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    John Camarta:  Oral History Transcript Summary

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Louis (Luigi)

Mike Biollo

Father Giovanni

Camillo Bridarolli

Mr. & Mrs. Henry

John Camarta

Domenico Chiarello

Joe Fabbri

Mario Grassi

Victor Losa

Filomena Michetti

Mrs. Mamie Meardi

Tony Nimis

Giorgio W. &
Norma Pocaterra

Mr. & Mrs. John

Romano Tedesco &
Mrs. Irma Giacobbo

Angelo Toppano

Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

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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 available.
  • 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 had accomplished.
  • 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 homestead.
  • 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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