Ellis Island or Bust

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story I had to right for history class a bout immigration and what the people went through in the late 1800s, early 1900s. it is about an Irish immigrant and her journey to the US.

Submitted: June 27, 2017

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Submitted: June 27, 2017



I am Ida O'Sullivan. I am here to tell you about my journey from essentially an Irish peasant, to living in New York as a city dweller. In Ireland, I was one of sixteen children. Our mother and father worked tirelessly every day to make money so we could stay in our inadequate farmhouse. A soon as we children were able to help in the slightest bit, we did.
In 1892 we heard that a new place called Ellis Island had opened up in New York City to help people like us live in America. So many of the people I knew had gone there seeking a new life, I considered the same. Just a few short months after we had heard about it, my eldest brother packed up his few things and headed for New York. None of us could read or write, so after we said goodbye, we never saw him again. For such a big family, that was devastating. We missed him, but I never realized how much food he ate. After he left, I was never as hungry as when he was here.

It wasn't long however, until I wanted to explore a place unknown. It was a hard decision to leave my family, but I made up my mind and packed up my things. I put on my nicest dress, and scarf, and left for the boat. It was huge! The largest thing I had ever seen, and there were so many of my fellow Irish folk, and other people who looked so different then I had ever seen. There was such an air of excitement and fear. I was excited to start my new life, and scared to leave my family behind.
Once I got on bored, I was surrounded by so many people. There were upper-class, and middle-class, and the lower-class like me. After the ship set sail, and we waved to our beloved land, the rich were weeded out from the poor, and the poor were taken below deck. I handed over a few coins so I could sleep in one of limited beds below deck. There was limited ventilation, and not much room. Not to mention that it was very dirty, it looked like there had been a thousand people before us. And the smell was nauseating! It was like a combination of an outhouse, unbathed farm workers, and the sweat of a thousand men all rolled up into a rotting potato. Aside from that, it was mostly an acceptable place to stay.

It took a few weeks to get to New York, but while I was on the boat, I heard stories of how big and grand it was. Buildings made of glass and brick that reached far above the ground. Roads that were covered in stone, and shops that had anything your heart desired. I had also heard about carriages without horses, and that confused me a bit. After the first few days of mindless wall-staring, and the occasional chat, the people really started to open up and mingle. I met a nice young man named Patrick, who said he was going to New York to get away from his family. He told me that 24 was a perfect age to run away. You had the experience to take care of yourself, but the innocence of a child. He made me laugh, and not much did. I tried to look on the bright side of things, but living in the Irish fields with nothing, brought little joy.

Over the rest of the journey, we bonded and helped each other prepare for denial into the country as we neared shore. We came on deck and watched the statue of liberty come closer into view. After a bit, we and the rest of the poor were ushered onto a barge, and taken to Ellis Island. There were so many people around at all times, it was hard to think. We waited a long time to go inside, and when we did, the bombardment of strange people only continued.  We were asked questions, and were examined by flustered doctors, and charged 50 cents. But after it all passed, and we were granted citizen ship, I felt proud to be an American and to have accomplished such a feat. I did feel bad for the people who did not speak any English, for that made it hard to communicate with the officers in charge, but I was just glad I could understand most words they put to their mouths.
After we explored the main roads and got something to eat, took to looking for shelter. Me and Patrick had planned on going our separate ways once we got to New York, but we decided that living together might prove financially easier. Once we got past the splendor and grandness of all the large buildings and homes, we started to realize where we belonged. Our first night in New York was not spent in comfort. We found a quiet ally way after hours of wandering, and laid on our bags. Despite the conditions, because we were so tired, we slept like babies. In the morning we continued our house search, and found signs for little shacks and small rooms for rent. When traveling behind all the glamour of the city to reach theses shacks, there were large piles of sleeping boys. Gangs of hungry begging children with no one to love them crawled the streets. It was sad to say the least, but I had to find shelter and work so I would not end up in that position.
As the days and months went by, I had a level of happiness that I had never felt before. Patrick and i shared a mediocre shack with a nice Italian couple that had lent us some nice clothes, and I had a job sewing men's trousers. Patrick had the job of cutting the material, and we pitched in to make the dollar a month rent for our place. We ate little most nights, but the four working peoples contributed to our plates and closets. By now, I have been living in New York for about three years, and not much had changed. I have noticed an increase in hateful commentary on my race, but I let it slide. Me and Patrick have become quite the couple ourselves, and we are saving up money to get married. I hope to find a more lucrative job at some point, but till then I have been promoted to shirts and get two cents more per 8 shirts. Overall, I am very glad that I decided to pack up and come here, but I still worried about the family I left behind.

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