|Anna Laura Hill|
Anna Laura Hill dedicated her adult years to improving the lives of homeless and orphaned children. She with other children’s workers from crowded cities placed over a quarter of a million homeless children into rural families to offer them a better life. At least 100,000 were from New York City. Hill’s requirement for each placement was that new homes provide stability as well as food and education. Children and agents on trains transporting these precious abandoned souls became known as “The Orphan Train” movement.
In notes for one of Agent Hill’s presentations, Anna explained the Children’s Aid Society’s founder, Charles Loring Brace, followed God’s leading after witnessing the immigrant city’s streets teeming with ill-kept and unsheltered orphans. He saw them begging for food or engaged in thievery. By 1853, his institution began caring for the street and slum children, hoping to teach employable skills to the older children. CAS also started operating a farm in rural New York, coinciding with placing thousands of children on farms in the Midwest. The next year, the first train took over forty children to find new homes.
|Look at the next to the last line, |
and you'll see Miss A.L. Hill as the second name.
The Brown County World (Hiawatha, Kansas) for February 25, 1915, reported that Miss Anna Laura Hill had arrived and secured committees for placing children in good homes. Those interested in taking home a child could submit their names. The children would be at the Life and Annuity hall at 3 p.m. on February 26th. “Miss Hill will be glad to explain under what conditions the children are placed in the homes and what the home does for them after that.”
When the train left New York City, each child had at least two sets of clothes. Each time the train reached a receiving community, the children would be readied in their best outfits for their appearance. Children gave their names, then sang or recited something or told of their interests so onlookers could begin picking which children to take home. Later as adults, train riders would report how they felt when some prospective person would poke and examine them to see if they were healthy enough to work.
|Anna Hill is the agent on the right side|
Photo courtesy of the www.orphantraindepot.org
Long after the placement, Miss Hill continued correspondence with each of “her children.” She sent birthday greetings and letters to see how they were doing. She also took time to encourage the children to take advantage of opportunities to build a good life.
On the National Orphan Train Complex website, a letter from Anna Laura Hill to her mother describes a harrowing trip into Nebraska during a flood. She and the children sat for hours while workers tried to strengthen bridges so the train could venture on across. She remarked that men who had not talked much about God in a long time were talking about Him during this ordeal.
My two weeks doing research at NOTC in Concordia (Kansas) was well spent. I’d encourage readers to use this resource to gather information about our country’s history. I hope to eventually pay a greater tribute to Agent Hill, a woman who deserves to be brought out from the shadows to receive the respect she earned.
*The website for the National Orphan Train Complex is: https://orphantraindepot.org
Author/speaker Margery Kisby Warder lives in Florida with her husband and a rescue dog who strongly believes every guest comes to spoil her. As Midwestern transplants, Warders now find it easier to visit family members. Looking out at palm trees is a plus, too. Warders live their faith in their senior community and through their church ministries, but no longer as the pastor/wife team they were for decades. Margery still enjoys speaking and writing. You can find her books on Amazon and follower her on Facebook.
What a beautiful post! Agent Hill sounds like a remarkable person. Thanks for the story!ReplyDelete
Margie is unable to comment for some reason, so I'm passing on her response: Thank you, Connie, for your kind words. I'm sure her example and her personal interest in each child helped shape many lives.Delete
Anna L. Hill sounds like a very self-less woman who gave her life to others. Thanks for sharing her story with us!ReplyDelete
Margie's Response: I agree. Her example from nearly a century ago can still encourage the rest of us to go out of our way to make life better for someone else.ReplyDelete
I'm a bit curious about how this woman was a hero when most children placed were taken away from family and not let contact them. Apparently 73% of children on these trains had at least one parent, not counting other relatives.ReplyDelete
Worse still, at the time it was pretty much agreed that this was slavery. Abolishionits obviously spoke up, but pro-slavery people said that the orphan train was making slavery obsolete.
Its incredible how history can twist someone who had such a hand in child slave labor into some hero.