A Multitude of Immigrants


Home       l       Site Map      l      Exhibitions      l     About the Museum       l      Education      l     Contact Us       l       Links


From an article in the New-York Daily Tribune, New York City, dated November 23, 1902:



Quebec, Nov. 22 (Special) -- The immigration question has become a burning one in Canada, as well as in the United States. For years there was no restriction placed upon the entry of immigrants into Canada, and the unscrupulous agents on the other side of the water did not hesitate for a moment to send over the scum of Europe, who, after getting past the Canadian authorities without much trouble, passed over to the United States by what is popularly known as the "underground route." Fourteen months ago the United States Government placed a special commissioner in Montreal, from which the smuggling of immigrants was carried on to a great extent. Deputies were placed at points along the border From Sault Ste. Marie east to St. John, N. B., and in ten months the commissioner and his staff have turned back over two thousand immigrants who have sought entrance to the United States.

The Canadian Government, impressed with the number of immigrants who were being dumped in Canada after having been refused admission to the States, passed a bill at the last session to exclude undesirable immigrants. That law, however, is practically a dead letter. The Canadian immigration authorities say that, while the law provides for the deportation of undesirable aliens, there is no provision for the enforcement of the law. Meantime the hordes of diseased, dirty, pauperized Syrians, Italians, Russian and Austrian Jews and Armenians continue to pour into Quebec. The great bulk of the worst cases--at least two-thirds, if not three-fourths--come by the Beaver Line boats of the Elder-Dempster Company. The moment an elder-Dempster Beaver boat comes into the harbor, the small of condensed dirt spreads through the lower portion of the city, and the stench is almost unendurable. So great did the nuisance from this source become that the Elder-Dempster Company has secured patent devices for deodorizing and purifying the holds of their ships on the way over. Every Beaver Line boat that comes in brings hundreds of the outpourings of Continental Europe, and the immigration officers of both countries have a hard time in disposing of them.

Patrick Doyle, the Canadian immigration officer at this port, is regarded as one of the kindest hearted of men, yet even he sometimes loses patience with the crowds that have to be disposed of. They are generally so dirty after the voyage that it is dangerous to go near them, while their presence is revealed at considerable distance by the odor. This, of course, does not apply to all the immigrants who come by the Elder-Dempster Line. They have most of the undesirable ones, however, because, not being members of the North Atlantic conference, their rates are lower than those of the other lines.

Of these immigrants who are rejected at the border of the United States, practically all come by the Elder-Dempster boats. Their agents in England, and, indeed, their representatives in all parts of Europe, drum up passengers of all kinds. So long as a passenger can walk, he or she can secure a passage to the New World by the Beaver Line. The company has an agreement with the United States Government to deport, at the cost of the company, any immigrant who may not be up to the standard exacted by the United States Government. To avoid the consequences of the agreement, the agents of the line take their measures to Liverpool. The United States Government receives a manifest from the officers of the steamers as they reach the wharf there. That manifest is supposed to contain the names of all who are destined for the United States. Another manifest is handed to the Canadian authorities, giving the names of those who are intending to settle in Canada.

Children on boat emigrating from Liverpool.
England -- departure of the child-emigrants from Liverpool for Canada,

The preparation of these manifests is a matter of great moment in Liverpool. The intending American citizens are called together twenty-four hours before the sailing of the boats. A doctor employed by the agents of the Beaver Line examines every one carefully and reports to the agents on each. The manifests are made up in consequence of this report. The sane and healthy ones who intend to enter the United States are put down on the American list, while the sufferers from trachoma, favus and other nauseating and repulsive diseases are put down on the Canadian manifests. For this reason it is that few of those who come over as through immigrants are rejected on examination at the port of entry, while many are rejected at Montreal or the border towns.

Few of the intending American settlers remain here any length of time. The distance of this city from the border prevents them from so doing. They generally carry through tickets for Ottawa, Toronto, Welland, Sault Ste. Marie or Montreal.

From those points, which are referred to in the parlance of the smugglers and agents as "border towns," they are railroaded one way or another into the United States. There is an arrangement by which the steamship companies pay the head tax of $1 on any immigrant who, after having remained in Canada less than a year, decides to go into the United States. The bona fide immigrants who come over generally apply at the offices of the immigration inspector at Montreal or at some other point near the residence he had occupied in Canada. There a certificate may be obtained to allow the intending American settler to go through. From this source there has been collected for many months more than $300 every four weeks. That applies only to those who apply to the inspectors for certificates.

For years, however, these persons have been obtaining unrestricted admission to the United States. They simply avoided the entry towns or went across some quiet river at night and got driven out of reach of a customs official. Now, however, things are different. Robert Watchorn, the special immigrant inspector at Montreal, has men working under his direction at Quebec, Sault Ste. Marie, Montreal, Windsor, Prescott and all along the border. The results speak for themselves. After taking some four months to organize and get things into working order, they had six months in which to work until the end of the fiscal year. In that time they had stopped more than two thousand, and in the four months which have elapsed since that time they have covered a great deal of ground, and another year's work of the kind will open the eyes of the Canadian Government to the peril with which this country is threatened in letting these aliens remain here. The inspectors prevent the entrance of diseased and pauperized immigrants into the United States. Nine-tenths of their captures are made in the night. The smugglers who have undertaken to ship the would-be American citizens across the border generally bring their victims to some out of the way spot, where there is no likelihood of any officer being present. Then at night a boat is secured, and the immigrants are rowed across a river or driven over the border for some distance to reach a railway. Since the beginning of the present fiscal year ten professional smugglers have been prosecuted. Some have been convicted and are serving time. Others have been indicted and are awaiting trial.

The number of arrivals at this port for the months of July, August, September and October has been a little more than twice as great as in the same period of last year. The proportion of diseased and generally inadmissible persons remains the same. When it is considered that the number of aliens classified as Canadian immigrants solely for the purpose of concealing their intention of entering the United States furnishes more diseased and inadmissible subjects than all the American ports of entry combined, including Quebec, St. John and Halifax, it will be seen what a task is imposed upon the border officers. The proportion of rejected cases is 1 per cent declared immigrants landing here, to 65 per cent who come as Canadians and afterward try to slip across the harbor.

Of course, by far the greater number of those who landed at Quebec as Canadian settlers have taken up farms in the Canadian Northwest and the New-Ontario district. Some of the best citizens this country can desire come over yearly and settle in Canada, or go to the North, West, or Southwest of the United States to settle on farms. That class is a gain to the whole continent. The crowd that the immigration inspectors have to watch, however, are not of the same kind at all. Nine-tenths or even ninety-nine hundredths of them would not touch a plough or any other instrument of industry. They head for the large cities, and the official figures prove that of those who seek to obtain certificates as residents of Canada 90 per cent are bound for Boston, Philadelphia, New-York, Baltimore and Chicago.

The reason for their anxiety to enter the United States was explained by one of the immigration officials here a short time ago, as a desire to reach a place where a poorhouse system existed, which would enable them to be cared for and where the sick could obtain free attendance. While some of the Canadian provinces have poorhouses, those institutions are not by any means so numerous as similar places are in the United States. The conditions of admission, too, are much more severe than they appear to be on the American side. For all those reasons, with many of the diseased, infirm and sometimes lazy or insane, it is a case of the United States or nothing as soon as they land on this side of the Atlantic.

It has often been a source of wonder to those who observed the course of immigration to the United States through Canadian channels where these persons get the amounts of money which they pay to professional smugglers, who fleece them regularly. The only plausible explanation is that those who have had to care for them on the other side are so glad to get rid of them that they are willing to pay large sums to be relieved for good of the responsibility of looking after them. With the system lately adopted, the United States can feel sure that the meshes are being closed gradually over the tribe of professional smugglers who work from Quebec and Montreal, as well as those who have their people cross at Brockville or Prescott and the St. Clair river at Detroit.

The methods adopted by these professional immigrant helpers are as varied as their number was great up to a few months ago. Now their number has grown beautifully less, and only last week one of them was brought to task. Three strapping young men applied a few weeks ago to the inspectors at Montreal for admission to the United States. They were Italians, and had landed here a few days previously. Mr. Watchorn decided in accordance with the report of Dr. Barclay, that they could not be admitted, as they were suffering from a contagious disease. They were such fine looking specimens of humanity, however, that he took an interest in their case. Dr. Barclay said that, with a few weeks' care and hospital treatment, they would recover, and there would be nothing to prevent them from obtaining certificates then. They had hardly left the office, however, when they were approached by one of their own countrymen, who offered to send them across the American border without any further formality. The accepted his offer, whereupon he taxed them $20.65 apiece for his trouble in getting them across. The extend of his service consisted in purchasing a ticket to Burlington, Vt., and putting them on the train a few miles outside of Montreal. They were stopped at the border and lodged for a week in the St.. Albans jail, while the order for their deportation was coming on from Washington. They told their story to the agent at S. Albans, who communicated it to the Montreal office. Their description of the smuggler who had cheated them out of their money fitted an old acquaintance of the officers. Mr. Watchorn applied to have the deportation warrant suspended and brought the young fellows back to Montreal. They swore out a warrant against the young Italian of that city, who had abandoned them after having taken their money. A detective was employed to search for the offender, who is the son of a well to do and respectable family in Rome. The detective was about to nab his man, when friends of the young man submitted proposals to return the money and to sign an agreement for him to leave this country and make no attempt to come here or to the United States again. Mr. Watchorn thought this was the easiest way of getting rid of his old opponent, and accepted the offer. But he failed to carry out his agreement, and was arrested on Saturday for securing money on false pretenses.

Last spring a wagonful of Syrians were taken from near Montreal and driven seventy miles over rough roads, through the night, to a point in the State of Vermont. The inspectors here, and those at the border, got wind of the affair. The case was investigated. It was found that the immigrants were paying $80 apiece for being smuggled in. The men who were conducting the operation are still in jail at St. Albans. The really guilty parties, however, the originators of the plan, were in Montreal. Mr. Watchorn caused the return of some of the Syrians who had been driven over. Some of them would have passed the examination in any case, and had simply been frightened by the smuggling gang at Montreal into obtaining their services. A prosecution was taken out. Several of the smugglers were arrested. They engaged the best legal talent in the city, and, after a hard fight, got off on a technicality. They have been less active since, or they have covered their tracks better.

A case took place a few weeks ago, which caused much discussion in the press of the United States. It was the first suicide of an immigrant coming in at the Canadian border. The story of the poor young girl, who jumped to her death from the window of the toilet room in a car on which she was being taken to New-York to be deported, attracted a great deal of sympathy for her and placed a great deal of undeserved odium on the officers who were carrying out the law.

The girl was a Syrian. She landed here some weeks ago, and after remaining in Canada a few days, she applied to the office at Montreal for a certificate to enter the United States. She was examined, and found to be suffering from an incurable disease that prevented her admission to the United States. A man, who gave his name as Joseph Abodeeley, came to Montreal from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He had his citizen papers in due form, showing that he was a trader at that point. He went with the girl to the examining room of the immigration office. There he told a romantic and touching story of his love for the girl. He had loved her before leaving his native land. He had never forgotten her. He had worked hard, and saved much in order to be able one day to bring her to this country and make her his wife. Now circumstances allowed him to marry, and the law stepped in to try to prevent him from getting his long desired wife. He implored the officers to allow his beloved to go through the lines, and he assured them that he would marry her on their arrival at Cedar Rapids.

The immigration inspector answered simply: "You are an American citizen. Take this woman to a church here and marry her; then she becomes an American citizen, also as your wife, and you can take her along with you."

Abodeeley protested against being forced to marry here. He had prepared a wedding feast at Cedar Rapids, and did not want to deprive his friends of the pleasure of assisting at his wedding. He was told that he might have a second marriage at Cedar Rapids, but must go through some ceremony in Canada before the girl would be allowed to go through.

Finally he announced that he would put the girl in a hospital at Montreal, and would come back for her later. That very night he sneaked her out of Montreal. A couple of days later they were caught trying to make their way across the river at Detroit. Abodeeley was put in jail and the girl sent back to Windsor. To Abodeeley was given another opportunity there to marry the girl and set matters right. He refused again. For some reason or another the District Attorney at Detroit did not prosecute the case, and Abodeeley got out. Instead of returning to Windsor to reassure the girl, he went to Iowa. A warrant was sent on to deport the girl. She was taken on a train at Detroit, to go to New-York where she would be placed on a steamer for Europe. As the train was speeding along, however, she threw herself out of a window and was killed. The Syrians, who are numerous in Detroit, passed votes censuring the immigration officers. Some of the papers took the matter up and abused the officers for separating the girl from her faithful lover. A report was asked for by the Washington authorities. It was sent along by Commissioner Watchorn from Montreal. In getting information for this report the discovery was first made by the authorities that the man Abodeeley had not been prosecuted to trial. A second arrest was ordered. It was then found that the fond lover, who was so anxious to get his sweetheart into American territory, had married in Dubuque, Iowa, two weeks before he came to Montreal to get the young girl. He had received $190 in cash for his work to get her over, but abandoned her. He was rearrested, and is now awaiting trial at Detroit. I was also discovered that the girl had previously been deported from New-York, and had been sent back again by the Beaver Line Canadian route to the United States.

Another attempt at suicide, which was unsuccessful, took place a few days ago. The would-be self-murderer is a Russian who spent some years in England. His record is not of the best, and he suffers from disease. Being caught entering the States without the necessary certificate, he was locked up. While there he secured some sharp instrument, and with this he opened the veins of his wrists and let the blood flow out. He understood some English, and evidently had some idea of writing, for he traced with his finger, in his own blood, on the wall of the House of Detention, the words, " --- --- your immigration laws!" When found he was almost unconscious, but he is recovering, and will be deported in a short time.

Sometimes an immigrant gets caught by trying to play the Good Samaritan. This was the experience of one Ganowsky. He landed at this port three weeks ago, and passed the examination without difficulty. There was a woman who had come over with him, however, who was not so fortunate. She was suffering from some disease which rendered her inadmissible, for the time being, at least. Ganowsky was good natured, and he determined to do what he could for the girl. He took her along with him, after waiting a couple of days here. He passed on to the State of Vermont. Some time after his departure from Quebec, however, and before his arrival at the border, he had somebody forge on the certificate which he carried for himself, the words "and sister," thus making the certificate good for two. The poor fellow did not know, although probably the forger did, that the official at the border could tell by certain marks, whether the certificate had been tampered with. They were stopped at the Vermont border, and both are now in the jail at St. Albans, awaiting the action of the Department of Justice at Ottawa.

Probably the worst case on record of the way in which immigration agents send undesirable and inadmissible people to this continent to get rid of them was brought to the attention of the Canadian and American authorities a few days ago. Conrad von Walleghren landed in Quebec recently from a Beaver Line boat. He was either directed to, accompanied by, or fell into the hands of some very skillful steerers. He passed through Canada with little delay. The first intimation the immigration inspectors of the United States got of the existence of Von Walleghren was when the authorities who care for the poor of Detroit called upon the immigration officials to find out what was to be done with an applicant for admission to the workhouse. An investigation was ordered. It was found that Von Walleghren had come in by some underground route. He had not legally crossed the border. The man was sent back to Montreal. Mr. Watchorn sent for the Canadian immigration officer James Hoolihan, and when the patient was shown to him, he immediately consented to deport the fellow. the man was a hopeless idiot, but he had moments when he remembered some of the things which had happened in his past life, and he was able to tell the American and Canadian immigration officials that he had been confined for years in an institution for imbeciles in Belgium. He had been let out a few weeks ago and shipped from Liverpool to Quebec, and thence taken on to Detroit. Mr. Hoolihan took the man down to the Elder-Dempster Company, and he was sent back on an outgoing steamer.

Two men, who give their names as Hiam and Duber, are at present held at the border in Watertown jail. They are not known to have applied at any of the examining offices along the border, but their appearance leads the authorities to suppose that they are a couple of men who were refused admission some days ago at Montreal, and who have tried various places since.

One plan which met with some success for a little while was to dress up the immigrant, after giving him a bath and a shave. For the amount squeezed out of the poor fellows who want to get over, the smugglers were able to get them well cleaned up, give them good suits of clothes and pay their passage to points well within the States, where their presence would never be suspected. Over a hundred were caught in different portions of the States within the last few months, and the work now being done on the border is bound to break up within a short time the gang profiting by the miseries and diseases of the poor immigrants.



Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery.


Copyright 2008-9. Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy.