|The story of my grandfather
by Sal Romano
After years of
hardship, sickness, and severe economic conditions in Val di Non, many 'nonesi' began
emigrating to the U.S. in the late 1800's and early 1900's. A common departure point was
the city of Trento. From there, an emigrant was able to travel to the ports of Trieste,
Italy and LeHavre, France where ships left for North and South America. Studies undertaken
by the province of Trento show that only 20% of Trentini emigrants migrated to the United
State, while 60% travelled to South America (principally Brazil and Argentina). For those
travelling to North America, the voyage generally ended in New York City, where departure
by train to other areas of America was possible. Carrying Austrian passports, they were
generally able to avoid much of the discrimination endured by the Italian people.
A large number of emigrants to the United States, especially from the
Val di Non, settled in the coal mining areas of Pennsylvania. Others from Val di Non
settled in mining areas of Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. Many of the emigrants
(including my grandparents) travelled by rail to the state of Colorado, settling in the
southeastern part of the state, especially in the vicinity of Trinidad. Trinidad,
approximately 15 miles from the Colorado-New Mexico border, contained many coal mining
towns (Hastings, Primero, Segundo, Ludlow).
My grandfather, Roberto Iob, a native of the village of Cunevo, arrived
in Hastings in 1905 to join his brother Francesco in the coal mines run by the Victor Coal
Company (later known as the Victor-American Fuel Company). The population of Hastings
varies, depending upon the source used. In 1890, there were fewer than 100 people living
in the town. The town grew to 1500 residents in 1894, 2000 in 1909, but then rapidly
decreasing to less than 700 in 1912, and little more than 300 in the mid-1930's. The mine
at Hastings was abandoned in the 1920's, and most traces of the town had disappeared by
the early 1950's.
Life at the mining camps was hard, and miners poorly treated. The
living quarters in the camps were constructed of clapboard walls and poorly maintained.
The living areas were within sight of the mine facilities and coal dust polluted the air.
Although the miners were paid for their work, they often were paid in company
"scrip" which had to be converted to cash at a discounted rate. The miners had
to buy food, medical care, and other necessities from company-owned facilities. The cost
of these necessities was deducted from the miners' wages. Additionally, the conditions in
the mines themselves were unsafe and led to many accidents. Francesco Iob (the spelling of
this name was later "Americanized" to Yob) was killed in an underground
explosion in 1906, leaving his widow and two small children (a third had died of pneumonia
two weeks earlier). The cemeteries surrounding the old mining towns of southern and
central Colorado contain reminders of the sacrifices made by the emigrants not only of Val
di Non, but also of many other parts of Trentino.
More information about Trentini emigration to the US is on my website