Mary Eickmeier Law

Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

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 turned nineteen before I graduated.

This was all during War time and Emery was serving in the Army. We had been going together about two years.

Grandpa (Emery) came home on a furlough and had seven day pass and wanted to get married! So that was a hurried up couple days. We were married at First Presbyterian church in the sanctuary by the Methodist minister. Our minister was on vacation. No family there. My best friend, June, stood up with me, and Emery’s brother stood up with him. The Chamberlin Studio did open up for us to have a wedding picture taken. This was Sunday.

Grandpa was stationed in Fayetteville, N.C. with the Field Artillery and at the time I was working at Hawkeye Button Factory, owned by C. C. Hagermann. [I] didn’t work much longer because in September I joined Emery [and] took a bus trip to N.C. with another lady who had a son in Fayetteville also. I got a job at a Kress dime store, $13.00 a week, six working days. Emery and I had only a sleeping room in a real nice home with an older couple. They even invited us to eat Sunday dinner with them. Our sleeping room [cost] $10 or $13.00 [a] week.

We were there a little over three months when your grandpa’s unit got their orders to ship out. A sad time, not knowing what our future would be.

I took a train home. My folks met me in Davenport [Iowa] at the train station. I stayed with my folks and went back to work at F. W. Woolworths dime store. I worked there while in high school and wrote letters to Emery every day!

Your grandpa was stationed several places in Europe, last one in Belgium, and during the Battle of the Bulge over all he served two years, eleven months, [and] was discharged April 12, 1946.

My mother had passed away in ’54. She had been in and out of hospitals. We even had a hospital bed set up for her, and my folks stayed with us a few weeks.

I was very fortunate to have wonderful parents as a child. I loved sitting on my Daddy’s lap and listening to the radio as he smoked his pipe. My mother was a hard worker [and a] very good cook. She taught us a lot of values, morals, manners, and went to Sunday school every Sunday. Not much money. I remember working in the garden every summer and I would help mother can many things from [the] garden. [I] helped with the old wringer washing machine and daily household chores.

My dad’s mother and father lived in Kearney, Nebr. Some summers we would drive there and that’s when Brother Charles and I were able to see our other two brothers. My folks had made arrangements for us to keep in touch.


  1. Thank you for sharing the story. I never tire of hearing about the lives of the Orphan Train riders. I have a special place in my heart for all of them. My grandfather was an Orphan Train rider and taken by a family in Weimar, Texas. I tell his story whenever I get the opportunity. It is sad that this event in history is left out of our American curriculum. I teach school and I always include this part of our history in my teaching.


  2. My Aunt Evelyn from Sidney, Iowa, gave me The Orphan Train book to read when I was a young woman and I have always been interested in this subject. Recently I was back in Iowa at my mother’s and saw the last part of a documentary on the Orphan Train and a book Emily …..wrote, featured on Iowa Public Television. I hope it will be shown here in the Northwest on PBS, in order to share it with my granddaughter. A bittersweet and little known event in history that should be shared.

  3. I saw this story on Iowa Public Television. Such a huge part of our history that should be shown on every public TV station in the country.

  4. I also seen the story on Iowa Public Television and now want to read the book. So sad for the children but happy for the ones who were lucky enough to find a home with lots of love.

  5. My father was brought to Beloit (round .springs Kansas on a train from
    Geneva Ny. around 1905 he was 4 years old .He was placed on a farm with the Fuller family where he Lived until he was 19
    They did not adopt him.
    It is hard to find info on train and possible agency that placed him.

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