A number of years ago a request made to the News to find the reason for naming a section of Clinton Township, “Castle Garden”, resulted in information from Paul O’Pecko, Mystic, Connecticut; Dottie Matircho Flynn, Somerville, NJ, and Tom Feddock, Dundaff.
All three provide the same info – Castle Garden was the emigrant landing depot in New York City where immigrants came before the Ellis Island facility was put in operation in 1892.
Paul O’Pecko, a former resident of Vandling, and a historian, provided us with a reprint of an 1870 book which documented the establishment of the Castle Garden landing depot at the foot of Manhattan Island. In 1855 the Commissioners of Emigration leased an old fort there, known as Castle Garden, and prepared it for receiving foreigners.
The Commissioners stated that they needed a location where they could have absolute control of the immigrant “to protect him against frauds practiced on him by forwarders, boarding-house keepers, agents and runners.” Many people in that part of the city were opposed to using the fort for this purpose but it was finally established with the aid of the court.
In the first five months of operation 250 vessels landed a total of 51,114 passengers at the Depot. In addition to providing “comfort and protection” another function of Castle Garden was to provide passage tickets at lowest rates and to provide reliable information on the various routes of travel throughout the country.
Emigrants who came from there to Forest City by rail probably stayed in homes near the railroad in that part of Clinton Township and gave it the Castle Garden name.
Tom Feddock told us of a building in the 300 block of Delaware Street that housed immigrants and also had the name “Castle Garden” for probably the same reasons.
We also found fascinating, in the pages supplied by Mr. O’Pecko, a nine page description of the process used to handle immigrants from the time their ship arrived in New York harbor, to the time they left Castle Garden, either to travel elsewhere or to take a job in New York.
We are sure that the narration of the process was much kinder than the process itself which began by seeking out “blind persons, cripples, lunatics and any others who are likely to become a future charge.”