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When Coal Was King
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Fraternal Societies

The Clozza family have served as "memory keepers" for the Italian mining communities in Drumheller Valley associated with the Sunshine, Midlandvale and Brilliant Mines.  This photograph of the Ordine Indipendenti Fior D’Italia is one of the few photographs that identifies all of the Loggia members.  Top row:  ? Berti, M. or D. Morelli, Ricardo Guidolin, Charlie Chiereri, Antonio Contenti, Frank Walters, Guildo Guidolin, Rudy Pavon, Domenic Micarello, Jim Berlando, Elio Moro, Ernesto Chiuppi, unknown.  Middle row:  Giovanni Castelli, Genio Della Lana, Salvatore Carta, Pietro Pedrini, Luigi Bordin, Arturo Bino, Frank Carras, Ernesto Marochi, Vittorio Dozi, Angelo Clozza, Frank Zilli.  Front row:  Ercole Miglierini, Nick Fresu, Ettore Chiuppi, Frank Carta, Corado Ledger, Jim Sandino, Antonio Fresu, ? Di Costa.Among the first Italian immigrant societies were the fraternal ones, which were a vehicle for providing mutual support and assistance. These were described as Loggias. They may have been modeled on the Società Operaia (Workers' Society or trade union), which existed in southern Italy in 1905. They provided financial support when a miner was injured or killed, translated documents and letters, organized social events such as dances, bocce tournaments and other recreational activities including the selection of "a princess" to represent them at cultural events.

According to accounts in the community histories, they appear to have begun in the first decade of the 20th century and were linked to their American counterpart—the Grand Lodge, Confederazione Columbiana [Columbian Federation]. But very quickly, a need was felt to establish a Canadian Grand Lodge in Fernie—the Ordine Indipendente Fior d'Italia (the Independent Order of the Flower of Italy). The Lodges were found wherever there were sufficient Italians to run them. On March 11, 1906, 72 Italians got together to establish the Italian Benevolent Society in Lille. Charter members were Joe and Enrico Cocciolone, Joe Montalbetti, Domenico Gramacci, Francesco Alampi, Joe Nastasi, Frank D’Ercoli, Joe Troinani and the Cantalini brothers. Other societies included theThe Italian women’s society was the Loggia Stella D’Italia No. 105 [Star of Italy Lodge], also a part of the Ordine Indipendente Fior d’Italia. Cesare Battisti Society in Nordegg, the Giovanni Caboto Loggia founded in 1918 in Calgary, as well as societies in Drumheller, Coalhurst and Lethbridge.

The Loggias were carefully governed as is evident in the Italian society records held by the Crowsnest Museum. These include elaborate statute books, dues books and minutes. The Loggias were "self-help" societies and dues were paid so that when miners became ill or were injured or died, there was financial assistance. According to the Minute Books at the Crowsnest Museum, each claim was reviewed and, if the claimant was "a member in good standing," a payment would be made. All of the records are in Italian.

These societies existed until at least the late 1960s even though by this time their membership was largely made up of seniors. The founding Loggia in Fernie was shut down at this time and the records appear to have been divided among the members at that time.

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