MAHONING VALLEY, Ohio (WKBN) – Valley native Joe Tucciarone uncovered what he believes to be the first settlement of Italians in the Mahoning Valley area.
“We are pretty sure this is how the Italian community in Youngstown was founded,” Tucciarone said.
It all started about a dozen years ago when Tucciarone decided to do some research on his family history.
“It took me through census records, birth records in Trumbull County, newspaper articles, property deeds, and things like that, and ship manifests,” Tucciarone said.
Tucciarone says what he found was surprising to him.
The Coalburg community was a small community located in Hubbard. The Italians who settled there in the 1870s were known as the Coalburg Italians.
“Never big enough to be a city or even a village, Coalburg is a patchwork of country homes, and small family businesses with less than a thousand residents,” according to a mini-documentary Tucciarone put together.
The area was named after its coal mining work. In the 1860s, Welsh, Scottish and German immigrant workers were hired.
“There were coal mines all over the Youngstown area… In 1873, all the coal miners in the area went on strike because the operators were gonna cut their pay,” Tucciarone said.
According to the documentary, businessman Chauncey Andrews would hire Black workers from Virginia to take the place of the 7,000 miners on strike. However, when the miners from Virginia were denied a pay raise, from $0.90 to $1.10 a ton, they also went on strike.
Andrews, and other employers, looked further for more replacement workers.
Over in Italy, many people were affected by taxation and growing unemployment, and many were forced to leave their homeland. Thousands ended up in New York City.
“Many of them were basically cheated, lied to, and sent to New York. They had paid to go to Buenos Aires in Argentina. But they were sent to New York, by the bad guys who kept the money… It turns out they were housed by the immigration department there at the immigration station which had a telegraph office which enabled employers from around the country to kind of check in to see if there were immigrants who needed jobs,” Tucciarone said.
From there, 100 Italians would be brought to Hubbard to work at the Mahoning Coal Company, which had shut down from the strikes.
Tucciarone believes these were the first Italians in the Mahoning Valley area. He said other than his research, he found no history of the Coalburg Italians.
“As we researched this material, we found that there was nothing written about it anywhere that we could find it — books or online, or anywhere. So what’s in our book has been lost for 150 years,” he said. “There were no Italians in the Mahoning Valley before these first 100 came to Coalburg in 1873. I’ve checked census records, newspaper articles and so forth, and there’s no trace of any Italians.”
Because the Italian miners didn’t speak English, many of them didn’t know what was going on or that there was a strike, Tucciarone said.
“They got off the train in Coalburg, and they were faced by hundreds of local strikers who were angry to see these replacement workers,” Tucciarone said.
Still, the newly relocated Italians began to work, and over the years, more would come to do the same.
“They write back to their family and friends in their home country and they say, ‘Hey, come on over, there’s jobs and places to live.’ That’s called chain migration, and we know that’s what happened with these Italians cause more came, my family came,” Tucciarone said.
A few years ago, Tucciarone, along with Ben Lariccia, wrote a book called “Coal War in the Mahoning Valley.” The book details the findings from their research. Tucciarone says his short educational documentary is based on the information in the book.
Tucciarone says he’s never done this type of research before, but he’s very happy to be able to uncover a piece of lost history.
Anyone interested in reading Tucciarone’s book can find it online at Barnes and Noble as well as arcadiapublishing.com.