Introducing Rebecca

We are excited to introduce Rebecca S. to the project! Rebecca is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland majoring in anthropology with a minor in the University of Maryland’s START program. She is a Maryland native and interested in the environment and anthropology. She has worked on other archaeological projects and is hoping to broaden her research experience by working with us this semester!

In addition to cataloging artifacts, mending broken vessels, and learning the National Park Service and Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission archaeology guidelines, Rebecca is also embarking on her own mini research project to look at the relationship between child mortality, wealth, and age married at the turn of the 20th century. We hope that this question can begin to highlight some of the nuances of life in Lattimer and Pardeesville and tell us more about the living conditions for the working class at this point in history. While her research is just now in the preliminary stages, we hope that Rebecca will eventually write up some of her findings for the blog! Stay tuned!

Throughout this year Rebecca contributed nearly 100 hours of her time to help us catalog and analyze all of amazing finds from last summer. We hope to keep the blog updated with what we discover!

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A Visit to Eckley Cemetery

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This post is from Camille, who writes about her experiences this past summer finally getting to see Eckley cemetery:

After a year of trying to find a guide to take me, I was finally able to visit the Eckley Cemetery with the help of some local volunteers. I had heard ghost stories about war veterans who never returned home, coal miners seeking revenge for mistreatment, and children taken before their time. Images of a shadowy graveyard with a creaking wrought iron gate haunted my imagination. But after a year of waiting for my chance to visit the legendary Eckley Cemetery, a new sensation washed over me: profound sadness.

The Eckley Cemetery is located due south of present-day Eckley’s Miner’s Village on land now owned by Pagnotti Enterprises, a coal mining company. Large berms have been built up on three sides of the cemetery, with large white boulders guarding the final side to keep the strip mine out. A short road leads out of the cemetery but abruptly fades into the flat, grey, eerie landscape of the reclaimed strip mines. I was informed that Pagnotti machine buildings used to serve as landmarks to find the cemetery, but these buildings have all disappeared in the last six months. As a mater of fact, the most recent images available on Google Maps still show the building standing.

While I haven’t been able to find much on the history of the cemetery, I know that this was not the only cemetery for the town. Graves date from the early 19th century to the early 20th century, with the majority of surnames on the headstones being of English or German descent. None of the people who accompanied me to the cemetery knew who these people were — where they came from, whether they had families, or why the last traces of them on Earth had been abandoned on an island in the middle of a landscape that looks more like the surface of the moon than rural Pennsylvania.

On the day that I visited, however, it was neither the obscurity these once proud people had fallen into nor the grey wasteland that surrounded me that shot straight through my soul: it was the state of the cemetery.

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With confusion over how to visit the cemetery (the cemetery is surrounded by private Pagnotti land, but Pagnotti is required to grant access to the cemetery) and no resources to speak of, maintenance at the cemetery has been carried out by a handful of dedicated individuals who spend their weekends pulling out poison ivy, chopping down sapling oaks that attempt to take root in the only land around not made of solidified sluice, and spraying for weeds. My guides informed me that a Boy Scouts of America troop used to come out every year and do this work as part of their community service, but threats made by Pagnotti forced the troop to abandon their work.

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As I walked around the overgrown and rapidly deteriorating cemetery, I imagined the men and women that built Eckley: the families that attended church on Sunday; the children that attended school and played baseball in the street; and the miners who descended into the ground every day not knowing whether this would be their last. These people grew gardens and canned tomatoes, peppers, sauerkraut, and beans. They picked coal out of the culm banks and feared the Black Maria, the Coal and Iron Police, and more. Maybe they dreamed of going to school or starting a business, of moving to the big city or returning to the Old World. As the lives and experiences of the people who’s graves I now stood in front of swirled in my mind, I decided that these people deserved better than what they had. History and geography might have dealt these people a bad hand, but today (and every day) we can work together to make sure that their memories and their contributions to American History, to the Industrial Revolution, and to the spirit of labor is never forgotten. Archaeologists can tell these people’s stories by digging up the conditions of their daily lives. For the forgotten, overgrown souls in the Eckley Cemetery, I hope that our work on the Lattimer Archaeology Project can somehow honor their contributions. I hope that our passion to tell the story of life in the Anthracite region spreads. And I hope that I can get a sharp pair of branch cutters and a few friends to help me take out some of those oak saplings next summer.

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New post at the Lattimer Massacre site

Just posted a new story about employee ownership of the Lattimer Colliery in 1938; an episode we just discovered in the newspaper archives. Check it out here:

https://lattimermassacre.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/a-brief-workers-utopia-employee-ownership-in-lattimer-1938-1939/

An article from the Evening Journal (Harrisburg) from 1 June 1938 reporting on employee ownership of the Lattimer Colliery

An article from the Evening Journal (Harrisburg) from 1 June 1938 reporting on employee ownership of the Lattimer Colliery

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John Jackobition of Lattimer No. 2/ Pardeesville

Century 1898 A Hun

The Drawing of John Jacobition, a resident of Pardeesville,  drawn in 1897 by Jay Hambridge.

In late 1897, a few months after the Lattimer Massacre, a reporter and artist from the Century Magazine came to the towns of Lattimer No. 1 and 2 to report on the social conditions in the town. In a previous post we reported on their fascinating but biased observations of the company town landscape. Despite their biased intentions, the authors are observant, and offer a rare portrait of individuals and relationships in the town in unprecedented detail. Jay Hambridge, an artist, provides sketches of the region and its people. In a scientific mode popular at the time, he selected individuals from different ethnic backgrounds to represent what he perceived as a typical member each of the groups residing together in the town. His purpose here is to not explicitly depict any particular individual, but to abstract each person into a representative form. To emphasize this the portraits are arranged throughout the articles with captions such as “The Hun”, “The Italian”, “The German”, “A Factor in the Problem. (Italian.)”, etc. Occasionally names are mentioned in the text, but most often they are concealed to heighten the anonymity of each member. We decided to do some sleuthing. The great value of this historic document is the way in which it depicts the faces of people long forgotten by the community: the great power of this kind of representation to reach across the decades. Can we undo the anonymity Hambridge assumed over his subjects?

In our years of research through census records, interviews and company documents we have also come to see portraits of individuals beneath abstracted notions of ethnic community. This recognition comes through a familiarity with many family names with long histories in the towns: Schleppy, Hanley, Gallagher, Tate, DeLorenzo, Matz, Cusat, Horspodor, Haraschak, DeFluri…. the list goes on and on. Moreover, through our conversations with community members, individuals are recollected and the trajectories of their individual lives are drawn out: joyous, tragic, generous, strict, historic. It is always a pleasant shock when we see a faded black and white photo and a community member is able to recount the names and familial relationships of each person in the photo. The image we have arrived at is a network of nested categories: individuals, families, communities, each scale producing its own special character in the life of the town. This is the antidote to Hambridge’s method cited above.

On page 827 Hambridge describes “a Hun” named John J—-. That is his drawing above. Here is the description he gives:

John J– was a « fiery Hun» after I had made a sketch of him and he realized what the polite request to sit still a short time meant. He stamped up and down the floor like an angry bull. It was a <<blank shame>> he bellowed; and his broken English enabled me to understand that the shame consisted in making an honest workman sit still while a lot of foolishness was being played upon him. John hasn’t a very prepossessing face. His heavy jaw, coarse skin, and piercing eyes have little suggestion of a gentle nature. The general character of the Hungarian as he is found in the mining region is summed up in him. With a sturdiness of physical force there is combined a stupid stubbornness that makes him almost unapproachable. Six weeks previous, this man had his right hand so shattered by an explosion of dynamite that it required amputation. Now he is at work again, with the stump bandaged and tied in black oil-cloth, using high explosives with apparently the same freedom as before.

« Aren’t you afraid you will get injured again?» I ask.

« No,» he growls; « me no afraid».

We have two clues here:

1)  a portion of a name “John J—-“

2) and an injury and a date.

Luckily, all colliery injuries are listed by name in the Report of the Bureau of Mines of the Department of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania. In the volume for 1897 a listing is made for August 27, 1897 for “John Jacobition, 39 years old, married, working in Lattimer No. 2 colliery”. On that date he had his “Hand blown off; while in the act of recharging a hole with powder it exploded.” We have our man!

The next step is to investigate the employee record card collection we transcribed from the Lattimer company records (described previously in this post). Indeed, John Jacobition is listed on card number 985. His nationality is listed as “Slavic” and place of birth as “Austria”. His birth year is 1858. His church is listed as “Greek Catholic (G.C.)”. His job is listed as Strip Miner and his wages set at “2.08”. So now we know quite a bit about Mr. Jacobition’s work life. As the cards mostly cover the period after 1900, it seems he moved from underground work to stripping labor in the time after the Century article. He still lives in Lattimer. The shifting political and social definitions of ethnicity and nationality made our “Hun” a “Slav”, born in Austria. This likely designates some portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The real goldmine comes when we search the census records for John. At first a search for Jacobition was unsuccessful, but it is always a good idea to check alternative spellings.  No comparable names showed up in the 1900 or 1880 census, but in 1910 here is what we found under the name “Gockobishen”:

Gockobishen family

John continued work as a miner at least until 1910. He lived on Center Street in Pardeesville. We now have his date of immigration as 1883. We also learn he immigrated accompanied by a wife from Austria, Mary Gockobishen. There are four daughters and one son in the household. One daughter, Ella, works in the Duplan Silk mill at age 18. One son already works in the mines at age 17. From interviews  and government reports we know that income from children working contributed greatly to household income. A government report from 1911 suggested that in the coal region children’s incomes provided as much as 38% of total household incomes at the time.

Our search does not end here though. A search on a genealogy website gives us an entry for the name George Jacobition in a draft registration card for the First World War. He is listed as working for “Pardee Bros. + Co.” at the time. It is June 5, 1917. Under dependents he lists a mother and father, Mary and John. He is listed as tall with light hair and of medium build. The card notes that he is able bodied and has not lost any limbs in mine work. Under a side note it lists five married sisters and a married brother, two of whom may have already left the house at the time of the 1910 census.

At the bottom of the first card there is George’s own signature. It features the whirly flourishes typical of the handwriting of the time. But it is also quite distinctive and confident: far from that of an “anonymous Hun”.

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Oral History Interviews – Introduction/ Interview of Robert Burczy

The Lattimer Archaeology project has been ongoing for more than five years now. It was originally planned as an examination of the physical and historical record of the Lattimer Massacre. It soon became clear that a broader research project was at hand, one encompassing aspects of work, memory, violence and everyday life in the region. Stories of hardship and struggle as well as community life and endurance complemented the narrative of the massacre in ways we didn’t expect. Speaking with folks about the memory of the tragic event often led to a discussion of the present and recent past, the collapse of the industry, the mixed fortunes of metropolitan Hazleton, the tension of contemporary life. In our pursuit of oral histories to learn about the town’s past, we decided not to avoid discussing the present because this seems an important concern of the folks we talk to, one they do not disconnect from the region’s tumultuous past.

With the permission of our interviewees, we decided to begin posting portions of interviews we have collected over the last few years on this blog.

The first interview we will post is from Robert Burczy, a painter, photographer and long-term resident of the town whose family has deep roots in the Hazleton Region. In the interview Robert reflects on the way that local history has defined his outlook on art, politics and history. The entire interview can be read here, and selections from it below:

A little background:

MR: How long have you lived in Lattimer?

RB: 3 years

MR: So your family has a long history in the Hazleton area?

RB: 90 plus years. My grandfather was born in 1879. He was born in Poland, in some town south of Warsaw. And he immigrated here … the stories I heard… He immigrated here because he didn’t want to join the Polish army to fight the Russians or he didn’t want to fight the Germans. So he skiddadled and I am glad he did. And we have been here more than 90 years. And especially where they are living now the Burczys and the Sojas (?) are the oldest names in the township now.

MR: Do you know what he did before he left Poland?

RB: Might have been a farmer? I think they were all farmers for the most part.

MR: But he ended up working in the mines?

RB: They offered him a job. Yes, the Lattimer Coal Company, I think they were in Harleigh….. he had a contract with them. And he didn’t get paid much, but when he died of black lung, his compensation, my grandmother was taken care of.

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MR: What about your mother’s family?

RB: They were from Poland. And it was a large family and you had to marry a miner to live in Cranberry, and that was the rules they had. She married a man, they had kids, he died, she married another guy, he had kids, but they still had more kids. My grandmother, didn’t move far from that area, they moved about ten blocks where she always stayed for the rest of her life.

On the heritage of anthracite coal in the region:

MR: Do you think that coal mining is still a big part of the identity of Hazleton? Do you think it defines people’s identities?

RB: Yeah, absolutely…… I think what the hell is wrong with me? Everybody has that question. Somethings’ wrong? But it, I think it is just generational. I think… every generation tells the other generation hints… and that then….. becomes a part of your makeup whether you know it or not. Just because your relatives were certain ways and those kids had kids and it goes on and on. In the end it shapes the whole area.

Photo by Robert Burczy of the roof line of the Lattimer Supply Company warehouse which stood in Lattimer until last year.

Photo by Robert Burczy of the roof line of the Lattimer Supply Company warehouse which stood in Lattimer until last year.

On the significance and memory of the Lattimer Massacre:

MR: When did you first hear about the Lattimer massacre?

RB: It was the monument itself. And way before I moved to Lattimer I came out here, because this used to be the skids. This was like the boondocks. So, but I looked at the monument and nobody was taking care of it so I took care of it early on. I am sure they had their guys doing it but it didn’t seem fast enough to me. It seemed like nobody was taking care of it. So that was my introduction to Lattimer, is the monument.

MR: Do you think the massacre is a significant event? Is it significant locally or nationally?

RB: Well it should national. There’s the [Triangle] Shirt Fire in New York…. that’s the one they always talk about. But then there are assorted massacres. So is one less important than the other, or does Lattimer top them all? I think that Lattimer, that one should be the big one….. but I think this is just because of the way they were killed. And if they were unarmed… that’s a big deal! When you have company men killing unarmed people…. what they were about, better wages, better working conditions.

On the history of immigration in Hazleton

MR: Do you think that issues of immigration were important in there as well, in terms of the massacre, but more broadly in terms of Hazleton?

RB: You just had people coming off a boat, and just escaped a certain type of system only to get locked in another system. I think that company men, the owners, they knew that there were workers there, they corralled them pretty well….  the people that mined, they didn’t want to go back there. So what were your options really? They were hired so…. yeah, I think that’s important…

MR: How do you think the way different immigrants lived together in these little patch towns? Is that part of the identity of the area?

RB: I think it would be coming together, of course. I think if you lived next to a neighbor that didn’t go to the same church or might have cooked different meals or stuff like that, they were in the same boat and they knew it. I think that germinated and I think it cross bred and then it became generational. I think it was a benefit. I don’t think there was a line of hostility because they were in the same boat.

On the value of remembering local history:

RB: It’s a parlor game. it keeps your mind supple….. You have to be agile. You are a little bit more aware in your surroundings, which you are always fine tuning, whether you are looking at the bird on the tree branch or you are looking at the people at the voting place, you have to be alert.

On the significance of the Lattimer Archaeology Project:

MR: What are impressions of the archaeology project? Do you have suggestions or requests of where we should go and what do you hope that we can accomplish?

RB: I am glad that you came around…. I think that it is important that you came in. You bring it to light. There are people out there that will connect to that and that will morph into something else. I [hope] it would get back to policy, it would get back to the way we live together. So it’s all interconnected by shedding light on it. But Lattimer is very special, because famous people came from here or passed through it. It symbolized something for the working man and its hard pressed to find work in that now, and that feel, and those words, and that movement is a good thing for a modern man … And when you get to be seventy and I am gone there are going to be kids talking to you about Lattimer.

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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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