In January 2012, I wrote an article about Orphan Train Riders in my family. Over the last month, I have learned that there was more to that story. To summarize, my great-grandmother’s brother, James William Goul, took in two young brothers, Clarence and Matthew Brown, who had ridden the Orphan Train from New York to Kansas.
One year after the last census James W. Goul appeared on (as he died a few years later), the Columbus Weekly Advocate located in Columbus, Kansas, reported on page 5 of the April 27, 1911 edition that a sister of the brothers had searched to find them. Her name was Anna and she lived in Elmire, New York. The boys (reported in the paper as Clarence and John Brown) were not orphans, and they had been”kidnapped from their home.” The newspaper also said that the brothers were inseparable and neither knew that they had an older sister who had been searching for them. I never found a follow up to find out if the brothers met their sister after being separated since before 1893, but if they did, I wonder what happened after that.
Historically, children who were transported on the trains from the east coast to the heartland, were true orphans or those who had been given up so they could have a better life and those children who were children of the street. Families who took in these children either did so because they really did want a child or because they needed labor for their farms. In the news article I referenced above, it is reported that J. W. Goul first picked the youngest of the two boys, Clarence. That leads me to believe that even though the farmer and his wife had a daughter and son, that they did want to provide a home for a new child. It was only after the young boy cried that he didn’t want his brother “taken away” that Mr. Goul took the older boy as well.
Orphan Train Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons