'A Child's Journey Through Ellis Island'
Published 3:25 pm, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Royle School student William Patrick O'Connor was the first-place winner of the Good Wife's River Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution Fifth Grade American History Essay Contest for 2015. The topic was "A Child's Journey Through Ellis Island." Here is the winning essay:
May 14, 1892
I have missed you since we left Ireland for America. I was scared to cross the Atlantic and come to a new country. We stayed in the third-class section of the ship, the Majestic. It was crowded and the seas were rough. Everyone was sick from the waves tossing the ship.
The trip was long. One morning I woke up to the sound of people cheering on the deck. I ran up to see what was happening. In the distance, I saw a tall figure in the water that looked like it was holding something in the air. My father had told me about the Statue of Liberty that had been given to America by France. I watched everyone around me. Some were crying, some were jumping and some were silent and in shock at what we were seeing. We had finally made it. I had heard from the other passengers that we had to go through a place called Ellis Island before we could enter America. All of the passengers in third class were told to board river barges. We carried all of our bags. Ellis Island had tall red brick buildings that looked like both a castle and prison.
There was a lot of confusion. There were ships arriving from other countries like Russia, Italy, Germany and Poland. There were many people speaking different languages. We entered the Baggage Room and walked upstairs to the Great Hall where people were told to line up in long lines with benches and metal railings. On the balcony hung a big American flag. At the end of each aisle were a doctor and guard. They were drawing letters on people's coats with chalk! When it was my family's turn, the doctor asked my parents questions about how they were feeling. They checked our hair, our ears, and our eyes. They listened to our hearts and asked us to take big deep breaths. They did not draw on our coats like they did on many people. I was worried because I thought this was bad. My father told me that letters stood for diseases they thought people had. If you had eye disease you could be sent home. If you were sick, they could keep you in the Ellis Island Hospital.
After we passed the medical test, we had to take one more test. My dad had to answer questions the inspectors asked him. They asked him his name, if he was married, what was his skill, if he had ever been in prison, what would his job be in America, how much money he had and where we were going to live in America. The inspectors accepted his answers. We only had enough money to get our train tickets to Connecticut! Dad exchanged his pounds for American dollars at the Money Exchange. The next place we went to was the Railroad Room. The guard told us to make sure we went the right way. One way down the stairs was to New York only. One way was to the Railway Room to buy a train ticket. We were able to get on another boat to take us to the train station in New York. We were so happy to be in America. My mother and father cried. We were going to start a better life in our new country. I hope one day you will come to America. Now you know what to expect. I miss you very much.
Your American Cousin,
William Patrick O'Connor