Children’s Aid Society Agents

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Children’s Aid Society Agents
The Children’s Aid Society employed a group of people they called “Western Placement Agents”.  These were the people who were responsible for the care and placement of the children.  It was their job to select the children who would ride the trains, watch over them on their journey, and eventually decide which family the child would be placed with.  It was also their responsibility to check on each child once a year, and they children were to write to the Agent twice a year.  This was the Children’s Aid Society’s way of checking on the children and making sure they were being taken care of and not abused.  Below you will find information on some of the Agents.
  • Alice Bogardus
  • Herman Devillo (H.D.) Clarke
  • Clara B. Comstock
  • Georgia Greenleaf
  • Anna Laura Hill
  • William J. McCully, Sr.
  • Emile Reck
  • John Washington Swan
  • Hattie McKin Swan
  • B.W. Tice
Alice Bogardus

“Frankie Korn had a hero. Her name was Miss Alice Bogardus. In 1914, Miss Bogardus, an agent for the Children’s Aid Society, brought three year old Frankie Nebraska. In the years that followed, she made annual visits to Frankie and his parents. For more than eight years, Frankie wrote letters to Miss Bogardus telling her of the important events in his life. Her picture was included with those of family. To Frankie, she was a friend.””Alice Bogardus and the many placing agents like her were vitally important to the orphan train movement.  After choosing a group of five to thirty children averaging eight to twelve years of age, the agent coached them on acceptable social behavior. The agent also helped furnish each child with two travel outfits and a set of dress-up clothes.”“The agent transported children and baggage by streetcar to the train depot and, after boarding the train, took over complete care of and responsibility for them. Preparing food, seeing to toilet needs, caring for sick children, and giving comfort were some of the agent’s chores on the journey, during which he or she got very little sleep.”

“Some groups changed trains in Chicago or St. Louis, which meant that the agent had to make sure the trunks and children were transferred. Sometimes accidents or train malfunctions caused delays. Older children, trainmen, and other passengers were helpful at those times.”

                                                                                                                                     Source: Cobblestone, April 1998, by Doretta Watson

Rev. Herman Devillo (H.D.) Clarke
Dates: Born 11-26-1850 Died 12-25-1928Clarke worked for the Children’s Aid Society in NY, the Children’s Home in Cincinnati, OH, and the Haskell Home for Orphan Children at Battle Creek, MI.He married Anna M. Jennings on 9-17-1874. Clarke was a minister, musician, author, and placer of orphans
Clara B. Comstock
A luncheon honoring Miss Comstock was held on November 20, 1957.  At that time the Clara B. Comstock Fund, started with a gift of $1500.00 from a man she had placed years earlier, and augmented by 46 additional gifts from others who had been placed as children, was dedicated to assist needy boys and girls with their education.Following is a copy of some notes made by the Director of our Foster Care Services, who, incidentally, was our last Western Agent before organizing the Boarding Home Department in New York City.
Name: Comstock, Clara B. Date of Birth: 7-8-1879Home Address: 21 Collier St., Hornell, N.Y. Telephone: 1606Married or Single: Single
Date                                 Branch                                      Position

7/4/1903          Brace Farm                      Teacher

2/1911             Emigration                        Agent

5/1928             Home Finding                   Agent

Date Left: 6-30-1944 Retired

May 1, 1956 – Recalled from retirement for another one and a half years.

Reason for Leaving: Died 9-11-1963

Georgia Greenleaf
DOB: 3/18/1885
Address: 803 Wash St. Columbia, MO
Marriage Status: Single
Date                  Branch                           Position1928         Boarding House Inv.       Intake DepartmentMarch-August                                  Substitute1931         Free Foster Homes,        Agent [Missouri] 

Field Section

1941         Free Foster Homes,        Agent [Kansas and

Field Section                    Nebraska]

Date Left: 8/31/1947 Reason not listed

                        Letter from the wife of one of Georgia Greenleaf’s placements.G. G. (Georgia Greenleaf) was to me the replacement of the mother-in-law I never met. She treated our children like grandchildren and my husband like a son, when things were rough. She had some of her social work training at “Hull House.” She kept her stories private between her and her “boys” and “girls.” Even nieces and nephews know nothing of her work.She had an office on the University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri, for several years after she officially retired. Her area was several states. I know for sure it included eastern Kansas.She had a friend–a social worker she shared the load with–who was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease before her death. The name Margaret sticks in my mind, but not at all sure of it. I don’t know how to go about checking any of this.G.G. had a sister (Mrs. Diffendurfer). Both are buried in Lebanon, Missouri, where she was born. At 85, G.G. was still visiting friends in hospital–doing their laundry–running errands for all her OLDER friends (some were younger than she was).G.G. said very little about herself and we knew better than ask many personal questions. In later years, we left a $15 or $20 credit at one of the local restaurants she favored–with instructions to let us get out of town before they notified her. We knew she would protest–but also knew she wouldn’t let the money go to waste. We heard from mutual friends that when she took friends out for “desert” that she explained when she signed the check that they were guests of “one of her boys.” It got her out of the house and she got quite a bit of pleasure out of it.

We named our oldest daughter, Georgia Louise Murphy (Bennett) after her. If she influenced her other charges the way she did Pat (Francis), this old world is a lot better place because of her life. I know his mother gave him life, but G.G. made life worth living and placed him where we met.


Christine Murphy, Spouse of Rider Francis Murphy

  Source: Orphan Trains to Missouri By Michael D. Patrick / Evelyn Goodrich Trickel, Page 58

Anna Laura Hill
 Letter Written by CAS Agent Anna Laura Hill to Her MotherDecorah, Iowa
April 2, 1913Dear Mamma,The days are slipping by so rapidly for me, but I presume you have been reading so much about the floods that it has seemed a long time since you heard from me.Alice wrote Mate on the way or I should have written before. We certainly had a strenuous trip. All went well until we reached Cleveland and found that city about flooded; from there on to Fort Wayne we had an awful experience. We went from Cleveland to Bellevue on the Nickel Plate, the railroad we were on from Buffalo. There they pulled the train on a side track and said we would wait for orders and might be there for days, for all reports that could be obtained from the West were very discouraging. We waited until two other trains came in from the East, then we took on the passengers from these trains and proceeded westward, but over the Baltimore and Ohio, for the Nickel Plate was washed out entirely west of Bellevue. While at Bellevue we could see the men and boys going about town on rafts and many houses entirely surrounded by water. We were in constant danger for twenty-six hours and such awful places that we went thru and over, submerged tracks, water on both sides and terrible rivers. We crossed a river at midnight. They sent a work train and 200 workmen ahead of us, they worked about two hours making the bridge more secure. They put in 8 carloads of rock and sandbags, then took two engines, across, and then we went over. It was an anxious time for everyone on that train, not a berth was occupied that night. I shall never forget the awful roar of that mighty torrent; just as we were in the center there was a sudden jar. I closed my eyes, I couldn’t look, for I thought it was all over and we were going down.But GOD continued to look after his helpless little ones and HE has in all the years of the past history of the Children’s Aid society. There was many a prayer offered that night on that train, and by men who had not mentioned God’s name before in many a day.

There were nine houses washed down next to the bridge that we could see distinctly thru the storm, for, to add to the horror, the ground was covered with a heavy snow and a terrible sleet storm was falling accompanied by a biting wind. In these houses were people whom the lifesavers were working desperately to rescue. There was a lite in one house. Think what must have been the feelings of those people held prisoners in those awful places. I hope I shall be spared witnessing such a scene again. The train crew were with us 26 hours with no relief.

In all my experiences I have never seen train men that would talk about any trouble or accidents, but these men were under such tension for so long they had to relieve themselves by talking with us.

Early that morning (Wednesday) the conductor brought me a paper and talked about it. He said,”Do you notice how unnatural the atmosphere seems? There is something awful ahead of us.” And I certainly thought of his remark many times in the next twenty-four hours that followed. Just as we were ready to cross the worst river, he came in and said,”We are going to try it now but GOD alone knows the results.” We, of course, were a day late getting to Decorah, but in spite of that we have done well, but roads are muddy, which makes the work slow. I wrote to Mr. Brace from Chicago telling him about the flood. I had a letter from him today saying that my letter was very thrilling and should be printed in Elmira’s best paper. I didn’t realize that I embroidered it any, but I had just gotten out of it and that was rather fresh in my mind.

What do you hear from Harry? Was he in the flood? I have tried to go on the principle that “No news is good news” and feel that is alright for I haven’t heard a word from him for a long time. I thought I would hear from him before this. I know you have been busy, but Bess could write.

Tell me what you did down at Burlington.

I shall be here over Sunday and then go to Kansas. We have taken a three-week-old baby born here and I do not know yet what we will do with her. Will have to wait and help Mrs. Comstock out with it.

Don’t forget that I now have a P.O. Box #26, Topeka, Kansas, and will have all mail forwarded from there.

Love to all, and write soon.

Anna Laura

William J. McCully, Sr.
William was born in County Antrim, Ireland on February 8, 1846 arriving in New York in 1869 when he was 21 years old. He became involved and was a member of the Charles Street Presbyterian Church in New York City; William retained that membership, even after residing in Kansas.William married Hannah Johnston at the Charles Street Presbyterian Church in New York City on August 10, 1855 and after spending some years in New York, they moved to Boston for four years.  The McCully’s encouraged their children in education and were great on mental arithmetic and problems to be solved that they passed amongst themselves. Since they didn’t want their children to grow up in a large city they moved in 1885 to a farm north of Broughton, Clay County in Kansas where they raised their family and filled many places of responsibility.
William was a positive factor for good in the social and community life of Clay County. Three children were born after coming to Kansas, they were Charles Loring, [named after Loring Brace who William held in high esteem] Sarah Jane and Marjorie.William’s integrity, upright life and interest in finding homes for homeless boys ‘under thedirection of the Children’s Aid Society] which he so early manifested, qualified him to become an ideal Superintendent of the Westside Lodging House for Homeless Boys (Under The Children’s Aid Society of the City of New York) where he was a splendid companion and example to the boys. Whilst in New York City, they were friends of the Theodore Roosevelt family; the family still cherish some beads presented to Mrs. McCully by Theodore Roosevelt at a social function.
William maintained his work at the Children’s Aid Society in New York City travelling back and forth for some time. It
is noted that by 1893 some 960 children had been placed in Kansas, and as a Placement Agent William would have
been directly involved in this process.William J. passed away December 28, 1915 and Hannah died September 15, 1933. They were buried in Greenwood Cemetery at Clay Center. They were survived by five children, four sons and one daughter, the sons are: W.J. McCully Jr. of Clay Center; James S. McCully of Herington; Hary H. of Oil Center, Cal.; Charles L. of Broughton, Clay County, Kansas USA, and his daughter, Mrs. Sarah Heusted of Clay Center. Mr. McCully was also survived by a sister, Mrs. Sarah J. Chesnut of Attleborough, Mass.                                                                           Source: article contributed by Don Johnston, his Great Grand Nephew in Australia
Emile Reck
Emile Reck was an area agent with the Children’s Aid Society.  He was in charge of placing children out in homes during the early twentieth century. Reck would meet boys and take them to towns where applications had been made. He lived in Weatherford, Texas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He married Marie Boudes on May 24, 1895 in Weatherford. She was a widow with two sons. Emile was made legal custodian for her boys.
He was listed in a 1907 telephone book of Weatherford as an orphan agent living at 701 North Elm Street. This is an area where a lot of French settlers lived. His parents were immigrants from France.In some postcards that he sent to a niece, he mentioned meeting the boys arriving on trains and steamers.  He also had applications sent to people who wanted boys to work for wages. The following are some of the places listed where he placed children: Weatherford, Ft. Worth, Greenville, Mineral Wells, Pittsburg, Houston, Galveston, Denison, El Paso, Roscoe, Cisco, Pecos, Tyler, McCaulley, Midland, Sherman, and Temple, Texas.He also mentioned Atoka, and Warurika, Oklahoma.On a card dated June 5, 1913, he stated that he is leaving the Children’s Aid Society and had sent in his resignation a few days earlier. Then on January 1, 1914, he wrote that he had written to Mr. Brace to send him some more applications. We do not know exactly how long he worked with the Society.
John Washington (J.W.) Swan and Hattie McKin Swan
Rev. John Washington Swan and Hattie M. McKim were married at Elk Creek, Nebraska, where Rev. Swan was a pastor.While serving in the Methodist Church in Humboldt, Nebraska (1893-1896). Rev. Swan observed a group of twelve orphan children brought for placement by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). In the spring of 1894, he was appointed [Western] agen for the Children’s Aid Society for Nebraska.
Rev. Swan continued serving churches in Nebraska until he retired in 1905 while in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.  After he retired as a minister, Rev. Swan continued full time as a western agent for the CAS.In 1910, Rev. Swan was transferred by the CAS to Missouri. The family moved to a farm three miles south of Clinton, Missouri. Later, he exchanged the farm for property in Sedalia, Missouri.In the summer of 1925, Rev. and Mrs. Swan visited family in Upland, Nebraska, which included Marjory Swan (Ball), a granddaughter who shared the photo of the Swans (seen on this page) with the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc.In April of 1926, Hattie Swan was appointed CAS Agent for Nebraska.According to family records, John and Hattie resigned October 1, 1932, as western agents for the Children’s Aid Society.Hattie M. McKim was born on November 15, 1866 in Easton Corners, Ontario, Canada.  She died on April 25, 1946 in Sedalia, Missouri, at the age of 80 years.

John Washington Swan, born October 22, 1851 in Bureau County, Illinois, died March 31, 1935 in Sedalia, Missouri. He was 84 years old.  

B.W. Tice
Obituary found in Scrapbook of Rev. H.D. Clarke
Supplied by Clark Kidder
The Society [CAS] has met with a great loss in the death of Mr. Benjamin W. Tice, one of our most earnest and devoted workers in the Emigration Department, in which he labored over twenty-five years with the greatest fidelity and efficiency. The following tribute is contributed by Mr. John H. Bryant, a warm friend and deeply interested in his work in behalf of the orphan and friendless children:The announcement of the death of B.W. Tice, western agent of the New York Children’s Aid Society, has brought
sorrow to many a western home, where he was enshrined as one of God’s noblemen–a friend of the poor and a
father to the fatherless–a man who devoted his life to the noble work of caring for those in distress, sacrificing
health and home comforts that others might have health and home privileges.This splendid character we refer to as “Mr. Tice,” was well known in this community, his duties as western emigration agent having brought him frequently among our people. Everyone who met him, at once recognized his ability in his chosen line of work–his loving nature, the warmth of his fatherly heart, his high ideals of manhood and womanhood and the possibilities of developing helpless ones into good citizens by giving them a chance in life’s uneven fight for existence. His very eyes beamed with love and won every person with whom he came in contact. Especially was this the case with the little ones placed in his care. He appeared to possess a magnetism for the children which at once drew them to him, winning the love and confidence of every child–a trait which gave him a peculiar fitness for his work of finding homes and watching over the little wards of his Society.For more than twenty-five years he has devoted his life to that great work, going in sunshine and storm to help those in distress or in need of better conditions. During this time he has placed more than 3000 children in western homes, besides visiting several thousand who had been previously placed, and doing much in other lines of the Society’s work.To the selfish and uninterested, it is strange to see such a person, a man of almost giant strength of body and mind, thus sacrificing himself on the alter of self-denial and practical Christianity, but to those who have watched the work in which he was engaged and taken part in the labors, even in a small way, it appeals as the greatest work in which a man can engage. I would rather have the love and respect of the thousands whom B.W.Tice has helped and the credit of the good deeds he did than to have the highest honor my friends could bestow.It is surely a great work and one of the greatest workers, judging by the result of his work, has been called to his reward. Peace to his sacred ashes.

“Mr. Tice and I were associated together in many distributions in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. He was a genial man, full of pleasantries. A Methodist but quite tolerant with others of different faith” says Rev. H. D. Clarke in his scrapbook.