New York Daily Tribune – January 21, 1880

  • Sumo

Wednesday, January 21 1880

Western Homes for City Children
Thirty-five poor boys and girls sent to Iowa

Practical charity which helps the poor to help themselves–interesting scenes at the office of the Children’s Aid Society.

A party of thirty-five children, of whom seven were girls, was sent from this city yesterday by Mr. Whitelaw Reid to homes in the West.  All of the children were destitute; most of them were homeless.  They were in the charge of Mr. E. Trott, agent of the Children’s Aid Society, who will accompany them to Springville, Iowa, where homes will be found for all in the families of neighboring farmers and businessmen.

HOW THE COMPANY WAS GATHERED

A few weeks ago a gentleman who, although not wealthy, has been fortunate in business enterprises during the past year placed a sum of money in the hands of Mr. Whitelaw Reid, with a request that he should employ it in continuing last year’s work of sending homeless children–or those whose homes were darkened by extreme poverty-to the country.  His purpose, he said, was to have his money so applied that it would afford more than temporary benefits, and could give the recipients an opportunity to aid themselves in the shortest time practical.  He had read the accounts of the boys sent to the West published in The Tribune and made it a condition of his gift that the names and some account of the children should be published, together with their addresses when they should find new homes; and that they should be made to realize, so far as possible, that their benefactor’s interest in them would not cease when they had left this city.

The same care in the selection of the children was exercised as on former occasions, and the thoroughly organized machinery of the Children’s Aid Society was availed of in gathering the party together and in transplanting them to homes of industry and comfort in the West.  Most of the children were taken from the lodging houses of the society and from squalid houses which officers of the society had visited.  A few were the offspring of vicious parents, and these few were too young to retain very long memories of the homes they had left; many had known suffering, all had been familiar with want and privation.  There were boys and girls–not yet beyond the age when tender nurture and protecting care are required–who for some years had earned their own support and some had aided in the support of parents, brothers, and sisters.

SCENES AT THE SOCIETY’S OFFICE

The scene at the office of the Children’s Aid Society yesterday was one of peculiar interest.  The children began to gather soon after 9 a.m.–the older boys came alone; the girls and younger children were accompanied by the matrons of the lodging-houses where they had found temporary refuge or by kind-hearted ladies who were interested in them.  No mother’s tears were shed over the departing waifs, no father’s counsel was given to the boys who were to enter upon a new life.  Three little boys–“brothers,” Mr. Brace said–wept bitterly from time to time; but it was the tender-hearted matron of the lodging-house whom they were sorry to leave.

In a short time the whole party had gathered, thirty-five in all.  The ages ranged from four to sixteen, though all but a few were above the age of seven.  Some came in tattered garments and shoes which let the crossing mud of the streets in upon their feet.  These were warmly clad in serviceable clothing, and all were supplied with strong, thick overcoats and wraps.  When they had been taken downstairs; in groups of four or five, and had returned to teh reception room, they looked like differetn persons, and they gave evidence of a realization of their improved appearance worthy of careful study.  Every variety of face and of expression was there.  The sharpness, which is one of the gains among so many losses of life in the streets, was seen twinkling from the eyes of many of the older boys.  There was little regret at leaving the scenes which were associated with so little happiness, and what there may have been was swallowed up in the excitement of removal and anticipations of the journey before them.  As, one by one, they gave their brief histories to representatives of THE TRIBUNE, there was reason to believe that all who were old enough to form plans in life realized that they were leaving a scene in which struggle was wel-nigh hopeless for a future in which success required only their own honest efforts for attainment.  They had tried life in the large city and had found it very hard; they expected to find hard work and hard living in the homes in which they were going, but believed that at the end there was a reward which no efforts here could gain for them.  They were “tired of the streets” and wanted to become something better than the men whom they had known in their old lives.  The little ones hardly knew where they were nor realized what they were leaving.   With few exceptions, they were happy at the change–nothing in the future could be much worse than the past had been.

INCIDENTS OF THE GATHERING

A little girl about fifteen years of age, with a bright expression and sparkling black eyes, had been a servant for some years in a family where she had the care of young children.  She said she had quarreled with her mistress because the latter didn’t treat the children kindly.  “She used to sew them up in bags at night to keep them from kicking out” she said.  She had gotten tired of taking care of children, she said, and hoped she would get into a family where they hadn’t any.  But in a few moments she was attracted to a rosy-cheeked boy about five years old, and at once took him under her protection in the most motherly sort of way.  They were not separated a moment again until they started on their western journey, and the girl said she should take care of him all the way to Iowa and hoped to get into teh same family with him.

A little girl took her pocketbook from her pocket–one can only guess how little she had in it–and said she had intended to put it in her trunk with her clothes.  “I shall have to take good care of it,” she added, looking shrewdly around, “for I think this is a pretty hard crowd.”  A bright little newsboy, at the request of Mr. Brace, gave a comic song and recitation–something after the variety show style, but evincing quite a talent for imitation.  It was listened to with interest by the others; as he retired to his seat a little girl looked as if she expected the entertainment to continue, and when she found she was mistaken, looked contemptuously around with the remark, “Is that the only boy that knows how to speak a piece, I wonder!”

Soon after 2 p.m., Mr. Reid visited the rooms of the society and, after talking with the officers and studying the party of girls and boys with interest, he spoke a few words of advice to those old enough to realize the change which their lives were about to undergo.  He told them that the gentleman who had provided the money for their removal from New York would watch their careers with interest, would hear of their good or evil conduct, and would ask no reward except that they should grow up to be honest, industrious, useful citizens.  The boys gave three cheers for Mr. Reid at the close of his remarks and two omnibuses driving up to the door soon after, they at once prepared for their departure.

THE DEPARTURE

As the children passed down the steps to enter the coaches, they were curiously watched by some street gamins who had gathered in front of the house, and a few hard-working men and women who were passing, stopped, and gazed upon them, while a pitying smile passed over their honest, ragged faces.  As the coaches drove away, a few of the boys waved a farewell; but most of the party took a boat to the Erie Railway Station, Jersey City, where there was a long period of waiting before the time to embark on the evening express train for the West.

It was a more quiet party than usual; but the coach ride, the sail across the river, and scenes in the station–novel to many–kept the children interested and amused, except the younger ones who grew tired and sleepy, and some of whom took snatches of slumber in the laps; leaning on the shoulders of their older companions.  Those who had small sums of money in their possession hastened to invest in oranges and peanuts.  of the hundreds of passengers who hastened through the station to take their several trains, some stepped aside, inquired the meaning of the unaccustomed sight, and gave the young emigrants their best wishes.  Before 7:00 the special car in which the party is to take the first part of its journey was ready, and all were placed on board with provisions to last them until today.

They are in charge of Mr. E. Trott, an agent of the Children’s Aid Society, who has taken 125 parties of boys and girls to the West and has never met with an accident.  Preparations have been made at suitable points along the route for fresh provisions to be sent into the car on the arrival of the train and the children will not leave the car except on the few occasions when it will be necessary to change from train to train.  On Friday morning Mr. Trott expects to arrive at Springville, Iowa, where a local committee will be in readiness to received the party.

Neighboring farmers, and others having been informed of the expected arrival of the children, will be in town and it is expected that before night every child will have a comfortable home.  The local committee are sponsors for the character of the persons to whom the children will be entrusted and will retain an oversight over them in the future.  Reports of all the chuildren will be made to the Children’s Aid Society from time to time, and complete records of the careers of each will be kept.

At half-past 7:00 last evening the train slowly moved out of the station, the windows in the rear car were thrown up and youthful heads were thrust out for one last glance towards the city which had been all most of the occupants of the car had known of home.  [Rest of paragraph could not be read from the copied microfilm]

CHARLES LAWRENCE, is a German, sixteen years old, who was very anxious to be earning his own living.  He was born in Long Island City, and, coming to New York at the age of four years, has lived here ever since, supporting himself by blacking boots and stripping tobacco for a cibgar maker in the Bowery.  He has lived at the Rivington Street Lodging House and has been a punctual scholar of the night school, having learned to read and write.  He is an orphan and has only one brother several years older than himself who has left him to his own resources.  His fater was a cigar maker.  “Father was always kind to me,” said the boy, “though he sometimes got drunk.  But I had a cruel, drunken step-mother, who was always fighting with him.”  Charles had a little travelling bag in which he took a number of old newspapers and pamphlets which he had picked up in various ways.  “That is my library,” he explained with an expression of pride.

CHARLES McGINN, was thirteen years old on June 20.  He told the following story; “I have been sleeping at the Eighteenth Street Lodging House.  Before that I used to sleepin wagons until one day a boy told me that the lodging house was a good cheap place.  My right father died when I was a month or two old.  He was shot over in Jersey.  I have heard my mother tell about it.  He was going by a house and wouldn’t answer a question a man put to him, and the man shot and killed him.  He used to drink whiskey.  The first I can remember we lived on Eleventh St.  When I was nine years old, my mother married a Mr. Johnson.  They used to drink a great deal.  He died at St. Francis Hospital from something on the lungs about four months ago.  Mother would take all the money I earned and get drunk on it.  At last she got arrested, and now she is on Blackwell’s Island.  There used to be such a row at the house that I couldn’t get any sleep, and they wouldn’t give me anything to eat so at last I went away.  I could earn sometimes from 35 to 50 cents a day by opening carriages and carrying bundles.  I worked awhile for a sawdust man driving his wagon and filling the barrels with ___ went into the saloons.  He used to pay me sometimes a quarter sometimes 20 cents a day.  I didn’t like it, for there was so much dust where we went for the sawdust that it used to get in my eyes.  On Thursday i heard about going West, and I want to get a good home, where I can have good clothes and “square” meals.  I can read but can’t write much.”

ANNIE RIGGS–This girl, age fifteen, is a Canadian, and her father died some time ago leaving her mother with seven children.  They lived about forty miles from Toronto.  Annie came to this city for work, but found only a little, and she heard that her mother is sick and wants to get home.  She will go with the party to Buffalo, and thence to her home.

JOHN RILEY–An American, age twelve.  His appearance indicated that he had received hard usage and had had a hard struggle in life.  He said, “My father died of rheumatism about two years ago.  He was a Hod-carrier, but he couldn’t work all of the time and I used to beg for food for the family.  I have one sister older than I am.  She was bad and after father died she married and went to Savannah to live.  My mother drinks a great deal.  I haven’t seen her for five weeks.  She would take all I could earn and spend it on liquor.  So I went away and used to sleep at the Eighteenth Street Lodging House.  I worked at opening carriage doors and carrying baggage for people.  I never went to school while I lived at home, but studied some at the Lodging House.  I can’t make a living her in the city and want to where I can.  I used to get some days 60 or 70 cents, but the police would chase me away when I was around the carriages and often I got nothing.”

MARY JANE SCOTT, is the eldest of the eight girls of the party.  She said, “My mother was drowned at sea about six years ago.  I have lived since then at the Sailors Snug Harbor on Staten Island.  I am fifteen years old.  I haven’s seen my father in eight years.  As he drinks, I don’t want to see him.  At the Snug Harbor I went to school and didn’t have to work.  During the last year I lived with a woman in this city and took care of her children.  She and I didn’t agree very well.  She said it was my temper, and I think it was hers.  I couldn’t stand the way in which she used to manage the children.  There was a girl three years old, and a boy four, and the woman used to sew them up in bags at night so they would not get uncovered.  I thought it was cruel, and told her so.  I liked the little girl well enough, but the boy was awful.  I hope I won’t get where there are any such children, but Johnny cried when I was coming away and I had to give him some money to keep him quiet.”  This girl is very bright and intelligent and promises to be a fine woman.

CHARLES SHERLY, is thirteen years old and lived in Jersey City.  His father is a painter and decorator, and as his calling gives him syspepsia, he does not want his son to pursue it.  He has a farm of 160 acres in Kansas, which he received under the Homestead Act, having been a soldier in the late war.  He wants his boy to be trained as a farmer.  He evidently has studied carefully and has read several books.  He says he gave all of these to his sister as he was tired of reading them over and over every Sunday.  He has attended Sunday school in the Reformed Church and takes his Bible with him to his new home.

HENRY SMITH, is one of the older boys of the party.  He was born in Cracow, Germany, March 24, 1865.  “I have been living at the lodging-house at No. 207 Bowery,” he said, “and making my living by blacking shoes and selling newspapers.  My father has been dead seven years.  He was a tailor in Cracow.  My mother died soon after, and I supported myself by carrying bundles, by bringing home fish from the markets, and by running errands of all sorts.  At last I thought I would get away from there and try to make my living somewhere else.  At that time I had a thaler, and it paid part of my passage on the cars until I got to Hamburg.  There a man, who had a osn going to London who didn’t want to go alone, paid my passage.  After I got to London, I got some work–used to carry coats home for a tailor and did all sorts of odd jobs.  About three years ago the Board of Guardians got me a passage to New York.  I paid $6, all the money I had, for my ticket and i landed at Castle Garden with no money.  I began work here, carrying bundles from Washington Market, and I used to go down to the Boston boat when it came in and I got a good many jobs.  I lived alone with a woman in Bayard St. until she died, and then I went to the lodging-house.  I know from what I have heard that i will like to live in the country where I can feed and milk the cows and care for the horses, and have sheep and a dog.  I can’t make a living here in the city, and I am glad of the chance to go away where I can.”  The boy speaks very good English and seems bright and enterprising; likely to succeed under almost any circumstances.

CHARLES SPITTLER, a brother of Edgar, is thirteen years of age.  He  has been working in a grocery store, but his employer failed, and the boy has recently been blacking boots for a living.

EDGAR SPITTLER, is a young baker by trade, and is left, at the age of sixteen years, with two younger brothers to be taken care of.  All three are orphans.  They have two married sisters who are too poor to provide for them and an uncle in Hicksville, Ill., who although a well-to-do farmer, will have nothing to do with them.  They hope to obtain a home where they can be together.

FREDERICK SPITTLER, age eleven, the youngest of the three brothers, is somewhat timid.  He is willing to work for his living although he has been brought up in the New York Orphan Asylum, and has never yet been obliged to take care of himself.

OSCAR THOMAS, is an intelligent German boy, a scholar of the Rigington Street Night School.  He is fourteen years old.  He was born in Springfield, Mass., and has lived in New York only a year.  His father and mother were kind, but they died several years ago leaving him in destitution.  He has made his living thus far mainly by doing small jobs in the neighborhood of Washington Market.  He thought he could have obtained a good situation if he had had suitable clothes to wear.  He said he had lived on Jersey City Heights for a year and had been a regular attendant at the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church.  His appearance was that of a well-informed lad, eager to learn and he watched the reporter with great interest while the latter wrote down the boy’s words in his notebook.

THOMAS WINTERLY, is an intelligent lad of sixteen years who is said to possess considerable ability impersonating different characters.  Superintendent Calder induced him to give several humorous character recitations, much to the amusement of the ladies and gentlemen who had gathered to witness the departure of the young fortune-seekers.  Thomas came from Germany when only a year old and lived with a stepfather and stepmother until about five years ago.  The stepmother was a drunkard and would often fight with ehr husband who thus learned to lose his own temper, making home a terror to the boy.  Since leaving them, he has never been asked to return and has managed to support himself by peddling glassware.  He has been a regular attendant of the night school at the Rivington Street Lodging House and can read and write a little.

The fifteen small children whose initials are given below range in years from four to twelve.  They have come to the care of the society through the courts from drunken or dissolute parents.  As there is danger lest efforts to get them back may cause trouble in case the names are published, only their initials are given.  Some of them are particularly bright.

E.C.F. and W.C.F. are brother and sister, ages nine and twelve.  Their father is dead and the mother intemperate.  They are left in neglect , without home or friends, and have no chance for future well-doing here.

C.B.T. and E.B.T. are brother and sister, ages seven and nine.  They are half-orphans and are deserted, being dependent wholly upon charity.  None of their relatives live in this country.

H.K. and L.K. are brother and sister, ages ten and four.  They bear the marks of abuse and were sent out to beg for bread in rags, being forced to get enough to support others.

Q.J., a girl, age six, is without father, and her mother is worse than none.  The little girl lived in the street much of the time in want.

R.G., age nine is an orphan without home or friends.  Nothing could be learned of his former condition.

K.G., age six, C.W., age seven, M.B., age eight and T.F., age five, are all deserted children, living in want.  Their antecedents could not be ascertained.

J.H. This boy is ten years old.  His father is dead, and his mother has been arrested.  He is very bright, and is anxious to go to the country.  He said he could read well, and had studied arithmetic as far as the cancellation of fractions.  He showed evidence of having received careful training.

P.R. is a boy of five of Irish parentage.  His father is dead, and the boy was born in Bellevue Hospital.  Nothing has been known of the mother for two years.

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