The McCloskeys to America

Between 1864 and 1868 Mary and her children emigrated. Despite her father's prosperity in Ballynascreen parish, Mary may have fallen on hard times by the time she and her children left Ireland Or perhaps she chose instead to conserve the family's resources by sending the children steerage class one-by-one or two-at-a-time rather than pay the cost of traveling together.

Elizabeth McCloskey, Mary's 2nd daughter, was probably the first to cross. Her original ticket is still in the family's possession as well as the wooden chest her brothers built for her to travel with. In July 1864, probably with her younger brothers or other relatives, nineteen year old Elizabeth traveled the few miles north from Draperstown village to the big city of Londonderry. On the morning of July 18th at the office of the shipping company, Wm. McCorkell & Co. on Strand Road, she paid a deposit of 1 Irish pound [$110.00] for her 4 pound [$440.00] steerage class ticket on the ship Minnehaha bound for New York City. She probably returned to her home at Draperstown to await the departure ten days later. On the morning of July 28th she returned to the ticket office to pay the 3 pound [$330.00] balance of her fare. She said goodbye to her family and, with her chest, boarded the good ship Minnehaha. The ship passenger list shows Elizabeth as a nineteen year old seamstress. She was the sole member of her family on the ship. Like Elizabeth, the majority of the386 passengers on the ship were single male laborers or female seamstresses in their twenties or late teens.

By the 1860s, after atrocities reported on the earlier famine ships, the British government was closely regulating the care of passengers on immigrant ships. Elizabeth's ticket stipulates by contract the exact rations of food that each passenger was to receive during the several weeks sailing. Besides three quarts of water per day, passengers were to be supplied with the following weekly rations (all in a cooked state):

3&1/2 lbs of Bread or biscuit
2&1/2 lbs of flour
1&1/2 lbs of rice
1&1/2 lbs of Oatmeal
2 lbs of potatoes
1&1/4 lbs of beef
1 lb pork
2 oz. Tea
1 lb sugar
2 oz salt
1/2 oz mustard
1/2 oz mustard
1 gill vinegar

After almost six weeks at sea, on September 6th, the Minnehaha arrived at the Castle Garden port, in Battery Park, New York City. Although better than the South Street port where famine immigrants had arrived in the previous decade, Castle Garden was still a busy, confusing place. With no relatives in America, Elizabeth may have been met there by Felix Murphy. Her mother, brothers and sisters followed her and within the next three years, they had all arrived in America. Sarah McCloskey, the youngest in the family was between six and nine years old and probably traveled together with her mother to America.


Castle Garden Interior: From Harper's Weekly, September 2, 1865

Castle Garden was used as an immigrant reception center from 1856 until the federal facilities on Ellis Island were opened in 1892.



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