Carpatho-Rusyns are one of the major ethnic groups of Pennsylvania. From the time they settled the state’s small towns and cities in the late 1870s until the present time, Carpatho-Rusyns have left an indelible mark on the state, and their story should be told. This blog is about a project that will do just that. Read more

Friday, May 13, 2016

Shamokin, Pennsylvania: First Center of Lemko Business in America

Bogdan Horbal and I wrote an article, "Shamokin, Pennsylvania: First Center of Lemko Business in America," that was recently published in the Річник Руской Бурсы / Rocznik Ruskiej Bursy 2015 (Gorlice, Poland), which has just been issued.

The text is in Lemko Rusyn, but there are bits and pieces in English, with lots of illustrations. (I hope that one of these days we'll publish it in English somewhere.)


Shamokin, Pennsylvania: First Center of Lemko Business in America
Bogdan Horbal, Richard Custer

Lemkos began to settle in the United States in the late 1870s. By the mid-1880s, numerous communities of Lemkos and other Carpatho-Rusyns were forming in the anthracite coal mining districts of northeastern Pennsylvania. One of the largest concentrations of Lemko immigrants was in the city of Shamokin and in surrounding coal “patches” such as Excelsior, Hickory Swamp, and Enterprise. The community’s development began with the founding of the Ss. Cyril & Methodius Brotherhood (1888) and Transfiguration Greek Catholic Church (1889).

In addition to the church and fraternal lodges, the 1889 founding of the Russian Mercantile Company, a cooperative store run by and for Lemkos/Carpatho-Rusyns, was a milestone that led to the proliferation of Lemko-owned hotels/taverns and grocery stores in the city. Many of the leading businessmen were also active in the local Greek Catholic parish and in the Ruskii Narodnŷi Soiuz/Russian National Union founded in Shamokin in 1893 (in 1914 renamed the Ukrainian National Association).

The article draws on city directories, biographical information, memoirs, and advertisements in newspapers and almanacs to describe the development of local Lemko community institutions and businesses. It focuses on the activities of community leaders and businessmen Tevdozii Talpash (Theodor Talpasz), Ivan/John Talpash, Iuliian Kopŷstianskii (Julian Kopyscianski), Ivan Glova (John Glowa), Aleksii Sharshon' (Alexis Sharshon), Havryl Malyniak (Gabriel Maliniak), Petro Kuzmych (Peter Kuzmicz), Iefrem Luchkovets (Ephrem Luczkovec), and others, some of whom even became board members of otherwise non-Lemko establishments functioning beyond their ethnic community. This serves to illustrate a ready adaptation to American society and a vibrant entrepreneurship in the early Lemko immigration that was first manifested in Shamokin and seen later in other American Lemko communities.

You can read the Річник Руской Бурсы 2015 here; our article begins on page 59.
Original material is © by the author, Richard D. Custer; all rights reserved.


  1. Superb work. Would love an English version so I could read it in full.

  2. I had occasion to do a quick translation of the portion about Peter Kuzmicz:

    Peter C. Kuzmicz, son of Stephen (who was a blacksmith) and Barbara, was born 10/12 March 1874 in Snitnycja [Snietnica]. He came to America in 1895 and went directly to Shamokin where he started working for Gabriel Maliniak. In Europe he learned tailoring and in America he started in this profession though working for other people, until in 1901 he opened his business at 427 North Shamokin Street, which later moved to 707 North Liberty Street. It was said that he "is making substantial position for himself as high-class tailor and has prospered by hard work and satisfactory service." In 1911 10-15 people were working for him, who not only stitched but washed and pressed(?) clothing for other people. "(…) His customers including some of the best people in Shamokin. He has high reputation for satisfactory work and is conscientious in filling orders of all kinds, his skill and neatness winning and holding custom and being his best recommendation. He is good citizen of his adopted home, industrious and thrifty, and has good standing among his fellow countrymen in Shamokin. (…)"

    He married Katie Anderson (1883-1979), daughter of Anthony Anderson, an immigrant from Germany. They had two children, Rosie (1903-1918) and Stephen (1905-1992). Also who came to America were his sister Amelia Kuzmicz, who lived in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Kuzmicz was a member of the Greek Catholic parish [in Shamokin] and was very active in it. He died 12 January 1935 in Shamokin.


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