Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on March 24, 2001 · Page 168
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 168

Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, March 24, 2001
Page 168
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The Arizona Republic SATURDAY, MARCI 1 24, 2001 11 P5T Phoenix Preparatory W1 High Schools Are Jewish Community High Schools Superior Judaic Studies ' Love of Israel Small class sie with individualized instruction and tutorials It Focus on college entrance Ml ni Computer Science fat ilitic SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE Don Roth, Principal Rabbi Zalman I.i vkrtov. Dean 2110 East Lincoln Drive Phoenix, Arizona 85016 For information, call 602-944-7978 An affiliate of CJiabad Lubavilth, the worlds Lirgrsi outtrwh orgauimtion it Photographs of the twins were made upon their arrival in Kansas. Nettie is on the right in both photos. AROUND THE VALLEY i ; ' ri.liimwMMm--iini.Tti.irr - f i i - j f a - f 1 ) ! V " i " - ' ""accepted! r ' , : V fmP m&0i - dr - - - Lost children took to rails for new lives Orphan train rider recalls her trip West By Jo-an Holstein Special for The Republic Nettie Enns remembers being put on a bench next to her twin sister and prompted to sing the hymn Jesus Loves Me. It was 1911; the twins were 6 years old and were literally singing for their lives. The twins' singing was designed to draw a crowd of people interested in adopting the passengers on one of the late 19th and early 20th century orphan trains. Enns, now 96, was one of an estimated 200,000 homeless, neglected, abandoned or orphaned children who were adopted out through relocation from 1854 to 1929 in a social experiment called "placing out." The program was designed to give disadvantaged urban children a new start in rural homes. Running mostly from New York to the Midwest, the trains made stops along the way during which the children were taken to city halls, churches or other places and made available to families who might want to take them in. Only an estimated 200 of the orphans, including Enns, of Tempe, are still living, according to Mary Ellen Johnson, founder and director of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America Inc. in Sprjngdale, Ark. Before she was placed with the orphan train groups, Enns says her mother often left for long periods of time, apparently to visit relatives. Her father, a heavy equipment operator, worked on the dredging of the Erie Canal and was frequently gone from home, she said. Because of the apparent neglect, a justice of the peace in Olive, N.Y., ordered Enns, her twin Nellie, and their brother, Leon, to be taken to an orphanage in Kingston, N.Y. The girls stayed for less than a year before being put on an orphan train. "When we got to the orphanage, it was right before Christmas. I remember I got a Calico Dog and Nellie got a Gingham Cat," said Enns, who alsQ recalls sledding and mud pies at the orphanage. Orphan train odyssey Leaving their brother behind, she said they were placed on the train wearing clothes that were clean but too big. They were given blankets, name tags and brown sacks with a sandwich. , "We were fed along the way and stopped most any place," Enns said. The twins rode the orphan train four days, with the final stop at McPherson, Kan., on Sept. 15, 1911. There, the orphan train riders were taken to the city's opera house, and all were-placed in homes except Enns and her sister. This, Enns said, was because of Anna Laura Hill, a sort of case or social worker who insisted that the twins go to the same family and not be separated. "Nellie was my support and I hers," Enns said. Hill took the girls to another Kansas town where they lived with a grocer and his wife, who Enns said was "sadistic and cruel." She said Nellie, for example, was once hit with a horsewhip after falling and breaking a butter dish. The twins lived with the couple for 16 months until Hill took the girls back to McPherson, Kan. There, they were placed with a couple named Darrah, whom they ended up staying with for 14 years. 'Mother Darrah' The twins spent most of those years with "Mother Darrah," however, as "Father Darrah" died about two years after the girls moved in. Although the twins changed their name to Darrah and "Mother Darrah" wrote a letter inquiring about adoption, the girls were never adopted. "Mother was kind but very strict. There were no hugs or kisses. It was mostly work and very little play," Enns wrote in a book published by the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America. "She taught us to sew. We took prizes at the county and state fairs when we were 9 years old." Enns and her sister graduated from high school in 1923, then taught school to earn money to attend Kansas State University, where both earned bachelor's degrees in home economics. Enns met her husband, Karl, while teaching in In-man, Kan. They were married in 1930; the same year her twin married a journalist. Eventually, Enns and her husband moved from Kansas to New Mexico, and for many years, her twin sister and brother-in-law lived across the street. Thanks to research done by her brother-in-law and his son, Enns and her twin were able to find their brother Leon, who became a barber, and their father. "He said he ' wished our family hadn't broken up," Enns said. The twins' mother had died before they could find her. The last time they saw her was the day they were taken to the orphanage. Nellie died in 1997 at age 91. Karl Enns died last year, about six months short of the couple's 70th wedding anniversary. Nettie now lives at the home of one of her children, Janet Alexander of Tempe. She has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She has mementos of her life as an orphan train rider, including photographs, a sugar bowl from "Mother Darrah" and a cup from her days with the grocer. In her bedroom hangs the "orphan quilt" she made. It shows, among other things,- a train. . Photos by Russell GatesThe Arizona Republic Tempe resident Nettie Enns, 96, pores over a scrapbook displaying pictures of her twin, Nellie, and their 1911 adventure aboard an orphan train. The 6-year-old girls rode the rails from Kingston, N.Y., to a home in Kansas. Nellie died in 1997. Mother was kind but very strict. There were no hugs or kisses. It was mostly work and very little play. Nettie Enns Orphan Train rider When Where: Glendale Public Library 5959 W. Brown St. Glendale March 27, 2001 - 7:00 pm "ADD: Multi-Modal Treatment" When Where: Mustang Public Library 10101 N. 90th St. Scottsdale April 5, 2001 - 7:00 pm "Attention Training Exercises" By Robert L. Gurnee, MSW Board Certified Diplomate Certified EEG Neurotherapist, BCIA DEFICIT DISORDER ESTABLISHED 1982 (480) 424-7200 In. hi Mi i THIS WEEKEND FREE i ONLY! Kreepy Cleaner j - - - .' with the purchase of new i Pool Cleaners $1295 inspeqion! 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