Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 27, 2019, pg. 9
On June 30, 1857, an "Orphan Train" containing 31 persons, mostly children from New York City, left for Michigan. The majority of them were placed with families in the Albion area when the train stopped here in early July. This was one of many such trains sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City. The trains were designed to take poor children from large families or broken homes who found themselves destitute on the streets, and transport them westwards to foster homes in rural settings.
The topic of the Orphan Trains is a complex one. Some were placed on the train by either parent; some were actually orphans, and others volunteered themselves to go. As a side note, many of the boys who were placed on trains in the 1850s served in the Union Army in the Civil War during the 1860s.
There exists a passenger manifest of the train that stopped in Albion. It gives the name of the child, their age, country of birth, religion, who placed them on the train, the name of the person who took them in, and their location. Unfortunately, the surname identities of the children have been blackened out for privacy. A look at the 1860 U.S. Census records a few years later however reveals the surnames if they were living with the same farmer/person who took them in. In addition, the Society would allow a descendant to see their record on the manifest and blacken out all the other surnames on the page. After corresponding with several descendants, yours truly was able to come up with the full names of several children on that train. There are still descendants of some of these children in the Albion area today.
Some Albion highlights include Philip Waitzer, age 12, originally from Germany, who was placed with Simeon Barker of Albion. Philip (1845-1910), whose last name was changed to Weitzel, later served as an officer in the Civil War and afterwards farmed land in Concord Township. William Ryon, age 7, was placed with John Beers of Albion. Margaret Bagley, age 6 was placed with S. M. Wallace, while her brother James was placed with prominent Marengo Township landowner Peter Mulvany. John Small, age 10, was placed with Albion pioneer Burr Hall. Brothers Joseph and George Timmons, ages 7 and 8 respectively, were placed with Simeon Stone. They were eventually adopted and George (1849-1921) joined the Union Army at the age of 13 as a drummer boy, and served during the duration of the War. He subsequently became active in Civil War veteran activities, and at one time served as Auditor General for the State of Michigan.
In Jackson County, Ezekiel A. Landon of Springport took in a boy named James McFetridge, age 10, Also from Springport, David Gillett took in a George Simpson, age 10. Both boys had placed themselves on the train. Mr. King of Spring Arbor took in a boy named John, age 13, who had been placed on the train by his father. Mr. Ward of Sandstone took in a boy named William, age 18 originally from Germany, who was placed on the train by his mother.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of George W. (Timmons) Stone (1849-1921) as a Civil War drummer boy, one of many children who arrived in Albion in 1857 on the Orphan Train.
George Washington Timmons Stone, in the Civil War Times
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic