• Immigrants awaiting inspection in front of Ellis Island's Main Building

    Ellis Island

    Part of Statue of Liberty National Monument NJ,NY

Hayter Family

Hayter 9949

Family portrait – Walter and Vida holding their son and daughter in 1926.

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Two years after his father died in 1909, Walter Hayter left Purleigh, England for the United States. He was 22 years old and felt a responsibility to help his mother and 12 brothers and sisters. Shortly after his arrival in America he found work on a Michigan farm. In a matter of months, he was able to send for three of his sisters and one brother, all of whom became ill during their voyage and recuperated in Ellis Island's contagious disease hospital. Eventually, the entire Hayter family, except the oldest son, settled in America.

All immigrants arriving at Ellis Island had to undergo a medical inspection. Medical officers screened immigrants for any indication of physical or mental illness. If illness was suspected, immigrants were detained at Ellis Island's hospital complex. In some cases, the incurable or extremely ill were sent back to their home countries. In total, approximately 3,500 immigrants died at Ellis Island; 1,400 being children. Nevertheless, most patients, such as the Hayter siblings, recovered after treatment and joined their families in the United States.

Walter returned to England in 1922 to find an English wife. After a brief courtship, he and Vida Dixon married and sailed to the United States in 1923.

Did You Know?

Dorm Room

Although most immigrants processed at Ellis Island stayed between three and five hours, about 20% stayed overnight in dormitory rooms until their cases could be cleared. Many immigrants found these accommodations a big improvement over the severe conditions of traveling to America in "steerage".