought here. Mr. Wright was here and made arrangements for homes for a number of children who will be brought here after all danger from scarlet fever is over.

Transcription by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifert

This is a list of orphan train riders Madonna Harm put together over the years. This list is alphabetical by the orphans real last name, if known, or by the surname of their adopted family. Also be sure to check the Bs for 'boy', Gs for 'girl', Cs for 'child', Ts for 'twin' and As for '?'. This list was last updated on Feb. 14, 2003. Those mentioned in the above articles were also listed in this spreadsheet, but with less information.
Name AgeBirth Trip/ReportName of Family TownSource/Informant -- Notes
Child's original name when known *= adoptive name    newspaper dateTaking Child   
Brunate, Gustave    Comerford, Edward Leon  
Davenport, James18 19 Apr 1879  LeonvilleNew York Tribune
Emmick, Chester    Leon  
Warren, Benjamin18 19 Apr 1879  Leon New York Tribune
Wilson, James H   Loucks, Isaac Leon  
Click for complete spreadsheet.

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