The following history was submitted to Miners’ Memorial by Philip and Sherry Castagno. The story was written by daughters Rosalie Machetta Castagno and Beatrice Machetta Jackson.
John Machetta was born on July 26, 1883 in Monestaro, Italy. He and his bride, Maria Adelaide Demichelis, came to this country from the Piedmont area of northern Italy. They sailed from Le Harve, France, on La Provence, landing at Ellis Island on December 20, 1908. Soon after their arrival and clearing with the immigration service, they departed for Illinois where relatives and their sponsor lived.
After spending a few months in Illinois, where work for miners proved to be limited, they decided to relocate in southeast Kansas. They chose to live in East Mineral where our father began his long years of work in the coal mines in the surrounding area.
His first employment was with the Mackie Clemens Coal Mining Company nearby. Our three brothers, James, Barney, and Charles were born in East Mineral. The eldest brother, James, also worked in the coal mines for a short time. He and our two other brothers are now deceased. In order to be closer to his work, our father moved the family in 1918 to East Chicopee where he went to work for the Hamilton Coal Mining Company.
In his spare time he lent a helping hand in the construction of the public grade school in Chicopee. The construction of the school was completed in the summer of 1922, in time for the fall opening of school.
We remember our father telling us how he made use of a horse and buggy to get to and from the mine each day. During winter storms it would be necessary to use a shield for protection from the wind and blowing snow. He traveled many miles using the rig until the arrival of the automobile.
Our home in Chicopee was located on three large lots, which gave ample room for a garden, fruit trees and a grape arbor. Our father grew a large garden during the season. Our mother canned fruits and vegetables to help feed us during the winter months. They also had cows, raised chickens and hogs. The pigs were butchered and processed into delicious sausage, and other cuts. Lard was made, and further processed into soap.
Butter and cheese were made from the cows’ milk. Excess milk and eggs were sold to neighbors in order to supplement family income.
In the early 1940s our mother was concerned about the hard labor involved in working as a coal miner, as well as the danger involved in working underground. She encouraged our father to change his type of employment. There were many construction jobs available in the area because World War II had just begun.
He was able to find work as a laborer at the Jayhawk Works of the Army Ammunition Plant near Crestline. He worked there a couple of years when a friend, who was part owner in a coal mine near Cherokee, asked him to return to work in the Kruger Mine. His reputation of being a hard and safe worker and his love for mining overcame his concern for hard work and danger.
Even though our parents didn’t have many material possessions, they showed a wealth of compassion toward their neighbors. They were always ready to help when needed. One of their neighbors happened to be a blind couple; they made sure this couple had the necessities to survive. Mother prepared food at other times for neighbors who were ill. They assisted another family who had difficulty with the English language. Help with the English language was especially needed when the wife was planning her husband’s funeral. Our father could speak three languages fluently—English, Italian, and French. Mother spoke English, Italian and some French.
We were very fortunate that our father never suffered any serious injuries or respiratory ailments while working in the mines. He was a devoted United Mine Workers of America member.
In 1939, he and mother became United States citizens. To receive their citizenship papers, they had to recite the Preamble of the Constitution. Upon receiving their citizenship, they never failed to vote in both the primary and general elections. Their names appear on the Immigrant Wall at Ellis Island. Father’s name is etched on one of the Miners Memorial monuments in Immigrant Park.
In 1963, our mother passed away at the age of seventy-three. It wasn’t until 1971, that our father passed away at the age of eighty-eight. They lived long enough to see the birth of nineteen grandchildren and several great grandchildren. We love them with all of our hearts and to this day we miss them very much.