Reverend S.S. Cummings, New England Home for Little Wanderers' Orphan Train

Following is a description of an orphan train sponsored by the New England Home for Little Wanderers. The excerpt, which quotes missionary agent Reverend S.S. Cummings, illustrates that this method of child placement was not limited to the New York Children's Aid Society or its famous leader, Charles Loring Brace.

There is system and order about it as there should be about every good work. These homes are not engaged beforehand as some have supposed. It is surprising to some that we will start off with a company of thirty or forty children, not knowing where we shall find a home for them. The process is simple. We look over the map of the country, and line of railroads, and decide on some town to make our first point, and then write to the pastors of the churches that we will be there at a given time, generally arriving on Saturday, and ask them to make arrangements for our holding services in their churches on the Sabbath. . .

The children at the church in the presence of the people and an appropriate talk of our duty to provide for, and take care of, orphan children, brings our work and the object of our visit before the public preparatory for the work of adoption on Monday. We invite the people to meet us on Monday and see the children and make a selection if desirable. Meantime, we form a brief acquaintance with the pastor and a few good reliable citizens, that are always ready to give any information desirable as to the fitness of families to become responsible for the charge of the children.

The terms or conditions of taking the children and the references required soon decide the question of applicants. We seldom fail of doing a good day’s work in the line of adoption, after thus spending a Sabbath with the people.


Source: “A Brief History of the Children’s Aid Association of Boston and the New England Home for Little Wanderers,” in Edith M.H. Baylor and Elio D. Monachesi, The Rehabilitation of Children: The Theory and Practice of Child Placement (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1939), 524.

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