A statue honoring Orphan Train rider Anna K. Fuchs of McPherson, was unveiled Aug. 28 in Concordia.
The statue, located near the Majestic Theater in Concordia, is the 14th Orphan Train Rider statue in Concordia, established through a partnership with the National Orphan Train Complex partnered with the Marian D. Cook Foundation.
After their father died from tuberculosis in 1922 and their mother passed in July 1924, the three Fuchs sisters were taken to an orphanage in New York. The girls, Anna, 11, Margaret, 9, and Helen, 7, were informed shortly after Thanksgiving that they were going to be sent west to find new homes.
On December 7, 1924, four boys and five girls arrived in McPherson aboard an orphan train. The Children’s Aid Society of New York had sent the company of children under the care of Agent Anna Laura Hill.
It is likely they were met with by an excited crowd of citizens. Although orphan trains were not rare, they were a major event in rural communities. The children were led off the train by the agents and taken to a local hotel where they rested, ate and were dressed in their Sunday best. The group then made their way to the McPherson Opera House, took their places on the stage and the local placing committee began.
By the end of the placing meeting, the sisters had been chosen by three separate families. Helen became the new daughter of Reverend and Mrs. W.L. Horton of Moundridge. Margaret went home with the C.T. Runyan family. Anna had feared she would be unplaced. She believed her limp, caused by a congenital hip defect, the missing two fingers on her right hand and her older age would leave her without a home. However, Jennie Bengston received custody of Fuchs. Bengston was a single woman, a “spinster” by societal standards, who ran a boarding house and taught Sunday school.
Fuchs graduated high school in 1932 and McPherson College in 1937 with degrees in education and music. In 1941, Fuchs was hired by Farmers Allied Insurance of McPherson, where she worked until her retirement.
Fuchs is well remembered for singing and playing in the annual Messiah Festival at Bethany College for more than 50 years. She loved playing the organ for her church and painted china by hand in her spare time. Fuchs never married or had children of her own.
In 1979, Fuchs told her story after a bit of hesitation to authors Martha Nelson Vogt and Christina Vogt. Their book “Searching for Home” would share multiple orphan train rider stories. Fuchs chose to tell her story because she wanted the public to know that many orphan train riders found good and loving homes. She believed both sides of the story needed to be told.
Fuchs embraced her orphan train heritage and told groups and schools her story before she passed away on Nov. 15, 2006.
The statues of orphan train riders in Concordia come from the Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, New York, a family-owned and operated company that specializes in handmade bronze garden sculpture, statues, fountains and accessories for home, garden and public spaces.
The other statues that have already been installed in Concordia are:
- Miriam Zitur at the Broadway Plaza;
- Elmer and Ethel Barney at Britt’s Fountain and Gifts;
- Teresa Martin at the Frank Carlson Library;
- The Fallen Soldier Memorial at the Concordia American Legion;
- Hallie Garwood at the Cloud County Historical Society Museum;
- Kansas Riders Statue at Brown Business Services;
- Roberta “Happy” Slifer at Cloudville in the Concordia City Park;
- Father Paul Fangman at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Concordia;
- Victor & Stanley Cornell Deger at CloudCorp;
- Thelma Taylor at Monique & Co. Salon & Day Spa;
- Genevieve Dreiling at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia;
- Gertrude Vale at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia;
- Alton, Leo and Gerald Clement at Citizens National Bank.