‘Vermont Stones/Italian Bones’ Chosen for Hathaway Award


People / Sep. 7, 2017 9:05am EDT

By Lisa Campbell

BILL JOHANSEN BILL JOHANSEN The Bethel Historical Society was recently notified that H. William Johansen’s book, “Vermont Stones/ Italian Bones,” has won the Hathaway Award, given out each year to a Vermont Historical Society or a historical society member for an accomplishment in the category of Vermont history.

The late Bill Johansen, a summer resident of Tunbridge, was a member of the Bethel Historical Society. He did extensive research for the book, which was published by the Bethel Historical Society.

The award will be presented at the Vermont Historical Society’s meeting this Saturday, Sept. 9 in Montpelier.

According to Janet Burnham, local author and member of the Bethel Historical Society, “Vermont Stones/ Italian Bones” is about the Italians who came to Bethel to work in the quarries, which produced the whitest granite in the world.

Burham noted that from 1880-1920, 4.5 million Italians immigrated to the U.S. “The men, mainly from the northern mountainous region of Italy, knew the business of stonecutting. America was just then embarking on a time of expansion and building, and was in need of the experienced stonecutters who found their way here,” Burham said.

“Many famous buildings all over the country have the fingerprints of Bethel’s Italian stoneworkers,” she added.

These include Union Station in Washington D.C., which is Bethel White Granite inside and out. Wisconsin’s capitol building and Turk’s Head skyscraper in downtown Providence, R.I., are also constructed of Bethel White.

Cultural Insights

Johansen spent years researching this book. A marine biologist by trade, he wrote two books on that subject. The research skills he learned while writing those books were put to good use on this project.

“Vermont Stones/Italian Bones” isn’t just simply historical information. Burham emphasized that Johansen provides an understanding of what it was like for the Italians to be in a new country—trying to understand a new language, and brewing wine, even though it was against the law. He describes where they lived, and how they lived, to create a vivid picture of what it was like to be an Italian immigrant in Bethel in the early 20th century.

More Books

Several members of the Bethel Historical Society, including Burnham, have just completed editing three more books that Johansen wrote, which detail the genealogy of the families discussed in “Vermont Stones/Italian Bones.”

Johansen was very thorough in his documentation of the genealogy, creating more information than could be captured in a single bound book. As a result, the BHS has created three volumes that can be printed as they are ordered.

For more information about the genealogies, contact the Bethel Historical Society.

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