The first night found us in Concordia, Kanas up near the northern border in the middle of the state. It was a destination to go here because I wanted to visit the National Orphan Train Museum. We did not rest well that night. For me, I had done all the driving, from roughly 9 am to 4:30 pm. When I got out of the car that night my back and back side hurt; it was to ache for several more days. Both of us found that we can’t go the many miles in comfort that we used to go.
Not much was said or published about the orphan trains until the late 1980 when a woman in northern Arkansas wanted to know about her family’s background. She started a movement by which information was shared about the many children sent from the East to the Midwest during hard times. Nearly 200,000 children rode the trains to new families. Some stories were not so pretty in the end, and all stories were sad that these children had to be given up by poor or dying mothers in the first place.
Typical living conditions in the city at turn of century. There was not enough of anything for a large family...space, food, money.
The museum is located in a refurbished depot and note the colors which were determined by the National History foundation. They said this was a historically correct shade for a train depot of the time. While no orphan train actually unloaded in Concordia, stops were in nearby towns and many children grew up in the area or moved to the town eventually. A research resource is set in a separate building behind the depot. The entire facility is an interesting place to visit. Many people are reading the popular fiction called Orphan Train. One woman in Texas read it with her book club and then insisted her husband drive her to Kansas to see this site.
The children were dressed in an outfit of new clothes and give a small suitcase with one other outfit of clothing. They were numbered and assisted by adults who got them to their destinations. This little bonnet is the actually one a little girl wore on her ride West.
It was here in this town we began to see the huge grain bins that feed the world, Kansas is known as Breadbasket of the World. Some call these grain elevators the Kansas Cathedrals.
The day was still young and we headed north to the Nebraska state line