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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