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Friday, July 12, 2024
Steamer trunks at Pier21 Courtesy of Pier21

Most Italians trace their immigration to the massive wave after World War II, but the first settlement of Italians in Canada dates back to 1665, when soldiers from various parts of what later became Italy were recruited by the French army. Many remained in New France after their North American tour of duty. Italians also served under British command during the war of 1812. Following the war, some soldiers who had grown fond of the country decided to remain and put down roots. It seems, in fact, that the only Italian contacts with the Windsor area in the 1800s occurred mainly through the United States. 

Steamer trunks at Pier21
Courtesy of Pier21
According to the 1881 census, there was one person living in Windsor who was born in Italy and 3 of Italian origin. The lonely Italian living in Windsor in 1881 was Michael Cauzillo, 26 years old at the time of the census, Catholic and married to Mary, Catholic and of the German origin. They had one daughter, Minni, 1 year old, born in Ontario. There were 52 listed in the 1901 statistics.[The statistics from a booklet called “Windsor: A Statistical Package”, compiled by the Essex County Historical Society in 1983- “Statistics of the Ethnic Origins of Windsor’s Population from 1871 to 1981”]
Checking Documents at Pier21 Courtesy of Pier21
  The blackest years of the economy of the new Italy were between 1889 and 1894, when ever-increasing numbers emigrated from Italy and for the most part from rural Italy. In looking at the 1891 census, the majority of the Italians who were living in Windsor at that time most likely came from rural Italy. The 1891 census listed a ditch or

Checking Documents at Pier21
Courtesy of Pier21
  drain digger, by the name of Joseph Maurillo. Also listed was John Domenic, a 64 year old market
gardener, and his German wife, Ellen. In the same census is recorded John Courtier, whose name was probably transcribed by a French enumerator. Most probably his name was Curti, but in checking old Windsor Directories, it went from Curtis to Cutie to Courti, which is the closest to the proper spelling. Incidentally this gentleman was the first Italian to live on Erie St. His home in 1896 was at 83 Erie St. Also in the 1891 census, it is found that the first Italian to live in Old Sandwich Town was Louis Gumio(Gunnio).
Italian immigrants on the train to Southwestern Ontario Courtesy of Pier21

By going through the Windsor Directories from 1893-1895, there weren’t many more Italians settling in Windsor during this period, with the possible exception of Joseph Marco, who had a fruit store on Pitt St. But beginning with the 1895 Windsor Directory, Italian family names reappear. One such family

Italian immigrants on the train to
Southwestern Ontario Courtesy of Pier21
  is the Ferrari family. In 1895 Stephen Ferrari appears and by 1897/1898 the number of Ferraris had grown.

There were 3 Ferraris – Louis, Serafino and Stephen. In Walkerville, there was John Ferrari. By 1903, a Eugene Ferrari was in business in Walkerville. John, Eugene and Louis Ferrari were brothers. Another family that first appears in 1896 is the Merlo family. Louis Merlo was a labourer and was living at 16 Lillian in 1897/1898. (Nevi Rusich, presentation for the Windsor Italo-Canadian Culture Centre, February 1988).

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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.


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