Shrine Imposing Sight by Day or Night

In our interviews with the elder residents of Pardeesville, a few things pop up frequently when we ask them about their memories of community life. The cohesiveness of this community is often tied to the social life surrounding the church.

Historical maps of the Italian community at Pardeesville show the first St. Nazarius church, built in about 1884, in the very center of a tight arrangement of houses. Town resident Dominic Matante remembers the church being disassembled in the 1950s, revealing that dynamite boxes made up some of the building materials.

This generation, however, better remembers the new church that was built on the top of the hill overlooking Butler Valley in the 1950s. At the edge of the church property an outdoor shrine was hand-built by residents of the town. From our interviews, residents were proud of this landscape marker, visible from miles away on Route 309 running through Butler Valley. This article, printed on the 4 July 1965 in the Reading Eagle describes the cross as an “imposing sight by day or night.” The article, written before the memorial to the Lattimer Massacre was constructed in nearby Lattimer, suggests that the shrine “would be an appropriate place to honor the miners who lost their lives”. In 1972, a monument to the Massacre was built near the site by representatives of local and national labor.

When the parish was closed by the diocese in 2009, the stations of the cross were donated to the St. Nazarius church in San Nazario, Italy. The remnants of the shrine remain in place where they were built.

1965 7 4 Reading Eagle Pardeesville Cross

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Lattimer Massacre Monument Commemoration, 10 September, 1972

Just uploaded this blogpost on the Lattimer Massacre Monument Commemoration on September 10, 1972. This event featured a major celebration with scholars, activists, politicians and working men and women present at the event. According to the event brochure The Lattimer Band, which was composed mostly of Pardeesville residents and directed by Reverend Ferrara, played the national anthem. We would love to find photos!

1972 memorial mass_Page_1

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Check out this post on the Lattimer Massacre Mass

Check out this post on the Lattimer Massacre Mass on our other blog, complete with a video of the emotional event:

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Lattimer Massacre Memorial Mass to be held in Lattimer, September 10, 2014, 6:30PM


117 years ago this Wednesday, 19 striking miners were killed and 50 wounded by a posse of deputies in the event known as the Lattimer Massacre. This Wednesday, September 10, 2014 starting at 6:30 PM a memorial mass will be held at the monument at the corner of Quality and Lattimer roads. The Lattimer Massacre Project will be in attendance documenting the event. See you there!

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“A scythe and a pick axe hang next to my desk”

This post is from Paul Shackel:

A scythe and a pick axe hang next to the desk in my home office. The scythe has a blade that appears to have been well used. Tarnished with age, the words “Made in Austria” are located at the base of the blade. The blade has an occasional nick and I can image that many decades ago a farmer spent a long day in the autumn sun rhythmically slicing through wheat, barley and hay during harvest time. The pick axe is well used with many dents and nicks. It had one purpose – it was an implement used to extract coal from the deep underground mines in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Together, these two utilitarian, non-descript tools have a remarkable story to tell about the hopes and dreams of a new immigrant.  They reflect the reality of the limited opportunities available to new immigrants in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania. They are a reminder of a life long journey to achieve the American dream.


Joe Michel

The scythe and the pick axe once belonged to Michael Michel. Joe Michel, his son, has been mentioned in several blog posts. He gave me these items to guard the memory of his father’s work as well as the life of miners – at least for another generation. Michael Michel came to Jeddo, PA, from Austria-Hungary in 1922 with his scythe. His goal was to establish his new life in America as a farmer. However, after arriving in the region his dreams were dashed. “He didn’t want to go into the coal mines, but there was no place else to work,” said Joe Michael in a recent newspaper interview in the Standard Speaker. His father began as a laborer in the mines and in 1930 he earned his miner’s certificate, which also meant a larger income to support his growing family.


A photograph of Michael Michel, who came from Slovakia to become farmer, but ended up working in the coal mines.

About 180,000 men worked in anthracite mines in the early 20th century. Many of the new immigrants went underground for the first time when they arrived in the region. Mining had one of the highest occupational mortality rates in the United States. More than 120,000 men died in the mines between 1847 and 1980.  So there is a reason why Michael Michel saved his money and found another occupation after 28 years in the mines.   He opened a bar called Mickey Mike’s Place in Freeland.

Today the mines in the region employ around 1,000 people.

Hazleton has always been a city of immigrants. The first
wave of immigrants consisted of English, Irish, and Germans in the mid-19th century. The second wave included Italians and Slavs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  More recently, Latinos have come to the city. People have always brought with them their hopes and dreams for a new beginning, sometimes carrying with them the tools of their trade. While our project has focused on preserving the history and memories of men and women in the second wave of immigration, I believe our work also allows us to think about the newest wave of immigration in a very different light.

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The Goat That Came for Dinner

This is one of a series of short stories collected from oral histories with town residents that will be retold here.

Pardeesville resident Maurice DeLorenzo showed us a panoramic photo of the town taken from a culm bank on the southwest side of town in the mid-1930s. This photo has been imperative in helping us understand how the landscape has changed since the early twentieth century, but also in helping us to understand how people lived back then. One of the most striking features of this photo is the abundance of wooden fences. Homemade wooden fences from different lengths and thicknesses of boards can be seen surrounding every house on Lower, Upper, and Church Street! While we initially thought that these fences might have been used to keep livestock such as cows inside people’s yards, during interviews with local residents we have learned that the fences were actually in place to keep other people’s livestock out of their yards! With the time and effort put in to planting and growing a garden, families couldn’t afford to lose all of their produce to a neighbor’s errant goat (however, keeping neighborhood kids out of the garden proved to be a steeper challenge).

One story related to us by a long-time resident of Pardeesville tells the story of when she and her husband went to visit her husband’s parent’s house in Pardeesville. With kids, neighbors, and extended family constantly coming in and out of the house, the front door had been left ajar. When our storyteller and her husband walked into the living room, they were greeted by none other than a stray goat that had managed to slip inside the house! Whether the goat or the couple were more startled is unknown, but I know that this story is one that neither soon forgot.

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All in Six Weeks: This Puppy Has Grown!


At the end of last Friday I looked at the puppy, Axel, that lives next door to our excavation site and realized that he was almost twice as big as he was in the first picture I took of him. A puppy can sure grow a lot in six weeks! (shown above with University of Maryland student Judy Joklik our first week in the field….at the end of the post see portraits of Axel with Camille and Justin and see how much the pup has grown!)

Last Friday we finished six weeks of excavation in Pardeesville, Pennsylvania. In fact, it went by in a flash. But in retrospect, we got a lot of work done. And the puppy grew a lot! Here is what we did:

-We excavated two house sites this summer. Both were backyards of company-built doublehouses. We dug a total of ten test units. These pits went as deep as seven feet and as shallow as a foot. We spaced them out across the yards so that we would get a good sample, and indeed, the age of artifacts and their density in the soil differed tremendously. We recovered thousands of artifacts, from a glass oil lamp base, a pressed glass pitcher, a miners lamp, a hunting dog tag, animal bones, medicine bottles, a snippet of 16 mm film, a toothbrush and a comb. Among these ten pits were four backyard privies, one of which was a two seater. We excavated each of these very slowly so that we could track exactly what came out and at what depth. When we analyze them this year we will be able to reconstruct the beginning and end dates for the filling up of each privy.

-We excavated two units in the basement of a doublehouse to see what kinds of activities went on in the basement.

-We trained a group of about six high school students from Hazleton in archaeological methods.

-We had one magazine interview (out by next December) and were written up in the Standard Speaker.

-We had a community open house at the site and showed some new friends some of our finds.

-We conducted about eleven interviews with folks in town. We will add this to the twenty-or-so interviews we have already done with residents of the Hazleton area over the last few years.

-We surveyed in a digital topographic map of the terracing of the backyard at the Yanac House. We are currently at work processing this into a 3-dimensional topographic map of the property.

-We made a lot of new friends and spent some time with the friends we have made in town last itme around.

So there you have it: six weeks! Stay tuned, we will be updating the blog with artifact analysis, newspaper research, and other project research. Thanks everyone who welcomed us into the community, shared stories, food, property, labor and cheer!



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