On New Years Day 1892, a 17 year old Irish lass called Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed through the newly opened Ellis Island Immigration Center. She had with her, her 2 young brothers 15 and 12. Her place at the head of the queue was determined by a gallant male fellow passenger who called out “Ladies first!” and this distinction earned her a $10 American gold coin worth $202 in modern currency.
Annie’s unique role in the long hisotry of immigration to NYC has faded into the past, but her unmarked grave was recently discovered in Calvary Cemetary Queens and a fine celtic cross has been placed on it to commemorate her and her role. While Annie’s history is her own, it is also achingly typical of the millions of immigrants who have come to NYC and in celebrating her, all immigrants and their role in NYC’s history is also celebrated.
When she arrived her parents had already been living at 32 Monroe Street Manhattan for 4 years, her father having found work as a longshoreman. When Annie left Ireland, she left from Queenstown in County Cork on December 20 1891 and arrived in New York Harbor on Dec 31st having travelled steerage with 147 fellow travellers. She and her parents were soon re-united and several years later she is recorded as marrying Joseph Schayer, son of German immigrants, who worked at Fulton Fish Market. She had 11 children, 5 of whom lived to maturity and 3 of whom had children of their own. She died of heart failure on Dec 6 1924 at the comparatively young age of 49.
She lived all her life in poor conditions but the Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian and Italian surnames scattered through her descendants tells a typical story of intermarriage and the subsequent history of these descendants is one of rising prosperity that is her living legacy of immigration to NYC. The video of the dedication of the cross on her grave, at the top of this post is deeply moving as a tangible reminder of a young lass who bravely created a new life in a new land as so many have done. As you can see from the video below, Annie is remembered today in Ireland also and there is a statue of her and her brothers on the wharf from which she left Ireland.