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Coming To America

May 26, 2017

We are a nation of immigrants and my family is no exception. My family originated in the small village of Cloz in the Val di Non of Northern Italy (then Austria). It is a tightly knit place of ancient people and ancient ways. During the 1860’s, the economy became so bad that many families were literally starving to death. Like other Europeans, they looked to America for comfort and salvation.

My family was certainly not the first to pick-up and go to America. Many others had gone before. Instead, my great-grandfather tried to earn a living in Germany as an eisemponieri (railroad laborer) constructing tunnels in Bavaria. When he returned to his native Cloz, he died of appendicitis at age 40. His son, my grandfather Eugenio, decided he did not want to share the same fate and boarded a ship for America in 1891.

The 19 year old Eugenio went to Rock Springs, Wyoming where other fellow Tiroleans had gone to seek their fortune. Like most others, he started as a dollar a day coal miner. However, he saved his money and bought into a local bar and then later into a large sheep ranching concern. He had built a stable life but lacked a wife. In the fashion of the day, he sent a letter to a family friend and asked if she would like to come to America to be his wife. Would she? As soon as the ticket arrived, she was on the next ship.

That ship turned out to be the SS Bretagne (pictured above). She made the long trip to Havre, France and then the longer passage to Ellis Island, finally heading west by train into an unknown future in the high desert of Rock Springs. Arriving after over a month of travel, she was relieved to be in her new home. Unlike today’s immigrants, she was required, like her husband, to learn English, get a job and contribute fully to her new country. She did all of that and then some.

The following video was posted to Youtube to honor my grandparents and the thousands like them who risked so much to leave their native Val di Non come to America. After they arrived, they were forever grateful to be Americans. We should all be that grateful.



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2 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on allenrizzi and commented:

    Immigration – The right way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My maternal grandparents came from Italy fri a farming Villiage to America. They learned English as their children did in school. They were citizens.

    My paternal side came to get away from German hatred. Only some managed, and I am grateful that some got out. They didn’t speak a word of English when they came. They still spoke their tongue when they died. In between they learned English from their children. It wasn’t a requirement to live here, it was a privilege that many people no longer have. If you’re working three jobs to make ends meet, you’re not at the dining room table doing homework with your children. When they came over it was different. Family had more importance because the cost of living was lower and even the lowest paying jobs could keep a roof over your head. Sometimes you could take in a renter to round out the income, but you could survive. Now, even in the slums, the cost of living is beyond the minimum wage. You can’t get food for 12 on a half weeks salary and a house for the other half. Now you need 2 jobs to pay rent in a one room sardine can and a third just to eat.

    Different times cause different outcomes.

    My mother’s father went blind at 40 and he couldn’t work his normal job anymore. So he raised chickens in the basement and slaughtered them to sell to the meat market. My grandmother took in boarders. That’s how they raised 15 kids. If you had a half dozen chickens in your basement and a boarder in one bedroom in your house, you couldn’t afford the house, the food to feed your family of three or the diapers let alone all of that. Different times.

    Liked by 1 person

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