The Truth About The Final Immigrant That Passed Through Ellis Island

For just over 60 years, immigrants arriving in the United States through New York City were processed at a facility on Ellis Island. Indeed, as History reported, so many immigrants passed through the island that today, an estimated 40 percent of Americans can trace at least part of their ancestry to one or more immigrants who were processed through Ellis Island.

However, like many long-lived historical institutions, Ellis Island's use as an immigration processing center came to an end — in this case, in 1954, according to the National Park Service.

And while history is often concerned with firsts — the first President of the United States, for example, or the first man to walk on the moon — lasts often get lost to the mists of history. Fortunately, we know the name of the last immigrant to pass through Ellis Island. And he wasn't a poverty-stricken refugee seeking a better life in America; rather, he was an ill-behaved sailor who, when all was said and done, was sent in the opposite direction — which is to say, back home.

Norwegian sailor Arne Peterssen was the last immigrant to pass through Ellis Island

By the middle 1950s, according to the blog of genealogist Megan Smolenyak, officials were in the process of closing down the Ellis Island immigration facility. Additionally, the island's purpose had shifted from processing immigrants to detaining them.

One such immigrant was Norwegian sailor Arne Pettersen. By his own estimates, said Smolenyak, Pettersen had been to the U.S. "six or seven times" and would enjoy his periods of shore leave here. But on his final visit, in 1954, he'd overstayed his welcome — not the first time he'd extended his shore leave in the U.S., it would turn out. The details are intricate and involve legal technicalities involving foreign sailors and shore leave, but long story short, he'd wound up in detention on Ellis Island for staying too long at the party. By December of 1954, he'd promised to leave voluntarily, and he promptly did nothing of the sort. It took until February of 1955 for authorities to see to it that Pettersen actually boarded a ship that was headed somewhere else — in this case, the M.S. Stockholm. Newspaper cameras captured the moment

In her research, Smolenyak uncovered a handwritten note written by someone involved in Arne's story. "This is the alien that got all the publicity — TV etc., as the last detainee released from the Island when it closed last November," the note read.