As recorded in the diary of Felice De Angelis, the first group of Italian settlers left Edmonton on July 27, 1914 headed for what would become the Venice and Hylo Settlement. The founding six members were Felice De Angelis, Guiseppe Billos [O.J. Biollo], Beniamino Maragno, Pio Bonifacio, Antonio Piemonte and his son Teofilo. Mr. De Angelis was a civil engineer and was the Italian consul in Edmonton at that time. He had the vision of founding an agricultural colony and obtained the maps, survey blueprints and other documents necessary to establish homesteads. An initial reconnaissance was done from July 27 to August 3rd.
While Mr. De Angelis headed the expedition, the individual with the most experience, not only of agriculture but also settlement in Canada, was O.J. Biollo. He was born in Campalongo Maggiore, Province of Venice in Italy. He emigrated to Canada in 1902 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and worked in Winnipeg. He became a successful businessman but because of his health, it was suggested that he move to Edmonton. At the time of the expedition he was an established in Edmonton and a community leader.
With the assistance of the Italian Society of Edmonton (formerly the Venice Club), the settlers were equipped with some tools, a tent for camping and food sufficient for three weeks. After looking over the area they intended to settle, they decided that it was suitable for farming. Later, they walked through bush and muskeg to the Lac La Biche Mission where they were to file and register the homesteads.
On August 28, 1914, the second group of 22 left Edmonton by train to go as far as Colinton. Some of the members of this group were Giuseppe Michetti, Augusto Marini, Paolo Morelli, Domenico Morelli, Antonio Lavagnini, Antonio Riva his brother Pietro, Atillio Perini and Giuseppe Baldoni who became the rebel leader. As the De Angelis diary tells us, there was an Italian woman with the group as well but she stayed behind, in Colinton. The group left Colinton with horses and wagons on August 29, 1914 and followed the same trail that the first group had blazed. It took them about four days of hectic travel through mud, rain and waterlogged muskegs, finally arriving at the promised land. They set up their tents as temporary shelter to protect them until they were able to locate homesteads and build shacks before the winter set in.
The discovery of the Felice De Angelis diary was an extremely fortunate event. Dr. Gabriele Erasmi of McMaster University received a copy from Mr. De Angelis' niece Matilde Bigiaretti in Italy and translated it. He then contacted descendants in Edmonton and it was made available to them. Excerpts were printed in the Hylo-Venice: Havest of Memories community history book in 2000. It was made available to the Heritage Community Foundation by Len Bonifacio through the unpublished history of Venice compiled by Tony Bonifacio titled Venice Alberta 1914: The Pioneers and Others That Lived There. The diary is available courtesy of Ms. Bigiaretti and Dr. Erasmi.