seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

The Closing of Ellis Island

Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors on November 12, 1954, after processing more than 12 million immigrants, including an estimated two million Irish, since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New Jersey coast and named for merchant Samuel Ellis, who owned the land in the 1770s.

On January 2, 1892, 15-year-old Annie Moore, from County Cork, becomes the first person to pass through the newly opened Ellis Island, which President Benjamin Harrison designates as America’s first federal immigration center in 1890. Prior to the opening of Ellis Island the processing of immigrants has been handled by individual states.

Not all immigrants who sail into New York have to go through Ellis Island. First- and second-class passengers submit to a brief shipboard inspection and then disembarked at the piers in New York or New Jersey, where they pass through customs. People in third class, though, are transported to Ellis Island, where they undergo medical and legal inspections to ensure they do not have a contagious disease or some condition that might make them a burden to the government. Only two percent of all immigrants are denied entrance into the United States.

Immigration to Ellis Island peaks between 1892 and 1924, during which time the 3.3-acre island is enlarged with landfill and additional buildings are constructed to handle the massive influx of immigrants. During the busiest year of operation, 1907, over 1 million people are processed at Ellis Island.

With the United States’ entrance into World War I, immigration declines and Ellis Island is used as a detention center for suspected enemies. Following the war, Congress passes quota laws and the Immigration Act of 1924, which sharply reduces the number of newcomers allowed into the country and also enables immigrants to be processed at U.S. consulates abroad. After 1924, Ellis Island switches from a processing center to serving other purposes, such as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants, a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II and a Coast Guard training center. In November 1954, the last detainee, a Norwegian merchant seaman, is released and Ellis Island officially closes.

Beginning in 1984, Ellis Island undergoes a $160 million renovation, the largest historic restoration project in U.S. history. In September 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opens to the public and today is visited by almost 2 million people every year.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Annie Moore Departs Queenstown for the United States

annie-mooreFifteen-year-old Annie Moore departs Queenstown, now Cobh, County Cork, on December 20, 1891, and becomes the first immigrant to the United States to pass through the Ellis Island facility in New York Harbor.

Her parents, Matthew and Julia Moore, had come to the United States in 1888 and are living at 32 Monroe Street in Manhattan. Moore departs from Queenstown aboard the S.S. Nevada, one of 148 steerage passengers. Accompanied by her brothers, Anthony and Philip, she spends twelve days at sea, including Christmas Day, arriving in New York on Thursday evening, December 31. It is reported that her arrival is on her 15th birthday, but records in Ireland reveal that her birthday is in May and she is actually seventeen.

Ellis Island officially opens on January 1, 1892 and, as the first person to be processed at the newly opened facility, Moore is presented with an American $10 gold piece from an American official. All three children are soon reunited with their parents in New York. From 1820 to 1920, more than 4 million people leave their native shores of Ireland bound for the Port of New York and a new life in America.

Moore marries a son of German immigrants, Joseph Augustus Schayer, an employee at Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market, with whom she has at least eleven children. She dies of heart failure on December 6, 1924, 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.

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.” Moore’s story is told in the song “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears,” written by Brendan Graham. The song has been performed by Tynan and by The Irish Tenors, of which Tynan was formerly a member. Other artists performing the song include Seán Keane, Sean & Dolores Keane, Daniel O’Donnell, Celtic Thunder, Irish tenor Brian Dunphy, Celtic Woman, and Tommy Fleming.

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, established that the Annie Moore in Texas was born in Illinois.