The Orphan Trains

Forgetting Tabitha the Story of an Orphan Train Rider - Julie Dewey

During the late 1800's in New York City, it was not unusual to find orphaned children living on the streets. A lot of these children were abandoned for a variety of reasons, parents could not longer take care of them because of alcholism, single mother's unable to feed the child or parents died and leaving the children orphans. A lot of these children were in trouble with the law also. The Sisters of Charity were involved in finding these children homes to be adopted into, thus the Orphan Trains. The Orphan Trains was a welfare program supervised by nuns and they took these abandoned, orphaned children to the midwest to be adopted. Some children were adopted, others were not. All in all during the time that these trains ran, over 200,000 of these children are adopted. Tabitha Salt, the main character in this novel, Forgetting Tabitha, came to New York with her mother after the death of her father. They tried to keep the farm going but were unable to so they move to one of the worst neighborhoods of the time, Five Points. After her mother dies she is left to roam the streets in the  Five Points and unable to feed herself she is given a choice, either stay in Five Points or get on the train. She is cleaned up and renamed Mary. She is not adopted right away and is on the train for a few runs assisting the nuns with some of the smaller children. On the train she becomes care taker to a little boy, Edmund, and they form a bond and end up being adopted into two families, one for Tabitha and one for Edmund. The families are related, sisters and their husbands. Time passes for both children and they grow up in a loving and protected environment. A definite step up from the streets of Five Points. The story continues with other characters added, Scotty, another orphan off the streets that Mary befriends and later loves. Gert, a young woman who turns to prostitution to survive until she is beaten and raped so severe that she loses her memory. Gert is taken in by Edmund and his family to recuperate. The lives of all of these characters intertwine to tell a story of the tough life that  immigrants endured during the late 1800's and how a group of nuns were able to help get the orphaned children to good homes. The Orphan Trains was only part of the story as we read about the torment that some of these people lived with. I have always been interested in Ireland and it's immigrants, how they were treated when they came to America, having to live in such poverty. Jobs hard to come by, terrible living conditions etc. Forgetting Tabitha, to me was how a woman was able to move on from the past and become a mature compassionate person. This book moved right along and I enjoyed learning abit more about the Orphan Trains. I received a copy of this book for review and my honest opinion.