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A small Brazos Valley town honors 12 children from New York's Orphan Train movement

Posted at 11:48 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 19:37:54-05

DEANVILLE, Texas — Between 1854 and 1930, nearly 250,000 homeless and orphaned children living in New York City were placed on trains that delivered them all across the nation, according to organizations such as Children's Aid of NYC.

These little train passengers were destined to become either indentured servants, or adopted children. At least 12 of those boys and girls were dropped off at train depots, in Burleson County.

"They had such a rough start coming from New York on the train," said Patsy Simek, board member with the Deanville Heritage Foundation in Burleson County. "And it’s important for their family that’s still living, to have a complete history of their parent or grandparent.”

The Deanville Heritage Foundation wants to honor these 12 children. The historical group recently commissioned the creation of 12 child statues, which will be featured at an upcoming museum opening in Deanville. Beverly Blinka of Deanville, has made contributions towards the acquisition of the statues, as her mother, the late Mary Moresh, was one of those 12.

Moresh was adopted by a family from Deanville when she was just a toddler. Blinka says that a young Moresh only found out about her identity when, as a child, Moresh discovered her adoption papers hidden in a locked drawer at her adoptive parents' home.

“For years, there was nothing about it," Blinka said. "There’s nothing in history books, or anything about it, because it was kept quiet; because of the adoptions and the children.”

Learning about her origins was surprising for Moresh, but Blinka said, it was special for her mom to know there were others like her.

“Once you learned that [the Orphan Train movement] involved possibly over 250,000 children, it felt different than just knowing you were part of 12 children that came from New York," Blinka said, on behalf of her mother. "You were part of a bigger thing.” she added.

Blinka sponsored the purchase of two statues for the Deanville Heritage Foundation, in honor of Moresh's memory, as well as the memory of another Orphan Train child, adopted into Moresh's household.

These statues will be just one centerpiece of the upcoming Deanville Heritage Museum, which is currently being assembled inside an historic, and newly renovated, train depot in Deanville.

“Deanville, has such a rich heritage in their history, and a lot of people just don’t realize how important this area was in the founding of the state of Texas," noted Tommy Ryan, president of the Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation hopes to unveil the statues in late spring, as part of the museum's grand opening.
To donate towards the museum and the Foundation's efforts in preserving local history, visit the Deanville Heritage Foundation page on Facebook.