Clarkstown History Talks Continue

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Programs Tonight & Tuesday

Clarkstown’s 225th birthday party this month continues with two additional history talks, the first tonight (Thursday, Oct. 27) and the second next Tuesday.

Tonight’s talk, at 7:30 p.m. at the Clarkstown Town Hall auditorium on Maple Avenue in downtown New City, is an illustrated lecture on the Orphan Train movement in the United States, and its impact on Clarkstown, from 1853 through 1929.

Guest speaker will be Tom Riley of the Genealogical Society of Rockland County, and one of the nation’s leading experts on the orphan train movement. To rid cities such as New York of unwanted orphans living on the streets, good government groups of the time “saved” the children by gathering up thousands of them and placing them on trains headed north, south and west. Conductors were instructed to dump a handful of the children at each station along the route.

Eager farmers, factory owners and businessmen would scoop them up from the station platforms and bring them to their establishment where they would work as indentured servants, at least until they turned 18 and often for life. The 75-year program was called the largest mass relocation of children in American history, and ended only with the depression.

One of the largest such reception stations in this area was Congers, on the West Shore Railroad line, where hundreds of abandoned children were summarily dumped.

Riley’s talk will be illustrated with dozens of actual photographs of the orphans; their packed train rides resembling cattle cars, and their re-locations at local farms, factories and other businesses.

The final program in the series, co-sponsored by the New City Library and the Historical Society of Rockland County, will be “Share, Listen and Learn” on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. also at the Town Hall auditorium.

Presented by New City Library local history Librarian Brian Jennings, the program will feature oral history interviews he did recently with dozens of long-time residents of Clarkstown and Rockland County, recounting their recollections of growing up here in the half-century from about 1920 through 1970. Many of the interviewees are expected to be in attendance, and will share and expand on those reminiscences. Audience participation is also invited.

Both programs are free of charge and open to all.

Attendees at both programs will also be able to view the special historical exhibits in the lobby of Town Hall, as well as in the auditorium and the side halls, depicting Clarkstown’s history since it was founded in 1791, when it broke away from the much larger Town of Haverstraw to become a separate township.

The artifacts on display include photographs and objects of all kinds; including pre-historic rock formations, ice-cutting, farming, household and manufacturing implements, education, religion, government and other aspects of living in Clarkstown over the past 225 years.

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