City Commission Proclaims Concordia as "The Orphan Train Town"

By Toby Nosker
KNCK News Director

Noting their desire to recognize and promote the City of Concordia's identification with the Orphan Train Movement, the Concordia City Commission has proclaimed the city be designated as "The Orphan Train Town."

The news comes as an exciting kick-off to 2017 for those involved with the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia.

Following a record-breaking 2016 that saw 5,107 individuals visit the Complex, this year will mark 10-years since the opening of the Museum and Research Center in Concordia, 30-years since the founding of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, and the 100th birthday for the Union Pacific Railroad Depot, the historic railroad depot that is home to the National Orphan Train Complex.

"We have started off on a branding effort calling Concordia 'The Orphan Train Town'", City Manager Larry Uri said at the Wednesday, January 18th Concordia City Commission meeting. "We wanted something that is genuinely singular about the town, and is not forced or contrived. We have high hopes for this effort."

City Manager Uri said the branding effort came to light following last year's launch of the Orphan Train Statue Project that matches businesses in Concordia with a bronze statue that pays tribute to an Orphan Train rider.

The statues come from the Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, New York, a family-owned and operated company that specializes in handmade bronze garden sculpture, statues, fountains and accessories for home, garden and public spaces. They place their collection of Bronze Statuary with Libraries, Municipalities, Schools, Parks, Recreation Facilities, Art Galleries, Retailers, Builders, Designers, Landscape Architects, Golf Facilities, Charitable Organizations and Private Home Owners.

In late-September, the Complex unveiled a statue named in honor of Orphan Train rider Miriam Zitur at the site of Concordia's Broadway Plaza. The following month, a statue in recognition of Orphan Train riders Elmer and Ethel Barney was placed outside of Britt's Fountain and Gifts in downtown Concordia.

In early-November, a third statue in recognition of Orphan Train rider Teresa Martin was unveiled outside of the Frank Carlson Library in Concordia, while during the week of Veteran's Day, a Fallen Soldier Statue Memorial was located outside of the Concordia American Legion.

At Wednesday's meeting, National Orphan Train Complex Curator Shaley George introduced the Commission to the four newest statues to arrive last week.

Hallie Garwood, sponsored by the Charles H. and Isabell Blosser Foundation
- to be located at the Cloud County Historical Society Museum
Father Paul Fangman, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Altar Society and a private donor
- to be located at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church
Roberta "Happy" Slifer, sponsored by the Concordia Rotary Club
- to be located at Cloudville in the Concordia City Park
Kansas Riders statue, sponsored by Irene Brown and family
- to be located at Brown Business Services in Concordia

"It's a dream come true to do this," George told the Commission. "We hope with this we solidify our place, and our little people's place here, because they mean a lot to us."

Currently, there have been seventeen statues purchased as part of the project, while George says she's negotiating the possible purchase of ten more statues.

"I just think you all do great work," City Commissioner Christy Hasch said. "It's really something that is a draw here in Concordia. I am very pleased that we have it."

"I echo those statements," said Concordia Mayor Chuck Lambertz. "I'm really excited to see this happen in Concordia."

The Official Proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, the City of Concordia is proudly the home of the National Orphan Train Complex,
whose mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the orphan
trains and the children and agents who rode them; and

WHEREAS, the National Orphan Train Complex provides collections, exhibitions,
programming, and research that engages riders and their families, researchers, and the general
public, and creates an awareness of the Orphan Train Movement; and

WHEREAS, the National Orphan Train Complex received more than 5,000 visitors in 2016; and
WHEREAS, between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless
children were placed out during the Orphan Train Movement, and sent by train from New York
and other East Coast cities to rural communities across the United States and multiple other
countries; and

WHEREAS, the Orphan Train Movement is one of the largest social reform relocation efforts in
our nations history and the beginning of documented foster care in America; and,

WHEREAS, at least three orphan trains made stops in Concordia, and numerous Orphan Train
children were taken in by residents of the area; and

WHEREAS, citizens of the City of Concordia have demonstrated their engagement with the
National Orphan Train Complex by providing statuary and plaques throughout the community to
commemorate the lives of Orphan Train riders; and

WHEREAS, it is the desire of the governing body to recognize and promote the city's
identification with the Orphan Train Movement;

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Concordia,
I do hereby proclaim that the City of Concordia is hereby designated The Orphan Train Town,
and hereafter MAY be recognized and announced as such.
Charles P. Lambertz