Orphans In Louisiana
June 5, 2009
Orphan Train Society plans yard sale to benefit museum
A trash and treasures yard sale will be held Saturday to help fund exhibits at the newly created Opelousas Orphan Train Museum.
The museum, dedicated to telling the story of the Orphan Train riders, is set to open in October in the restored Union Pacific Depot building in Le Vieux Village in Opelousas.
To prepare for that opening, the society is working on a number of exhibits, including a display of pictures of local Orphan Train riders.
"We are having the pictures restored but some of the riders don't have local decedents and some of the local decedents don't have the money for this, so we need help to pay for the restoration," said Flo Inhern with the society.
To raise money for the restoration effort, the society will hold a yard sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 393 Fort Hamilton Drive in the Fort Hamilton Subdivision.
"Our members are donating their trash and treasures," Inhern said. "We have household items, a marble-top table. We even have a child's iron pedal-truck - it is an antique."
The 2,400-square-feet museum, which is expected to hold its grand opening Oct. 10, is being made possible by $500,000 in funding from the state Department of Transportation and Development and the Department of Natural Resources.
"We have been working toward this day for seven years, through three mayor," said Inhern, historian for the local society.
The Orphan Train is the popular name for an adoption program that began in 1854 by the New York Foundling Hospital.
New York was then experiencing a huge wave of immigrants, many the poorest of the poor. Because of poverty, disease and economic distress, many of their children became orphans and many ended up at the Foundling Hospital.
In an effort to fight overcrowding, the Catholic hospital began the nation's first foster care program by shipping the orphans out by train to be adopted by rural families throughout the rest of the nation.
Between 1854 and 1929, more than 150,000 orphans, with numbers pinned to their clothes and accompanied by nuns, boarded trains to new homes.
More than 2,000 of these orphans came to Louisiana, primarily to St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.
According to records from the national Orphan Train Society, St. Landry Parish's orphans were some of the lucky ones. Where the orphans elsewhere were often treated as little more than unpaid farm hands, here almost all become members of their adoptive families.
Harold Dupre, president of the local society and himself a decent of one of the orphans, credits Father John Engberink, the priest at St. Landry Catholic Church at the time, for making that possible.
"Our orphans were pre-placed, the parents pre-screens," Dupre said.
Additional Facts; Want to go?
What:Orphan Train Society Trash and Treasures Yard Sale
When:8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where:393 Fort Hamilton Drive, Opelousas
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