Individuals of Italian extraction constitute one of the most important ethnic groups in West Virginia. These Italian-Americans date their connection with the state to ancestors who were recruited during the early years of the 20th century to work in West Virginia’s rapidly developing industrial economy. With more than 17,000 Italian immigrants in the state by 1910, they made up 30 percent of West Virginia’s foreign-born population. In fact, so many Italians had entered the state that for over a decade before the First World War, the Italian government maintained a consular office in northern West Virginia.
The majority of the Italian population were located in the northern part of the state, with Marion County leading the way, followed by Harrison, Tucker, Randolph, Preston and Monongalia. Significant clusters of Italians were also drawn to southern West Virginia. McDowell County, with 2,300, could boast the most Italian immigrants in the state in 1910, although the Fayette County communities of Boomer, Harewood, Longacre and Smithers constituted the greatest single concentration of Italians in the state. While immigrants were attracted to West Virginia from all over the Italian peninsula, the majority came from the southern regions of Campania, Calabria and Sicily.
The great majority of Italian immigrants were employed in the coal industry as pick-and-shovel miners. West Virginia mines were among the most mechanized in the US and miners born in America generally operated the new machines. They usually earned better pay than their foreign born counterparts, who were left with the hand tool work. Despite this disparity, West Virginia Italians were able to significantly improve their financial position. In part, the Italians achieved economic progress and acceptance by their work ethic. The records for coal production by hand tools are all apparently held by Italians. For instance, in 1924, Carmine Pellegrino of Rosemont mined 66 tons of coal in one 24-hour period and earned the nickname ‘‘sixty-six’’. Eleven years later, Dominic Pesca of Boomer mined by hand 48 tons of coal in one day and 52 tons the next at the Union Carbide mines at nearby Alloy. Italian miners in West Virginia also improved their economic position by self-sacrifice and frugality. Raising livestock and tending gardens kept down expenses and helped them save a great deal of their earnings. The U.S. Department of Labor noted that such Italian miners sent more money back to their home country than any other comparable group of immigrants.
Although large numbers were involved in digging coal, West Virginia’s Italians were an occupationally diverse group. Even in the coal camps, they often held a variety of jobs such as teamsters, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, stonemasons or general laborers. In many areas, Italians were a vital part of the business community. The occupational diversity of Italians was especially notable in the northern part of the state where urban industrial settings were more common. For instance, historian William Klaus has written that Italians in Marion County were not just miners, but also worked in glass and other manufacturing establishments, on railroads, in skilled trades, on farms and in their own small businesses.
Historians have explored the significance of the high concentration of Italians in the work force of the Mountain State. As a result, we know they came mostly as an indirect result of wanting to work in the West Virginia coal industry. What emerges from this literature is that these immigrants were desperately poor individuals fleeing their old world peasant communities for a chance at a better life in America. Confused and unable to speak English, they were met at ports of entry by employment agents or representatives of private firms and whisked away to the mountains, where they had little idea of where they were or what they were going to do.
Dispersed without input to coal, lumber, transportation and construction companies, they were seemingly powerless to determine their own destiny. However, despite this background, they earned respect for their hard work and were seen as assimilating rather easily into the mountain culture. The purpose of this historical study was to take a first step at understanding the Italian experience in West Virginia. By focusing on the group of Italians who were drawn to Fayette County, the research attempted to move beyond the impact in which West Virginia’s culture and institutions had on such immigrants. Rather, the research aimed to determine how the Italians influenced the institutions and values of the southern West Virginia coal workers, in what was emerging as a critical period in the state’s mining history.
A seam of coal, measuring between five and six feet thick, ran through the hills above the town of Boomer in Fayette County. This coal was first developed in 1896 by West Virginia merchant, William Masters. Boomer Coal and Coke operation became possible because of the extension of the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad. Completion of the K and M also aided W. R. Johnson in opening a mine in Harewood and Samuel Dixon in Longacre. By the spring of 1903, the Boomer Coal and Coke operations was purchased by Hocking Valley of Ohio. Since Boomer’s three mines were among the most productive in the district, their acquisition placed the Hocking Valley Corporation on the verge of a significant expansion in their capacity to produce coal.
Shortly after, the Boomer Coal and Coke Company began a vigorous campaign of attracting Italian immigrants as part of its workforce. The hostile labor relations atmosphere created by the Coal Strike of 1902 in West Virginia gave the recruitment of Italians and other foreign labor a sense of urgency. The work stoppage of West Virginia’s miners in the great Coal Strike of 1902 is historically pictured as a sympathy strike to support the anthracite miners in eastern Pennsylvania. However, in southern West Virginia the strike was basically about local issues. During this situation, the Boomer Coal and Coke Company did everything it could to keep the union out and keep its production going full strength. Among other things, it forbade meetings on its property and obtained restraining orders, forbidding any attempt at interference with the employment relationship at any of its operations.
It became clear that Boomer Coal and Coke and the other Hocking properties decided that their expanding enterprises would depend essentially on immigrant labor, but it is not clear why these coal operations placed particular emphasis on recruiting Italians. It may have been as simple, as the fact, that there were so many of them available. On the other hand, the preference of Boomer Coal and the other Hocking operations for southern Italians may have had another source. It was well known that the vast majority of southern Italian immigrants were agricultural workers. However, anyone who conducted interviews with the Italians in the southern West Virginia coal fields, learned that a substantial number were not new to mining work. For example, Luigi Curatolo migrated from a Sicilian community where he and his brothers, Salvatore and Guiseppe, had entered the sulfur mines at the age of eight. These brothers, as had their father before them, expected to spend the rest of their lives in such mines. However, at the turn of the century, the ancient mines of Sicily were no longer profitable and eventual emigration to a place like West Virginia was an opportunity to do something that had a familiar feel to it.
Whatever the reasons may have been for recruiting them, a steadily increasing stream of Italian immigrants flooded onto the properties of Boomer Coal and Coke and its sister companies. As more and more Italians made the trip to Boomer, they soon filled up the clusters of little houses the company built and the area became know as “little Italy.” In less than a decade there were over a thousand Italians in Boomer, making it the largest concentration of Italians relative to total population of any city in the state.
If Boomer Coal and Coke Company and the other Hocking Valley interests recruited so heavily among the Italians in the hope that these immigrants would constitute a more docile, controllable work force than their native West Virginia employees, who had caused so much trouble during the 1902 strike, they would soon be disillusioned. They would learn that Italians could respond aggressively and with remarkable solidarity to injustice. For example, in July, 1905, the foreman of a construction crew, working on a railroad grading crew in Fayette County, reprimanded an Italian laborer by knocking him down an embankment. The foreman’s actions incensed many of the Italian crew, who threw down their tools and grabbed rocks to throw at the foreman. The Italians were soon joined by workmen from other nearby railroad construction crews. A battle between the Italians and company men soon broke out. The Italians and their allies were winning until William Nelson Page, the owner of the area’s coal properties, got word of the trouble and sent law enforcement officers to break up the melee and arrest eleven of the instigators.
While many Italian immigrants eventually left West Virginia, many others stayed and made a long lasting impact on the state and its institutions. Italian union members and organizers, such as Tony Stafford and Armando Folio, helped to make the Mountain State one of the most union-oriented states in the nation. West Virginia Catholicism and its ancillary institutions were strengthened considerably by the infusion of Italian parishioners. The continuing influence of Italians in West Virginia was symbolized by the growth of the yearly Italian festivals held in the state at Clarksburg and Wheeling in the north and Bluefield and Princeton in the southern part of the state. As late as 1970, Italians with at least one parent born in Italy constituted West Virginia’s second-largest ethnic group. By the third generation, Italians had moved into the center of political life in many parts of the state. In 2005, Joe Manchin became West Virginia’s first governor of Italian descent. His uncle, A. James Manchin, secretary of state and treasurer, had preceded him as one of the state’s most popular politicians.
The first West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival was first held in downtown Clarksburg in 1979. The idea was proposed by the librarian at the Clarksburg Harrison Public Library and a board of directors was formed, consisting mostly of prominent citizens of Italian descent. A parade, street concerts, authentic Italian food, cultural events (including art shows and opera), crafts, sports (bocce, morra and golf) and the crowning of a festival queen were all part of the first Italian Heritage Festival and continued in later festivals.The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival is held each Labor Day weekend beginning on Friday and concluding on Sunday.
Sources: http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/924 and http://muwww-new.marshall.edu/csega/research/minewars.pdf
The Food of West Virginia Italians
The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll
As the story goes… Italian miners, like most miners, needed something non-perishable and easily portable to pack into their lunch pails (or pants pockets) as they often worked very long hours, so lunch frequently consisted of a piece of bread and a couple of pieces of cured meat. It wasn’t long before an entrepreneurial miner in Fairmont, W.V., Frank Agiro, decided to experiment with baking a couple of bits of salumi inside a yeast roll and, thus, the pepperoni roll was born. Not soon after, Agiro put down his pick ax and opened the now famous Country Club Bakery, which is still in operation today.
Like its cousin, the pizza, a pepperoni roll varies greatly in taste and quality and ranges from: flour-dusted, brownie-size rolls stuffed with sliced pepperoni and sold by the dozen in bread bags at gas stations; to individually wrapped rolls as big as an overstuffed burrito with pepperoni sticks in the middle sold at Mountaineer Field, home of West Virginia University’s football team; to heated rolls, split open and topped with cheese and tomato sauce, such as those served at Colosessano’s in Fairmont.
Sticks versus slices are probably the biggest dividers among bakers–sticks are definitively the purist’s take. You’ll also find some hackles raised over the matter of cheese. To add or not!
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 large egg
- One 6-ounce stick pepperoni, cut into 4 logs and each split in half lengthwise
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella
In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk and butter until the butter is melted. The milk should be just a little hotter than warm, between 100 and 115 degrees F, but not over 115 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, salt and yeast. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is activated and foam covers the top, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the middle and pour in the yeast liquid. Make the dough by mixing all ingredients together with a rubber spatula. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated; the dough will be sticky and loose. Leave the dough in the center of the bowl when it is fully incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Remove the plastic and gently re-knead the dough while still in the bowl. Form into a ball, as best you can, and cover with plastic wrap. This time allow to rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
After the second rise, remove the dough to a very generously floured surface, kneading to bring together. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, about 3 1/2 ounces each. Gently form each piece of dough into balls, incorporating more flour as needed. Use your hands to flatten each ball to a 4 1/2-inch circle. Brush a piece of pepperoni with oil and place in the center of the circle, along with 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella. Fold the dough over the pepperoni, like a burrito, and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet seam side down.
Repeat with the remaining pepperoni and cheese. As you place each pepperoni roll on the sheet tray, leave at least 1 inch around each roll to allow for a third rise (therefore you will need 2 baking sheets). Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 30 minutes. The rolls will puff up just a bit.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining oil and bake in the oven 30 to 35 minutes. The rolls will have a rich golden color and crispy crust.
Note: This dough is very wet dough. Use a rubber spatula when incorporating flour into the dough. Make sure to always flour your hands and the surface you are working on when working with the dough.
The dish is very popular among Italians in North Central West Virginia and a great way to use up fresh summer vegetables. Supposedly, the word “tiella” (like so many Italian recipes) means pan. A vegetarian version can also be made by omitting the meat.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 large can tomato sauce (about 3 cups)
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 parboiled potatoes, peeled and sliced (if using red potatoes, leave the skin on)
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 medium zucchini, sliced same size as the potatoes
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil and parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Brown the meat in a skillet. Pour tomato sauce and water over meat mixture and let simmer about 15-20 min. In another pan saute the onions and garlic in olive oil and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the fresh bread crumbs with the grated cheese, parsley, basil, salt and ground black pepper.
In a round deep dish pizza pan or casserole cover the bottom of the pan with some of the meat sauce and then add a layer of potatoes, zucchini and onions. Top with some of the bread crumb mixture. Just like making lasagna, repeat with another layer, pour any remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle the top with the remaining bread crumb mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes.
Zuppe di Pesce Venetian
Carlotta Yonkers remembers the long hours her mother, Sylvia Potesta, spent in the family’s East End kitchen. Potesta’s maternal grandparents, who came from Calabria, in the southern coastal region of Italy, settled first in Boomer, where most of the men became miners. Her mother was born in Charleston, WV. Her father, who was born in Bruzzi (Italy) preferred city life and moved to Charleston where he became a tailor and worked for years at the Diamond department store. Potesta remembers that her father ordered seafood from New York City, which was shipped to them in a large barrel, for the family’s Christmas Eve dinner because no Charleston grocer carried the required ingredients.
Carlotta Yonkers’ Recipe
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 head garlic, chopped
- 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 cups cleaned and chopped leeks
- 4 cups chopped tomato
- 1 bunch parsley
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 8 black peppercorns
- 2 cups chopped fresh fennel tops
- Any combination of: whole shrimp, clams in their shells, mussels, crab pieces in the shell, scallops, white fish of any kind, fresh, cut into 2-inch chunks
Place butter, olive oil, garlic, onions, carrots, leeks and tomato in a 12-quart heavy stockpot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until things begin to brown a bit, about 15 minutes.
Add parsley, wine, stock, water, fennel seed, peppercorns and fennel tops to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour. Drain the stock from the kettle and discard all the ingredients, returning the stock to the pot.
Bring the stock to a boil when ready to serve and add any or all of the seafood, using any amount desired. Start with the heavy-shelled seafood and then add scallops and fish last. Simmer until the clams and mussels are open, the shrimp pink and all is tender, but not overcooked, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty toasted bread.
Oliverio Family Tradition
In 1932, in her small kitchen at the back of her retail store in Clarksburg, WV, Antoinette “Ma” Oliverio perfected her recipe for peppers in Italian sauce. Her son, Frank, took her recipe out of the kitchen and into the business world.
In 1972, he began canning peppers under the Oliverio label. Today, his son Mark Oliverio and daughter Deanna Mason continue running the business that was a labor of love for their father. Three generations later, the Oliverio family have combined their love of good food with their recipe for success. In sharing their fathers dream, they are also continuing the legacy of Antoinette, whom they credit with instilling respect for heritage and love of family. Oliverio products are made from a family recipe using only the finest ingredients. Today, the peppers are used in restaurants and line store shelves throughout the East Coast.
- 2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
- 2 whole eggs
- 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 16 oz jar Oliverio Peppers and Sauce (hot or sweet)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl add ground beef and all ingredients except 1/4 of the peppers with sauce and cheese. Mix together. Place in a loaf pan and press gently to relieve any air pockets.
Pour remaining peppers and sauce on top of the ground beef mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
Cover baking pan with foil (greased on the side facing the meatloaf) and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees.
Remove the meatloaf from the pan and drain any grease, let stand for 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Italian Cream Cake
Patricia Haddy bakes lots of Italian Cream Cakes, her most popular cake. She bakes for friends, family and others who request her cakes after they taste them. “The Italian Cream Cake took off like wildfire when I started making it,” she said.
When a friend requested she bring the cake to a reception years ago at the Marriott, the chef tasted it and offered her a job. She turned him down, but sold her cakes to him for years as his job took him to local country clubs and restaurants. She found the Italian Cream Cake she makes faithfully from a local source, “Seasons and Celebrations” by former West Virginia Gazette food contributor Rosalie Gaziano.
Yield: 3 9-inch round cakes
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 small can coconut
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 5 egg whites, beaten
Cream butter and sugar well. Add egg yolks, one at a time.
Sift flour and soda together; add alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture. Add vanilla, coconut and pecans.
Fold in beaten egg whites.
Pour into three greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Frosting for Italian Cream Cake
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Cream together cream cheese and butter or margarine. Add sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth.
Spread between layers and on top of the cake. If frosting is stiff, add a little milk.
Sprinkle nuts on top of the cake.
- Coal Miner’s Memorial and Heritage Park, Quinwood, West Virginia (rutheh.com)
- Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
May 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Love the idea of Tiella! I could see making a vegan version and using whole wheat bread crumbs–like pizza only much less flour products–but with all the fav toppings.
May 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm
Definitely Patty. Easy to make vegan – leave out the meat and cheese. Italian country food at its best. Thanks for your comments.
May 31, 2013 at 7:48 pm
Once again a wonderful, fascinating post Jovina! I have been trying to catch up on your posts, and I have to say I am never disappointed! For some reason, I never could imagine Italian Americans south and west of New York! But this is truly a great deal of very interesting facts- and recipes. I really hope you compile this all into a book- how much fun for Italian Americans all over the US!
May 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm
Thank you so much for reading this post and your gracious comments. I truly appreciate it.
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August 17, 2014 at 5:47 pm
LOVED READING ABOUT ITALIAN PEOPLE LIVING SO CLOSE TO ME IN NORTH CAROLINA I PLAN ON VISITING THIS AREA SOON, I HOPE I WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED . I AM GOING TO TRY TO MAKE THAT ITALIAN CAKE . JOY A TRUE ITALIAN ARE THERE STILL MANY ITALIANS THERE?
August 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm
Thanks so much Joyce for your gracious comments. If you are going to be in the state on August 23 you can attend the pasta cook off: http://www.wvihf.com/ and The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival will celebrate its 36th Anniversary, August 29, 30 and 31, 2014. The WVIHF has been rated among the “Top 100 Events in North America”
About !!% of the population are Italian American.
Thanks so much for visiting.
January 14, 2015 at 8:42 am
Thanks for this wonderful and well-researched story! One more link to share: http://feastofthesevenfishes.com is a 2007 graphic novel about Italian life in West Virginia, based around the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It inspired an annual festival in Fairmont, WV that continues to this day: http://www.sevenfishesblog.com
January 14, 2015 at 11:16 am
Thank you for sharing this information and for reading my post.
January 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm
What a great piece on our heritage! My father came from Sicily at an early age to join his Dad who was already in Chiefton, WV, working in the coal mines. (My grandfather did work in the Sicilian sulfur mines and was recruited to come to WV.) Working as child labor in the mines, my father would load 30 tons of coal per day with just a shovel. Today, we have no idea what it means to work so hard for so little.
You’re story line is spot-on with the foods and lives of our ancestors who came to seek the American Dream!
January 14, 2015 at 5:12 pm
Alex thank you so much for your insightful information and for taking time to comment. I appreciate your reading my post.
January 14, 2015 at 8:39 pm
Having grown up in North Central WV I realized how little I knew. Great article!! Grew up on pepperoni rolls!!
January 14, 2015 at 9:02 pm
Thank you Deborah.
Laura Beth Anderson
January 15, 2015 at 9:19 am
What a wonderful article! My grandmother Rose Falbo was born in Boomer and her father Agostino and his relatives (Falbo, Caputo, Lucente and DeMarco) worked for Boomer Coal and Coke. (Like most of the people from Caccuri, Italy (Calabria) did.) One family member would immigrate, and then they would send for brothers, sisters, cousins, friends etc. I remember my grandmother telling me that they lived in a section of the coal camp made up entirely of Italians. In fact, her oldest sibling went to “Italian School” in Boomer and was taught Italian. By the time my grandmother was old enough, she went to a regular school. My grandmother also told me that the coal camp houses had electricity, which amazed me. They had a little garden behind the house, a brick oven for their bread, my great-grandpa made shutters for the house, and they used to keep their chickens in the dining room during the winter…I’ve visited the cemetery in Montgomery, where people were buried who were from Boomer. There is an entire Italian section there also. Unfortunately it’s all overgrown and there are only burial records for the “American’s” buried there. I did take photos of as many Italian graves I could find. Unfortunately my great-grandparents’ graves were unmarked. My great-grandfather died at 44 of Lukemia and possibly black lung from working the mines, this was also after being electrocuted in the power house, and my great-grandmother died shortly thereafter of TB. We all have such a wonderful history, and we owe everything to our relatives who sacrificed so much for us.
January 15, 2015 at 9:24 am
We certinly do. I am so grateful to my grandparents, who sacrifced so much to come to America. Laura,I love your adding your personal history and thank you so much for sharing this story. Please visit again.
January 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm
Laura Beth Anderson, so interesting to see your comments. I was born in Smithers, my father was born in Eagle and my mother in Boomer. Dad’s side of the family came from Calabria about 1900 and the Italian Spelling of the name was Oliveto. I am familiar with the Falbo name and it seems to me there is a relationship. My parants and grandmother on my dads side are buried in Montgomery Memorial Park at London Locks down river from Montgomery.
January 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm
Thank you for your comment.
Tina Capparelli Wilkes
January 15, 2015 at 9:55 pm
January 16, 2015 at 6:06 am
You are welcome and thank you for reading this post.
January 16, 2015 at 7:16 am
Thank you for this. I will spend hours searching through. It is wonderful.
January 16, 2015 at 7:22 am
Thank you Sarah for your gracious comment.
January 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm
From Fairmont, WV. Loved reading about the Italians that came over and worked in the coal mines and about Country Club Bakery and the pepperoni rolls. Had 2 brothers that worked in the cold mines, and 1 still does.
January 16, 2015 at 12:37 pm
Thank you so much Shirley for sharing your family experiences.
January 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm
Jovina, your research brought chills. My father came to America from Pratola Palegna when he was 23, married my mother and they had five children of which I was the youngest. I was only five years old when he was killed in a slate fall in 1943 at the Richard mine near Morgantown, WV. It was amazing what he and my mother accomplished in the short time they were married. My mother was left with five children at the age of 32 and had a very difficult time after his death but she, like all the Italians I knew and know today, are proud people who dug her heels in, went to work and kept her family together. The love in an Italian, Catholic family is a beautiful way to live. Just in the past few weeks, we have made contact with my father’s family in Italy and learned that while he was alive and raising his children, he sent pictures of all of us. We will meet his family this March. All five of us are very excited. Thank you so very much for your work and thoughtfulness.
Zita (Zaccagnini) Bartoletta
January 20, 2015 at 3:05 pm
How amazing that those of us who are of italian descent have such similar stories and thank you for sharing your family story. So exciting that you can meet your relatives in March.
Thank you, also, for reading my post and taking time to comment.
February 17, 2015 at 10:32 pm
This is a very interesting article. I am clad I read it. And would be interested in reading more.
February 18, 2015 at 8:54 am
Thank you Sharon. I have written a number of posts about the Italians in America. In a few weeks I will be starting a new series on the different regions in the US, where the Italians settled.
March 1, 2015 at 9:46 am
Found this by accident and it is very interesting. It seems to be most about coal but I was wondering why the Northern Panhandle was not included for the Italians who worked in those mills. I leave in Follansbee 20 miles north of Wheeling and at one time we had 70-% Italian population.
March 1, 2015 at 10:13 am
Thanks Jim for your information. I can only include just so much info in one post. The Italian settlements thoughtout the US are considerable. Eventually, as I write more posts, I will write about areas I didn’t touch on in earlier posts. Hopefuly you will read my blog on a regular basis.
Martha A Smith
June 24, 2015 at 7:30 am
i have forwarded your outstanding article to many of my Clarksburg Friends across the country. I remember shopping at Mrs Oliverios Market growing up and that wonderful pepper smell would permeate throughout the mkt. then we would trek across the street and buy some Tomaros hot bread and pepperoni rolls.”A Meal Fit for King” I grew up in North View and almost all of my friends were Italian even tho I was Czech and went to the Czech
Catholic School. My grandfather also came to to this country and worked in the mines.i continue to use and cook with Oliverio Peppers to this day and have discovered 2 markets here in the Columbus,Ohio area that sell them. I have been making my own pepperoni rolls but will try your recipe.FYI there is a wonderful cook book titled,The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave, that features Tomaros Bakery on page 38.
June 24, 2015 at 7:51 am
Thank you so much Martha. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences in this community. I will definitely checkout the cookbook you recommended.
July 20, 2015 at 7:09 pm
Thank you for this wonderful history. My younger brother who was named Salvatore Folio and I who was named Antoinette Folio were first in and then on the boundaries of our Italian families. We are both educated and professionals. Our mother was Irish so she cooked Irish. Our Nona was a full blooded Italian and she and our Nono who was too, use to feed us their home cooking. We loved it! They had settled in Clarksburg, West Virginia. We certainly loved them dearly.
July 20, 2015 at 7:11 pm
What a wonderful way to encourage our remembering our beloved Italian grandparents and their backgrounds. Thank you.
July 20, 2015 at 9:26 pm
Thank you so much for your gracious comments. I truly appreciate your sharing your family’s history. Thank you for visiting this blog.
Charles Divita, Jr
May 26, 2016 at 12:49 am
Wonderful contribution. My Grandfather, Francisco Divita (aka Frank) listed “Boomer” as his destination when he left Palermo in July of 1912. I’m almost certain that he was on his way to work for Boomer Coal and Coke. His wife (Filippa LaSpina Divita) and four young children joined him in December 1913. Her destination was listed on the ship’s manifest as “Eagle, WV” — which is directly across the Kanawha River from Boomer. The family eventually settled in Smithers WV and Montgomery WV.
May 26, 2016 at 7:17 am
Thank you so much. I really appreciate that you took time to comment. I love to hear from folks whose family lived through the immigration years. My grandparents came in 1914 and I marvel at how similar all of our stories are, no matter what state our ancestors settled in.
Penni Vitello Witt
January 16, 2017 at 11:53 am
I enjoyed this very much! Thank you!
January 16, 2017 at 11:55 am
You are so very welcome and thank you for taking time to comment.
Carole A. Black
August 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm
My granddaughter sent me this post. I was born & reared in Fairmont WV but moved before she was born . She visited my parents several times a year there so she knew some of the stories you wrote about. My recipe for Te-ela (as we spelled it) was not quite like yours, but she was interested in all things Italian so she might try it. Funny thing the recipe for cream cake is from a childhood friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for years. It really is a small world. I enjoyed reading your post & the memories it brought back.Carole Agrippa Black
August 12, 2018 at 2:47 pm
Thank you so much Carole for your wonderful comment. So glad you could share your memories.
August 28, 2020 at 11:03 am
November 10, 2021 at 3:31 pm
This is awesome! My family initially moved to Carbondale, just outside Smithers, in the late 1920’s after immigrating from Calabria. My immediate family moved to Smithers in I believe 81 or 82, and remained there until 1996. I still have quite a bit of family that remains in the valley, and the family name(s) is known still to this day in Fayette County. That would be my bisnona Guzzi, bisnonno Aiello, and my nonna’s half siblings Cosentino, Several of them spread out around the general area and up to Clarksburg, and many to Ohio for jobs. I also have relation through marriage to the Argento family, who make delicious Italian sausage that’s available commercially. It really was like growing up in “Little Italy”, as all of my nonna’s friends were sweet (but feisty!) little old Italian ladies. We had weekly huge family meals of pasta and meatballs or lasagna, and there were Italian dishes everywhere at all times. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mary Greco, who was possibly the sweetest, kindest woman ever. I loved visiting her as a child and playing with her mechanical coin banks. I still miss her to this very day. Smithers used to be a great town to grow up in, full of culture, and community. Not so much anymore, sadly. Thanks for your wonderful blog!
November 11, 2021 at 7:30 am
Thank you for your wonderful comment.