IAGenWeb Project
Join our Team!
Orphan Train Riders to Iowa  Orphan Train Riders

~ Agents ~   

Charles Collins Townsend
Charles Collins Townsend, an Episcopal missionary, came to Iowa City (Johnson Co., IA) and established The Orphan's Home of Industry in 1854. His plan was to bring the orphaned and homeless children of New York to Iowa where they could be placed with farmers and others in the community. Until the orphans found new homes, they were schooled at The Home and also cared for crops and livestock there. The New York Times estimated that Townsend took in 500 orphans in all.

It is not known when the first children were brought to Iowa City. Records show that between June 1, 1854 and June 1, 1858, 50 boys, 43 girls and 26 adults came to Iowa by train. Townsend's first group from the East was composed of 9 boys, 13 girls and 4 adults. During the first four years of The Home's operation, Townsend noted that over 20 young people learned to read and/or write and three were ready to teach school. One boy died and was buried on the grounds of The Home. Three children and one adult were returned to New York City.

Townsend wrote biographical sketches of some of the first orphans he found in New York:
red check mark "John was found in a bake house; slept on some straw in a cart ... will make an industrious farmer"
red check mark "George, in pitiful conditions on the streets, now cultivates his own garden in Iowa and has a good home with a farmer"
red check mark "five older boys in good homes with farmers"
red check mark "Frances, found in the Sun building in New York City, now in a good home with the Stephan Maynards"
red check mark "Ellen, from Randall's Island, now an assistant housekeeper at The Home, and a teacher of the smaller children, hoping to go to the new Normal school in Iowa City"
red check mark "Mary, 16, from Fort Smith, going to school in Iowa City"
red check mark "lame Susan whose parents died of cholera"

However, the townspeople were not happy to have vagrants and criminals in their midst and in 1868 the home had closed and the property sold at a sheriff's auction. Townsend went back to New York where he died a short time later.

~ source: Palimpsest, The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa,  November to December 1979.