25 Main St., Newtown, CT 06470. Phone: 203-426-4533.
NEWTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY DISEMBARKS AT ELLIS ISLAND. Twelve million of our ancestors passed through Ellis Island on arriving in America between 1892 and 1954, offering a common heritage to more millions of later generations. The Newtown Historical Society will look at the history and traditions of Ellis Island in a presentation by Arthur Gottlieb, on April 14, 7.30 PM, in the meeting room of the Booth Library, 25 Main Street (route 25). Named after an early owner, colonial New Yorker Samuel Ellis, the once small oyster island was used by the state to hold a 20-gun battery protecting New York harbor from 1794. Ceded to the Federal government in 1808, Fort Gipson was erected during the War of 1812 and maintained until it was decided to use the island as an immigration station. Much more space was needed for the new purpose, and material from ship's ballasts and from the New York City subway excavations was used to fill in the tidal flats until the under three acre island reached it's present size of over twenty-five acres; ninety percent of the island is artificial, and all of it lies on the New Jersey side of the border! Annie Moore, a fifteen-year-old from Ireland coming to join her family, was the first person to be processed at the station on January 1, 1892, and she was given a $10 gold coin to mark her place in history. The processing time averaged 2-5 hours, with a questionnaire and a health exam included. Only about two percent were rejected, usually for health reasons, criminal backgrounds or suspected mental deficiencies. The bulk of the total arrivals came before 1924, with a renewed wave of displace persons and refugees surrounding World War II. April 17, 1907, set the daily record of 11,747 immigrants processed, while the yearly record was 1,004,756, also in 1907. A Norwegian named Arne Peterssen brought closure to the station as the last person admitted in 1954. All Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the presentation.