All Aboard the Orphan Train!

The History of Opelousas' Orphan Train Movement

Next stop--Opelousas!

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, there was a crisis in New York City with mothers abandoning their infants in front of orphanages due to the poor welfare institutions present. The Sisters of St. Peter’s Convent in New York would install an asylum to care for the orphans left at their convent. However, the orphanages across the city were running out of room and had to find a way to find people willing to adopt the orphans. Charles Loring Brace began the orphan train movement to transport children to parents in far regions as a way to find people who were willing to adopt the orphans. However, since the movement was under the guidance of the Sisters, the orphan train movement believed Catholic parents should rear the children. One location the Sisters believed to be a good place for a Catholic upbringing was the southwestern section of Louisiana; so, an orphan train station opened in Opelousas.

Rev. John Engberink of St. Landry Catholic Church was able to provide parents to the orphans arriving in Opelousas. However, there was a problem with the language barrier between the English-speaking orphans and the French-speaking foster parents, and many of the foster parents did not tell their adopted children about the orphan train in Opelousas. The descendants of the orphans were the ones to tell the story of the orphan train’s presence in the city of Opelousas. Nevertheless, the changing social and welfare conditions in New York brought an end to the orphan train movement in 1927.



The History of Opelousas' Orphan Train Movement
This recording gives a brief summary of the Orphan Train Movement present in the city of Opelousas. ~ Creator: Matthew D. Mayer
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223 S. Academy St., Opelousas, LA 70570