PITTSTON — Greater Pittston may be known for its Italian and Irish roots, but a recent presentation hosted by the Greater Pittston Historical Society (GPHS) delved deeper into those backgrounds and others.
The GPHS hosted four presenters who talked about Irish, Welsh, Italian and Lithuanian backgrounds in the Anthracite region in a presentation called “Ethnicity in the Anthracite Region: An Appreciation of Five Local Heritage Groups.”
The event held in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church and GPHS President Ron Faraday said it was part of recognizing Mining History Month in January.
“Tonight helped to celebrate Mining History Monthly, discussing the different heritages, ethnicities in the Greater Pittston area,” he said. “We participated each of the last four years in Mining History Month, but this is the first time we’ve had this topic.”
Presenters included Jim McFarland, who spoke of the Irish; Dr. Carol Gargan, who spoke of the Lithuanians; Fiona Powell, who spoke of the Welsh; and Stephanie Longo, who spoke of the Italians.
Each presenter spoke about the history of their heritage and the impact it has had in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I talked about the Irish coming to America and the cultural effect it had on the Anthracite coal regions,” McFarland said. “(I talked about) where we came from and how we assimilated into (the area.)”
McFarland said he learned in his research how much of the Irish descent make up the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, claiming 22 percent of the region is Irish.
Despite years of research, MacFarland said he’s always learning more.
“I keep finding new things every time I look,” he said.
Longo, who touched on the Italian heritage, referred her presentation to the Lackawanna County region of Northeast PA, but felt it still tied in with Greater Pittston.
“They’re right next door to each other, and, to me, Italian heritage is universal,” she said. “We all have our different little pieces, depending on where we’re actually from. Because of the fact that Italian heritage is universal, everybody can find that little piece of pride in their heritage. A person from Luzerne County can listen to a presentation on Lackawanna County and think to themselves ‘Yeah, I’ve seen that in my home. I’ve seen this and I understand what it’s about.’”
Longo spoke of the numerous Italian festivals in Lackawanna County and what they represent to the Italian heritage and how which ones hit home for Greater Pittston.
“Honestly, I think they all do,” she said. “As I was speaking, I was looking out in the crowd and you could see the smiles and nods of the head.”
Around 100 people attended the event, including Mike and Pam Castellani, of Sweet Valley.
The husband and wife said they’ve attended multiple presentations similar to this one.
“We came to a couple of these presentations last year,” Pam said. “They’ve kind of become our adventure in the winter time. They’re very educational and the things we found out are a lot of things we didn’t know that we probably should know.”
Even though they don’t reside in Greater Pittston, the event offered the Castellanis a chance to learn about their own heritage. Mike said he’s of Italian and Polish decent, while Pam said she’s Welsh, German, Pennsylvania Dutch and Swedish.
“I wish I would’ve known more,” Mike said.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher