Grapevine: Remembering Pearl Harbor and the Monongah Mine Disaster of 1907

By Rosalyn Queen Alonso | December 06, 2016
The first week in December is a time when we observe two very sad anniversaries.  First is the bombing of Pearl Harbor and second is the Monongah Mine Explosion.
 
We all know how the incident at Pearl Harbor affected the United States and that there were many families that experienced loss from that fatal event. If you have watched television this week then you have seen many documentaries on this event and how FDR led our country through this very difficult time in our nation's history. It only reminds us of the pain and loss that many endured during this horrible event.
 
No matter how hard I searched I could not find any mention of the Monongah Mine explosion on television.  This horrible mine explosion claimed many lives and affected many families, especially here in West Virginia. 
 
My own family was personally affected by this event and no matter how hard I try I just cannot seem to get the information I seek for my family from this event.  My grandfather, Giovanni Oliverio, was killed in this mine explosion.  He married my grandmother, Giovanni Iquinta, in Italy and in 1905 they gave birth to my father Biaggio Oliverio.  At this time my grandfather left Italy and came to West Virginia to seek a job, hoping he would be able to send for his wife and son to come join him.  But fate had other plans for him and he was in that mine on that fatal day and lost his life. 
 
My Grandmother and her son (my father) were still in Italy and records show that the mining company sent them a meager death benefit for the loss of their family member.
 
Shortly after my grandfather's death, my grandmother remarried, Louigi Burnetti.  They had one daughter Rose Burnett Oliverio.  Louigi left Italy on that same journey to West Virginia and was employed in a mine.  The story is different here as he was able to send for his wife and two children to join him.
 
When they came through immigration at Ellis Island my father came through as Biaggio Burnett for fear that he would not be able to enter if he did not have the same name as my grandmother and aunt.
 
History now tells us that he used that name for the rest of his life and only after he died did I learn that he was really an Oliverio and I never had a conversation about it with him.  I documented this with the mine records that I received from the mine library in Beckley. We were able to locate his grave in the cemetery in Monongha, which my sisters and I visited.   
 
History tells me that his parents were Gallo Maria and Biaggio Oliverio. Several times while I visited San Giovanni I searched at the Municipal Building there for records that would indicate that perhaps he had siblings and that we might have living relatives still in Italy.  I was not able to turn up any records.  I was able to find the Oliverio house which he was born in and which is still inhabited by Oliverio's.  We feel that these are relatives of ours, perhaps cousins but have not been able to make a true connection, although they receive us very warmly when we visit. 
 
My quest to find which Oliverio family we are related to continues.  I would like to have this information for my children and grandchildren. Every year at this time I spend a lot of time thinking about this fatal accident and how it has affected my family. I am sure the same is true of many other families.
 
West Virginia has suffered many mine explosions but to my recollection this was one of the worst.  If you have any connections to this event, I urge you to find the history for your family before it gets too late.
 
Did we think several months ago that we would be this close to Christmas already?  I didn't! No matter how hard we try we cannot stop it so we might as well just lay back and enjoy the happenings. 
 
This past week I was invited by Ruby Oldaker to attend a Christmas concert at her church. The Allegheny Wesley College presented the concert.  They are a Christian college located in Ohio and they made the trip here to present this Christmas program. The choir was accompanied by violins and all types of musical instruments.  Although they sang traditional Christmas songs they were just about all presented in a different song type.  It was a very beautiful program and I congratulate the young people who participated in this event. 
 
I want to offer my readers a reminder to put the John Angotti Christmas Concert program on your schedule.  It will be held on December 18 at the Immaculate Conception Church and it is open to the public.
 
There are two other events that I look forward to this first week of December and that is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the birthday of my sons, Michael and Marty.  These both occur on December 8th.
 
2016 has been some year for my boys, both good and bad, but we look forward to next year with courage and faith. Happy birthday to my sons and many more to come in good health.
 
It is now time to enjoy this wonderful season; what is done is done and what is not can be done next year.  Take care, stay in touch and until next week "Now You Have Heard It Through The Grapevine."
 
Top Photo:  USS West Virginia after it was bombed in Pearl Harbor

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