Keeping Orphan Train stories alive

Thursday, August 27, 2015
Charlotte Endorf speaks in McCook. (Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Gazette)

McCOOK, Neb. -- Charlotte Endorf of Hadar, Nebraska, holds a picture of a little boy adopted from an "Orphan Train," one of hundreds that ran from New York City to the Midwest between 1854 and 1929, carrying a quarter-million orphaned and abandoned children in need of homes.

"The couple who selected this little boy couldn't have children," Charlotte told those gathered for her presentation "Excess Baggage: Riding the Orphan Train," Wednesday afternoon at Heritage Senior Center in McCook. "So they adopted this little guy. And then had eight more of their own."

Charlotte told of successful adoptions into loving families, as well as placements in which the bigger boys were selected simply for their ability to provide free farm labor. Endorf said the Orphan Train effort to relocate needy children is recognized now as the beginnings of documented foster care and adoption in the United States.

Endorf has saved the stories of Orphan Train riders in her books, "By Train They Came: Fragile Excess Baggage" and "Plains Bound: Fragile Cargo." She encourages anyone with Orphan Train stories to share them with her at or by mail, 402 Sycamore Street, Hadar, NE 68701.

She said, "How many more stories need to be told and saved? We must keep this history alive." Endorf's presentation in McCook was sponsored by Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, the Humanities Nebraska Speakers Bureau and First Central Bank McCook.

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