Friday, January 1, 2016

Annie Moore: First Immigrant Processed Through Ellis Island on January 1, 1892

It was on this day, January 1st, in 1892 that the Ellis Island facility officially opened and began processing newly arrived immigrants. The New York Times article relating the event described her as a "rosy-cheeked Irish girl."

The NYT article, in fact, makes it quite clear that the girl had been pre-selected from the passengers on that first ship in order to provide a positive PR spin on the grand opening, with the reporters granted close access to the ceremonial first processing:

"As soon as the gangplank was run ashore, Annie tripped across it and was hurried into the big building that almost covers the entire island. By a prearranged plan she was escorted to a registry desk which was temporarily occupied by Mr. Charles M. Hendley, the former private secretary of Secretary Windom. H asked as a special favor the privilege of registering the first immigrant, and Col. Weber granted the request.
When the little voyager had been registered, Col. Weber presented her with a ten-dollar gold piece and made a short address of congratulation and welcome. It was the first United States coin she had ever seen and the largest sum of money she had ever possessed." (New York Times, January 2, 1892)

I don't know whether all the immigrants in that time period were routinely given a sum of money to assist them in their settlement. That gold coin was worth approximately 200 dollars in current value. My wife can tell you, current legal immigrants are not given a dime when they are processed through immigration at their port of entry.

Annie Moore eventually married, had eleven children, and died in 1924, at age 49.

My own great-grandfather Otelius Gronli was processed through Ellis Island on November 12, 1909.

It's fitting that they opened that facility on New Year's Day, so it could symbolize the fresh start and opportunity those people were all given to embark on a new life in a new world.

As I personally reflect on the life of Annie Moore, I must note that she died at the same age I am right now, 49. And that should remind me, and in truth all of us, that every second of our remaining life is a gift to be cherished and maximized. 

Happy New Year's Day to you. May your 2016 be filled with accomplishment and the achieving of lofty goals crafted in the newness of this new year.

Requiescas in pace, Annie Moore.