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150 Years Ago: First Italian Pioneers in Utah

As part of the "Columbus Day" celebration, the University of Utah hosted a conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Antoinette, Daniel and James Bertoch to Salt Lake City.

Foto conferenza

Michael W. Homer, a descendant of James Bertoch, addresses the audience

150 years after the arrival of the first contingent of Italian pioneers to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, a group of about 150 people gathered at the University of Utah Auditorium, Tuesday, October 12, 2004.

     The group included descendants of the early Italian pioneers, members of the Italian-American community of Utah, friends and acquaintances.

     The purpose of this historical "Columbus Day" gathering was to celebrate the arrival of Antoinette, Daniel e James Bertoch, along with the Cardon and Pons families, to Salt Lake City, on October 26 and 28, 1854.

     The audience was addressed by some illustrious speakers: Flora Ferrero, author of "Emigrazione Valdese nellšUtah nella Seconda Metā dell'800, " from Pomaretto, Italy; Philip F. Notarianni, Director of the Utah State Historical Society; James A. Toronto, Professor of the Department of Asiatic and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University; Michael W. Homer, Chairman of the State Board of History.

     The Vice Consul of Italy, Giovanni G. Maschero, welcomed all the attendees. The conference was conducted by Gregory C. Thompson, Assistant Director of the J. Willard Marriott Library of the University of Utah.

Aunt LaRue

LaRue Shoenfeld and her husband.
Mrs. Shoenfeld is the oldest descendant of James Bertoch.

     Ms. Ferrero, who lives in the Valdensian Valleys of Piedmont, where the celebrated immigrants originated from, spoke of their rich religious and cultural background.

     Dr. Notarianni, author of many papers on Italian immigration in Utah, discussed the contribution of the early Italian pioneers and their fellow countrymen who have followed them during the last century and a half.

     The history and motivation behind the Mormon proselyting efforts among the Waldensians of Piedmont, in the 19th Century, was discussed by Prof. Toronto, a direct descendant of Giuseppe Efisio Taranto, the first Italian to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1843.

     Michael W. Homer, an attorney at law, who has extensively written on the history of Mormonism in Italy, spoke of his ancestors, Antoinette, Daniel and James Bertoch, and presented his new book, "James Bertoch. Missionary Journal and Letters to his Family". This volume, published in a limited run of 150 copies, includes, among others, the complete entries of James Bertochšs journal, written while he was preaching in his native land in 1892-1893.

CD della Conferenza

A Compact Disc of the conference proceedings is available, at cost, and can be ordered by writing to BELLA SION Webmaster

     Mr. Homer presented the first signed and numbered copy of his new book to Mrs. LaRue Shoenfeld, the oldest of James Bertoch's descendants, as a token of gratitude for preserving so many family documents and photographs. These precious mementos were essential in reconstructing the history of the Bertoch family, and now are part of a special collection of the Utah State Historical Society.

     The book "James Bertoch. Missionary Journal and Letters to his Family" was made available for purchase, and quickly sold out by the end of the evening.

     The success of this first conference laid the groundwork for a similar gathering in October of 2005.

    Salvatore Velluto

This article is also available in Italian.
On this same subject, see the article Three orphans in the Far West

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