Ellen Reilly Immigrates in 1873 - Three Years Old

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The steamship "Maude" sailed from Liverpool in 1873 bound for the new world. Among the emigrants, was a young family from Ireland. Ellen Reilly (Helen Toohil) and her five children were headed to Scranton, Pennsylvania to join her husband John Reilly. Three year old Ellen Reilly traveled to America with her mother in 1873. Ellen was my great grandmother, her daughter was Helen Haggerty O'Connor.

The 1900 US Census asked foreign born respondents to provide the year of their immigration and state how many years they have been in the United States. John Reilly and Ellen Toohil Reilly were captured in the 1900 US Census in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with John Reilly's employment enumerated as a 'slate picker'. John Reilly's reported year of immigration was 1870 and Helen Toohil Reilly was recorded as coming to America in 1872.  

It was common for young men to come to the new world to establish themselves with employment before their wives and children would make their way to America. Often new immigrants would stay with family members who had come before them. This appears to be the case for this young Reilly family. 

There are many immigration records for a John Reilly, born in Ireland, sailing to New York in 1870. There is not enough detail in these records to determine which is the John Reilly, father of my great-grandmother Ellen Reilly, but since John Reilly's wife, Ellen Toohil Reilly, traveled with their five children in 1873 it was possible to determine the ship and port of arrival for the young family. 

The Reilly family is first recorded in the United States in the 1880 US Census. The census provides the names and ages of  John and Ellen Reilly's children along with the location of birth and occupation for each family member. That nine year old John Reilly was born in Ireland indicates the family was still in Ireland c 1871.

1880 US Census - Reilly Family in Lackawanna Township

Where born
John Riley
Ellen Riley
Patk Riley
Michael Riley
Ellen Riley
John Riley
Julia  Riley
William  Riley
Keeping house
Coal breaker*
Coal breaker*

1880 US Census - Reilly Family in Lackawanna Township 

The immigration records list passenger names, ages, and country of origin. When looking for Ellen Reilly sailing c 1872. I found the family sailing on the Steamship Maude in May 1873. The names and ages of the children traveling with Ellen Reilly match exactly the names and ages found as the children of John and Ellen Reilly in the 1880 US Census. The only child not found in the 1880 US Census is Ellen's infant daughter Mary Reilly.

New York Passenger List of the Steamship Maude May 1873

Castle Garden is the location where immigrants came into New York before Ellis Island. The Castle Garden database also lists the Reilly family arriving in New York in May 1873, but the ship on the Castle Garden index is called the SS France.

The ship is recorded as the SS France in the Castle Garden database and the ship is called the "Maude" in the familysearch index. The original manifest seems to list both the SS Maude and the SS France. (see manifest header above).

 Immigrants at Castle Garden, New York c 1880

Since the occupations of John Reilly and his sons Patrick and Michael were mentioned above when referencing the 1880 and 1900 US Census records, I thought I would add some detail to describe what these jobs entailed.

Breaker Boys

John Reilly is listed as a laborer in the 1880 Census and the two older boys, 13 year old Michael and 14 year old Patrick Reilly, are already working as coal breakers also known as breaker boys. The Mining History Association Museum In Scranton provides a brief history of working in the coal mines in Lackawanna County which includes this picture of breaker boys in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Breaker boys in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Breaker Boys

Until about 1900, nearly all anthracite coal breakers were labor-intensive. The removal of impurities was done by hand, usually by boys between the ages of 8 and 12 years old known as breaker boys.

The use of breaker boys began in the U.S. around 1866.  The breaker boys would sit on wooden seats, perched over chutes and conveyor belts, picking slate and other impurities out of the coal. Breaker boys worked 10 hours a day for six days a week.

The work was hazardous. Breaker boys were forced to work without gloves so that they could handle the slick coal better. The slate, however, was sharp, and boys would leave work with their fingers cut and bleeding. Many breaker boys lost fingers to the rapidly moving conveyor belts, while others, moving about the plant, had their feet, hands, arms, and legs amputated when they moved among the machinery and accidentally slipped under the belts or into the gears. Many died when they fell into the gears of the machinery, their bodies only retrieved at the end of the working day. Others were caught in the rush of coal, and crushed to death or smothered. The "dry" coal kicked up so much dust that the breaker boys sometimes wore lamps on their heads to see, and asthma and black lung disease were common.

Public outrage against the use of breaker boys was so widespread that in 1885 Pennsylvania enacted a law forbidding the employment of anyone under the age of 12 from working in a coal breaker. But the law was poorly enforced, and many employers and families forged birth certificates or other documents so children could work

Slate Picker

The next available census in 1900 records 55 year old John Reilly working as a slate picker. The following image, from the Scranton Times Tribune, depicts slate pickers in Pennsylvania.

Slate Pickers in Scranton Pennsylvania

There doesn't seem to be much distinction between and breaker boy and a slate picker. As noted in the excerpt below referencing Slate Pickers in Scranton PA, when men become too old to work as coal miners, they often fill the roll of sorting coal as slate pickers which apparently led to the saying - "once a miner and twice a breaker boy" 

Slate pickers, anthracite coal mining, Scranton, Pa.

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