All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Millinocket's Little Italy

Maine has only one "Little Italy"—established in 1899 to house the families of immigrants imported to build the Great Northern paper mill.
Italian immigrants coming to the area were unfamiliar with the land and the language. Fred Peluso was working as a clerk for John Merrill, and he was appointed to watch over the new workers. Peluso saw to their every need by placing them in jobs, providing them with food, acting as translator, and helping them start their homes. Peluso built a substantial home with some outbuildings that become known as Peluso's Square, and it was complete with cobblestones. He started a store that catered to the homesick Italian immigrants and provided traditional Italian foodstuffs that could be purchased on credit. As more immigrants arrived, they settled in an area that ran along the Millinocket Stream just across from the mill. The small settlement was to become known as Little Italy, and Peluso was called the padrone or king of Little Italy. [Link]
Of Millinocket's 1,002 residents in 1900, 432 were natives of Italy.

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