Stage set at Motherhouse for orphan train statues

March 16, 2017 by

SCROLL DOWN FOR A SLIDESHOW OF CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS 

The raised stone wall has been built, the paving stones have been set, the new trees and shrubs have been planted, the information board has been recemented… Now all the new entry to the Nazareth Motherhouse needs is the bronze statue that will honor two little orphan train riders who grew up to become Sisters of St. Joseph.

Early in March, workers from Republican Valley Landscaping began working beside the Motherhouse’s main driveway, first temporarily removing the information board that tells about the landmark building and the Sisters of St. Joseph, Then Nick Jackson and his crew began building a curved retaining wall of white stones. That was filled with dirt and gravel to form the base for the red paving stones that recreate the platform. Next came landscaping plants, and resetting the large sign.

With the “stage” prepared, all that’s left to do is wait for the arrival of the bronzework — a small bench upon which two little girls, and a dog, will be seated.

The unveiling will be sometime later this spring.

The piece is expected to be the ninth in National Orphan Train Complex’s statue project, recognizing the contributions of those who began life as Orphan Train riders.

The bronze piece at the Motherhouse entrance will honor Sisters Eva Marie Vale and Roberta Dreiling.

Sister Roberta Dreiling

Genevieve Dreiling — who would take the religious name of Sister Roberta — was born in New York in 1899. She was just over 2 years old when she was put on a train west. When she arrived in Victoria, Kan., she was adopted by a Catholic family there.

In 1917, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph and served in numerous missions until her death in 1995.

Gertrude Vale — who would take the religious name of Sister Eva Marie — was born in 1900. She was barely over a year old when she was sent to a family in Schoenchen, Kan.

Sister Eva Marie Vale

She remained with that family until she was 9, when they decided to return her to the orphanage in New York.

But a priest in Tipton, Kan., stepped in and asked his housekeeper to care for the girl. A year later, the housekeeper’s sister, who lived in Walker, Kan., adopted Gertrude into their family. She remained there until she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1921. Sister Eva Marie died at the Motherhouse in 1982.

As the 19th century ended, those two toddlers, like thousands of other orphaned, abandoned or neglected children, had become the wards of two aid organizations in New York City.

The earliest group was the Children’s Aid Society, which had been formed in 1853. Those in the care of Children’s Aid would be taken in groups of 10 to 40, under the supervision of at least one “western” agent, to selected stops along the rail line.

The agents would plan a route, send fliers to towns along the way, and arrange for a “screening committee” in towns where the children might get new homes. The committee then helped in finding parents and placing the children who arrived.

The second organization grew out of St. Peter’s Convent, which served the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York City. In 1869, the Sisters of Charity needed more space for abandoned children than their convent provided, so they opened the New York Foundling Hospital.

Both Genevieve and Gertrude were in the care of the Foundling Hospital.

Instead of hired agents or local screening committees, the Foundling Hospital worked with priests along the railroad routes to match abandoned children with Catholic families.

When the Orphan Train Movement began in 1854, it was estimated that 30,000 abandoned children were living on the streets of New York City. By the time the last Orphan Train delivered its cargo to waiting families in 1929, an estimated 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children had been placed throughout the United States and Canada.

The Orphan Train Rider statues are being created by the Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, N.Y.

8 statues already in place

Concordia has been home to the National Orphan Train Museum for about a decade, and in January 2017 proclaimed itself Orphan Train Town.

The other statues placed in Concordia so far, and their locations, are:

  • Roberta “Happy” Slifer, Cloudville playground in the City Park
  • Kansas Riders Statue, Brown Business Services
  • Hallie Garwood, Cloud County Historical Society Museum
  • The Fallen Soldier Memorial, Concordia American Legion
  • Teresa Martin, Frank Carlson Library
  • Elmer and Ethel Barney, Britt’s Fountain and Gifts
  • Miriam Zitur, Broadway Plaza
  • Father Paul Fangman, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church

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