Lattimer, which sits along coal stripping north of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is a great place to study history and do archaeology. People in the community are interested in their history and are proud of their heritage. We will be working here for several more weeks exploring the rich history of this community.
The Lattimer archaeology project is more than just finding stuff. It is about connecting with the community and sharing with the community and the larger public about the meaning of Lattimer. The community also shares with us. Walter, a retired neighbor, visits the Canal Street archaeology site almost every day. He is a former state trooper and he keeps an eye on the excavations. He lived in this area his whole life. With cigar in mouth he strolls over and tells us about the coal industry history.
Joe Michel, a former engineer and major supporter of the project, provides us maps and surveys of the area. He owns many of the documents from the coal company and he more than willingly shared these documents with us. He is always there to lend his expertise in history, surveying and storytelling. He is determined to help us with our project in any way he can.The Lattimer archaeology project is more than just finding stuff. It is about connecting with the community and sharing with the community and the larger public about the meaning of Lattimer.
And Willie and Michelle Vitz, the landowners, have been amazing. Their interest and support for the project would be the envy of any archaeology project. More people will visit the site and more friends will be made as the season progresses.
For me, it is also about learning about my family roots. My family was part of the eastern and southern European migration to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There has not been much archaeology on Slavic heritage and doing research on Slavic peoples brings me a bit closer to my family’s heritage. My grandmother’s maiden name was Hluchy and from a farming community in Slovakia called Myjava. My grandfather’s original surname was Shackelovitch from Grodno, which is now in Belarus, and very close to the borders of Lithuania and Poland.
The area of Lattimer which we are excavating was once a Slavic settlement. The Slavs made their entrance into the anthracite region during the late nineteenth century. The new immigrants lived in sub-standard housing and were considered social outcasts in the community. They suffered harsh discrimination because they spoke a different language and had different customs. Perhaps we can learn some lessons from Lattimer about the immigrant experience of the past.