‘Riders on the Orphan Train’ Returns to Duncan’s Simpson Hotel

Contributed Article

DUNCAN – An evening of live music, storytelling, video of historic photos, and audience discussion will open the Simpson Hotel’s 2019 “Fireside Lecture” series Friday, Feb. 8 from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Reprising their standing-room-only 2018 show, Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster will present their multimedia “Riders on the Orphan Train.” Bring the kids and the grandparents for this evening dedicated to a heart-wrenching and inspiring story that touched both Duncan and Clifton in the early 20th century. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served. Donations to help the artists with their travel expenses will be gratefully accepted.

Novelist and humanities scholar Alison Moore and singer/songwriter Phil Lancaster have combined audio-visual elements, historical fiction and musical ballads into a collaborative performance that brings the Orphan Train movement, a largely-unknown chapter in American history, to public awareness.

Historical photo of “Orphan Train” children

The 90-minute presentation tells the stories of some of the 250,000 orphans and unwanted children who were put on trains in New York between 1854 and 1929 and sent all over the United States to be given away. The presentation is comprised of original music, an audio-visual presentation of archival photographs, and interviews with two surviving orphan train riders – a man who came to Berryville, Arkansas, and a woman who came to Greenville, Texas.

After the presentation, Moore and Lancaster will lead audience discussion about the origin and demise of the largest child migration in history and the part it played in the formation of the American Dream. The human struggle to belong, to define one’s self in the place we call home, is exemplified in the stories of these children.

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