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Gilbert H. Eadie


Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 8/10/2010 at 17:59:21

Rider on 1913 Orphan Train Tells How He Ended Up Here From New York
by Madonna Storla

Waukon: Gilbert Eadie who lives here with his wife Gladys [nee Sunderman], was born in a tenement in New York City. When he was 8 his mother died; 2 years later he lost his father. Following the death of his father, who was a Scottish born stone cutter, the Children's Aid Society came into the picture. They attempted to place orphaned children in good homes. They kept meticulous records which enabled the tracing and reuniting of relatives in later years.

"My brother, Walter, and I were put aboard what was called an Orphan Train in July, 1913. They sent us to Pratt, KS, where we were placed with the William Wright family there," he said. "Mrs. Wright was a teacher and her husband was a farmer. It was there that I learned to play hookey," Eadie related, "but we got caught. We had a choice to either stay in and miss recesses or take a whipping. I chose the whipping and how we dreaded that. One of the boys said he had nine pairs of pants on so it wouldn't hurt so much. By the time I got to the platform where the teacher's desk stood, I was crying very hard, so I didn't get hit too hard. Times were hard in Kansas because of the drought so eventually the Wrights sold their farm and moved back to Pennsylvania. Then we came to Allamakee County with a lady from the Children's Aid Society."

"I was 10 then and was placed in the home of Dan and Nettie Kelly, a brother and sister who lived with their mother on a farm near Crossroads. We were not legally adopted, but we became part of a family again and learned to do farm work, Iowa style." He reminisced as he said, "We attended the Crossroads School, which stood close to where the road goes to Waterville. It was one of the richest taxable rural school districts of the county."

The fact that the consolidation procedures were in the works at that time brought up the question concerning the closing of this large rural school. The Paint Creek Township opted to build a consolidated school at a cost of $84,000 in Waterville. This included all of the rural schools in the township except the Northwest School. The reason for this was that the board deemed it too far for a ride in the wagon busses for the small children, especially since the terrain was very rough. This school was in the vicinity of the Fossum farm. Eadie was knowledgeable about the area where the Crossroads School stood. He said it was owned by the late James Kavanaugh, who bought 320 acres from the U.S. government. This was later owned by his son, Owen. Also many years ago Jim Conway owned 466 acres which was later owned by Logsdons. He owned 106 acres in Section 28 between the Robert McGeough and Dan Kelly farms. Later he acquired more land and managed to get these farms and Charles McGeough's land into the district. These farms belonged in the Hart district which was 2 miles east of there. Owen Kavanaugh's sister, Johannah taught the school for $35 per month.

A director of the Waterville Consolidated School district from 1939 until 1947, Eadie saw some drastic changes in the economy of the educational systems. The long routes cost the district more money. At that time the 5 members of the school board were: Theodore Gronna, president, George Sorenson, Leonard Hagen, Jack Fellows and Eadie. Jake Anderson was a long time secretary. Eadie is the only member of that board who is still living. Recalling the changes he remarked, "In the early 1940's the bus drivers got $17-$19.50 per month so they had to consist of people who farmed or worked another job. Things changed when the high school was moved to Waukon in 1962. The cost of the transportation of the high school students went up."

Gilbert and Gladys Eadie are enthusiastic travelers. One trip took them back to Pratt, KS, where the orphaned brothers had lived. The house where they lived was gone, but they got some information about schoolmates.

They attended a reunion of those placed in foster homes by the Children's Aid Society in New York City. There were many emotional contacts during this trip. They visited the area where he was born and found that the tenement in which the family had lived was being torn down to be replaced by a 22-apartment complex. "We paid $35 per month for rent in the tenement. The new apartments were to rent for $345 per month," he remarked.

The Eadies have visited 14 countries. Scotland, which was the birthplace of his father and grandfather, was of special interest. They plan to visit there again before long. He remarked whimsically, "there were 187 names listed inthe Glasgow telephone book who were Eadies."

They retired from their farm in 1982, leaving behind many memories of the years with Dan and Nettie Kelly. They cared for them until their death. They are the parents of Karen La Bonne of Vancouver; Elaine Rose of Waukon; Jean Fish of Oconomowoc, WI and John of Cedar Rapids. They have 19 grandchildren.

~Postville Herald, March 5, 1986 (the picture of Mr. Eadie, below, appeared with this article)

Added by Connie Ellis, March 16, 2011 ....I have taken the liberty to summarize information from 2 photocopied newspaper articles & did not include some repeated information:

The December 1974 issue of American Heritage has been given to the Waukon Municipal Library by Gilbert Eadie, rural Waterville, Iowa. This issue has an illustrated feature article about the Children's Aid Society of New York City and is of special interest to Gilbert since the article is mainly about the Brace Farm School for Boys, founded in 1853 by the Rev. Charles Loring Brace and the home of Gilbert and his brother, Walter Eadie, for several years following the death of their parents. Their mother, a native of New York City, New York, had died in 1909 and his father died in 1910, leaving three boys and three girls to care for themselves.

The article, "The Children's Migration", was written by Annette Riley Fry, a professional writer on the staff of a company that produces films and professional shows. Mrs. Fry contacted Eadie several years ago for information about the Children Aid's Society that had placed children in Allamakee County more than 60 years ago. While in New York City in 1972, Mr. and Mrs. Eadie met Mrs. Fry, who said due to the length of the article, the editors had edited it and much of the information secured from Eadie was omitted.

The 160 acre Brace Farm was located 40 miles north of New York City at Valhalla, New York. Eadie has fond memories of his early life there. At that time there were about 90 homeless boys in residence, each having daily tasks to perform. They attended school much like Allamakee County's old rural schools. The boys eagerly looked forward to Saturday afternoons, at which time, without fail, Robert Brace, wealthy son of the founder of the Society, would come out from the city and meet the children in the recreation room. He would play the piano and sing, and best of all, would pass out a candy treat. At this time, New York City still had street gas lamplighters, street cleaners and their push carts, and horse drawn street cars and fire engines.

Gilbert and his wife, Gladys, visited the farm school in 1962 while on a visit to New York City. Most of the buildings were intact but much of the land had been sold for industrial purposes. There were only 15 residents there at that time, mostly boys from broken homes.

There were some 21 orphanages in New York City in 1913 and the Children's Aid Society took the responsibility of placing children from these institutions in homes in the Midwest. They were transported by trains, accompanied by agents provided by the Society. The first train went out in 1854 and the last one in 1929. Segments of the groups would be taken to different areas in the Midwest where there had been advanced advertising in the local papers of the date and number of children arriving at the local Grange or local Opera House. Families wanting to adopt the children or at least give them foster homes, had to fill out forms and submit them to a local selection committee.

The Old Armory building,(which at that time was Waukon's opera house or city meeting place for civic affairs, stood on West Street, south of the Waukon State Bank) was the site for the trainload of children who arrived in Waukon to be "parceled" out to foster families. It was very much like an auction -- look over the goods and if you wanted cheap labor for the farm, you might find a husky 14 year old boy; or if you really wanted someone to love, you might find that individual on the platform. The children showed their talents by song or verse, each hoping some kind couple in the packed room would feel they could love them and give them a home. Children were all placed, though there were many who did not survive the adjustment period, and were later moved by the Society agents to another home, to another state, or in some cases, taken back to New York City. Agents of the Society visited the children in their new homes, making sure that they were given adequate care in surprise visits until the child turned 18 years of age.

Among those who continued to live in the Allamakee County area besides Gilbert Eadie were Oscar Rumph who now lives in Waterloo,Iowa; Teddy Robbins, Josephine (Riehl) who married Oscar Buntrock, and brothers Ed and Will Dickman, who were placed near Decorah, Iowa. Clinton Simpson, now living in Mankato, Minnesota, still maintains contact with area residents.*

On Wednesday, February 8, 1978, an airplane touched down at New York's LaGuardia airport after dodging a blizzard that carried two feet of snow and winds up to 50 miles per hour all the way from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gilbert Eadie, age 65 years, of Waterville, Iowa, was on that plane for a very special reason. He was one of a handful of alumni of the early twentieth century "Orphan Trains" to return to New York City for the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Children's Aid Socierty. It was a trip he will not soon forget. His transportation was paid for by the Society, as well as a plush room at the Plaza Hotel. Gilbert was also treated to a fast taxi ride through the city to a meal featuring lobster bisque, Cornish Hen Perigourdine and broccoli mousse. The event was attended by 350 of New York City's elite, giving special recognition to those orphans as having lived one of the Society's true success stories. Their stories were retold in the New York Times newspaper.

Gilbert Eadie had come full circle. Gilbert and his brother, Walter, had been placed on a train with a group of children bound for Pratt, Kansas on July 17, 1913. They were placed together with a farm family but six months later the farm was sold and the boys, Gilbert, age 11, and Walter, age 10, had to be placed in a new home. In January of 1914, they were on a train headed for Iowa. After a long and frightening trip, they arrived in Waukon, Iowa on January 24, 1914 where they were placed in the farm home of brother and sister, Dan and Nettie Kelly. The boys would remain on this farm for many years. Walter died in 1937 at the age of 32 of multiple sclerosis. Gilbert inherited the Kelly farm upon the deaths of Dan and Nettie. Gilbert and his wife, Gladys, raised their four children, Karen, Elaine, Jean, and John on this farm where Gilbert grew up.

Work of the New York Children's Aid Society has been lauded as having provided shelter, training, and aid to an estimated 3 million homeless and vagrant children for over 125 years. Of the almost 100,000 to 200,000 children placed in homes in the Midwest, those children left their imprint on American Society. Two became governors, one a justice on the Supreme Court. Countless others became physicians, clergyman, lawyers, bankers, contractors, civil engineers, businessmen, mechanics, clerks, journalists, farmers, wives, and numerous others chose to serve this country in war time and peace in the military. The placement of children in Midwestern homes was the inspiration of Rev. Charles Loring Brace "whose strong conviction was that home care was far superior to institutional custody." The Orphan Train Children are a testament to his belief.**

*The Orphan Train Children mentioned in this article are deceased. Many people who came on the Orphan Train as children were gone by 1978 and the remaining ones passed away in the 1980's and the 1990's.

**Quoted from the December 1974 issue of American Heritage "The Children's Migration" by Annette Riley Fry. This particular American Heritage article can be seen and read on the internet. The article does not make any references to Iowa or Allamakee County. It gave a bleaker picture of life in New York City for the young children who were forced to be homeless due to circumstances beyond their control. It is a lengthy article.

~source: summarized from 2 articles about the Children's Aid Society and an Orphan Train Child, Gilbert Eadie, which appeared in the Waukon, Iowa newspaper in 1978 and about 1982.
~transcribed by Connie Ellis, March 16, 2011


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