Friday, October 16, 2015

Carl Johan Anderson - He Came with Nothing

Carl Johan Anderson was just 21 when he arrived at Castle Garden in New York City on April 6, 1888. He came without family as the only unmarried sibling out of five. He came without friends because they had all borrowed money to secure his passage to America. He came without any formal education to speak of and no knowledge of the English language after being forced into work at the age of seven or eight after the death of his father. He came with enough money to get to his destination in Connecticut and then one dollar more.

Castle Garden from the NYC side.

Looking into the city from inside.

It was a powerful moment to pass through these same doors that brought my great-grandfather to America after three nights sleeping on the floor waiting to be processed. I thought of his determination to give himself and his future family a better life than the years of grinding poverty he had endured in Sweden. I thought of how homesick he must have been, how dazzlingly different New York City and all the cities he passed through on his way to Manchester, Connecticut must have been from the farm country where he was raised. I though of how daunting it must have seemed to have so little money left when he arrived.

Diorama of the Battery as it appeared in 1886.

I thought of all of these things in a matter of seconds standing inside what was once Castle Garden, but the moment was fleeting in this National Monument that no longer represents the struggle so many went through to come here. But that is for another post, this post is about one part of Carl Johan Anderson's journey from his hardships in Sweden to a full and rewarding life in America. He came with nothing but the strength of character and hope for a better life that so many millions of immigrants have brought to to America for hundreds of years, and with that he gave his family everything.