It was always Mr. Kidder’s dream to see the book he wrote on his paternal grandmother (Emily’s Story: The Brave Journey of an Orphan Train Rider) made into a film. His dream has come true. The film, West by Orphan Train, is directed, co-produced, and co-written by Colleen Bradford-Krantz. Mr. Kidder is co-writer and co-producer of the film. The film’s official website is www.westbyorphantrain.com.
Mr. Kidder’s grandmother, Emily (Reese) Kidder, was one of an estimated 250,000 children placed on what are now known as orphan trains. These children were plucked from the streets and orphanages of New York City and Boston and sent west between the years 1854 and 1929. Some call it the greatest migration of children in the history of the world. It was believed that a home with farmers in the country would be superior to the life they were living in the city or in the orphanage. Children were presented for the picking to crowds of people that would gather in opera houses, churches, and on courthouse steps. Many were taken for selfish reasons by farmers that were just looking for extra help on the farm. Few were ever legally adopted. And yet, for the vast majority, it was a new beginning – an escape from the harsh realities of life on the streets and in orphanages.
Emily’s father deserted his wife and nine children when Emily was just a few years old. She spent her adolescent years under strict discipline in The Home for Destitute Children at 217 Sterling Place in Brooklyn, NY.
Emily was not one of the lucky ones. She was placed in one home after another – in no less than four states. At age nineteen she met Mr. Kidder’s grandfather, Earl D. Kidder, and the couple were married March 20, 1912 in Janesville, WI. They raised six children and were married no less than seventy-four and a half years.
You can now purchase a DVD of the film on our official website at www.westbyorphantrain.com.
West by Orphan Train won two national awards, and a Midwest Regional Emmy® Award in 2015!
West by Orphan Train was given a prestigious Leadership in History award in June, 2015 by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).
The documentary also received a 2015 Clarion Award.
In the News
Clark Kidder and Colleen Bradford Krantz were interviewed on Iowa Public Radio regarding the film on December 1, 2014: