dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-15 05:58 pm
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Orphan Trains

At the time I began trying to find Happy Heim for my uncle, I had already seen PBS' American Experience documentary called The Orphan Trains.

At the time I watched the PBS broadcast, I wondered if I would ever encounter someone in my family tree who rode an Orphan Train.

Now, I'm waiting to see who the next one will be.

There's a lot of information on the internet about Orphan Trains. Personally, from my own research, I think the Wiki article is the least accurate, because Arkansas is hardly the midwest United States.

The National Orphan Train Complex is an excellent resource.

Happy Heim rode an Orphan Train to Arkansas in 1904.

But the trains kept coming to Arkansas, even as late as 1912.

In a series of news articles in 1912 issues of the Springdale News, outreach was conducted to get families to show up and meet the trains.

Friday, February 9, 1912...
Homes for nine orphan children brought to Rogers Friday by agents of the Childrens Aid Society of New York were found so quickly and there were so many applicants disappointed that another company of the little folks was arranged for by telegram that night and will arrive here by next Friday...Hundreds of people visited the hotel during the morning to see the children who stood the embarrassing ordeal much better than could be expected...

I've seen quite a few statements on the internet that say it's largely a myth that siblings were split up.

But that's not what shows up in the Springdale News.

From that same February 9 issue...
...[T]he children were placed as follows:
Agnes Margurite Kamm, 12 years - Mrs. and Mrs. E W Homan.
Marion Haines, 9 years - Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Puckett.
Margaret Haines, 7 years - Mr. and Mrs. J S Elder.
Wilbur Pruden, 10 and Marion Pruden, 9 - R H Thomas and wife on White River at Eden's Bluff.
Chester and Emmett Pruden, twins, 4 years - C P Hummell and wife, of Monte Ne.
Walter Bewley, 9 years and Frank Bewley, 8 years - J W Clack and wife, north of Rogers on Elk Horn Poultry Ranch.

This one just broke my heart...
Springdale News, Friday 7 Jun 1912...


The children brought to Springdale were placed as follows:
Madilene Mischlen, 12 years old, H Quandt, city.
Elizabeth Mischlen, 11 years old, J B Stokes, souhtwest (sic) of town.
Barbara Mischlen, 10 years old, J A Joyce, city.
Adam Mischlen, 7 years old, J L Davis, Wheeler.
John Mischlen, 5 years old, Ed Brant, souhtwest (sic) of town.
George Schlesser, 5 years old, John Anderson, city.
Joseph Marr, 17 months old, Rev. A L Cline, city.
Margaret Lovas, 8 years old, W H Kelso, city.
Henry Knuth, 15 years old, Ed Brant, southwest of town.
Addie Knuth, 11 years old, H P Church, northwest of town.
Roy Knuth, 9 years old, J R Langridge, Spring Valley.
Charles Salverson, 13 years old, Carrie Salverson, 8 years old, J P Moore, Springdale.

I wondered why Mr. Ed Brant didn't take siblings for his two choices.

And then I wondered if Happy Heim lost one or more siblings with his "placement."

Other resources for information about Orphan Trains, including stories of and information about the children who rode the trains:
Nebraska's website
Kansas' website
Missouri's website
Wisconsin's GenWeb Orphan Train website
The Adoption History Project
The Children's Aid Society
dee_burris: (Default)
2010-11-08 02:11 pm

Mystery Monday: Happy Heim

One of my uncles came from a large Catholic family of German descent. His grandparents and great grandparents settled in Shoal Creek, Arkansas in a German Catholic "colony" promoted by the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad to increase settlements in western Arkansas. In addition to the Benedictine Convent a Benedictine monastery was located in Subiaco.

As I began researching Uncle Tommy's German roots, he asked me more than once if I could find out what happened to Happy Heim, who was adopted by Uncle Tommy's maternal grandparents, and who left Logan County as a very young man for Chicago. Aside from one visit Happy made as an adult, Uncle Tommy did not know what happened to him.

I knew Happy had been a young rider on an orphan train. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 or more homeless and orphaned children were sent west from eastern cities, accompanied by agents. The purpose was to find families that would take in children in a "free-home-placing-out" program instituted by the Children's Aid Society of New York City, NY. The children were sent in groups of twenty-five to 100 on trains, making stops along the way where they might be chosen by some family who wanted a child or needed extra help.

The Sisters of Charity from the New York Foundling Hospital indentured Catholic children and arranged placements for them; several hundred arrived in Arkansas under the guidance of priests in the state. These children were indentured only to Catholic families. Arrangements were made in advance through correspondence among various priests (mostly at Subiaco Abbey), their parishioners, and the Sisters of Charity. Families could request a particular type of child; skin, hair, and eye color; and the sex of the child. Source: Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture

George Kasper Nelson was born on 13 Oct 1901 in New York City, NY and placed in the New York Foundling Hospital as an infant. On 27 Jan 1904, he was placed by the New York Foundling Hospital with the family of George Michal and Elizabeth (Raible) Heim, and rode to Arkansas on an Orphan Train. While living with his adoptive family, George was known as "Happy" Heim.

I lucked out on a visit to the Arkansas History Commission, where I found several of the books published by the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. (OTHSAA), originally founded in Springdale, AR.

In the pages of one of the books that transcribed interviews with Orphan Train riders, I found that as a young adult, George moved to Chicago, where he owned and operated 7 taverns and speakeasies during Prohibition in the Chicago area. Among his patrons were Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, and Clark Gable.

George Kasper Nelson, behind the bar

After selling his taverns, George relocated to Illinois, and from there, moved to Indiana with a very special family. When that family moved to Texas in 1976, George chose to stay in Indiana. He was using his birth surname of Nelson.

The article about George said that he had gotten his records from the New York Foundling Hospital, but had lost them in a fire, which severely damaged his home and injured him.

George Kasper Nelson died on 8 May 1988 in New Washington, Clark Co., IN, and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

I was finally able to answer Uncle Tommy's questions about what happened to Happy Heim, just a few months before Tommy died on 19 Aug 2010.

This one is for you, Uncle Tommy. See you on the other side.