(William Walters died in 2017. With Victoria Golden he co-authored A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains, A Memoir.)
Homeless at age four, William chose an extraordinary path through nine decades of U.S. history.
From 1854 to the early 1930s, the American Orphan Trains transported an estimated 250,000 children from the streets and orphanages of the East Coast into homes in the emerging West. Unfortunately, families waiting for the trains weren’t always dreams come true—often they were nightmares.
William Walters was little more than a toddler when his sister deposited him and his brother on an Orphan Train heading to destinations unknown. Separated from his brother and handed over to a cruel New Mexico couple, William’s life became a terrible trial. Through his strength and resilience, it also became a remarkable adventure.
Whether escaping his abusers, jumping freights as a preteen during the Great Depression, infiltrating Japanese-held islands as a teenage Marine during World War II, or courting the woman with whom he finally built a stable, loving home, William’s astonishing quest paralleled the tumult of the twentieth century—and personified the American dream.
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