It was a voyage of hope from the start. But when thousands of passengers who endured the conditions aboard steamships during the voyage that carried them across the Atlantic caught sight of the Statue of Liberty, their decision to withstand the below-deck of their travel was strengthened.
“Steerage,” reserved for those who could not afford to travel in better conditions, was notable for what it did not include: toilets, sleeping quarters, showers and baths. It also separated women and children from the male passengers. Early passengers fleeing British tyranny traveled in sailing vessels that took weeks to arrive.
In 1819, the U.S. government passed its first Steerage Act (revised in 1847 and again in 1849), intended to provide better conditions on board the ships that were arriving in ports along the east coast. By 1845, steamships shortened the trip to about nine days. Irish immigration accelerated when the potato famine ravaged Ireland and reduced their population by 25%.
Greenwood Lake’s Irish heritage is typified by the Mulcahy family’s band of four brothers. Tom Mulcahy, Grand Marshall of the 2022 Mid-Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade, emigrated to the United States at age 19, coming to Greenwood Lake to join his three brothers, John, Pat, and Dennis. His first job in the U.S. was working at George’s Sunoco gas station in Greenwood Lake.
In 1970, he joined the New York Army National Guard, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, and later began working for the National Guard full time as a mechanic at Kingsbridge Armory. Brother Dennis Mulcahy, an early member of the Tactical Patrol Force Bomb Squad, took over the effort of heading Project Children, in 1975, from his brother, Pat, who was active in the program from the beginning. Patrick later returned to the ancestral home in Ireland to raise horses.
Project Children helped to protect children fleeing “The Troubles” during the 1960s and ‘70s in Northern Ireland. John, who died in 2014, served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was a member of American Legion Post #139 in Milford, PA. He was a diesel mechanic with NYC Transit Authority in Bronx, NY, and a member of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, NY.
“Steerage,” reserved for those who could not afford to travel in better conditions, was notable for what it did not include: toilets, sleeping quarters, showers and baths.