'Let's Talk History' session to focus on immigration to Mt. Pleasant
Homes sporting German stars dot the Western Pennsylvania countryside, haluski makes appearances at festivals and ethnic-centered social clubs can be found in nearly every area community.
Mt. Pleasant Borough is a prime example of one such municipality which has been shaped by the immigrants who settled there.
That topic will be the focus of the next “Let's Talk History” at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library.
The discussed, entitled “Immigration to Our Area,” will be centered around how and when the various ethnic groups migrated to the area and where they settled.
“I think 75 percent of the people who immigrated to the United States from around 1870 to 1910 settled in Central and Western Pennsylvania. So we were the incubator from which this ethnic story was born,” said borough resident Cassandra Vivian, who serves as the event's moderator.
Vivian said there were many different ethnic groups that settled in the region including: Poles, Slovaks, Russians, Irish, Germans and Italians.
“When they came here they all came in their native costumes, so this town was filled with Hungarian women in their clothes and Russian women in their clothes and many others,” Vivian said. “What a sight it must have been?”
Borough Mayor Jerry Lucia said many familiar landmarks in Mt. Pleasant were built where they are because of the immigrants that settled in those areas of town.
“One area of town in the 3rd Ward, from Summit Street down to Warden Alley, is called “Dutchtown.” No one seems to know why. The 3rd Ward was where the Italians and the Irish settled,” Lucia said.
In the 2nd Ward in the area of North Diamond Street is where the Polish settled, and that is why the Polish church and Polish club is there, Lucia added.
“The Slovaks settled in the area where Kraisinger's Market is and near Visitation Church. Back then you walked to school, you walked to church and that is why they settled in those areas,” he said.
Vivian will lead the group in discussions about the “old country,” the journey to America and life in the coal mines and coal patches.
Vivian said she hopes people will come and bring their stories, photos and artifacts to share with the group.
One regular group participant planning to attend is Sharon Hribal of Scottdale.
Hribal has stories to share about her ancestors coming to Mt. Pleasant from what was then called Bohemia, now an area that is part of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
She and her mother have even traveled there to see where their family lived.
“Many Czechs or Bohemians came to this area because the rolling hills reminded them of home,” she said. “They were glass workers and they worked in the glass factories here.”
Hribal recalled the story of her ancestors coming to the United States.
They did not know how to read or write because there was not free education available to them in Europe, she said.
“Only the rich were educated. When they got to Ellis Island, they were asked how to spell their name. Since they could not, the immigration officer spelled it the way it sounded, Shebal,” Hribal said.
It was not until later, when her ancestors were sent back home for their baptismal certificates, that they learned the correct spelling was Hribal and made the change.
“I would like to hear stories like this from other people who are descendants from other nationalities,” she said.
Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.