Annie Moore stood in line with her two younger brothers, Philip and Anthony. They were waiting to board the SS Nevada, a ship that would take them from Ireland to New York.
Even though she was sad, she was also excited about seeing her parents again. They had gone to America two years earlier with her older brother. Her parents had jobs in New York. They did not like the big city, but they had an apartment and enough money for food and clothing. Life was better than it had been in Ireland.
The ‘New York Times article headline read:
‘LANDED ON ELLIS ISLAND: NEW IMMIGRATION BUILDINGS OPENED YESTERDAY’
Colours, creeds, rich and (for the most part) poor, the sick, the hopeful and the fearful flooded through the gate of Ellis Island that day. As the New York Times told the city, ‘A rosy-cheeked Irish girl was the first registered’. That girl was Annie Moore.’
On 1st January 1892, the ship reached New York. The Statue of Liberty welcomed them as they sailed into the harbour. Annie was the first one-off the ship. She was very surprised when an official gave her a $10 gold piece. She had never seen so much money, and did not know why he gave it to her. He explained that Ellis Island was new, and the $10 was a gift to the first person off the ship. It also happened to be Annie’s 17th birthday!
And so it happened that Annie became the first immigrant to land on the newly opened Ellis Island. Now, over 100 years later, a statue of Annie and her brothers stands on Ellis Island (which is now a museum).
For years people believed a saga that had Annie moving to Texas and eventually New Mexico before meeting a tragic end. However, it was later discovered that the real Annie never left New York, which was published on the front page of The New York Times on 14 September 2006.
Late in 1895, she went to St. James Church and there married Joseph Augustus Schayer, a young German-American who worked at the Fulton Fish Market. She gave birth to at least 10 children before dying of heart failure at age 50 in 1924. Her grave in Calvary Cemetery in Queens is marked with a Celtic cross made of limestone imported from Ireland. She spent her entire life on New York’s Lower East Side (one address was 99 Cherry Street).
Today Annie Moore is honoured by two statues sculpted by Jeanne Rhynhart — one at Cobh Heritage Centre (formerly Queenstown), her port of departure, and the other at Ellis Island, her port of arrival. Her image will forever represent the millions who passed through Ellis Island in pursuit of the American dream.
Photo: Statue in Cobh, Co Cork, where they began their voyage. Since then, over 17 million people entered the United States through Ellis Island