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Backroads Trips and Tales

Orphan Trains, the first foster care system for children



This is about the Orphan Trains that ran from 1854 to 1920. The trains did not run into Southeast Texas, maybe one came into Lake Charles, but I am not sure about that.

I have a friend whose father was a train rider. After he became an adult he moved into SE Texas, lived in Groves and worked at Texaco. I do not know how many more there may be scattered around this area.

I once spoke at the SW Louisiana Genealogical Society in Lake Charles. There were several people there who knew about the trains and one lady said she had a family member who had ridden a train.

According to the staff at the museum in Opelousas, there are no longer any train riders still alive. Each year there is a meeting at the museum for descendants of train riders and anyone interested in the story of the trains……Mike Louviere


“When a child of the streets stands before you in rags, with a tear-stained face, you cannot easily forget him. And you are perplexed what to do. The human soul is difficult to interfere with. You hesitate how far you should go.”—Charles Loring Brace.


Brace was a 26-year-old Congregational minister in New York City who was affected by the hundreds of children he encountered on the streets of his city. Some of the children were orphans, some were runaways, and some were a product of families who no longer could care for them. The children were homeless and living by doing anything they could to earn enough money to buy food. In some cases, they were turning to crime. Some children as young as five years of age were being arrested and placed in jails with adults. Most children that Brace encountered were dressed in little better than rags.

Orphanages were overcrowded and in reality not much better than a jail for the children who lived there. Brace was concerned and wanted to find a better system to care for the homeless children. His first act was to found the Children’s Aid Society. He then had the idea to try to place children in homes in the Midwest and Western states. He felt that there were families who would be willing to take the children into their homes and provide them with a better environment than they would have in New York.

Mike Louviere photo

The idea Brace had was that there were families who wanted children that were unable to have natural children and that they would in some cases adopt the children. In other cases, they would let the children live with them until the child was old enough to be on their own and provide for themselves. Brace felt that the farm families would use the children for helpers on the farm in exchange for a stable home environment as opposed to life on the streets of New York City. His idea was the forerunner of the foster care system in America.

 “The best of all asylums for the outcast child is the farmer’s home. The great duty is to get these children of unhappy fortune utterly out of their surroundings and to send them away to kind Christian homes in the country.”—Charles Loring Brace


By 1854 Brace had enough encouragement and resources to begin to run “Orphan Trains”.  The Children’s Aid Society would hire trains, place as many as 40 children on a train, advertise in the towns along the train’s track that there would be children coming into the town on a certain date that would be available for placement with a family.

Mike Louviere photo

Between 1854 and 1929 there would be over 200,000 children who rode these trains into 45 different states.

In the beginning, the conditions of the trains that took the children to their new homes were not much better than cattle cars with only makeshift bathroom facilities. There would be between 30 and 40 children ranging in age from infants to teens with only three or four adults as chaperones. Most of the time the children were not told where they were going, only that they were taking a train ride. As time went by and more money became available, conditions improved for the children. In the final years, sleeping cars became available.


Children who were not true orphans in the sense that they had families, lost all contact with the families. One small girl, Hazelle Latimer, living in an orphanage was told by a matron that she was going to Texas. The girl replied, “I can’t go, I’m not an orphan, my mother is still living, she is in that hospital right here in New York.”  The matron replied, “You’re going to Texas. No use arguing.” Hazelle Latimer never saw her mother again.

I do remember the children milling around outside of the train, waiting to be assigned our seats. The big problem was that you never knew what the future held for you. You had no idea what the future ever held for you and that was a great concern and a great worry.”—Lee Nailling, an orphan train rider

There was no formal process for placing the children. There would be handbills placed in towns along the route that would state there were needy children coming to the town and that the children would be available for viewing in some central location. The children would then be placed on a platform or stage for the families to view and choose one they would like to give a home.

Once the children had been placed with a family, there was no other formal involvement from the Children’s Aid Society. Some of the children were taken into loving Christian homes, as Brace had hoped; others were merely viewed as cheap farm labor. There were some instances of the children being abused. The home the child went to was not inspected before or after the informal adoption. Record-keeping was irregular.

By the 1920s the number of orphan trains was decreasing. Some states were passing laws that made it illegal to place children across state lines. From the start of the train movement, abolitionists had objected, stating that the Orphan Trains supported slavery; that the children were displayed, inspected, and prodded like slaves at an auction. Pro-slavery advocates criticized the practice, saying it made slavery obsolete. State and local governments were getting more involved in supporting families, making the use of Orphan Trains less necessary.

While some of the children struggled in their new surroundings, many went on the lead simple, normal lives, grew up, and raised families of their own. Some of the children went on to lead successful lives. There were two governors, one congressman, one sheriff, two district attorneys, and three county commissioners as well as numerous bankers, lawyers, journalists, ministers, teachers, and businessmen who came from the train riders.


Mike Louviere photo

The Orphan Train movement and the success of other Children’s Aid initiatives led to a host of other child welfare reforms, including child labor laws, adoption and establishment of foster care services, and other related social services.

Another New York institution that cared for orphans was the New York Foundling Hospital. They also began an Orphan Train program that paralleled the Children’s Aid Society trains.

The New York Foundling Hospital was operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The hospital had opened to take care of abandoned babies. The Foundling Hospital began a program known as “mercy trains” or “baby trains.”

The difference in the two programs was that the Aid Society sent out children to be randomly adopted by taking a load of children into a town and putting them on display to be selected and adopted by a family.

The Foundling Hospital worked through priests, who found families who requested a child. Through the priests, the request would be sent to the Foundling Hospital for a child. For example, a family may request a two-year-old blue-eyed, blond-haired girl. The sisters would then try to find such a child. They would send the requesting family a receipt telling them when and where the child would be on the train. When the train arrived, the family would present their “arrival papers” to the sisters. Once their papers matched up with the papers the Sisters held, the child would be presented to the family.

The children who were placed in the Foundling Hospital were considered “indentured.” By doing this the hospital reserved the right to perform random inspections of the homes to check on the welfare of the children on an annual basis.

The families had to agree to raise the children as family members, educate them, and raise them as members of the Catholic Church.


Mike Louviere photo

More than 2,000 children came into Louisiana, primarily in St. Landry and Evangeline Parishes. Three trains came into Opelousas in 1907, two in April and one in May.

The Orphan Train Museum in Opelousas has records of children that rode the Foundling Hospital trains, especially those that came into the Opelousas area. There are also articles of clothing the children wore as well as other artifacts.

The museum is one of two in the United States. Each July there is a meeting of the Louisiana Orphan Train Riders Society held at the museum in Opelousas. Nationwide there are nearly four million descendants of the children who rode these trains.


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  1. Alice Juneau

    2023-03-18 at 2:03 pm

    Great article, Mike!

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Backroads Trips and Tales

2nd Lt. Lloyd T. Grubbs, A Texas Boy Killed in France



I had not known much about Lloyd Grubbs.

My grandfather joined the American Legion in about 1924. He had been in France with the 36th Infantry Division. He and several of his friends, I found later, had been in the 141st Regiment.

I did not know how Lloyd Grubbs had served until about a year ago when my curiosity got the better of me and I did a search.

There is not much available, but enough to give his service. It was interesting to find that his mother had been able to visit his grave in France.


The Orange Daily Leader reported on December 16, 1918, that the son of Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Grubbs had been killed on October 2, 1918. They were informed of the death by telegram, there were no details given in the message. The family had received no mail from their son since August.


Lloyd Thildmon Grubbs graduated from Orange High School in 1914 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1915. He had been promoted through the ranks until he achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant. After arriving in France, he attended the field artillery school at Samur, France.

Upon graduation, he had been assigned to the 52nd Field Artillery Brigade.

109th Field Artillery WW1, US Army photo

On September 9, 1918, he joined Battery F, 109th Field Artillery. The unit went into battle in the Oise-Aisne offensive and proceeded to the Argonne front.

The position of Grubbs battery near Montblainville, near Lorraine, France, was under heavy and sustained artillery fire.

On October 2, Lt. Grubbs was hit by shell fragments in the back of the neck and spine and killed instantly.

Lt. Grubbs and several other men were in a small dugout trying to survive the heavy shelling by the German forces when the shell exploded that killed Lt. Grubbs and another officer.

Major Thomas Atherton, the commander of Battery F was within a few feet of Lt. Grubbs and was thrown by the shock of the exploding shell to one end of the dugout.


In July 1925, Mrs. Grubbs received a letter from Maj. Atherton informing her that the army camp at Tobyanne, Pennsylvania had been renamed Camp Grubbs in honor of her son.

Enclosed was a copy of a General Order for the 109th Field Artillery that gave official notice of the name change.

Camp Grubbs was a training base for artillery units.

By this time, the American Legion Post 49 in Orange, Texas had also been named in Lt. Grubbs honor.

Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial

He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial at Lorraine. There are 14,765 graves in this cemetery.

Maj. Atherton, in his letter to Mrs. Grubbs, stated that Lt. Grubbs was “a lanky Texas boy that always had a smile, and loved to joke with his fellow soldiers.” He wrote that her son had always been friendly to everyone and was one of the most well-liked officers in the unit.

In late 1925, Mrs. Grubbs was able to travel to France and visit the cemetery and her son’s grave.

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Backroads Trips and Tales

“I Came to America to Live, Not to Die”-Moses Rose



ears ago while on the road to announce a rodeo at Stonewall, Louisiana I passed a sign that said “Moses Rose Gravesite” and an arrow pointing down the road. It took several years before I went back and tried to find the site.

The sign I had previously seen was gone and I drove from Logansport to Keatchie and could not find the right road. I went back home and did a search on Google and Google Maps and found I needed to find Funston Road.

On the next trip, I found the right road. I went down a winding tree-shaded road (a really nice drive) and saw a large sign that said it was the site of Moses Rose’s gravesite.

The site is the old cemetery of the family of Aaron Ferguson, the man whose family cared for Rose during the last years of his life.

There are about a dozen graves in the cemetery. It is unfenced and occasionally mowed by someone with a bush hog. The ground is rough and uneven, but there is a concrete walkway that goes past Roses’ grave and across the cemetery.

The grave of Rose has a granite tombstone. Of interest to me is that in the bottom left corner is a Boy Scout emblem engraved. There is no information about the troop that may have provided and placed the stone.

When I saw the sign on the highway I was surprised to see that Rose was buried so far away from San Antonio. It was interesting to research and find out the “whys and hows” of his life after the Alamo.


Anyone familiar with the story of the Alamo knows about the less than 200 men who held off thousands of Mexican soldiers for 13 days. Some may know about the man who left the Alamo the day before, or maybe a few days before the last day. Fewer may know much about that man.

His name was Louis Rose. He was born in La’Fe’ree, in the Ardennes region of France in 1785. In 1806 he joined Napoleon’s 101st Regiment and may have worked his way up to Lieutenant. Rose served in Naples, Portugal, Spain, and possibly Russia. He received the French Legion of Honor for service as an aide-de-camp to General Jacques de Montfort.

It is not clearly known when he came to America but by 1827, he was living in Nacogdoches and working as a log cutter and log hauler in a sawmill.

In Nacogdoches, he joined the Fredonian Rebellion and fought in the battle of Nacogdoches in 1832. He had become friends with Jim Bowie and followed him to San Antonio.

The Texas State Historical Association has information about him taking part in three armed conflicts between Anglo settlers and the Mexican authorities.

After this time, there are some conflicts in his story.

Moses Rose

At the Alamo, he was given the nickname “Moses” because of his long beard and his age. This writer has found his age stated as 50, 51, and 54 years of age. He was either the oldest or one of the oldest at the Alamo.

The story of Travis drawing the line in the sand with his sword and telling those who would stay and fight to the death is said to have come from Rose. Most historians agree that the “line in the sand” is more likely lore than fact.

Rose let the others know that he was not willing to stay and fight to the end. Supposedly Bowie said, “Rose you seem not prepared to die with us.” Rose was said to reply, “No I am not prepared to die and will not if I can avoid it.”

A bit of conflict is whether Rose went over a back wall or whether a window was opened for him to crawl out of.

Rose was able to cross through the Mexican lines in part due to his “swarthy complexion”, and the fact that he spoke better Spanish than English.

Rose made his way out of San Antonio and went down the San Antonio River about three miles then east across the prairie to the Guadalupe River, avoiding the roads. The country he traveled through was a rough country with lots of cacti and difficult terrain. He appeared at the ranch owned by Abraham Zuber in Grimes County. He was haggard, in bloodstained clothes, and had infected wounds from cactus spines.

He told the Zuber family that he had escaped from a battle at the Alamo and that all the other men had died.

Rose was nursed back to health by the Zuber family and after a while, he went to Nacogdoches. Some of the cactus spines could not be removed and would plague him for the rest of his life.

In 1840 Rose gave testimony in Nacogdoches on behalf of families seeking to prove their menfolk had died at the Alamo. His testimony helped them obtain veteran’s heir’s land grants.

In Nacogdoches, he operated a butcher shop. When he would be asked about leaving the Alamo, he would look the person straight in the eye and say, “By God, I wasn’t ready to die.”

In 1842, he left Nacogdoches and went to Logansport, Louisiana. His health had begun to fail due to infections from the cactus spines. He was befriended by the Aaron Ferguson family. Eventually, the infections became so severe that they caused him to be bedridden. He died in 1851 and was buried in the Ferguson family cemetery. He never married. His brother Isaac had several sons. In 1927 his nephew Arthur Rose presented Moses Rose’s rifle to the Alamo Museum.

A 2021 book, Forget the Alamo, written by Bryan Burroghs, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason challenged many assumptions about the battle. “Despite all the times he claimed to have been there, there is no other record, nor even a secondhand account that he ever told the story the Zuber family attributed to him.”

North of Logansport, Louisiana on Highway 5, Funston Road intersects on the east side of the highway. About three miles down the road, on the right side is a sign that has wording about the historic gravesite of Moses Rose. There are only about a dozen graves there. The site is about a quarter acre mowed by a bush hog. On the right side of the cemetery is the grey granite tombstone that has “Moses Rose 1785-1851 Soldier of the Alamo” engraved on it.

The story of the Alamo has gained heroic mythical status in Texas history. That there was a small number of men greatly outnumbered by an overwhelming force is a fact. A lot of what happened in those 13 valiant days cannot be fully documented. For example, Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson’s story varied over the years each time she told it.

Whether or not Travis drew the line in the sand does not matter, nor does it really matter if the Moses Rose of this story really was at the Alamo. It brings to mind the statement, “When fact and fiction collide, go with the fiction, it makes a better story.”


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Backroads Trips and Tales

The International Boundary Marker Inside The United States.



It is out in the boondocks, but not that hard to find. The times I have been there I have gone via Logansport because I have gone to another place or two in that area. One of these days I am going through Carthage just for the heck of it.

From Carthage, you would go east on Hwy 79, which would take you past, or near the Jim Reeves gravesite. I first went to his grave shortly after the memorial was built. I was living in Marshall at the time. Over the years I have gone several times.

Hwy  79 goes to Greenwood which is on the TX-LA border. The Lickskillet General Store is closed now, but the border goes through the center of the store. Its claim to fame used to be two pay telephones about three feet apart on the back wall of the store. The state border ran between the phones, so you had to pay long-distance charges to call from one phone to the other…..Mike

International boundary markers are located on the borders between two countries. There is one at the intersection of  Texas FM 31 South and Louisiana Highway 765  that is totally inside the United States. The location today is the boundary between the states of Texas and Louisiana.

It was placed when the boundary between the Republic of Texas and the United States was surveyed beginning in 1840. The marker was placed at this location in 1841.

The location is a three-acre site shared by DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, and Panola County, Texas. The marker is owned by the U.S.  government. The site is 10 miles from Deadwood, Texas, and 21 miles from Carthage, Texas. It is approximately six miles from Logansport, Louisiana.

The survey crew began work on May 20, 1840, at the Gulf of Mexico near Sabine Pass. They placed a 36-foot pole in the middle of a large earthen mound. From there they proceeded north, placing eight-foot posts denoting miles from the 32nd Parallel. Reaching the parallel, they placed granite markers on the west bank of the Sabine River. From that point, they proceeded north to the Red River. The work was completed in June 1841.

As a result of erosion, the first marker fell into the river. The second marker remains. It was placed to mark the north-south meridian. The marker is the only one that remains. Others either sank into the ground or for some reason were removed.

The marker was set on April 23, 1841, and discovered in 1971 by crews working in the woods.

The survey team faced hazardous conditions due to often swampy areas and was forced to take several extended breaks due to weather and lack of funding.

On the survey crew, John Forsyth represented the United States and Memucan Hunt represented the Republic of Texas.

The marker was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 13, 1977, and was designated as a State Civil Engineering Landmark by the Texas and Louisiana Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The granite pillar is nine inches square, ten feet long, and about four feet above the ground. Three sides are engraved. One side is engraved Merid. Boundary, Established A.D. 1840. One side has R.T., and the third side, U.S.

The Texas Historical Marker reads in part, “When Texas became a republic in 1836 it appointed a joint commission with the United States to survey and mark the established boundary from the Gulf of Mexico up the Sabine River and on to the Red River…This is the only known marker remaining and it is believed to be the only original International Boundary Marker within the contiguous  U.S.  Today the boundary between Texas and Louisiana follows the Sabine River to the 32nd Parallel, at which point it connects with the boundary established by Hunt and Forsyth.

The Texas Historical Foundation purchased this site to provide public access to the early boundary marker.”


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