A Farewell to Victor

A Farewell to Victor

Victor L. Cornell, the last surviving orphan train rider featured in our film, has died. Cornell, of Moscow, Idaho, was 95.  He died Jan. 29, 2017. Vic was little brother to Stanley Cornell, who died just four month earlier at age 96. The two endured together the loss of their mother and their subsequent placement in an orphanage. They were sent on an orphan train, and were sent back from several homes before finding a happy childhood with J.L. and Ethel Deger of Wellington,...

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A Farewell to Stanley and Sophia

A Farewell to Stanley and Sophia

In the past year, the two orphan train riders who were included in our documentary passed away. We were so sorry to hear that Stanley Cornell, 96, died Sept. 22, 2016, and Sophia Kaminsky Hillesheim, 101, passed away May 22, 2016. Both were resilient enough to survive difficult early childhoods yet, according to their families, kept their abilities to love and laugh intact. Stanley Cornell and his brother, Victor, were sent on the “orphan train” twice from New York state after their mother’s death, and were passed from one home to another. Their story, which had its happy ending when the J.L. and Ethel Deger family in Wellington, Texas adopted the boys in 1926, was one of those at the heart of our film, West by Orphan Train. He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, grandchildren and his brother, Victor. Sophia Kaminsky Hillesheim was sent in 1917 by the New York Foundling Hospital on an orphan train. She was two years old when she was taken in by a Minnesota family, but, after the woman who would have been her mother died. She was then taken in by another Minnesota woman, who family say treated her as an indentured servant. Sophia was married in 1936, and the couple had five children. Sophia, who remarried after losing her first husband, attended 50 orphan train reunions. She was the last surviving orphan train rider in Minnesota, according to family. One of her daughters, Renee Wendinger, served as an expert in our documentary.    ...

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Remembering Bernadette Schaefer

Remembering Bernadette Schaefer

We are sorry to belatedly share the news that Bernadette Schaefer, one of the orphan train riders featured in our documentary, has passed away. Her son, Rich Schaefer, told us: “She died on Nov. 1, which is celebrated by the church as All Saints Day. Seems appropriate since she lived her life in such a saintly manner.” If you’ve seen our West by Orphan Train documentary, you will remember that Bernadette was taken to a rural area of Nebraska as a 4-year-old. As she explains in the documentary, she ended up having a wonderful childhood in Nebraska. When we interviewed her for the documentary, she told us: “I felt wonderful because I felt that was the first time in my life that I felt like I had a home.” Bernadette, who lived in Minnesota, was 93 when she died. She was so gracious to share her story with us. We admired her  -and the thousands of other orphan train riders – for her resilience and...

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Leadership in History Award

The American Association for State and Local History wrote: “The documentary… seeks to correct misimpressions or false assumptions about the orphan train experience, in that the process and family placements did not always improve children’s lives. West by Orphan Train takes a balanced look at the whole story, which had both humanitarian and cruel aspects. The emotional impact of the film and its discovery of illuminating primary sources will undoubtedly stir new investigations and insights in Iowa’s genealogical and local history discussions.” The AASLH, which gave West by Orphan Train a 2015 Leadership in History Award, also wrote the following about the documentary: “Although the documentary was only released in Iowa in late 2014, it has already received much attention and acclaim from those interested in this intriguing human story.” We are honored by this national award. Many thanks to the...

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Amazon Prime Video Streams West by Orphan Train

Amazon Prime Video Streams West by Orphan Train

Our award-winning documentary, West by Orphan Train, is now available for streaming nationwide via Amazon Prime Video. As filmmakers, this national release is a important one for sentimental reasons.  We had wanted those orphan train riders who were included in our documentary to be able to share this story with their families and friends quickly and easily. This is our best opportunity to do so. So Stanley and Bernadette, this is especially for you. Thank you for your kindness in sharing your stories. But, of course, it is also very important as a memorial to the resilience and determination of Emily Reese Kidder, grandmother of co-producer Clark Kidder. If you stream Amazon Prime video on your television, just search for “West by Orphan Train.” You can also watch using your computer. If you are an Amazon Prime member, but aren’t sure how to stream, this page...

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Regional Emmy Award!

Regional Emmy Award!

West by Orphan Train was awarded a regional Emmy award last night in the historical documentary category! This is a big honor, especially considering the many other high-quality films that were in consideration. Special congratulations to those on our team who held what are considered “key” production positions (though everyone on our team was key and indispensable, in our minds): West by Orphan Train – Colleen Bradford Krantz and Clark Kidder Colleen Bradford Krantz, Producer/Director/Co-Writer Clark Kidder, Producer/Co-Writer Paul Kakert, Director of Photography/Camera Chad Aubrey, Editor Chad Elliott, Original Music Robert “Bo” Barker, Primary Narrator Jeff Horn, Graphics David Feingold, Audio Mix  ...

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Midwest Emmy Nomination

“West by Orphan Train” has been nominated for a Midwest Emmy in the historical documentary category. We are happy to be listed among so many great filmmakers and journalists who make up the list of nominees. The winners  will be announced Oct. 3. We recently began offering “West by Orphan Train” DVDs for sale on...

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National Clarion Award Announced

West by Orphan Train’s producers and Iowa Public Television are among the 2015 winners of the prestigious Clarion Awards. Colleen Bradford Krantz, director, co-producer and co-writer; Clark Kidder, co-producer and co-writer; and Iowa Public Television, which worked in conjunction with the producers on West by Orphan Train, will be given the award by The Association for Women in Communications. The organization will hand out this year’s 86 Clarion Awards during the AWC’s October conference in Kansas City. Krantz, Kidder and IPTV were recognized for winning the “television documentary program – local or regional.” West by Orphan Train, which tells of the journeys of several orphan train riders in the early 1900s, was released in 2014. Following its late 2014 television broadcast, it is now available by...

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DVDs Now Available

DVDs Now Available

We are now selling DVDs of the award-winning West by Orphan Train documentary. We released the documentary six months ago, providing a limited number of DVDs via Iowa Public Television, the PBS affiliate which served as the presenting station for our documentary. Those wishing to show the documentary to a group in a public setting need to pay for licensing rights. Learn more on our “About” page and please contact us to make...

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IMPA Awards

West by Orphan Train creators and contributors took home five trophies at the 2015 Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards event. Chad Elliott, who created the music for the documentary, including an original song with lyrics, was honored with the top award for original music composition. Listen to some of Elliott’s other amazing work on his website. Director Colleen Bradford Krantz was given the top award for long-form directing. The film also received runner-up Awards of Achievement for the following: Program – Documentary, by Colleen Bradford Krantz and Clark Kidder Director of Photography – Paul Kakert with DocumentaryTV and Storytellers International Narration – Robert “Bo”...

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Award at Julien Film Fest

Award at Julien Film Fest

West by Orphan Train was awarded the “Best of Iowa” award at the 2015 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Thanks to those of you who attended our multiple screenings. Thanks also to organizers of this amazing festival, who were willing to add additional screening to accommodate the crowds.

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Prairie Lights Film Festival

Prairie Lights Film Festival

We are honored that our “West by Orphan Train” documentary has been accepted into the 2015 Prairie Lights Film Festival! This festival will be held in Grand Island, Neb. at the historic Grand Theatre, from Oct. 16-18. More info can be found on their website, http://www.prairielightsfilmfest.com

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Julien Dubuque Int. Film Festival

Julien Dubuque Int. Film Festival

We’re happy to announce that West by Orphan Train just been accepted into the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. The festival will be held April 23-26 in Dubuque, Iowa. (Yes, for you Bachelor fans, this is one of the great-looking cities where some of the Chris Soules-seeking girls stayed.) More details on screening times will be coming soon. See http://julienfilmfest.com

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BIFF Audience Award

BIFF Audience Award

We were honored to be recognized as “best documentary” by audiences at the Beloit International Film Festival last night (Feb. 27). The festival, which has been around about a decade, features about 140 films. There were 18 great-quality documentaries this year so we were very happy to be recognized. Clark Kidder, co-producer, represented our film at the awards ceremony.

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Mary Eickmeier Law

Mary Eickmeier Law

Written by orphan train rider Mary Law of Muscatine, Iowa, for her grandchildren: I was told I was born in Geneva, N.Y. June 1, 1925. The biological mother’s name was Ella Mae Roat. I’m not sure if that was the married name or if she was a single mother. We rode the orphan train [in the] early part of April 1928, with my three brothers, Frank age 8, Harry age 6, Charles age 3 ½. [I was] Rose Mary age 2 1/2. We were a group of 12 homeless children brought to Kearney, Nebraska from New York. The train made a stop at a Methodist church, there, we were lined up for viewing and folks were able to choose a child or two. Frank and Anna Eickmeier farmed in Kearney, Nebraska. They chose Charles and me. Frank Roat went to one couple, the Johnsons, but later ran away and was taken in by another couple, the Arnolds. Harry was placed with the Carlsons, neither [of the] boys were adopted, but took the last name of the folks who took them in. Harry started out taking Carlson as [his] last name – later changing to Roat. And while in service he was told his legal name was Davis. So that remains a mystery. This being depression time there wasn’t much money to spare and I kinda believe that’s why my folks gave up farming in Kearney and moved to Muscatine. My mother was originally from Muscatine. Her brother-in-law owned a dairy farm also many rental homes so we moved to a dairy farm on Mittman road. I believe we lived there maybe three years. Charles and I walked to Mittman School, a one room school. Not sure of how many students: 20 or more. One teacher taught all grades. Still bad times for a farmer with crop failures and low prices. I do remember our postal carrier delivered our mail by horse and a special enclosed buggy. Our next move was to town and there we rented from Mom’s brother-in-law, Charles Hagermann. A large two story house, corner of 4th and 6th (1612 E. 6th street), and I went to 1st grade at Jefferson School on Mulberry Avenue. I still have my little pink lunch box that I carried to country school. I lived at 616 E. 6th until I got married July 23, 1944. We even spent our wedding night there in my front bedroom upstairs. I graduated from High School in June of 1944. Our class was the last class called the Mid-term, We actually finished our senior year in January, but had to wait until June of ’44 to graduate. I had a birthday in June so had...

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Accepted To BIFF

Accepted To BIFF

We were honored to hear recently that the Beloit International Film Festival has accepted West by Orphan Train for inclusion in their upcoming 2015 event! For southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois residents, mark your calendars for Sunday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. Our documentary will be shown at that time at Beloit College’s Hendricks Center for the Arts in Beloit, Wisconsin. This will be the first time it is shown in...

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Our Broadcast Premiere

Thanks to all of you who shared such kind comments following our broadcast premiere this week. West by Orphan Train aired on Iowa Public Television on Monday night. We are now searching for a national outlet for the documentary so we might share it with those of you in other states. We will keep you updated on future broadcasts as they are planned. Thanks for all the encouragement.

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Advance Screenings

Advance Screenings

We are planning two more advance screenings of West by Orphan Train in eastern Iowa, where much of the film’s story takes place. They include: Nov. 16, 2 p.m., Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa Nov. 23, 6 p.m. Hopkinton Community Center, Hopkinton, Iowa. And, finally, our Iowa broadcast has been scheduled, as well: Dec. 1, 7 p.m., on Iowa Public Television Thanks to the 400-plus of you who showed up for our first screening last week in DeWitt. You were a great audience.      ...

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It’s a Wrap

It’s a Wrap

We are in the process of finalizing our documentary, West by Orphan Train, and are happy to announce plans for the first screening. It seemed fitting that we hold our premiere in eastern Iowa, where the Iowa phase of Emily Reese Kidder’s life began. We will show the documentary in DeWitt, which is just a short drive from Malone, the community where Emily, whose story is the main focus of the film, was taken in 1906 after briefly staying with a  Chicago family. Please share the below details of this screening with those living in the area. When: Monday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m. social hour followed by 7 p.m. premiere showing of West by Orphan Train. Where: DeWitt Operahouse Theater, 712 6th Avenue, DeWitt, Iowa. Although Emily was dropped off at the Malone depot (now gone), it seems fitting that the Operahouse was once the place from which other orphan children taken to DeWitt were distributed. Please watch for information on other screenings and broadcast...

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Rough Cut Time

Rough Cut Time

It’s gratifying to see all our work coming together. We’ve completed a rough cut of the documentary, West by Orphan Train, and are feeling great about how things are going. We hope to have the final version completed and polished by the end of September. We expect to hold a premiere in the fall so please watch here for upcoming news about that and about the likelihood of a fall or winter broadcast. Please let us know in the meantime if you have a story of an orphan train rider that you’d like to share here on our...

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Recent Blog Posts

April 2, 2017 |

A Farewell to Victor

Victor L. Cornell, the last surviving orphan train rider featured in our film, has died. Cornell, of Moscow, Idaho, was […]

January 17, 2017 |

A Farewell to Stanley and Sophia

In the past year, the two orphan train riders who were included in our documentary passed away. We were so sorry to […]

March 18, 2016 |

Remembering Bernadette Schaefer

We are sorry to belatedly share the news that Bernadette Schaefer, one of the orphan train riders featured in our […]

January 8, 2016 |

Leadership in History Award

The American Association for State and Local History wrote: “The documentary… seeks to correct misimpressions or false assumptions about the orphan train […]

January 8, 2016 |

Amazon Prime Video Streams West by Orphan Train

Our award-winning documentary, West by Orphan Train, is now available for streaming nationwide via Amazon Prime Video. As filmmakers, this […]

October 4, 2015 |

Regional Emmy Award!

West by Orphan Train was awarded a regional Emmy award last night in the historical documentary category! This is a […]

September 4, 2015 |

Midwest Emmy Nomination

“West by Orphan Train” has been nominated for a Midwest Emmy in the historical documentary category. We are happy to […]

July 10, 2015 |

National Clarion Award Announced

West by Orphan Train’s producers and Iowa Public Television are among the 2015 winners of the prestigious Clarion Awards. Colleen Bradford […]

June 5, 2015 |

DVDs Now Available

We are now selling DVDs of the award-winning West by Orphan Train documentary. We released the documentary six months ago, providing a limited […]

May 3, 2015 |

IMPA Awards

West by Orphan Train creators and contributors took home five trophies at the 2015 Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards event. Chad Elliott, who created […]

April 27, 2015 |

Award at Julien Film Fest

West by Orphan Train was awarded the “Best of Iowa” award at the 2015 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Thanks […]

March 25, 2015 |

Prairie Lights Film Festival

We are honored that our “West by Orphan Train” documentary has been accepted into the 2015 Prairie Lights Film Festival! […]

March 22, 2015 |

Julien Dubuque Int. Film Festival

We’re happy to announce that West by Orphan Train just been accepted into the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. The […]

February 28, 2015 |

BIFF Audience Award

We were honored to be recognized as “best documentary” by audiences at the Beloit International Film Festival last night (Feb. […]

January 3, 2015 |

Mary Eickmeier Law

Written by orphan train rider Mary Law of Muscatine, Iowa, for her grandchildren: I was told I was born in Geneva, […]

December 15, 2014 |

Accepted To BIFF

We were honored to hear recently that the Beloit International Film Festival has accepted West by Orphan Train for inclusion […]

December 3, 2014 |

Our Broadcast Premiere

Thanks to all of you who shared such kind comments following our broadcast premiere this week. West by Orphan Train […]

November 3, 2014 |

Advance Screenings

We are planning two more advance screenings of West by Orphan Train in eastern Iowa, where much of the film’s […]

October 16, 2014 |

It’s a Wrap

We are in the process of finalizing our documentary, West by Orphan Train, and are happy to announce plans for the […]

August 11, 2014 |

Rough Cut Time

It’s gratifying to see all our work coming together. We’ve completed a rough cut of the documentary, West by Orphan […]

Read More