« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
In Hitchcock, in this same region, there are 20 Italian families and 2 unmarried Italian farmers. The first man to arrive there was Mr. Mosso, who came in 1888 from Galveston. On arrival he wrote to a friend in Italy, and induced the latter to come the next year with his family. This was a prosperous little settlement in 1900, when the storm which caused the destruction of Galveston destroyed many of the Italian homes and laid waste their crops, causing severe financial losses. Subsequently, several families moved elsewhere.
Near San Antonio are about 25 Italian families, devoting all their time to truck gardening. These men raise all varieties of vegetables and supply the retail trade of the city.
Victoria is located in the center of the county that bears its name. In 1883, when the railroad was built through the town, a large number of Italians were employed on the rough construction work. They were all under the direction of an Italian, who had secured them from northern Italy. When the road was completed a few of the Italians remained and purchased homes. At present there are 17 North Italian families located near the town, all owning their farms. They are in a prosperous condition. Their farms vary in size, but all raise cotton, which, both in quality and yield per acre, compares favorably with that raised by the natives. Three Italians are in business in the town. All the Italians have their full naturalization papers, and are said to be very industrious and law abiding.
SOUTH ITALIANS AT BRYAN, TEX.
With the exception of the Italian colonies at Hammonton and Vineland, N.J., the settlement at Bryan, Tex., is perhaps the largest Italian agricultural community in the United States. It is by far the most extensive colony in the Southern States. Moreover, it is prosperous and progressive, though increasing rather slowly in numbers.
Bryan is situated in the center of Brazos County, in the midst of the “bottom lands” of the Brazos River. The soil is very fertile, and the Italians from Sicily have for the most part purchased land along the river, as that is conceded to be the best soil for raising cotton. There are 350 families in the colony, numbering about 1,700 to 1,850 people. Nearly 50 per cent of these farmers own their land and a large percentage of the farms are free from debt. The remainder either rent land "on shares" or for a fixed rental. The usual course of development is as follows: First, the immigrant becomes a "cropper,” furnishing only labor and giving the landowner one-half of the cotton; next, he is a cash tenant, owning a mule and equipment and paying the landlord a cash rent of $6 to $8 per acre; finally, when a little money has been accumulated, he becomes the owner of a small farm, usually cleared and improved, and bought on time at 8 per cent interest. The period between “cropping” and ownership depends on the size of the family, the industry of the head, the boll weevil, and the price of cotton. Very few continue to operate land as share croppers many years, and there is no permanent tenant class among the Italians of Bryan. Cotton, corn, and buckwheat are the principal crops, but every Italian has his vegetable garden.
A large number of the Italians who have acquired a little personal property operate land on the cash-rent basis, paying $5 to $7 per year per acre, and a few of the latest arrivals rent on “shares,” onehalf of the cotton crop being the customary rental. These are the
, "croppers,” and have little or no property of any sort.
The first Italian settler came to Bryan in 1868, after living in Houston for two years previous. He was a shoemaker by trade. From that time to the building of the Houston and Texas Railroad in 1880 very few Italians settled there. When the road was completed, inducements were offered to the Italian railroad laborers to buy land and try farming. Many accepted the opportunity, and the colony took a fresh start. In 1900, according to A. Mastro-Valerio's account in the
. Industrial Commission Report,
there were in the colony 500 persons, From that number, in 1900, the colony has grown steadily until it has reached its present size.
Several of the Italians came directly from Italy to this settlement; others were working in agricultural localities as farm laborers. Few had been working in cotton regions, so that that crop was new to them, yet they had little difficulty in acquiring a knowledge of its culture. After settling and buying land in Bryan few have moved away. A few of those operating on the “share” or “cropping” basis move yearly and constitute the migratory population.
In 1897 a group of five North Italian families came to the colony from Illinois, but they remained only a year. Very few Italians have settled in Bryan in more recent years, the high price of land and its scarcity accounting in some degree for the decrease. The majority of the settlers paid from $40 to $70 per acre for their land a few years ago, and now very little of the best land can be purchased for less than $100 per acre.
Cotton averages one-half bale to the acre, but with care and the application of fertilizer this yield can easily be increased to at least three-fourths or even a bale to the acre. It is said that the Italians make a better cotton crop than many of the Americans or the Bohemians. The cotton is all sold in Bryan, as cotton gins, presses, and warehouses are located in the town. The roads through the are fair dirt roads and are in good condition the greater part of the year, so that the cotton can be marketed with little trouble.
Most of the Italians use the banks for investing their savings, and others do all their business by means of checks. During the panic of 1907 many Italians withdrew their money, but some of the largest depositors neither withdrew their deposits nor came near the bank during the hard times. A few of the Italians keep their money in the house or about their persons, but the majority seem to make use of the banks. The settlers of late years have been borrowing from one another in preference to going to the banks, thus saving 2 or 3 per cent interest. Some still send money abroad, but not nearly as much passes through the post-offices as was the case a few years ago During 1908, $1,797 was sent to Italy from Bryan. The individual sums were small, only 24 of the orders being for more than $25 each.
Whenever a farm is offered for sale, a number of Italians are likely to bargain for it, and the price of land has advanced very materially because of the demand made by the settlers. From 1870 to 1890 improved land sold for $20 per acre, but the price has increased five
country times, and very little Brazos bottom land in the Italian settlement is to be obtained at this price.
a Reports of the United States Industrial Commission, 1901, vol. 15, p. 500.
The houses are small frame structures. They are not very substantially built, but serve the purpose of a home. Still the Italian
. needs a place of shelter only two or three months of the year; the rest of the time he spends out of doors. At home the Italians wear very little clothing, but when attending church or on a visit to the city appear as well
' to do as their American neighbors. The Italian usually buys the best grade of the article he needs, paying more than the Bohemian for his clothes, furniture, wagons, harnesses, and live stock. The gardens of the Italians furnish them with a supply of vegetables throughout the entire year, and these, with eggs, chickens, and hogs obtained on the farm, provide a very comfortable subsistence.
The Italian raises larger crops than the native farmer who is dependent upon negro help. On the Italian farm the women and children work in the fields with the men, though lately the women are giving up their outdoor work to some extent and spending more time in household duties.
The Italians are susceptible to malarial fever, usually brought on through their own carelessness and ignorance of the laws of health, and to these two causes can be traced the most of the sickness among them. Otherwise the climate seems congenial. They engage in no outside supplementary occupation, as farming requires all their time. Thirteen Italians are engaged in various lines of business in Bryan and draw most of their patronage from the Italian community. It is characteristic that the settlers deal with their own race whenever possible. It is said that an Italian deals with an American in preference to one of his own countrymen only when he desires credit. American merchants feel this clannishness very keenly, and out of this fact rises much of the opposition to Italian colonization in the
ASSIMILATION AND AMERICANIZATION.
The Italian does not associate with the Bohemian or American except in a business way, and then only when it is absolutely necessary. Their preference for the Brazos bottom land has caused them to congregate along the course of the river, and this physical fact has brought about social segregation. It has also abnormally advanced land values in the so-called Italian section.
Only one case of intermarriage has occurred in the history of the colony. In that instance an Italian married an American girl. After marriage they found themselves ostracized by their friends, both American and Italian, and therefore moved away. There is no pronounced race prejudice, but the Americans and the Bohemians have little to do with the Italians. It seems to be a case of inability to fuse or mix socially. The Italians are all Roman Catholics, and their church was built some years ago. A resident priest, who conducts mass twice each Sunday, is maintained. His congregation comes from miles around, some from homes 12 miles distant. Most of the Italians send their children to the parochial school; the remainder attend the public school. In school it is said that the Italians compare favorably with the American children in intelligence and apt
ness. In their attendance they are very irregular, as they remain at home whenever they are needed to work in the fields.
Very few of the Italians are voters. Of a total of 400 men 21 years of age or over, less than 100 have qualified for voting. They care little for politics and never seem to desire public office.
The natives speak very highly of the honesty and business integrity of the immigrants. They incur few debts, are not wasteful, and always pay their bills when due. There is very little drunkenness among the Italians at Bryan, and the morals of the community are said to compare favorably with those of any other foreign neighborhood.
When a crime is committed by an Italian the officers can obtain but little information about it, as the settlers show a disposition to shield one another, and it is frequently impossible to find the guilty man, to say nothing of bringing him to justice. The Italians are suspicious, and while they have a wholesome fear of the law, they have little confidence in it and seem to fear that they will not get justice if they fall into the hands of the police.
EFFECT OF THE COLONY.
The Italians have introduced cotton raising on land that was thought to be too heavy for this crop, and the following table shows that they have succeeded very well. Several of the older Italians have died, and the farms have passed into the hands of their children, who continue to work them. There is little in the vicinity to draw the younger generation away from the farm, and with the continuance of the good crops now raised it seems probable that this younger generation will remain permanently in the colony:
The following table shows the economic condition of a few of the South Italian farmers in Bryan. The fact that many of the Italians have been in the locality ten or fifteen years and still continue to rent land should not be taken as meaning an unprosperous condition, for the high price of land makes purchasing an increasingly difficult matter.
TABLE 68. -- Economic condition of certain typical South Italian families, Bryan, Ta.
Signor Rossi, in his report to the Italian Government on the Italians in agriculture, published in 1904, writes as follows about Bryan: "On driving through the country we can at once distinguish the cotton and buckwheat farms of the Italians from those cared for by the negro, as the farms are all so well freed of weeds.” This is quite true to-day, and all candid observers admit that the Italian is a much better farmer than the negro.
SOUTH ITALIANS AT DICKINSON, TEX. Dickinson is located in Galveston County, and is on the main line of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, running from Galveston to Houston, being nearly midway between these two cities. In the neighborhood of the town there are about 125 South Italian families, the majority of them originally from the island of Sicily. The settlement has been in existence twenty years, and the growth has been steady, but not rapid, since its beginning. One hundred and ten of these families own their farms and are engaged in raising vegetables and strawberries. During the year 1909, 47,985 crates of strawberries were sold, netting the farmers $80,230.50. About 90 per cent of the berries were produced by Italian farmers. The farms are small, varying in extent from 2 to 25 acres. In most cases all the land is under cultivation, the bulk of it in vegetables or strawberries.
The first Italians settled here in 1890, coming from Galveston. Mr. Nicolina, an Italian merchant in Galveston, was interested in land in Dickinson and persuaded the first settlers to invest in the locality. The next year another family arrived, and thenceforward the colony grew slowly, a few new families coming in each year, until now there are 125 families of Italians in the immediate neighborhood. The majority of these families came without funds, and were obliged to work' the land on “shares" until they obtained enough money to make a first payment on the land they desired to purchase. In most cases they were “croppers," receiving one-half of all crops raised for working the land. The terms of purchase differ in nearly every case, for nearly all land is bought subject to mortgage and the buyer is obliged to pay a small amount down and from 6 to 10 per cent interest on the balance. The majority of the Italians came direct from their homes in Sicily to Dickinson. The others moved from other points, chiefly in Texas, where they had been engaged in a variety of occupations.
During the first few years they met with many difficulties, most of them due to the prejudice of the old inhabitants, who seemed to be very much opposed to the coming of foreigners. But this feeling has gradually died out, and only a few old residents continue to manifest a dislike for the immigrants.
There have been few desertions from the settlement by the resident landowners, but many of the tenants have moved to localities where land could be purchased at more reasonable rates. Each year a few new families arrive, as the place is so convenient to Galveston and Houston. Without doubt a greater number would come in if the price of land were more reasonable, but few immigrants are in a position to pay from $75 to $125 per acre for their land; and land tenancy is not to them an agreeable form of tenure. Very few of the present
. non-Italian landowners will sell their property, for real estate in this section seems certain to increase in value, due to the construction of an interurban railroad that will connect Galveston and Houston and will improve the marketing facilities.