Emily’s Story

Emily’s Story

By Clark Kidder During our formative years there are a handful of very special people who inevitably have a tremendous impact on us. For me, two such people were my paternal grandparents, Earl and Emily Kidder. So many children never really get to know their grandparents, but I had the good fortune of having mine reside with us on our 175-acre farm in Milton Township, Rock County, Wisconsin. I wasn’t much more than 5 years old when I decided I wanted to sleep in my grandparents’ apartment. The two apartments were attached and shared two common doors, much like a duplex. I would spend most of the next eighteen years of my life with them, sharing meals, listening to their wonderful stories of yesteryear, and soaking up every bit of love they could spare. Grandma Emily would often shoo me over to my parents’ side of the house, telling me that I needed to spend more time with them. I could never understand why she had been so emphatic about it. My answer would be found many years later. In 1981, at age 18, I followed a suggestion made by my aunt, Mildred (Kidder) Yahnke, that I should begin researching our family tree. I decided to do just that and began interviewing my paternal grandparents and other family members. By then, Grandpa Earl was 88 and Grandma Emily was 89. The stories they told about our ancestors fascinated me, but I was particularly interested in the story of how they met and what their young lives were like. Grandma told me that she was an orphan and was placed in an orphanage in Brooklyn, New York when she was about 8 years old. She told me her parents died of pneumonia and that her brother Richard was also placed in the same orphanage and was later adopted “by a rich family.” She recalled how a minister by the last name of Clarke brought her to the Midwest on a train under the auspices of the Children’s Aid Society of New York City. It was not until several years after my grandparents passed away that I read about an organization called The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, which gathered and disseminated information on Orphan Train riders. It occurred to me that my grandmother, Emily, may have been one of the children who was sent west on what they were now calling Orphan Trains. I later learned that a woman in my hometown of Milton had several volumes of journals and scrapbooks kept by a minister named Herman D. Clarke. She mentioned to my aunt Mildred that Mildred’s mother (my grandmother) Emily’s name was in the journals. My aunt informed...

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