​First Through Ellis Island – Jan 1, 1892

What we thought we knew about Annie Moore

The common account about Annie Moore, is cited in story and song as the first of 12 million immigrants to arrive at Ellis Island, and is memorialized in bronze statues at Ellis Island and in Cobh (formerly Queenstown), County Cork, Ireland. She left her new home in New York City as a young adult. She was believed to have moved west, depending on the story, to Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, and eventually Texas. She married, had many children, and was killed in a tragic streetcar accident in Texas in 1924.19 However, while there was an Annie Moore in the West, it was not the Ellis Island Annie Moore. Yet the story of the immigrant girl who went west became so commonly accepted that even descendants of the Annie Moore who died in Texas came to believe it.20 In fact, over the years several of her Texan relatives have been invited to participate in ceremonies on Ellis Island and in Ireland. To complicate the story further, fictitious Ellis Island Annie Moores began to surface in children’s books published in Ireland and the United States. Three books written by Eithne Loughrey include elements of fact, but are almost completely based on the author’s imagination.

In First In Line for America, she invents Annie adventures, friends, work in a laundry, and even fabricates letters supposedly written by Annie’s mother and Annie.21 In The Golden Dollar Girl, Annie works as a servant for a wealthy family in Manhattan, misses the fictional Mike Tierney whom she supposedly met on board the Nevada, and finds her life saved by another fictional character, Carl Lindgren.22 She leaves the wealthy family in disgrace and goes to Nebraska where she has a (fictional) female friend.

Annie returns after two years in the “Wild West,” and reconnects with Mike Tierney, the young man she loves, and marries, offering to share her $10 gold piece which, according to the story, had remained unspent. Loughrey includes an epilogue in her last book stating that readers of her fictional books might like to know what happened to the real Annie Moore after she arrives in New York. The author notes that there is not a lot of information about the real Annie Moore. But Loughrey does not explain the differences between her fictional Annie and the so-called facts. She writes that the family moved to Indiana after a time in New York where Annie met Patrick O’Connell whom she married in Texas in 1898 when she was 21 (but Annie was already married to Mike Tierney according to Eithne Loughrey). Annie and Patrick moved to Waco, Texas, to farm. Her lungs were discovered to be weak, and they moved to Fort Worth, then to Clovis, New Mexico, where they owned a hotel and restaurant beside the railroad. O’Connell dies of influenza in 1919. This Annie and her children managed the successful property until she was knocked down and killed by one of the first rapid transit trains while visiting her young brother, Pat, in Fort Worth. Her children were young and were raised by their aunt and uncle.

Eve Bunting, another children’s author, imagines Annie Moore’s experience aboard the Nevada in Dreaming of America, An Ellis Island Story.24 While the text is imagined, it is based on what travel for immigrants might have been like. The painted illustrations are intermingled with reprints of actual documents; a photo of the Nevada; the ship’s manifest, which included the Moore children’s names and ages (though Annie was incorrectly marked down as 13, and the boys 11 and 7 years of age); a photo of a group of singing immigrants aboard a ship and a photo of the original wooden building on Ellis Island (which would have been the one that Annie and her brothers entered). In this book, Annie and her brothers share a "private room" in steerage, complete with pitcher and bowl as well as white sheets and blue blankets. The children remain crisp and clean throughout the voyage and enjoy meals at a dining table with white, ironstone crockery. In 1891 steerage was located in the deep bowels of the steamship for third class passengers.  There were no private rooms in steerage.  Expensive private rooms were available for first and second class travelers who could afford them.  Steerage tickets were the cheapest because steerage was the worst accommodations.  The steerage level had previously housed farm animals along with cargo.  The metal bunk beds were squeezed in long rows on the straw covered floor.  The mattresses were stuffed with straw.    Each person was issues one blanket, a metal plate, a metal cup and utensils.  Large barrels of water were staggered around the immense room, providing both drinking water and a place to wash the eating utensils.  Steerage had no windows for ventilation because that level was below the water line.  The stench of 148 passengers was almost unbearable and conditions were unsanitary.  In addition, Bunting romanticized Christmas Day and Annie’s birthday which were inaccurate.  Bunting wrote that on Christmas day they open large, wool scarves for each child from their aunt and uncle in Cork. On Annie’s fictitious birthday, Annie opens another gift: a ring of connected red stone hearts from their aunt and uncle. Not only is this book imagined, but also it portrays life in steerage in an idealized manner. Bunting includes an afterword indicating that several years after Annie and her brothers arrived in New York, the family moved to Indiana where, at 21, Annie married Patrick O’Connell. Bunting states: “This much of Annie’s story is true.”

However, the woman who died in Texas was not the same Annie Moore that walked through the gates at Ellis Island, in fact she had not immigrated to the United States at all. But Annie was already married (this information was provided by Mia Mercurio and sited from her article Welcome Home Annie: Rethinking Ellis Island and Annie Moore in the Classroom