On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15-year-old Irish émigré from County Cork, becomes the first immigrant to the United States to pass through federal immigrant inspection at the Ellis Island station in New York Harbor.
Over 12 million immigrants are processed at the station that eventually closes in 1954. Third class and steerage passengers are processed at the Ellis Island station. First and Second class passengers are generally processed on the boats they arrive on as they are seen to be of lesser “risk.”
Moore arrives from County Cork aboard the Guion Line steamship Nevada in 1892. Her brothers, Anthony and Philip, who journey with her, have just turned 15 and 12, respectively. As the first person to pass inspection at the newly opened facility, she is presented with an American $10 gold piece from an American official.
Moore’s parents, Matthew and Julia, had come to the United States in 1888 and were living at 32 Monroe Street in Manhattan. Annie marries a son of German Catholic immigrants, Joseph Augustus Schayer (1876-1960), a salesman at Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market, with whom she has eleven children, five of whom survive to adulthood. The rest all die before the age of three.
Moore dies of heart failure on December 6, 1924 at age 47 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens. Her previously unmarked grave is identified in August 2006. On October 11, 2008, a dedication ceremony is held at Calvary which celebrates the unveiling of a marker for her grave, a Celtic cross made of Irish blue limestone.
A woman named “Annie Moore” who died near Fort Worth, Texas, in 1924 had long been thought to be the one whose arrival marked the beginning of Ellis Island. Further research, however, establishes that the Annie Moore in Texas was born in Illinois.
The Irish American Cultural Institute presents an annual Annie Moore Award “to an individual who has made significant contributions to the Irish and/or Irish American community and legacy.” She is also honored by two statues sculpted by Jeanne Rynhart. One stands at Cobh Heritage Centre (formerly Queenstown), her port of departure, and another at Ellis Island, her port of arrival. The image is meant to represent the millions who pass through Ellis Island in pursuit of the American dream.
(Pictured: Statue of Annie Moore and her brothers on the quayside in Cobh, County Cork)