Those of you who fortunate enough to hear author Enfys McMurry speak at one of our Appanoose County Historical Society functions, or at one of the many other events where she has spoken about our great community, will have heard her mention the disproportionately large immigrant population that Appanoose County boasted in the 1920 census.
If you scan down a page in the census you’ll find the list of names, and to the right you’ll find a column that tells the country from which that person came. The names of 40 different nations can be found in that 1920 census book. A number of “nations of origin” that high would normally come from a community the size of Peoria, that was about 76,000 in 1920. Appanoose County had only about 30,000 residents in 1920.
Coal mining is what brought many of the immigrants here from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, who all passed through Ellis Island on their way to a better life here in Appanoose County. But not all immigrants were coal miners. Santi Milani came to America and brought his craft of ornate plastering work. And there were other immigrants who settled in America years before to round out the 40 nations that were listed.
We want to know your ancestor’s immigrant stories. We want to celebrate what a melting pot that Appanoose County really is. Many communities celebrate their singular national heritage. We, too, should celebrate our unique mixture of ancestors by telling their stories for posterity. If you know the story of your ancestor’s immigration into Appanoose County, please share it with us. We will file it at the museum. And perhaps we’ll feature it during our annual meeting of the Appanoose County Historical Society on April 28, where the presentation will be a melting pot of immigrant stories.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please write or type it and send it via email or regular mail. Please don’t call us on the telephone with your story — we need to have it written by you. We don’t want anything to get lost in the translation. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or our mailing address is 100 W. Maple, Centerville, IA 52544.
Information submitted by Lisa Eddy, curator, Appanoose County Historical Society, 100 West Maple, Centerville, 856-8040, www.appanoosehistory.com.