Thursday, October 13, 2016

Did your Ancestor or Relative ride the Orphan Trains?

Have you experienced either of these scenarios while working on your family tree?  You come to the point where you know there should be a child but you can’t find them or suddenly there are more children in a family then should be there.  Could these missing or extra children have traveled the Orphan Trains?

The orphan train program was developed and run during the years 1850 to 1930.  Over 100,000 children and 1,000 adults rode the trains from the East coast urban cities to the West for relocation and a better life.
The industrial revolution brought many of the children of farmers to the city for work.  The urban cities such as Manchester, NH, Lowell and Worcester, Mass, and other factory centered cities in New England, became overcrowded.  Unsupervised, children overran the streets or were treated as small adults put to work at a very early age.  As interest in child welfare grew, Christian societies became involved. One such person who took an interest was Charles Loring Brace.  He was born in 1826 in Hartford, CT and championed ‘old fashion’ New England values.  After he became a minister, he went into missionary work to found the New York Children’s Aid Society in 1853 working with the poverty strickened in New York City.  He worked on a plan called placing out. 

The Plan

This plan, originating in the Boston area, was developed for in-state placement only, but Loring took his plan across America.  It basically became a movement for children to be taken out of the urban area and relocated in less populated and rural areas of the country.  Although the idea was sound it their minds it was not 100% practical in reality.  Life on the other side of the Mississippi was not the same as what children knew on the East Coast.  As the idea became accepted, children were gathered from
poverty strickened parents as well as orphans to join the program.  Newspaper ads were placed in western newspapers to announce when the trains would arrive at their location.  If they needed extra help on the farm or in the house they were free to come and look over the new arrivals.  Many of the children’s names were changed, they became members of their new household, some as part of the family and some were treated as indentured servants - after they served a period of time and were of age they could go their own way.  Some were lucky to get good homes with loving ‘parents’ but some were maids and farm hands without any parental love or care involved.

In the book “The Orphan Trains, Placing Out in America” Marilyn Irvin Holt documents many instances of abuse and adversely good parenting for these children. If you have a suspicion that your relative might have been on the trains, the organizations for further information is: The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America (OTHSA), headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas.

The National Orphan Train Complex, also known as the "National Orphan 
Train Museum and Research Center", is located in Concordia, Kansas. The Museum and Research Center is dedicated to the preservation of the stories and artifacts of those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement from 1854-1929. The museum is located at the restored Union Pacific Railroad Depot in Concordia which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Complex in maintains an archive of riders' stories and houses a research facility. Services offered by the museum include rider research, educational material, and a collection of photos and other memorabilia.

Sources: “The Orphan Trains, Placing Out in America” by Marilyn Irvin Holt

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Weeks Brick House, Greenland, NH

The immigrant progenitor

Leonard Weeks was born about 1633, presumably in England.  It is believed that he was an employee in some capacity for Captain Francis Champernowne.  Champernowne was a shipmaster and a man of great means, both economically and in relationships.  Weeks immigrated between 1640 and 1655 into the Southern New Hampshire / Maine area.  He worked on one of Champernowne’s farms (now the site of the Portsmouth (NH) Country Club).

It appears that between 1656 and 1667, Weeks received the first of several land grants.  This indicated he no longer was an employee but was a self-sustaining member of the community.  During this time, he married a daughter of his neighbor Samuel Haines.  Her first name is unknown.  The union did not produce any children.  She died before 1667 when Weeks married Mary Redman (Rodman?) the mother of his 8 children.  Mary died in 1694.  Sometime between Mary’s death and his own in 1706, he married a third time to Elizabeth___.  No issue was produced from this union.

In his will, Weeks left his 90 acre farm to his second son, Samuel.  In 17th century Greenland, NH it was the center of activity.  The location was ideal for the needs of the times.  The area provided access to Great Bay which allowed passage down to the Piscataqua River and on to the Atlantic Ocean for transportation and fishing.  Land transportation was ability for inland usage. 

Samuel the second son

Leonard’s second son, Samuel (1670-1746) was born and died in Greenland.  Samuel married Eleanor Haines.  She was the granddaughter of his father’s neighbor and the mother of his 8 children.  Samuel inherited the homestead and by 1710 had built a 36’x22’ (with walls 18” thick) brick house, made of hand
The Weeks Brick House RT 33 Greenland, NH
hewed logs and brick made on the site.  He was authorized to build a mill for both lumber and grain on the Winnicut River.  His economic status showed in his probate inventory.  He kept horses, cattle, oxen, grew wheat, corn and kept bees for honey.  He had expanded his landholdings.  Samuel was the most successful farmer of the Weeks homestead owners.

Samuel was a captain in the Greenland militia and served in various positions of civil offices.  He was a founding member of the Greenland Congregational Church in 1706.   He willed the family homestead to Walter, his second son.  His other lands and farm at Great Bay were willed to his 3rd son, Matthias. 

The Brick House

It was said that Samuel built the house as he did to show a commitment to permanence in the face of uncertainty of the times. The house has become an enduring symbol of the strength of the family. It had quite a history.  Built in 1710, it has seen 9 generations of Weeks family members living in it.  It has survived Indian raids, earthquakes and fires until 1968 when the property sold out of the family.  At that time, urban sprawl was rampant and developers were eager to get control of the property.  The Descendants of Leonard Weeks in America, Inc. bought the house and land for long term preservation.  It was placed on the New Hampshire Historic Site and was listed on the National Register of Historic places as well as being deemed Conservation land by the State of New Hampshire.

Today, the mission of the property is to become museum quality in all aspect of serving the community in historical conservation and education.  Each year the descendants of Leonard Weeks gather to walk in his footsteps and learn about local history.  The older our country gets and as new generations come along, a lot of important history is lost as the previous generations pass on.  It is important to preserve and protect the history we have left.  Houses and other history that has withstood the test of time is, to me, symbolic of the endurance of the people who settled our country.  Something that should be embraced.


Sources: The Brick House & Gardens
Leonard Weeks, of Greenland, N. H. and descendants, 1639-1888: with early records of families connected, including the following names:--Bailey. Bartlett. Brackett. Burley. Chapman. Chesley. Clark. Eastman. Folsom. Fowler. French. Frost. Haines. Hilton. Home. Lane. March. Mead. Moody. Moore. Philbrook. Pickering. Perkins. Rollins. Sanborn. Scammon. Thompson. Wiggin and Wingate by Chapman, Jacob pub. 1889