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Deaths in Quarantine, 1909-1911


Three Immigrants Mourn for Little Ones in Numbered Graves on Hoffman Island
Criticism for a System

Taking the Sick from Vessels at Quarantine Blamed for Some of the Deaths


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Source: The New York Times, November 20, 1910, page 9

Three sorrowful women left Ellis Island yesterday to join their husbands in different parts of the country. Two of them traveled alone. The children of the latter who crossed the Atlantic with them rest in graves on Staten Island. Of the other woman's little brood all except a ten-year-old boy are dead.

The three women and their children arrived a month ago on the Cunard liner Carpathia. The children died in the hospital on Hoffman Island of measles. The most pathetic case is that of Mrs. Joseph Farkas, who with her two children, one 4 years old and the other 11 months, crossed the Atlantic to join her husband in South Bethlehem, Penn. The husband and father came here from Austria some time ago to make a home for his family. He settled to South Bethlehem, prospered and sent for his wife and children. Joseph Seemann came over from Austria and went to Bridgeport. There he obtained work and started to save so that he might send for his wife. Eleven months ago he received word that a son and heir had arrived. Two months ago he sent for his wife and she sailed on the Carpathia with the baby. The child was taken sick with measles and removed to the Hoffman Island Hospital, where he died. A numbered grave in the cemetary where arriving aliens are buried is the resting place of the baby the father never saw.

Accompanied by Victor, her ten-year-old son, Mrs. Victoria Szabo of Austria left for East Toledo, Ohio, to join her husband. Two children, a boy 5 years old and a three-year-old girl, died on Hoffman Island of measles.

[Web Editor's Note: Based on the actual passenger ship's manifest, it would appear that the reporter got some of the information mixed up as the boy Janos was 3 years old and the girl Erzebet was 5. Also, the ten-year old son is shown as Mihaly/Michael and not Victor on the ship's manifest.]

There is a growing spirit of criticism against the present method of taking the sick, especially children suffering with measles and other minor contagious disease, off the steamers in the cold windswept bay and taking them to Hoffman Island. The immigration authorities resent this method of taking off the sick in the bay, for on ellis Island stands the new $700,000 hospital which was built with a view of caring for minor contagious cases. There is an opinion that in some cases death has been the result of such transfers. Dr. Doty, Health Officer of the Port, defends the taking of sick from the steamers at Quarantine. He said yesterday that not in a single case had death come as a result of the transfer.

Statistics for the last six months show that more than half of the deaths among those taken from steamships at Quarantine has resulted from measles. The next highest death rate is from scarlet fever.

These statistics are given for a period when measles are not so prevalent as in the cold months.

Deaths at Quarantine, July thru Oct. 1910

The patients sent from Ellis Island on the way to the Quarantine boat are taken past the doors of the new hospital which was designed to receive them. Ellis Island is Federal property and the Quaratine station is a State institution. The State decided that minor contagious cases must come under State care, and so the Government hospital at the immigration station is useless for that purpose.

There is also some complaint that relatives cannot visit the Hoffman Island hospital to see patients. In one case, it is said the immigration officials took some of those down the bay to visit the hospital. They were not allowed to land them on the island. Another hardship was that in the beginning of the present system parents and friends were not notified until sometimes days after their children or relatives were dead. This is said to have been the fault of the steamship companies. The companies are notified by wire of deaths on Hoffman Island. They neglected to notify the proper persons. Dr. Doty has stopped this. Now when an arriving alien dies in the hospital the Commissioner of Immigration is notified at the same time as the steamship company concerned.

"The only logical and proper way is to take the sick off arriving steamships." said Dr. Doty. "The patients are wrapped up warmly, and even in the extreme cold there is not the slightest danger. Every care is exercised, and in my opinon not a single death has been caused or hastened by such a ransfer. The fact such transfers are made down the bay carries no element of danger. Twenty minutes after a patient is carried from a steamship he is in a bed in one of the best-equipped hospitals in this city."

"Every care is given to the sick. There is a trained nurse for every four children in the wards. Under the old arrangement the patients were transferred to the Kings County Hospital. The mortality is 1 per cent, lower than when the old method was in use. In every case the parents or guardians of children are allowed to accompany them to the hospital. The steamship company bringing the alien pays $1.50 a day for each such patient; and $1 a day for every accompanying alien.

"The failure to notify relatives of death was due to the neglect of the steamship officials. In the early Spring there was some trouble over the matter, and I received a letter from Commissioner Williams. Now we notifiy both the steamship agents and the Commissioner.

"The criticism that relatives and friends are not allowed to see patients is unjust. Sunday is the visiting day, and all may come then. There can be no criticism of the Health Officer over the disposition of bodies. After death the steamship companies are responsible for the bodies, and they are turned over to them and buried." Dr. Doty denied that there was any friction between his department and the immigration office.

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