Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Iron Mountain and the Settlement of the U.P. - Part 3

The following text is from a historical study by Northern Michigan University entitled Recorded in Stone: Voices on the Marquette Iron Range. It's from the webpage called Italians in Marquette County. This county is located in the northern U.P. It can be said that the vast majority of these "Italians" have been Piedmontese, Lombardian, or Tuscan in origin; despite the fact that they are presented in some ways as standard East Coast Italian-Americans. Still, it captures some essense of the soul of our people, who were true pioneers of the region. On the link, there are some good photographs, but I don't want to add them here, as I'm trying to get away from the habit of using other sites bandwidth, although occasionally it's necessary. There is some audio from interviews of very old-time residents of the county as well, which comes on automatically after you click on the following link.

Italians in Marquette County

By: Russell M. Magnaghi


Italy was a geographic description and not a unified nation until the 1870s. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy deteriorated into small kingdoms and city states which were dominated by France, Spain, and Austria, not to mention the Normans and Arabs. The central part of the peninsula had come under the control of the papacy and was known as the Papal States ruled by the pope. The unification of Italy began in 1861 and was finally completed in 1870. Conditions in Italy were poor for the average peasant and many sought a new life in the Americas. It was natural that with the opening of the copper and iron mines of the Upper Peninsula, Italian immigrations would be attracted to the area.

English Era

The first known Italian to visit Marquette County was Count Paolo Andreani who visited the Lake Superior country in the summer of 1791 before the region had been given to the United States by the British. Andreani was leading a scien­tific expedition to study the shape of the earth. He took measurements at various locations enroute and is considered the first known Euro­pean to circumnavigate Lake Superior at one time. Naturally he camped at least one night at Little Presque Isle which was the principal camping site for travelers along the south shore of Lake Superior. From there they would traverse across Marquette Bay and land at Shot Point or vice versa.

The Iron Era

The Marquette Iron Range was the first of the iron ranges to be discovered by William Burt on September 19, 1844 in Negaunee. Lacking a source of laborers, immigrants were encouraged to come to the Range and help extract the iron ore. The first known Italian in Marquette at this time was Eugenio Borgi who was born in Naples in 1836 and in the summer of 1860 was working as a day laborer. Also listed on the Federal census was Mary Black, a 29 year old woman from Piedmont employed as a servant. Unfortunate­ly that is the only time that we hear of these two Italian immigrants.

In the summer of 1863 Philip and Josephine Marchetti arrived at Eagle Mills, east of Negaunee with a group of Irish. These were the pioneer Italians to the iron range Philip was from Corsica, had migrated to the Italian mainland and worked in the marble quarries. Soon after serving in the Italian Legion during the Crimean War he migrated to the United States. By October 1860 the Marchettis were living in western Massachusetts where Philip worked on railroad tunnel construction. Their daughter Mary Ann was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1860. Although they kept their property at Eagle Mills and used it as a farm, they eventually moved into Negaunee where Philip developed real estate holdings. Due to these early Italian settlers, Negaunee became the focal point on the Marquette Iron Range for the settlement of these early Italians immigrants.

Another early arrival was Batista Barasa, who was born in Quasolo, Italy in 1837. He worked in France and Spain with his brother on railroad tunnel construction before he migrated to Massachusetts and eventually to Negaunee in 1871. His brother Peter (b. 1842) came to the United States in 1877 and three years later was living in Negaunee. By 1873 there were other Italians in Negaunee: John Bastedo, a wagon maker and John Mazara, a laborer at the Jackson Mine. By the late 1870s Dominic Dighera was also a county resident. These and other early Italians were attracted to Marquette County through the efforts of Barasa or what is known as "chain migration:' One immigrant would arrive in a location and then sent letters which brought his friends and relatives. The area was developing and there was ample economic opportunity.

With the development of shaft mining the earlier immigrants – Cornish, Irish, and Germans - were no longer needed on the range and most of them began moving to newly opened mining frontiers either in the Upper Peninsula, Minnesota or in the Far West. Although there were 41 Italians in Negaunee in 1880 it was seven years later that the first large scale migration of Italians began into the County. At first the Italians were from northern Italy: Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice and the Tyrol and they settled in Negaunee. Initial­ly 50 Italians arrived; followed in the spring of 1888 by an additional 100. Although they inherited the jobs at the lowest end of the employ­ment scale as trammers or iron ore shovelers, they wrote back to Italy and encouraged others to join them. The wages and living conditions on the Marquette Iron Range were a great improvement over economic and work conditions in Italy. In the 1890s southern Italians primarily from Calabria but also from Naples and Sicily settled in Ishpeming. They experienced a similar migration process. By 1910 Italians comprised 15% - 16% of the labor force on the Range. There were a great many Italians working as miners and in many of the mines a greater proportion of the Italians were working as laborers and trammers. In 1910, of the 907 Italians with occupations, 741 or 81.6% were miners. There were also 51 Italians (6%) working on the railroad, 24 (2.8%) listed as laborers, and 20 working in the iron furnaces in Mar­quette. Most of the Italian businessmen were located in Negaunee and Gwinn at that time. There were 16 boardinghouse keepers, 11 saloonkeepers, 5 merchants, 5 bakers and 3 shoemakers. This breakdown of occupations was consistent with other Italian com­munities in the Upper Peninsula.

Although Italians were centered in Ishpeming, Negaunee and Gwinn, a small group of them headed by the DePetro family resided in Marquette. The DePetro family came to the Upper Peninsula to work on the railroad in the Sault Ste. Marie area. When they heard that the Cliffs-Dow plant in Marquette needed laborers to work in the charcoal-chemical factory, they moved west. The extended family continues to live in Marquette.


Although it was usually atypical in other areas of the United States, the Italian immigrants in Marquette County successfully became involved in local politics. Batista Barasa, who became a citizen in 1879, was elected to the Negaunee City Council when the community re­ceived its charter in 1890. Felix Chiabotto, a Negaunee merchant was elected to represent the 2nd Ward in 1897. In Ishpeming, Michael Tassin was a policeman and well-known for his efforts to get his fellow Italians to become citizens and then to vote on Election Day. These activities of the immigrants were unique considering that elsewhere in Michigan, Italian-Americans did not become involved in politics until the 1920s. In the late 1980s this interest in politics continued. Frank Valenti who was born in Italy served on the county commission. Representative Dominic Jacobetti who was born in Marquette County was serving in the Michigan House of Representatives. He had served since 1954 and held the record for the longest serving legislator serving the state in public office.

Entertainment and Recreation

The Italian love for music is well known. As early as 1884 the Marquette Mining Journal noted that an Italian band provided excellent dance music in Marquette County but nothing more was heard of this group. A number of Italian music teachers appeared in the various communities such as Nettie R. Calamata who in 1906 was offering mandolin, guitar, and banjo lessons.

The Italian Band of Negaunee was organized by January 9, 1907 when it provided music for Mike Marrietti's saloon called Hogan's Place. In the summer it provided music for picnic dances. In July 1910 it was formally organized and continued to entertain the public. In 1916 the Negaunee Star Band was led by Peter Zabotti and played social dances. In July 'Professor Joseph Bangiovanni's String Orchestra was presenting "jitney dances" in Negaunee's Cleveland Park. Nine years later Joseph Violetta was the leader of the Negaunee City Band.

The most famous band in Ishpeming's history was Vampa's Band. Professor Vampa arrived in the community in 1915 and began organiz­ing the new band. He was able to get even the most musically illiterate to read music and by January 1916 his band with thirty-four members played for the first time and was an immediate success. Vampa's Band played at the Marquette County Fair, Memorial Day and Columbus Day celebrations and at other dances and festivals given by local clubs and lodges.

Then at the peak of the band's rise to success Vampa left town for Flint and eventually Italy. In March 1919 the band was reorganized with Felix Catania of Chicago as the new director. However due to a contractual dispute Catania left Ishpeming by July. In August 1920 Vamp returned from Italy and in August 1921 a new band made its first appearance at the annual St. Rocco-St. Anthony Day festa. The band also played in local theaters, at dances and one year at the L'Anse firemen's tournament. A little later Vamp joined forces with Frank Trombley to create a short-lived symphonic orchestra with between 65 and 75 members.

The local Italians directed their entertainment and recreation toward their families. Home parties were popular with an accordion and violin or guitar providing the music on a Saturday night. During the warm summer months families organized picnics while the Italian lodges also held annual picnics. The men played bocce in backyards or saloon-side courts and got into the Italian card game of morra especially for drinks in saloons. Some of the Italians fished and hunted both as recreation and also as a means of augmenting their families' food supply.

Home Life

The first Italians who arrived on the Marquette Range were usually single men who once they got settled sent for their wives or got married. Many lived in company housing, at first, but tended to purchase their own homes when this was possible. Families took in boarders from the same village or those who were family members as a means of providing housing and also adding to the family income.

Each family maintained a garden which provided the household with much of the vegetables that the household needed during the year. Besides what was planted the women and children gathered fruits and berries and made jams and preserves from them.

If possible families kept a pig and cow. In November the pig was usually butchered, prime pieces preserved in crock jar covered with liquefied lard and the small pieces were processed into sausage. Blood sausage was also made at this time. It was sometimes said that every part of the pig was used except the squeal. The cow pro­vided milk, butter and cheese for the family and if there was a surplus it was sold to customers in the vicinity. The Italian family became self-sufficient so that they usually only had to purchase items such as coffee, sugar, or olive oil. Pasta and Italian bread could be made at home but it was usually purchased.

In the late summer orders were taken for grapes and beginning in September train loads of grapes arrived at railroad sidings in Negaunee and Ishpeming. Most families made as many as 150-200 gallons of wine which would last them through the year. Some people would take the remaining grape skins and distill them into a potent alcoholic drink called grappa. Today a number of people make sausage from family recipes but the wine making tradition has declined because of the cost incurred making your own wine.

Cultural Activities

Most of the Italian immigrants who settled on the Marquette Range were literate. As a result many of them kept in touch with the news through Italian-language newspapers. Some subscribed to papers published in New York City like the ever-popular Il Progresso while others read the long-lived Il Minatore Italiano (The Italian Miner) which was published in Laurium between 1896 and the 1930s or the transient papers such as La Democrazione Italiana of Hancock (1917) or La Sentinella (The Sentinel) published in Calumet around 1906.

In Negaunee a group of Italians organized a dramatic group. During the 1920s and 1930s the group entertained the Italian colony with popular plays produced in the Negaunee High School auditorium.

Columbus Day (October 12) was a day on which the Italians affirmed their ties with their adopted nation. From the early part of the 20th century the day has been celebrated in a variety of ways. In the early days there were elaborate parades, dinners, dances and political speeches. Since Columbus Day came close to Election Day, politicians saw it as a good time to campaign and thus attended the festivities. The last major dinners were sponsored by the Lòggia della Neve, Order of the Sons of Italy in the 1980s. Today these elaborate celebrations have dramatically declined. Only the Paisano Club of Marquette County holds a dinner for its members. Usually a talk is given promoting Italian heritage.

The Italian communities on the Marquette Iron Range never had their own Catholic Church. They made up a significant portion of the congregations of St. Anthony's Church in Gwinn, St. Paul's in Negaunee, and St. John's in Ishpeming. The most prominent Italian-American Catholic clergyman and community was the late Monsignor Louis Cappo (d. 2007) who was pastor of St. Peter Cathedral parish in Marquette. A few Italians joined some of the local Protestant churches and some of their off-spring have become clergyman.

Lodges and Clubs

The mutual beneficial societies were a characteristic feature of all Italian communities wherever immigrants settled. At a time when there were no Social Security benefits nor unemployment or disability insurance or death benefits, the Italians along with other immigrants established these societies. They traditionally paid an initiation fee and then 50 cents per month. If they were sick or injured they received $1.00 per day, their families received a benefit at death and the membership attended the funeral under pain of a severe fine.

The oldest of the Italian fraternal organization in Marquette Coun­ty was Società Fratellanza e Mútuo Soccórso/Fraternal and Mutual Aid Society which was established in Negaunee in 1890 and incor­porated on February 6, 1892. Within a few years it boasted over 500 members who paid $1.00 per month for illness and accident benefits and an additional $2.00 for death benefit which was collected when needed.

The biggest activity for the lodge was the annual picnic held in July or August. In early July 1910 their annual picnic was held in Cleveland Park where there was boating, swimming and athletic events, eating contests and the card game, morra. A seven piece band was included in the 1915 pic­nic which became a common feature. During the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-1912 the lodge sent $25 to the Italian Red Cross for the widows and children of Italian soldiers killed in the fighting. Over the years the organization was active but as the immigrants died out there was no longer any interest in such an organization. On October 15, 1962 the lodge was closed and the remaining members were paid with the assets.

Over the years a number of fraternal organizations were formed in Negaunee. Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Giuseppe Maz­zini/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Giuseppe Mazzini was founded on June 24, 1908 with over 130 charter members. North Italians from Lombardy and Venice on September 10, 1911 established the Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Lombarda-Veneta di Negaunee/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Lombardy-Venetia of Negaunee. They were in­corporated on March 15, 1912. They first met in Scandinavian Hall where they wrote their constitution. They held their annual picnic in Cleveland Park and participated in both July 4th and Columbus Day parades and celebrations. In 1912 the Società Unità Diposero was established and on September 28, 1913 Grove No. 3 of the United Order of the Druids was formed and in 1925 a women's branch was created. Both organizations were still active in Negaunee in the 1980s. A little known organization: Alpine Italian Club flourished around 1915. There is little information concerning this lodge except that is existed and was incorporated in Marquette County.

Four of the lodges: Mazzini, Diposero, Fratellanza, and Lombardi joined in securing plots in the Negaunee cemetery. These plots were for single members without families in the community. A large monument which is still standing was surrounded by the graves of members. When these plots were no longer in demand they were sold to private individuals.

Léga Cittadina Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso/Italian Citizen League of Mutual Aid was formed in May 1918 with 50 members and incorporated on February 23, 1919. Its goal was "of having every adult Italian parentage in Marquette County duly qualified as a citizen of the United States as well as member of the League." The lodge pro­moted attendance at citizenship classes held in the high school by the Negaunee Board of Education and there were sick and death benefits. In 1920 two-thirds of its members were from Negaunee while the rest were from Ishpeming and North Lake and there was hope of establishing a branch in Princeton.

On September 23, 1907 the Italian colony in Princeton formed the Società Guglielmo Marconi di Mútuo Soccórso. They constructed their own hall where they held their meetings, dinners, and dances. The structure stood until the early 1980s although the society had been disbanded earlier.

The Italian community is Ishpeming established a number of lodges whose histories have been intertwined over the years. On August 6, 1899 Società di Beneficènza Italiana was established, followed on February 23, 1902 by Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso, Umberto I. The Società di Mútuo Soccórso, San Rocco was created on September 17, 1922 by uniting the Confraternity of San Rocco formed in 1918 and the Società di Beneficènza Italiana, due to the fact that the members belonged to both lodges. The name of the Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso was changed to Società Operàia di Mútuo Soccórso, San Antonio di Padova on April 26, 1936. The last amalgamation of these societies took place on September 20, 1942 when the two remaining were united and renamed: Società Americana ­Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso, San Rocco e San Antonio di Padova. Into the 21st century the San Rocco Society as it is popularly known continues to celebrate the feast day of St. Rocco in mid-August.

In the past the celebration was elaborate as witnessed in August 1943 when Frank Vallela was the chairman:

*9:30 a.m. music

*10:00 a.m. parade through Ishpeming to St. John's Church 11:15 a.m. High Mass, St. John's

*12:30 p.m. parade through Ishpeming

*2:00 p.m. public picnic with band music and events: women's nail driving contest, "coins in the pan," and the greased pole contest in which the lucky individual who reached the top won $5.00 which was placed there

*7:00 p.m. Negaunee City Band

*8:00 p.m. Negaunee Turners, an aerobatic and musical set 9:45 p.m. Negaunee Turners

In the late 1980s and the 1990s the St. Rocco festival was re-emerging and held a small celebration in the St. John church yard. However by the early 21st century a rather elaborate celebration had developed and attracts both Italian-Americans and the general public as a major event in Marquette County. Hundred usually attend the celebration attracted by the food, music and dance.

Italians from the Neapolitan community of Montefalcone in Beneven­to in Ishpeming formed a society of their own on June 5, 1910 which was appropriately named: Società Napoletana di Mútuo Soccórso ...Composto di Falconese. The first president was Leonardo Avella. The organization continued in existence until the early 1970s when it too was disbanded.

The Italian-American Federation of the Upper Peninsula was organ­ized in October 1909 in Calumet. Its purpose was to unite the numerous Italian societies throughout the region and over the years a number of Marquette County societies were members. Over the years a number of its conventions were held in Negaunee and Ishpeming where there were parades and grand celebrations. However over the years interest in the organization declined and in September 1982 it was formally disbanded in Iron Mountain.

With the decline and termination of most of the old lodges a new idea was brought forth by Monsignor David Spelgatti of Ishpeming. A new organization should be organized to help preserve the Italian ethnici­ty which still existed in the county. In 1964 the Paisano Club of Up­per Michigan was formed with the goals of commemorating, preser­ving and highlighting the traditions of the Italian immigrants and their American-born children. Since that time the club has flourished with branches forming in Dickinson and Gogebic Counties. In 1982 Presi­dent Leonard Altobello and Msgr. Spelgatti were successful in their efforts to secure Professor Russell M. Magnaghi of Northern Michigan University to carry out the necessary research to preserve the history of the immigrant experience in Upper Michigan. As a result of this encouragement and generous financial assistance, artifacts, photographs, published and unpublished material along with 150+ oral interviews on tape have been preserved. To date the Paisano Club is the only organization in the state of Michigan to conduct such an ex­tensive research project on immigrant history.

The last of the ethnic organizations to be formed in the county was the Lòggia della Neve/Lodge of the Snow of the Order of the Sons of Italy. It was established in May 1981 and continued into the late 1980s. It provided money for charitable organizations, scholarships and had an annual recognition dinner held in October to also commemorate Columbus Day. Thus we see that the Italian heritage in Marquette Coun­ty continues to be maintained. However the future of these ethnic organizations is precarious due to the many interests facing young people many of whom come from mixed ethnic backgrounds and do not which to call their focused nationality.


Anonymous. “The Italian Immigrant.” Harlow’s Wooden Man 10:2 (Spring 1974): 3 and 9.

Magnaghi, Russell M. Miners, Merchants and Midwives, Italians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Marquette, Mich.: Belle Fontaine Press, 1987.

---. Italians in Michigan. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.

Developed for the NMU Archives on-line project. Completed 07/08/2008)


One interesting excerpt to consider was the following: "North Italians from Lombardy and Venice on September 10, 1911 established the Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Lombarda-Veneta di Negaunee/Italian Mutual Aid Society, Lombardy-Venetia of Negaunee. They were in­corporated on March 15, 1912. They first met in Scandinavian Hall where they wrote their constitution. They held their annual picnic in Cleveland Park and participated in both July 4th and Columbus Day parades and celebrations. In 1912 the Società Unità Diposero was established and on September 28, 1913 Grove No. 3 of the United Order of the Druids was formed and in 1925 a women's branch was created. Both organizations were still active in Negaunee in the 1980s. A little known organization: Alpine Italian Club flourished around 1915. There is little information concerning this lodge except that is existed and was incorporated in Marquette County."

It's actually very rare to hear about any association, past or present, in relation with Lombardian heritage in the United States, so that makes this somewhat remarkable. Also, that wasn't necessarily that long ago in a historical American sense. Only about 97 years or so. Also curious was the Druidic order. That could possibly, although unlikely, be a connection to the Gaulish Druidic history. Also, names like Del Club Alpino or Alpine Italian Club seem to tie into our heritage as well.

The article also confirms that it was in 1909 that the Italian American Federation of the Upper Peninsula was formed, as an umbrella group, and disbanded in 1982. However the Paisano Club, formed in 1964, has taken up the task of recording this part of the history of the region.

One subject that we will cover soon is the resurgence of "Swiss Clubs" in California. They are mostly Ticinese of Lombardian ancestry, and wouldn't it be great to see these expressions of Lombardian ancestry in California and the Great Lakes region get together someday.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Iron Mountain and the Settlement of the U.P. - Part 2

[This remarkable Catholic church was built by Iron Mountain's Italian community in 1902. Although it looks almost contemporary, the design is based on Renaissance parish churches in Italy.]

Italian North Side - Iron Mountain

(from Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula)

It's not like it used to be in this tidy, tight-knit neighborhood that grew up just after the turn of the century north of the Chapin Mine and downtown. Today descendants of Italian miners have lost their language and intermarried. There are lots of non-Italian names among the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church, built by Italian immigrant volunteers in 1902.

[The wine press on the roof is the symbol Bimbo Constantini gave his neighborhood gathering place. The outline of the pig on the front is a clue to the porketta sandwiches made here.]

But this trim working-class neighborhood has the feel of a cherished way of life where camaraderie and shared meals still mean a lot. New aluminum siding on these modest, well-kept homes is a point of neighborhood pride. There are still a few inspiringly serious vegetable gardens maintained by the older generation, with plum tomatoes staked and cut back for maximum growth in the precious summer warmth. Some small grocery stores remain, underscoring Iron Mountain's reputation for its ethnic food.

In March of 2000 the North Side of Iron Mountain basked in the national spotlight as its own Tom Izzo coached the Spartans of Michigan State to the national collegiate basketball championship. Izzo's Awnings and Izzo's Shoe Hospital, owned by relatives, appeared in Detroit papers. Newspaper stories professed amazement at how well the little guy from the U.P. meshed with the big black players from Flint.

The press, in its common way of not looking beyond the superficial stereotype, failed to see the similarities. Like Izzo, the "Flintstones" came from strong families with working-class backgrounds that emphasized team playing. True, the U.P. is entirely white except for Native Americans and a few college students and Asian and African-American professors and other professionals. But middle-aged people who grew up in the U.P. learned to deal with schoolmates from widely varying backgrounds. Maybe that has something to do with the coincidence that Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci was a high school, and Northern Michigan University classmate of his friend Tom Izzo. A number of restaurants have little shrines to these famous native sons. A more lasting legacy is the state-of-the-art Izzo-Mariucci Fitness Center and meeting space on Carpenter and West, near Iron Mountain High School, built with money the coaches raised.

To explore the Italian North Side, drive along Vulcan, the north side's main street. It parallels U.S. 2. Get there by turning east onto Third at Hardee's, or onto Margaret across from the A&W.

Highlights of the neighborhood include:

• BIMBO'S WINE PRESS (L'Torchio di Vino), once a typical corner bar, became a center of local Italian-American culture and sports when the late Bimbo Constantini, a neighbor and retired teacher, purchased it. (See Restaurants.)

• CRISPIGNA'S ITALIAN MARKET is a small grocery/liquor store that uses old family recipes to make its own ravioli (sold frozen), Italian sausage, and red sauce. It carries imported Italian food, candy, and wines. It's also a Western Union office and Greyhound depot. After the Crispignas' daughter lived in Italy, she came back deciding to join the family business and help remodel it with a stylish continental rusticity. On Margaret at U.S. 2, kitty-korner from the A&W. 774-0266. Open 10-5:30 Central Time. Handicap accessible.

• The IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH is not to be missed on any north side tour. It's an authentic bit of vernacular Italian architecture, complete with big scrolled volutes on the front façade and an attached campanile (bell tower). The stuccoed interior is peaceful and rather spare, not the heavily ornamented neo-Baroque style often seen in Catholic churches of that era.

This homemade elegance is the result of the church's unusual history. Father Giovanni Sinopoli, part of a Catholic order founded to minister to Italian immigrants, came to Iron Mountain from Italy in April, 1902. Immediately he set about organizing volunteers to construct a new church. Sandstone was quarried on nearby Millie Hill, just east of the Chapin Pit. A mere nine months later the church was dedicated.

The parochial school next door, now used mainly for parish religious classes, is where Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucchi were first-graders together. 500 Blaine at Vulcan. (906) 774-0511. Front and side entrances both open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. or so, Central Time. Parking in rear off Stanton. Mass at 5:15 Tues, 12:10 Wed, 8 a.m. Thurs & Fri, 4 p.m. Sat, and 9 and 11 a.m. Sun, all Central Time. Wheelchair access: front and side entrances.


Also from the Hunts' Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a good page on Iron Mountain. What comes into focus is that the Lombardian/Piedmontese settlement seems to have been on the western portion of the U.P., both on the north and south sides.

On page 351 of the book 'The American Immigration Collection' (Foerster; 1969), we get some insight on the heritage of Calumet (in the north U.P.) ninety years ago: "In the metalliferous mines, the work of the Italians has been of almost equal consequence. In the early days of Calumet exploitation, half a century ago, some Piedmontese and Tuscan miners were employed; a recent estimate, which I take to be somewhat exaggerated, places at 8000 the number of Italians in the copper region of northern Michigan. Miners of copper and silver are, or have been, numerous in the Cobalt district of Colorado, and in several counties of California. In all these regions, their numbers have fluctuated much, a curcumstance not unfavorable in an industry whose workplaces are isolated and for whose product the demand varies broadly. In partial explanation of the decline of Italian miners in the Calumet district in the years before the war, it has been suggested that they have been unwilling to work amid the perils of the ever deepening mines. Iron miners have long been established on the peninsula of Upper Michigan, in Marquette, Dickenson, and Gogebic counties. The Iron Mountain colony follows after Calumet in age and importance."


On pages 214 to 216 of the book 'Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources' (McGinnis; 2005), we get further insight on the heritage of the western U.P. eighty to one hundred twenty years ago: "Italians: When the French first explored Michigan, Italy did not exist as a nation. Italians who wanted to come to the New World often traveled to France first and came under the French flag. "A number of Italians in Michigan's colonial past came as administrators, chroniclers, explorers, fur traders, and soldiers." Many of these Italians' names became "frenchified," and it is often difficult to determine their Italian origin. The first, and perhaps best known, Italian in Michigan was Alfonso Tonti, officiallly known as Alphonse de Tonty. Tonty was Cadillac's send-in-command when Detroit was established in 1701. He served as governor or commandant at Detroit from 1704 to 1706 and again from 1717 to 1728. His daughter, Therese, was the first European child born in Michigan.

It wasn't until the mid-19th century that Italian immigrants began arriving in noticeable numbers in Michigan. Many came to work in the iron and copper mines in Gogebic, Houghton, Marquette,and Menominee counties in the Upper Peninsula. "In 1860 the earliest Italians--Joseph and Vitale Coppo, Joseph Gatan, Bart Quello--were mining in the Hancock area." They had come to the Upper Peninsula from the Canavese area of Piedmont by way of Canada. Soon chain migration brought thousands of other Italians, many of them single men without their families, to the Upper Peninsula. In 1890, about 3,000 Italians lived in Michigan, but 2,386 of those lived in the Upper Peninsula. (Another 340 worked in Detroit, with the rest living in Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Macomb County, and Oakland County.) "[By] 1910 there were some 10,000 Italians living in the Copper County alone." Calumet and Iron Mountain had the two largest Italian communities. Between 1890 and 1930, many Italians in the Upper Peninsula moved to Detroit due to labor unrest in the mining industries and increased opportunities in Detroit's auto industry.

Many of the Italians in the Upper Peninsula came from northern Italy. In Houghton County, for example, they came from Piedmont, especially from Canavese north of Turin; Lombardy; and Luca in Tuscany. In Gogebic County, they came from Piedmont, Tyrol, Abruzzi, and Sicily, while those in Menominee County came primarily from the province of Venice. Other northern Italian provinces represented in the Upper Peninsula included Abbruzze, Calabria, and Umbria. However, the Italians in Ishpeming in Marquette County tended to come from southern Italy.

Michigan cities in the Lower Peninsula with early Italian communities included Flint, Pontiac, Lansing, Muskegon, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids, where many Italians migrated from the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania to work in the Grand Rapids area plaster quarries.

Italians in Detroit: In 1855, there were about a dozen Italians in Detroit, most from northern Italy. More immigrated from Genoa and Lombardy, and in 1883, several Sicilians came to Detroit from Cleveland. They had worked as fruit merchants and quickly opened similar businesses in Detroit. By 1897, there were 207 Italian families--1,103 adults and 630 children--in Detroit,most of these Lombards and Sicilians. By 1910 there were about 8,000 Italians in Detroit and 16,000 in 1920. "In 1930, out of 43,087 Italians in the state, 73 percent resided in Wayne County and only 11 percent in the mining counties." Detroit's "Little Italy" was located along Gratiot Avenue, and another Italian community was near Gratiot and Harper.

Sources: Several resources are available to assist Michigan researchers with Italian roots:

* Magnaghi's 'Italians in Michigan' (2001) gives an overview of Italian settlement throughout the state, and Magnaghi's 'Miners, Merchants, and Midwives: Michigan's Upper Peninsula Italians (1987) focuses on the Upper Peninsula

* Vismara's article, "Coming of the Italians to Detroit," published in the January 1918 issue of 'Michigan History' magazine, has much information about Detroit's early settlers

* Italians of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has census records and other information