BWAHS program to focus on orphan trains


SUNBURY — Roger Roberts will show a video based on the book “Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Orphan Trains” by William T. Keene to the Big Walnut Area Historical Society at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, in the Myers Inn Meeting Room. Admission is free.

Keene writes, “In 1848 Ireland was gripped by famine. Nearly a million people died of starvation. Desperate, a million more abandoned their homeland and immigrated to America. Many settled in Five Points, an area of Lower Manhattan infamous for its squalor, gang violence and disease.

By the mid-nineteenth century, an estimated 30,000 orphaned and homeless children roamed New York City. They survived by resorting to petty crime, by begging and by selling newspapers for a nickel a piece. They slept in alleyways, in cellars and even sewers. For protection, they joined the violent gangs of the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits and the Roach Guards.

In response to this crisis, the age of orphan asylums began, culminating in one of the most improbable and audacious episodes in American history. Called the Orphan Train Movement, it endeavored to rescue these children lost to the streets and our institutions, by heroes who fought for their liberation.”

Orphan trains went through Ohio, but it’s unknown if any children ended up here.

“This documentary will give you something to ponder as we begin the new year,” said Roberts, program chair for the Big Walnut Area Historical Society.

Myers Inn Museum is located in downtown Sunbury at the corner of Columbus and Granville streets. It is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and by appointment on other days. To make an appointment for a tour, call 740-965-3582 and leave a message so a return call can be made.

Submitted story

Submitted by the Big Walnut Area Historical Society.

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