Monadnock Center tells the stories of immigrants in Monadnock Region

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is hosting a new exhibit displaying stories from immigrants to the Monadnock region. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is hosting a new exhibit displaying stories from immigrants to the Monadnock region. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is hosting a new exhibit displaying stories from immigrants to the Monadnock region. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is hosting a new exhibit displaying stories from immigrants to the Monadnock region. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture is hosting a new exhibit displaying stories from immigrants to the Monadnock region. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Pins, added by exhibit viewers, show where their families emigrated from.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/15/2019 12:44:46 PM

Despite their stories ranging from 1879 to 2012, and whether they came from Europe or Africa, many of the stories of the immigrants of the Monadnock Region have the same beginning: Seeking opportunity.

The Monadnock Center for History and Culture currently has on display stories from 12 different immigrant families, each from a different country, along with some artifacts from their eras. 

“I had been thinking about this exhibit for a long time,” said Monadnock Center Director Michelle Stahl during the exhibit’s opening on Friday. “This is America. Unless you’re a Native American, everyone comes from somewhere else. This is our history.”

The exhibit compiles immigrant stories from the British Isles, Italy, Quebec, Lebanon, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They were artists and servants, farmers and mill workers. And many came to the United States with almost nothing to their name. And the journey was not always smooth.

Agoritsa Zachos, a Greek immigrant, traveled to America to join her parents when she was seven years old. Her parents sent her money for a first-class ticket, but her uncles kept some of the money and secured her a third-class passage instead. This delayed her arrival by 8 years, as third-class passengers were inspected for disease before being allowed into the country, and a forehead scar was found to be suspicious, and Agoritsa was sent back to Greece. She didn’t make her way back to America until she was 15 years old – this time with a first-class ticket.

“I’m amazed by that story,” Stahl said. “I wouldn’t have sent my daughter to school alone at seven, much less across an ocean.”

Several immigrants came for the mill jobs. Louis Teixeira, a former 15-year Select Board member in Peterborough, left Madeira, one of the Portuguese islands off of the African Coast in 1920. He lived in poverty there and had little schooling, but ultimately found success in America.

He took a job at Noone’s Mill, where he worked for 10 years before opening his own business – a filling station in Peterborough’s west village. He’d expand his business to include other businesses, including a truck agency, garage facilities and a supermarket, and would eventually become affectionately known as the “Mayor of West Peterborough.”

While many of the stories are from the 1920s to 1940s, during a boom of European immigration, there are more recent stories as well. A current immigration story is that of Wetu Selby, born Wetu Mutumbo Mukambeya, who immigrated to the United States only recently from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was adopted by a Peterborough family. It took four years to adopt Selby because when the family first began the process the Congo stopped issuing exit visas. 

Before his adoption, Selby lived in an orphanage in Kinshasa, where the water was dirty, and the children drank Fanta instead, both because it was safe to drink and for the calories. 

Immigrant Stories is on view at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Museum admission is $3, or free for Monadnock Center members and children under  12.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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