Did you know 12,500 orphans from New York City and the Boston area were placed in Michigan from 1854 to 1927. The production company spent a year and a half in research and searching for photos of the Orphan Train Riders in Michigan. They have produced a television documentary about this event in Michigan’s history, depicting in great detail the selection process and being an Orphan Train Rider. Over the past 5 years, the Program Source has been offering lectures on the topic. On several occasions, we’ve had actual Orphan Train Riders and their relatives in attendance, to tell us their stories.
The first Orphan Train Riders (14 boys), arrived in Dowagiac, Michigan on a Sunday morning in late September 1854, traveling on the Michigan Central Railroad. By 1927, forty-three Michigan towns would also receive orphans from the “Baby Train”, as it was sometimes called. Most of the children came from the New York Children’s Aid Society and the New England Home for “Little Wanderers”. Thirty nine percent were girls, and most children were never adopted.
The motivation for producing “The Orphan Train in Michigan” documentary was first discovered at the Oxford Historical Society while working on that town’s history. The Program Source wants to help relatives of Michigan Orphan Train Riders with information on dates and placement in Michigan. In the Fall of 2004, a reenactment of the first Michigan Orphan Train Riders took place in Dowagiac, Michigan. An entire weekend was planned around the event, with reenacters following in the footsteps of the earlier orphans and walking from the Railroad Depot to the old Methodist Church for placement. A Michigan Orphan Train Registry is in development to document the names, places and any other information regarding these riders. If you know of an Orphan Train Riders or have a relative that may have come to Michigan through the placement program, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include as much information as possible. For more information regarding the Orphan Train, try some of these links: