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When Coal Was King
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Elk Valley

Luigi and Assunta Marasco. Assunta Arriving in Fernie, 1953.The Elk Valley is in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, an area blessed with natural beauty and rich deposits of coal. It became a destination for immigrants at the end of the 19th century. The region is dotted with small communities including Fernie, Michel and Natal established by people who arrived in different waves of immigration from Europe. These included Slavic-speaking people of Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech and Slovak heritage; Italians; and Anglo-Europeans from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Eastern Canada and the US.

They worked in the mines, railways, sawmills and other businesses that supported the mines. A significant number of immigrants were of Italian descent with many of the earliest immigrants coming from northern Italy. The last major wave of Italians into the Elk Valley occurred after World War II into the 1950s.

The Italian community is the only one which has been documented and the profiles are based on the Elk Valley Italian Oral History Project. The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank project personnel including Leslie Robertson and the Fernie and District Historical Society (a member of the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium) for permission to reprint this material.

Watch John Kinnear as he tells the story of coal mining in his family's history, including its evolution over three generations, in this video produced by CFCN Television.

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