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family joined him in 1917 and Mr. Butti remembers the journey in wartime and the blackout on the ship. He began work at age 16 (1920) running a boiler and hoist in the mines in
Nordegg. He describes life in Canmore on their arrival-there were about seven families, all from the Piedmont, but he also mentions other workers from the southern Italian regions of Abruzzi and
Friuli. After being injured as a result of the collapse of a scaffold in 1920, Mr. Butti senior moved his family to Edmonton and with monies received from the Compensation Board set up an electrical shop, which his son operated until his retirement.
same experiences are replicated again and again in all Alberta mining communities including cities, such as Edmonton and
Lethbridge, as well as mining towns and camps. These include
Bankhead, Silver City, Coleman and Blairmore, Canmore, Nordegg,
Luscar, Mountain Park, Cadomin, Coalhurst, Drumheller-all of those communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were a part of the industrial development of the Province of Alberta. Individuals involved in this early settlement phase include: ("Curly") Miglierina, Angelo
Toppano, Mrs. and Mrs. S. Stocco,
Baceda, Angelo Ermacora,
Vincenzo (Jim) Bifano and
Lawrence Grassi. To experience their lives and hardships, please checkout the
Oral Histories in
the People section of this website, and family histories in the Pioneer sections of
our regional profiles.
Evidence drawn from the oral and community histories casts some doubt on the common assertion that most immigrants came from southern Italy.
This is not borne out in Alberta in this early wave of immigration. A majority of immigrants to the mining centres appear to have come from northern Italy. It is clear, as well, that not only blood kin emigrated together but also people from the same
town or region. It is important to understand that the ties of community and region in Italy, in the last part of the 19th century, were more important that any other ties except blood ties. Italy, as a national state, was a new creation and allegiances were to the local governing unit and even the local aristocratic family. Relationship was, thus, not solely based on blood ties but also on the fact that they had lived in a community and had been rooted in a region for generations and generations.
Thus, the geographical linkage that made them paesani [townsmen] was incredibly important and, as Stan Carbone has pointed out, labourers were recruited through agricultural fairs in their hometowns and emigrated en masse. While in Winnipeg, the early Italian community was from the town of Amato in Italy, this was not the case in Edmonton. Immigrants came from both north and south.1
Albi, in an oral history interview, notes that, in 1948, a labour agent was recruiting from Winnipeg and he states: "It was generally believed that in a few years most of Grimaldi would be in Winnipeg." Post-war Italy was suffering from unemployment, lack of food and extreme poverty and emigration to North and South America was as attractive as it had been earlier in the century.
Year of the Coal Miner
September 2003 to September 2004
This is the first time that coal mining museums and historic sites have joined together to celebrate
the story of coal mining in the region of Southern Alberta and
the Crowsnest Pass. The partners joining in to implement the
Year of the Coal Miner include (to date):
of the Coal Miner website
- Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives, Lethbridge, Alberta
- Galt #8 Mine Historic Site Society, Lethbridge, Alberta
- Frank Slide Interpretive Centre , Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
- Leitch Collieries Provincial historic Site, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
- Crowsnest Museum, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
Crowsnest Pass Ecomuseum Trust , Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
- Bellevue Mine Tours, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
- Fernie Historical Society, Fernie, British Columbia
- Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre, Canmore, Alberta
- Atlas Coal Mine Museum, Drumheller, Alberta
- Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta