Italian Girl Stowaway held in detention at Ellis Island
Maria Cavallero, 15, of Messina, Italy, came to the United States to find her father and Ellis Island officials are helping her. If he cannot be found, she will be deported.
The youngest girl stowaway ever brought to the Port of New York is now held in the detention room at the immigration station on Ellis Island. She is Maria Cavallero, a bright, dark-eyed girl of 15, who had lived all her life in Messina.
Maria came here on the Italian liner San Giorgio. She walked and rode from Messina to Palermo, and when she got there, she found the steamship San Giorgio just ready to depart for New York. All about was the bustle of departure, and the little girl had no trouble slipping aboard with the stream of emigrants being hurried up the gangplank. She mingled on board with the steerage passengers, played with the children, and shared their food. It was not until the San Giorgio was well on her way to America that the elded passengers noticed that the girl was all alone.
Suspicious reached the ship's officers that the girl was a stowaway, and when questioned, Maria told her story, the same story she told yesterday to Commissioner of Immigration Williams.
A girl stowaway was rather a difficult proposition for even the sea lawyers on board to decide what to do with her. She could not be sent into the coal hole to keep the steam going, nor could she be set to work cleaning decks. In the end it was decided that she be treated simply as a passenger, but her name was entered in the ship's papers as a stowaway.
Maria made friends on the steamship, as she has made them among the officials on Ellis Island. She said that she lost her mother, sister, and brother in the Messina earthquate. After it was over, her father came to America, leaving her in the care of relatives.
She got tired of life with them, she said, and longed for her father, who had promised to send for her as soon as he could. Making up her mind to run away, she put on her best clothes and slipped quietly out of the house. She said she did not know how far off America was, but she knew that she could get there.
Questioned by the officials, the girl said that she did not have her father's address, but remembered that he worked in Brooklyn. Both Commissioner Williams and the Italian Immigrant Aid Society have taken an interest in the girl, and an effort will be made to find the father. The Italian Society has undertaken the task for the Government, and expect within a few days through agents to locate him. If he is not found, little Maria will have to be deported.
In the meantime, a self-confident little Miss sits in the detention room with courage unshaken, feeling certain that there will be "no trouble in finding papa," who, to the child, was quite a personage in Messina.
Source: New York Times, March 20, 1910