Monday, June 14, 2021

Coal and an explosion of diversity in Lucas County

I was able to help point a friend toward the Chariton Cemetery grave of Marko "Chicago Mike" Vucicic the other day --- and that got me to thinking again about the diversity that Lucas County's coal industry brought to a region that now doesn't seem very diverse at all.

Chicago Mike, still remembered because his skills as a gambler and bootlegger were combined with a charismatic personality, was born in Croatia during 1894 and died in a Des Moines car accident during 1928. His remains were taken to Chicago for burial, but many years later his younger brother, John, arranged to have both body and tombstone brought to the Chariton Cemetery, where the men now are buried side by side. Mike's surname is spelled "Vucicic" on one side of the stone; John's, "Vucich" on the other, and that sometimes causes a little confusion. You can read a little more about Chicago Mike here, in a post titled "Chicago Mike's homecoming."

Most of the immigrant miners during the first phase of mining history here, from the late 1870s until roughly 1900, were Welsh --- or from elsewhere in the British isles. A substantial number of black miners and their families, recruited in Virginia and other former slave states, also were part of that first wave.

The second wave, commencing ca. 1913 and continuing into the 1930s, brought miners and their families to Lucas County from all over the place, including Croatia. The following report of a naturalization ceremony at the Lucas County Courthouse, published in The Herald-Patriot of Sept. 2, 1926, provides some idea:


An interesting and impressive ceremony took place at the court room in Chariton on Monday forenoon when five citizens received their naturalization papers and are now full-fledged American citizens with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.

These five people are Joe Radosevich of Olmitz, born in Croatia; Tony Kauziarich, Chariton, native of Austria; Albert Blennune, of Olmitz, born in France; Mrs. Anna Margaret Vogel of Chariton, who was born in America but lost her citizenship through removal to Canada; and Steve Dergo of Williamson, native of Austria.

Judge Walker administered the oath of allegiance, after which a program conducted by four organizations, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Women's Relief Corps, Chariton Woman's Club and Women's Christian Temperance Union, was carried out. All united in singing "My Country 'tis of Thee" after which Miss Myra Dungan gave the address of welcome to American citizenship. Mrs. Harold Levis gave a musical reading, "Your Flag and My Flag" with violin accompaniment by Miss Doris Boothe.

Each new citizen was presented with a silk flag by the W.R.C. and with manuals and pamphlets on citizenship by the D.A.R. and W.C.T.U. In declaring their allegiance to this country these new citizens avowed their intention of obeying the laws and of upholding and defending the constitution of the United States. All are glad to know that while they elected to make America their home, they also wanted to take their allegiance to this county and defend it, if need be.


Although by no means resulting from a comprehensive search, here are a few other reports on naturalizations found under "court news" headings in the Chariton newspapers during the 1920s:

Herald-Patriot, Nov. 8, 1923: "On Wednesday five received naturalization papers and are now full fledged American citizens. They are Minella Antonia Pasquale, born in  Fonzasco, Italy; John Elay Toigo, born in Arten, Italy; Carlo Colombo, born in Creosole, Italy; Daniel Pastovich, born in St. Rock, Croatia, Austria; and Battista Bioletto, born In Lucana, Italy. Judge Vermillion stated that they were exceptionally bright, intelligent men, and that they had evidently had good instructors."

Chariton Leader, Aug. 30, 1927: "Judge Walker gave citizenship today to David Gardiner Paton, Scotland; August Drovich, Croatia; and James Tighe, England. The following two were continued: Mike Nikolish, Croatia, and Ejnar Persson, Sweden."

Herald-Patriot, Aug. 30, 1928: "Tuesday forenoon was given over to naturalization hearings, and now Lucas county, and the republic, has nine more citizens than heretofore: Astrid Pearson, Sweden; Maria Larson, Sweden; Sjnas Pearson, England; Philip Hedger, India; Niles Edward Larson, Sweden; Fred Seex, Wales; Elizabeth Seex, Wales; Steve Bicanic, Croatia; Joseph Storey, England."

I didn't check for accuracy the spellings of the names of either the new citizens or their places of origin, so I'm making no guarantees about accuracy here.

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