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A summary of the oral history transcript of John Camarta in which he reflects on immigrating to North
America, homesteading, mining, provincial development, and
returning to the home country.
- Born 1891 in Jenga, in the province of Ancona, in
central eastern Italy.
- Immigrated to Minnesota in 1909 to work in an iron ore
mine for 5 years before moving to Alberta.
- John moved to
Alberta in the spring of 1914. His biggest problem as an
immigrant was the language, so he went to night school
during the winter in order to learn the language.
- His first
impressions of Alberta were good because there was work
- His first years
in Alberta were spent homesteading on his 160 acres,
with his wife and baby boy.
- Under the Homestead Act he was able to acquire land for $10.00 per
quarter section. He says that within three years you had
to clear and ready 30 acres of land for cultivation.
After that you could apply for the deed to the land.
- For land that
was covered in bush, the government would give you more
time because they wanted people to open up the country.
John says that once you applied for the deed, government
inspectors would come out to your land to see what you
- His land was
located around the old grand trunk railway near
Edmonton. John says that his land was in very poor
condition when he got it, and he had to work very hard
to clear it of bush. After he took the bush out he found
that the land was not very fertile.
- He states that
it took him a long time to clear the land and get it
ready for cultivation.
- In 1915 he went
south to help with the Harvest during August, September,
and October. He found steady work on a farm for about
two years, and would send money back to his wife on the
- John then went
to work in the coal mines in Castor and Drumheller until
the spring of 1918.
- John then
returned to his homestead until the depression hit.
During the depression of the 1930s his boys were old
enough to look after the farm, so he went back to the
mines after a 10 year hiatus.
- Upon his return
he was put on a waiting list, and was not allowed on the
coal face because a union had developed in his absence.
- John says that
the qualification to be a miner was simply "a
strong back". After a month on the waiting list he
was given a job. He then took a course so he could move
up in the business. After the course, he started up his
own mine in the Morinville area.
- This mine had a
good seam of coal, however by the time he got it
operating oil and gas was discovered in Alberta. He lost
money so he had to close it in 1957.
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