The Orphan Trains

This story was inspired by the Orphan Train Program, as it became known, that operated in the United States from 1854 to 1929. You can read a little more about it below the story, or click the link for a more complete understanding of this controversial program.

As usual, the aim of Friday Fictioneers is produce a story in not more than 100 words with a beginning, a middle and an end. You can click on the little blue frog for many more stories from this amazing community. 🙂

The Orphan Train (100 words)

“Olivia I’m scared,” he said, clutching his sister’s hand.

“Go on Stanley,” she encouraged, “now’s your chance to get a new family. Don’t forget your poem, and no crying!”

The little boy tramped timidly up on to the stage and stood as if frozen, blinking at the eager faces that studied him from below. He recited Jack and Jill to guffaws from the baying crowd and blinked back the tears while a rancid smelling farmer squeezed his muscles.

The huge man nodded and led him off the stage. With a last glance at his teary sister, Stanley’s new life began.

Orphan Train

Many of the immigrant children who lost there parents on the great adventure to start a new life in America passed through Ellis Island and became almost feral on the streets of New York City.

A huge welfare program was started aimed at rehousing these children into foster families across the country and they were transported by train across the country, stopping at towns along the way where the children could be viewed and chosen by prospective parents, while paraded on a makeshift stage.

Some went on to have wonderful lives as a result of this program while other less fortunate children were abused or used as slaves. It is estimated that in the 75 years the program ran for, around 200,000 children were transported.



    • Hi Sandra, yes, there are certainly parallels with recent events regarding the suffering and displacement of children and course inevitably with mass migration of desperate or impoverished families coupled with arduous and unsanitary conditions many more displaced children will become orphaned. Thanks for reading.


    • I think the well intentioned people who set the scheme up would never have imagined that any of these children might end up suffering more than if they lived their whole lives on the street. How much easier it must have been then to abuse and inflict suffering without the watchful and sometimes intrusive presence of social media!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great story. I fear for the little boy’s future.

    I first learned about this program from a novel called The Chaperone, which followed the life of one of the adoptees from about age 18 through marriage, racism, sexism and other cultural challenges. Like your story, it was quite enlightening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jan, good to hear from you, and thank you for your comments. It came as quite a shock when I first heard about this program and to think that there are over 200,000 of them, all with amazing stories.


  2. Dear JWD,

    Huge round of applause for your story and bringing this bit of history to light. This topic actually came up in my writing critique group this past week. Again. I really enjoyed the story and the rest of your post.



    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being that I was orphaned by age 9, the perspectives of those who speak of orphans have evoked an interest with me. Life is not always easy, whether one is an orphan or not. Yet the journey of life has potential to inspire meaning with each experience one has. I have written on the subject of being orphaned from a first person perspective, and its impact on a life such as mine. Please take the time to read. It is at this web address:
    Thank you for offering your time and attention to the state of orphans.


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