Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: Carpatho-Rusyns in the Slate Valley

Our new exhibit is open!  Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: Carpatho-Rusyns in the Slate Valley tells the story of immigrants from Slovakia and Southern Poland who made the journey to the Slate Valley of New York and Vermont in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Oral Histories

All of these oral histories were digitized!! Some are available now on our website, but in a few months, they will ALL be available on our new website. We will keep you updated!

Creating the exhibit was a great adventure. We had very little information to go on as there is not much of a written record. We found some threads of information in Gwilym Robert’s book New Lives in the Valley, one of our favorite sources here at the Slate Valley Museum. Newspaper reports from the time documented the “Hungarian” immigrants getting into bar fights and inciting riots—but there was little other information.

Luckily, when we started to research, we were in the process of digitizing our oral histories. As we listened to the newly digitized versions, we learned great information about the lives of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. Mike “Pinkie” Labas told the story of growing up in Granville’s Alley in the longhouses, low-income housing more commonly called tenements. Labas talked about all the ways that he and the other children helped their parents bring in extra income. For example, the children spent their summers picking berries in nearby woods and fields as well as snaring fish in the Mettowee River to sell to their more well-off neighbors.

Slate Workers

Carpatho-Rusyn workers often had to do the most dangerous of quarry jobs–working deep in the pits, setting off explosives and shoveling up the slag.

Labas Children in the Alley

The children of John and Anna Labas standing in the center of the Alley, where the Slate Valley Museum is located today.

We also found videos featuring Mike “Pinkie” Labas, church activities at Saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, as well as several members of the Prehoda Family. We QUICKLY had the videos digitized and were able to incorporate them into the exhibit. Look for a few snippets from these on YouTube soon. Or . . . you could come to the Slate Valley Museum to listen to them in person. The exhibit will be on display through December 2013.

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About slatevalleymuseum

This year, Slate Valley Museum celebrates its 15th year of exciting range of programs, exhibitions, and special events that share its mission to collect, catalogue, conserve, exhibit, and interpret materials, artifacts, machines, and information that demonstrate the geology of slate and the history of slate quarrying and the quarrying community in the Slate Valley of New York and Vermont. We invite you to join us and... explore... exhibits of historic artifacts from the area's renowned slate quarries and mills displays revealing the science and art of slate quarrying, and its influence on the Slate Valley culture a quarry shanty, complete with all the machinery and tools used in traditional slate quarrying a geological display illustrating the natural history of slate examples of how slate has been used in the structure and decor of local buildings and as an inspriration for artworks in various media and our new multi-media exhibit HEAVY LIFTING: A Human and Technological History of Moving Slate from Quarry to Market, 1850-Present
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