Great Grandfather Garafola

(The following was recorded and written by Jeanne Garafola/Maron, my mother’s 2nd cousin in 1965. Transcribed to digital by me on Sept. 9th, 2015)

Farm in Calabria, Italy

                   Farm in Calabria, Italy

Great Grandfather Garafola

Great Grandfather the youngest of 3 boys in his family was born and lived on the same farm all his life. It was located in the State of Calabria, and the province of Cosenza. The mail was sent to the province seat Scigliano, and delivered to the farm known as Monte-di-Corvo, meaning Mountain of the crow.

The farm itself was small and quite rocky. The hillsides had been terraced and many olive trees were grown. At harvest time olive oil merchants would come to Monte-di-Corvo, stay overnight and leave with the olives in bags loaded on donkeys. The donkey caravan carried the product to Naples to be pressed into olive oil.

The rich soil at the foot of the hills was used for cultivation of grapes. Wheat, grains, and vegetables were planted between the rows of vines thus making double use of the small acreage. The vineyards here were known throughout Italy for Great Grandfather Garafola was always experimenting with various graftings. Many varieties of grapes were produced. People came long distance to purchase the vines.

A small brook ran through the farm. Along one side were many fig trees all of one variety. Farther away from the house were two groves of trees. In one grove were chestnuts and great giant oaks. The other grove contained mulberry trees. At one time the leaves of these trees were used for feeding the silkworms. The entire family had participated in this occupation. Finally it was discontinued when Great Grandfather Garafola was young because the other brothers had left and help was unavailable.

When Great Grandfather Garafola married he was in his late thirties which was considered quite old. His wife was from a neighboring farm. She was about 10 years younger than he was. Her name was Peppina (Josephine) Sicilia. It was here on this farm that Grandfather Guiseppe Garafola was born April 19, 1888. When he was seventeen years old, as was the custom among the men of that area, Great Grandfather went to America to seek his fortune. He went on a tramp steamer and landed in Brazil. He was able to find employment on a cattle ranch near Rio De Janeiro. He did not enjoy this type of work so after saving a little money he worked his way back home on a cargo ship bound for Italy.

He devoted his time to improving the soil and experimented extensively with his grape vines. Another son, named Mark was born in 1895. This was all of Great Grandfather Garafola’s family.

Grandfather Guiseppe Garafola was sent to school. He had to cross the brook and go around to the other side of the hill. His father accompanied him part of the way. However there were no truant officers in those days and Grandfather attended very few days of the very short school term. Other boys his age joined him and they spent their time in hunting and perfecting various gymnastic skills. He often said he went to school two terms (about six months) when he refused to go any longer. Great Grandfather Garafola warned him that he would regret it some day.

In 1905 Grandfather Guiseppe Garafola married Maria Talerico. They lived with the family at Monte-di-Corvo. After a year Grandfather Garafola decided it was time to follow his father’s footsteps and seek his fortune in the New World. He had information that employment was available in the iron mines of Minnesota. So in June of 1910 he left Grandmother Garafola and a 4 month old daughter and went to Elba, a mining location near Gilbert, Minnesota on the Mesabi Iron Range.

His first job was in an underground mine as a driver of mule drawn ore cars that brought the ore to the mouth of the shaft. He received $1.10 for a 12 hour day, working six days a week. After working a year he received a raise to $1.25 a day. Many considered him fortunate because he had no previous experiences and was very young. After mastering the English language so he could be understood he often suggested some improvements that would benefit both company and the workers. Many suggestions were accepted and put to practice. For this The Pickands Mather Mining Company gave him a number of awards. He often aided the young mining engineers with some of their work. At times he did most of the work for them. He could no advance in this field due to his lack of education. This is when he mentioned that he had not appreciated the opportunity offered him to continue his schooling

Grandfather Garafola saved his poor earnings and after 4 years, in early July sent transportation tickets to Grandmother and Aunt Rose. He had rented a house and furnished it completely; a surprise which he planned was a fully equipped kitchen and a pantry full of food. After much delay for reason which were never very clear to her, Grandmother Garafola set sail on August 1, 1910 for the land which would be her home for the next 42 years. The train took them from Scigliano to Naples, then aboard a French liner to Marseilles. Passengers were taken aboard there and the ship continued through the Strait of Gibralter across the Atlantic Ocean. Because many relatives had settled in sections of Ontario, Canada, the ticket sent to her by Grandfather Garafola for her entry to the United States by way of Montreal, Canada, Sault Ste. Marie Canada and then to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. From the Soo [sic] Grandmother Garafola went on to Duluth, Minnesota and finally to her destination. Her arrival was awaited for with great enthusiasm by the little location of Elba. Each expecting some first hand news of their relatives. The train arrived in the early evening, on August 15, but Grandfather was working the night shift, because it had taken longer for her to come then expected another man who had worked all day went back underground and relieved him so Grandfather could enjoy the great event. It was an event to be remembered, the celebration lasted several days. All friends and countrymen paid the new arrivals a visit during this time, bringing gifts and foods.

The family lived here at Elba until the ore vein in the Elba and Corsica mines were exhausted then they moved to Hibbing continuing living in a mining location and working for the same company. Several other moves were made. In 1926 the family made its last move to Ironton, Minnesota, a home with land was purchased.

There were 5 children in Grandfather Garafola’s family. One was born in Italy and the rest in Minnesota. Grandfather Garafola became ill due to damp conditions in the mine and passed away on January 7, 1928. At the time of his death, Great Grandfather Garafola was 80 years old and still tending to his grapevines.