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OUR IMMIGRANT HISTORY
Freeland has a complex cultural history, enriched by the various ethnic groups that came to the Freeland area to live. Earliest settlers were English, German, Welsh. They were joined by Irish, and by other groups: Italians, Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians (Magyars), Jews, Lithuanians, Tyroleans, Carpatho-Ruthenians, Portuguese, and others. Immigrants came to the U.S. through a small number of specially designated ports, the most well-known being Ellis Island, pictured at the top of this page. Often, but not always, the new immigrants would eventually begin the process of naturalization and then become citizens. Paperwork relating to this process would be filed at the Luzerne County courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, shown at left, and they are still stored there today.
Many immigrants came because they had heard that there was work here; often someone they knew had come over earlier and sent back reports. Occasionally mine operators even hired agents to go to Europe and recruit workers. While many immigrants put down roots in their new home, not everyone stayed. Some immigrants came with the short-term goal of simply making money to take back to the old country, and others came alone, working and sending money back to their families. Some made the trip back and forth across the ocean more than once. Meanwhile, here in the "new country," some Freelanders such as John Shigo (Cajko in the old country) did a good business as shipping agents, helping immigrants to send goods and money as well as helping them to travel overseas themselves.
RUSYN LANGUAGE TEXTBOOK FROM ST. MARY'S SCHOOL
This Rusyn textbook, in use in St. Mary's in the 1920s and perhaps later, is an interesting piece of Freeland's history. St. Mary's was founded by Carpatho-Ruthenian immigrants, whose children were taught Rusyn in school to maintain a cultural connection with the old country. The book was given to me by a classmate, Patricia Bzdil (now Patricia Paul), and so it's thanks to her that it's online here.
As an aside, the effects of the American melting pot took
hold over several decades. By the time I attended school
at St. Mary's in the 1950s, we were no longer taught to
read, write and speak Rusyn. We did, however, learn to
pray in Rusyn (referred to as Porusski - the Slovak word
for Russian language, but in this case it was Rusyn), we
were given dual language prayerbooks for our First Holy
Communion ("Heavenly Manna - Nebesnaja Manna"), and we
sang the mass in Porusski six days a week. That linguistic
connection was all but obliterated when the Vatican
decreed that Catholic masses would only be celebrated in