Iowa Orphan Train Riders

Johnson County, Iowa

According to the Associated Press, orphan trains are the least remembered of America's migrations to the west. It is reported that as many as 350,000 children shipped out of New York on “Orphan Trains” from the 1850’s to 1929.  The trains stopped in rural areas so that prospective parents could look over the youngsters and decide whether to take in any of them.

The trains were the idea of Methodist Minister Charles Loring Brace, founder of the Children’s Aid Society of New York, intended as a measure of moving children out of the alleys and squalor of a city over run by immigrants and the industrial revolution, out to the west and to the wholesome farm family life.

Elaine Mercado, a Jackson County, IA Historical Society volunteer, became intrigued with the orphan train movement when she was tasked with organizing a huge, gifted repository of Iowa Orphan Train research files and documents that had been collected and compiled by MaDonna Harms.  MaDonna had collected the orphan train information from old newspapers and letters from the Foundling Home. After going through over 1200 of MaDonna’s personal files, Elaine was inspired to author a booklet on behalf of the Jackson County History Museum, entitled “Iowa’s Orphan Train Riders”.  She reports that between 10,000 and 20,000 orphans came to Iowa during the 75 years that the trains came. 

Through her research, Elaine learned that the following orphan trains came to Iowa City:

•    A Children’s Aid Society train came in March of 1854 and another one on September 20, 1854
•    A FYFH train came in 1888 and again on March 16, 1897
•    A NYJA (New York Juvenile Asylum) train came in 1899.
The following children came by way of orphan trains and were received in Johnson County, IA:   

Child’s Name (Birth name if possible)

Date of Trip

Receiving Family



Daniel Henry Gallagher


Callegy and Welsh families

Iowa City

Brother Edward

Becky Denneny (adopted name)


Lawrence & Harriett Denneny

Iowa City

13 yrs. old

Charles Gallagher


Charles Marshall

Iowa City

9 yrs. old - Brothers Edward and Daniel

Edward Gallagher



Iowa City

Age 8 - brother Daniel

Louisa (Laura) Heering


Louis Lindeman

Iowa City

10 yrs.

W. Albert Lopshire


Miranda Cline

Iowa City


Patrick McCord (Crandall)


Not placed

Iowa City

Sister Mary

William Perrine


Moses H. Akers

Iowa City

7 yrs.

Elizabeth Robinson (twin)



Iowa City

3 yrs. old- twin brother William.

William Robinson (twin)



Iowa City

3 yrs. old - twin sister Elizabeth

Amy Cash


Pat and Mary Beecher


10 yrs. Old.  Beechers also took a boy named Bill

Source Information:
Iowa City Press Citizen, 30 April 2000, pg. 12
Mary E. Mercado (Jackson County History Museum Iowa’s Orphan Train Riders)

See also the
 IAGenWeb Orphan Train Riders Site

Page Created 3 Dec 2016