Prof. Joseph D'Andrea
Personalizing 1907 tragedy historian's 'crusade'
D'Andrea seeks recognition, honor for miners killed in Monongah disaster
By Jessica Legge
Times West Virginian
FAIRMONT-- Through his research and a future book, Joseph F. D'Andrea
"keeps memories alive."
D'Andrea, originally from the Molise region in Italy, first learned about the
1907 Monongah Mine disaster in November of 1983. About 15 years later,
he began researching the event as a pastime.
Since then, the 77-year-old has spent countless hours investigating the
miners buried in Monongah's Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Wherever he travels,
he takes photographs of the gravestones with him.
D'Andrea, a resident of Moon Township, Pa., goes back and forth between
Monongah, Fairmont and Morgantown to gather information. He has made
seven trips to Italy to find records, and he’s going again at the end of the
"The more I look, the more I find," he said. "I enjoy doing this. It's rewarding
in many ways. It's discovering."
The historian looks for birth and death certificates, letters and other
documents related to the miners' lives. He also searches for descendants
of those who died.
"All these are people," he said. "To me, they're no longer names. They're
human beings with a history."
He has found records for 171 Italians killed in the Monongah Mine tragedy.
Eighty-six of those were from the region of Molise, where D'Andrea grew up.
"He's really put a lot of effort in a region that hasn't received much attention"
Chris Sharps, pastoral associate of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Monongah
and St. Anthony Catholic Church in Fairmont, said. "He's done it completely
on his own time with his own funds. He's really put a lot of effort in it."
Sharps assisted D'Andrea during his recent visit to the Fairmont-Monongah area.
He put D'Andrea in contact with coordinators for next year's 100th anniversary
events and showed him the future site of the "Monongah Heroine" statue.
D'Andrea is helping organize programs in Italy and a conference in Pittsburgh
to commemorate the anniversary. He formerly served as Honorary Consul
of Italy in Pittsburgh.
The Rev. Everett Francis Briggs has served as D'Andrea's mentor during his
project. D'Andrea plans to publish a book next year based on his findings.
The book will initially be printed in Italian and later in English.
Archives are essential, but the records mean so much more when the truth
is brought to life, D'Andrea said.
He wants people to recognize and honor the more than 300 people who
died in the mine explosion of Dec. 6, 1907. He also hopes the cemetery's
broken stones and the entrance to mine No. 8 can be restored and
cleaned up in the future.
"We must let people know about this event," D'Andrea said. "This is my
crusade -- in Italy and America."
Descendants of the miners can e-mail D'Andrea at